Tag: Chess Records

NYC’s Motown to Def Jam Art Exhibit Celebrates the Legacy of Black Music

Souleo, Aanisah Hinds, Macy Gray. From Motown to Def Jam.
Souleo, Aanisah Hinds, Macy Gray. From Motown to Def Jam. (Photo: John Brathwaite)

Curator and art afficiando Souleo has put together a multi-destination art exhibition called “Motown to Def Jam” in collaboration with ArtCrawl Harlem in New York City.

The meticulously planned, four-gallery, 49-artist exhibition takes visitors from the early days of Chess Records in the mid 20th century, all the way through to the contemporary offerings of rap and R&B label Def Jam in a series of visionary visual works.  Also referenced in the show are the legendary Stax and Philadelphia International labels that helped pave the way in bringing new African-American sounds to the mainstream.

For pieces in the show, participating artists created or contributed works that described their interpretations of specific songs from singers and rappers at these record labels. Each piece, inspired by a beloved song, or songwriter, from black and American pop music history, brings black music history to life in a new way.

“A lot of people don’t know that June is African-American Music Appreciation Month,” said Souleo. “I wanted to share our struggles and triumphs and the unique ways that we express ourselves. For example, instead of the usual pop hits from Motown, I wanted to use more of the later socio-political music that came out of Motown.”

A lively Black Music Month kickoff

Souleo kicked off the five-weeks exhibit with gallery tours and a series of parties. An exhibition this grand required not one, but four different galleries, and these ancillary events connected them all.

The guides for a special preview tour were celebrity columnist and author Flo Anthony, pop culture critic Patrick Riley, historian John T. Reddick and renaissance media man Walter Rutledge. “I chose these people as the tour guides because they are the experts and they have been in the same room with some of these musical artists. They can give those extra tidbits that you would not get anywhere else,” said Souleo.

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Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland Honors Chuck Berry

Honoree Chuck Berry performs during the 2012 Awards for Lyrics of Literary Excellence at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library And Museum on February 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Marc Andrew Deley/Getty Images)

Honoree Chuck Berry performs during the 2012 Awards for Lyrics of Literary Excellence at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library And Museum on February 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Marc Andrew Deley/Getty Images)

Berry, a rock pioneer with early hits that included “Roll Over Beethoven,” ”Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode,” was in 1986 the first inductee into the Hall of Fame.  To mark the American Music Masters award presentation, the rock hall has mounted a special exhibition with items including Berry’s stage clothes, a guitar and his 1958 Chess Records recording contract.

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