R.I.P. Clyde Stubblefield, 73, James Brown’s Legendary ‘Funky Drummer’ 

Clyde Stubblefield (photo via nytimes.com)

article by  via nytimes.com

It took only 20 seconds for Clyde Stubblefield to drum his way to immortality. They came near the end of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” recorded in a Cincinnati studio in late 1969. Brown counts him in — “1, 2, 3, 4. Hit it!” — and Mr. Stubblefield eases into a cool pattern, part bendy funk and part hard march. It’s calm, slick and precise, and atop it, Brown asks over and over, “Ain’t it funky?”

It was. That brief snippet of percussion excellence became the platonic ideal of a breakbeat, the foundation of hip-hop’s sampling era and a direct through line from the ferocious soul music of the civil rights era to the golden age of history-minded hip-hop of the 1980s and 1990s.

Though Mr. Stubblefield wasn’t enamored of the song — “I didn’t like the song. I still don’t really get off on it,” he told Paste magazine in 2014— its mark became indelible. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Boogie Down Productions’ “South Bronx,” Sinead O’Connor’s “I Am Stretched on Your Grave,” George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90” and Kenny G’s “G-Bop”: Mr. Stubblefield’s “Funky Drummer” break appeared as a sample in all of those songs, and over a thousand more, from the 1980s to the present day. It made Mr. Stubblefield, who died on Saturday in Madison, Wis., at 73, perhaps the most sampled drummer in history.

The cause was kidney failure, said his manager, Kathie Williams.

Mr. Stubblefield was born on April 18, 1943, and grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was drawn to the rhythms of local industrial sounds, from factories to trains. “There was a factory there that puffed out air — pop-BOOM, pop-BOOM — hit the mountains and came back as an echo,” he told Isthmus in 2015. “And train tracks — click-clack, click-clack. I listened to all that for six years, playing my drums against it.”

By his late teenage years, he was already playing drums professionally, and he moved to Macon, Ga., after playing with Otis Redding, who hailed from there. There, he performed with local soul acts, and was introduced to Brown by a club owner. Soon, he was flying to join Brown on the road, and became a permanent band member.

He performed with him on and off for about six years, one of two key drummers — the other was John Starks, who was also known as Jabo — playing on the essential James Brown albums of the civil rights era: “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “It’s a Mother,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “Sex Machine.” He performed at some of Brown’s most important concerts, including at the Boston Garden after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and for United States service members in Vietnam.

His sharp funk provided the anchor on anthems like “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and “I Got The Feelin’.” Always, his playing was complex but collected — his flourishes between beats were as essential as the beat itself. Brown demanded a lot of his band, and Mr. Stubblefield, with playing that had punch, nimbleness and wet texture, never appeared to be breaking a sweat.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/arts/music/clyde-stubblefield-dead.htmlrref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=9&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

R.I.P. Grammy Award-Winning Jazz, Pop and R&B Vocal Master Al Jarreau

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

According to the New York TimesAl Jarreau, a versatile vocalist who sold millions of records and won numerous Grammys for his work in jazz, pop and R&B, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 76.  Jarreau is perhaps best known for his 1981 album Breakin’ Away, which contained his highest-charting hit “We’re In This Love Forever,”  He also sang the theme song of the late-1980s television series Moonlighting, and was a performer in the 1985 charity song “We Are the World“.

His death was announced by his manager, Joe Gordon, who said Mr. Jarreau had been hospitalized for exhaustion two weeks ago.

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Al Jarreau (photo via amazon.com)

A preacher’s son, Jarreau started singing in public as a boy but did not begin a full-time musical career until the late 1960s, when he was nearly 30. Before that, he had worked as a psychologist and rehabilitation counselor.

By the 1970s he had become a popular jazz singer, touring extensively and appearing on television.  Critics praised his voice, his improvisational skill and, in particular, his virtuosic ability to produce an array of vocalizations, ranging from delicious nonsense to clicks and growls to quasi-instrumental sounds – a more extended form of the jazz style “scatting.”

To learn more about this masterful singer’s life and career, click here.

Jill Scott Releases New Poetic Card Collection with Hallmark’s Mahogany Brand

Jill Scott (photo via thegrio.com)

article by via thegrio.com

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Hallmark’s Mahogany brand announced that it will be releasing the Jill Scott Collection, a line of new greeting cards with design, sounds and an editorial ‘voice’ from none other than Jill Scott herself.

“The Mahogany brand is genuine, progressive and optimistic – values that are important to me and reflected in my music and poetry, and now, through my card collection,” said Jill Scott. “I was inspired by highlights within my own life – love, marriage, motherhood – in the writing behind these cards, and I am excited to be involved in a project that will give others another way to express their love to the people that matter most to them.”

The collection features 20 cards for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as cards celebrating graduation, friendship, love and support.  “Ms. Scott is more than a singer, songwriter and actress – among other things, she is a busy mom and wife, like many Hallmark shoppers who cherish and celebrate the important relationships in their lives, and this card collection is a reflection of that,” said Philip Polk, Vice President of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards.

To read more, go to: Jill Scott releases new poetic card collection with Hallmark | theGrio

New Edition Receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

New Edition receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (photo via YouTube)

New Edition receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (photo via YouTube)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Today before an enthusiastic crowd of fans, New Edition members Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivens, Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California, just a day ahead of the premiere of the group’s three-part miniseries The New Edition Story on BET.

Their 35-plus year career has seen multi-platinum album sales as well as hit singles on the R&B and Pop charts such as “Candy Girl,” “Cool It Now,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” “If It Isn’t Love,” “Can You Stand The Rain,” and “N.E. Heartbreak.”  To see a promo of the miniseries in advance of its January 24th debut, click below:

To watch the Walk of Fame ceremony in its totality, click below:

Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to Headline Saturdays and Sundays at Coachella 2017

Beyoncé, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar (photo via Variety.com)

article by  via Variety.com

Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Radiohead will headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year. The 18th annual fest will once again take place over two weekends — April 14 to 16 and April 21 to 23 — at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif.

Aside from a brief surprise cameo during husband Jay Z’s headlining set in 2010, and again for little sister Solange’s appearance in 2014, Beyoncé has never played the desert festival. She will headline the second night, with returning veterans Radiohead on Friday and Lamar (who first played the fest in 2012) closing out the proceedings on Sunday.

All three artists released highly acclaimed new music in 2016.

To read more, go to: Coachella 2017 Lineup: Beyonce, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar to Headline | Variety

R.I.P. George Michael: Requiem for a Soul Man

Pop/R&B Superstar singer/writer/producer George Michael (photo via bet.com)

essay by Keith Murphy via bet.com

There’s an avalanche of thoughts that tumble through one’s mind when you are left to ponder the extraordinary (yet criminally underrated) career of George Michael following his shocking death on Christmas Day at the age of 53. But for this writer, the date of January 30, 1989, remains a moment that underlines the sheer gift, curse and deeply complex appeal of the ultimate white rhythm and blues vocalist. It was at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium during the American Music Awards where Michael stepped on a debate-igniting, cultural land mine.

The former member of the monstrous pop duo Wham! was coming off the unfathomable commercial triumph of his critically-acclaimed solo debut Faith, which would go on to sell 25 million copies worldwide (10 million in the U.S. alone). Michael was now being viewed as a worthy addition to the ‘80s holy pop trinity of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. When you headline your own sold-out world tour (The 1988 Faith trek became the second-highest-grossing tour of that year, pulling in nearly $20 million), fire off six consecutive top five singles on the Billboard charts (fueled by the one-two punch of the No. 1 rockabilly-dipped-in-soul title track and the dark, controlling church-infused ballad “Father Figure”) and win Album of the Year at the Grammys, you can pretty much write your own check.

But before that coronation solidified his place as a legit music industry behemoth, Michael found himself at the center of a racial tsunami when he won two AMAs for Favorite Album (Soul/R&B) and Favorite Male Artist (Soul/R&B). This was the era of the “Crossover Negro,” especially in the recording biz, as the aforementioned King of Pop and The Purple One — alongside the likes of Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, and Lionel Richie — all took turns ruling the top of the charts. Teddy Riley was leading the multi-platinum New Jack Swing wave. And hip-hop’s golden age was just kicking off, forcing MTV to create Yo! MTV Raps just to keep up with the street-infused genre’s groundbreaking stars like N.W.A., Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa and De La Soul. Black culture was cool and was only going to get cooler in the next decade.

For many African-American followers, their first introduction to the East Finchley, London native was Wham!’s 1982 cheeky, disco-rap rave-up “Young Guns (Go For It).” Michael and his conspicuously silent partner Andrew Ridgeley were pushed as cutesy teen idols that indulged in the funk.

But while Wham!’s No. 1 commercial breakthrough, 1984’s overtly day-glow single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” made them global stars, it was a heaven-sent slow jam that forever gave Michael his ‘hood pass. At just 17 years old, the gifted singer/songwriter wrote and produced the mournful torch song “Careless Whisper,” a mammoth hit that not only reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also became a top 10 hit on the U.S. Hot Black Singles, earning its place as a quiet storm staple on R&B radio. “I’m never going to dance again/Guilty feet have got no rhythm,” remains one of that era’s most heartbreaking lines ever recorded. This was a different cat.

To read full essay, go to: George Michael: Requiem for a Soul Man

Music Legend Stevie Wonder Honored With Detroit Street in His Name

Stevie Wonder (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

Stevie Wonder Avenue (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit roadway has been renamed for Motown legend Stevie Wonder. The award-winning singer and songwriter attended a Wednesday ceremony to honor him, alongside hundreds of people including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Rep. John Conyers.

Applause broke out when the sign for “Stevie Wonder Ave” was unveiled along Milwaukee Avenue, two blocks from the site of Wonder’s first home in the city.

Wonder moved to Detroit from Saginaw, Michigan as a child and signed with Motown Records when he was only 11 years-old.  His first recordings were done under the moniker “Little Stevie Wonder.”

To read original article, go to: Stevie Wonder Honored With Detroit Street In His Name | Black America Web