R.I.P Chuck Berry, 90; Musical Legend and Architect of Rock ’n’ Roll

article by Jon Pareles via nytimes.com

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.

The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page. The department said it responded to a medical emergency at a home and Mr. Berry was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.

Chuck Berry (photo via nytimes.com)

His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment. In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Rock n Roll Music” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times.  (The Beach Boys reworked his “Sweet Little Sixteen” into “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Mr. Berry sued them and won a songwriting credit.)

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in a segregated, middle-class neighborhood there, soaking up gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, along with some country music.He spent three years in reform school after a spree of car thefts and armed robbery.

He received a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology and worked for a time as a beautician; he married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and started a family. By the early 1950s, he was playing guitar and singing blues, pop standards and an occasional country tune with local combos. Shortly after joining Sir John’s Trio, led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson, he reshaped the group’s music and took it over.

From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker, Mr. Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into a rock ’n’ roll talisman, the Chuck Berry lick, which would in turn be emulated by the Rolling Stones and countless others. He also recognized the popularity of country music and added some hillbilly twang to his guitar lines. Mr. Berry’s hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners to the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis.

In 1955, Mr. Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, the bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess, heard potential in Mr. Berry’s song “Ida Red.”

A variant of an old country song by the same name, “Ida Red” had a 2/4 backbeat with a hillbilly oompah, while Mr. Berry’s lyrics sketched a car chase, the narrator “motorvatin’” after an elusive girl. Mr. Chess renamed the song “Maybellene,” and in a long session on May 21, 1955, Mr. Chess and the bassist Willie Dixon got the band to punch up the rhythm.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Mr. Chess outlined. “It was a trend and we jumped on it.”

The music was bright and clear, a hard-swinging amalgam of country and blues. More than 60 years later, it still sounds reckless and audacious.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/arts/chuck-berry-dead.html

MIT’s Admissions Video Features Black Superhero Riri Williams aka “Ironheart”

Marvel Comics superhero RiRi Williams aka “Ironheart” (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

article via blackamericaweb.com

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for creating innovative videos to inform applicants about when admissions decisions will be revealed. This year’s video featured Marvel Comics character Riri Williams—a African-American teenage superhero, highlighting the importance of representation.

From Digital Trends:

This time around, the short film features Marvel Comics character Riri Williams — the teenage girl who briefly served as the new Iron Man before becoming the armored superhero Ironheart — as she studies at MIT, assembles her armored suit, and takes it for a test flight to deliver admissions letters. Titled “Not all heroes wear capes — but some carry tubes (Pi Day 2017),” the video references MIT’s tradition of sending out the admissions letters in tubes, and delivering them on March 14, a date also known as Pi Day.

In the video, MIT student Ayomide F. takes on the role of Williams, who was introduced in the May 2016 issue of Invincible Iron Man. A 15-year-old engineering prodigy attending MIT, Williams built her own suit of Iron Man armor from equipment she stole around campus and caught Tony Stark’s eye after apprehending a pair of escaped inmates while wearing the armor. In Marvel Comics lore, she eventually filled in for Tony when he became sick and took the name Ironheart as her superhero nickname.

Watch the video below.

Source: MIT’s Admissions Video Features Black Woman Superhero | Black America Web

26 Year-Old GM Engineer Mukhtar Onifade Starts Fashion Line Celebrating African Culture (VIDEO)

Detroit-based engineer and fashion designer Muktar Onifade (photo via atlantablackstar.com)

article by Ricky Riley via atlantablackstar.com

Detroit-based engineer Muktar Onifade is using his skills working as an engineer to create a fashion line that celebrates West African culture.

The 26-year-old native Nigerian and General Motors calibration specialist said he was inspired to launch his line, VIZUVLGVDS (Visual Gods), after going to a fashion show featuring beautiful African styles. “To be Black now, you have to be fearless really,” Onifade says in a Thursday, Feb. 9 NBC Black profile. “There has to be this certain level of self-belief in what you can accomplish.”

Onifade saw an opportunity to make a line that could be worn anywhere and any time outside of special occasions and events. To put his plan into action, he took his first paycheck from working at GM and brought a sewing machine.

Since 2015, his VIZUVLGVDS line has featured two collections that showcase his meticulous engineering talents and his African cultural heritage.

To read more, go to: Engineer Uses First Paycheck to Start Fashion Line Celebrating African Culture – Atlanta Black Star

Grade School Basketball Players in New Jersey Forfeit Season Rather Than Ban Girls from Team (VIDEO)

(photo via YouTube)

article via nytlive.nytimes.com

A Catholic Youth Organization basketball team in New Jersey voted to forfeit the season so they could keep two female players on the team. As NJ.com reports, the league’s director told the St. John’s Chargers that they were not allowed to play as a co-ed team, that their record would be wiped because girls had played “illegally,” and that they would be prohibited from playing the final two games of the season if the female players remained on board.

Jim Goodness, a spokesperson for the archdiocese of Newark, told NJ.com that the “rules specifically state the teams should be boys or girls only.”Parents and coaches decided to let the children vote on how they would proceed. When asked if they wanted to “play the game without the two young ladies on the team,” or “stay as a team as you have all year,” all eleven players voted to keep the girls on the team and forfeit the season.

To see video of vote, click below:

Assistant coach Keisha Martel, whose daughter plays with the Chargers, reiterated the consequences of their decision. “It doesn’t matter!” one boy replied.

To read more, go to: Grade-school basketball players forfeit season rather than ban girls from team – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times – WITW

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.

Obamas Announce New Community-Based Endeavor via The Obama Foundation (VIDEO)

Michelle and Barack Obama (photo via Obama.org)

Michelle and Barack Obama (photo via Obama.org)

article by Ryan Reed via rollingstone.com

On the morning of Donald Trump‘s inauguration, outgoing President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled The Obama Foundation, (https://www.obama.org) their first major project upon exiting the White House. The Foundation will be based in the south side of Chicago and facilitate projects “all over the city, the country and the world.”

In a video, the Obamas ask viewers to help shape the Foundation by contributing suggestions via the site’s “Your Voice” section. “After eight years in the White House, Michelle and I now rejoin all of you as private citizens,” Obama said. “We want to thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the incredible privilege of serving this country that we love.”  To watch it, click this link: https://youtu.be/ODVxuN6m6E8

Before they get to work on this massive endeavor, the former First Couple plan to enjoy a much-needed vacation. “First, we’re gonna take a little break,” Michelle Obama said. “We’re finally gonna get some sleep and take some to be with our family – and just be still for a little. So we might be online quite as much as you’re used to seeing us.”

To read more, go to: Watch Former President Obama, Michelle Obama Announce New Endeavor – Rolling Stone

Born on this Day in 1929: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402Although Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday will not be nationally observed until tomorrow, January 16, we want to honor King today as well, on his actual day of birth.

To learn more about this monumental agent of political and social change, go to biography.com, and to listen to a speech of his more relevant today than ever, check out this concluding segment from 1967’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” above.

Some stirring quotes from this speech of Dr. King’s include:

… I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

And:

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.  If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love.