Category Archives: Good Vibes

Good Vibes: The Blue Eyed Soul Special

It’s been nearly a month since I was first met with the inspiration to write this post. An evening romp through my 80’s music playlist led me to a series of soulful classics by artists with skin much paler than my own.

A lil' John Hall & Daryl Oates for ya

And I don’t mean Al B. Sure, Vanessa Williams, or the ever brightening Michael Jackson.

No, we’re talking about Wham, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates. And if I’m going to listen to Wham, then I have to get a little George Michael in there. And the same goes for Michael McDonald…I had to dig around and pull out some Doobie Brothers…and Steely Dan.

And…know what, how about some Bobby Caldwell, Sting, Elton John, and Genesis, while we’re at it. Oh yeah, gotta hear me some early Bee Gees, too.

And the ladies…I can’t forget the ladies. Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Barbara Streisand…(for some reason, I didn’t even think about Teena Marie…she pretty much transcends race in my head, I guess!)

I've never seen so many black women scream for a white boy before I saw this guy perform live. Rock on, Robin Thicke

I just went on and on like that for about an hour before I started thinking about all of the more recent kats who have helped to maintain, and in some ways redefine, the genre. Robin Thicke was at the top of my list, followed closely by Remi Shand, and to a lesser extent, Jon B.

I quickly ran out of American artists. So, my mind skipped like a flat stone across the pond to our former colonialists…the Brits. We’re talking about a culture that helped to maintain the integrity of Soul Music though the American Dark Ages of the 80’s and early 90’s. And when we tried to reclaim the mantle in and around ’95, they weren’t letting it go easily.

It was 1776 all over again. They threw Lisa Stansfield at us. Then, Jamiroquai along with Sade’s band, Sweetback. Yeah, they stumbled a little bit with Joss Stone. But little did most of us know that they were developing a secret weapon and they were holding out for the right time to bomb their former prize colony.

They came back at us like the War of 1812….in 2007.  We were caught completely off guard, as witnessed at the Grammy’s of that same year.

This weapon was called…Amy Winehouse!

Amy Winehouse showing her skills

Amy Winehouse, Amy Winehouse, Amy Winehouse!!!

Back to Black was all I needed to conclude my night of Blue Eyed indulgence. It was “Just Friends” specifically that shut things down for me. I was ready for bed, and feeling supremely fulfilled, I knew I’d sleep well!

But the blog was never written. I just kept having all of these unique thoughts and experience that I wanted to share, instead, and I had to push back the post’s creation further and further.

Then, tragedy struck this past Saturday afternoon, or in the morning…depending on which side of the Atlantic you happened to live. That powerhouse soulstress named Amy was found dead in her London “flat”. When James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, I happened to be home, by myself. I showed my respect by playing Mr. Brown’s music the ENTIRE DAY!

I wanted to mourn Ms. Winehouse in a similar fashion. The problem was…I only knew of the one album she produced, the aforementioned Back to Black. James Brown’s catalogue was ridiculous. I could listen to him all day and not repeat the same songs more than twice. How was I going to pull off such a similar feat with only one album to play?

My homegirl, Courtney, quickly hipped me to Amy’s first album Frank. Although it was released in Europe seven years earlier, it was brand new to me…and an instant classic. Then, my boy Daniel told me about the Frank and Back to Black B-side selections. All of a sudden, I had a treasure trove of Amy Winehouse music I was never aware of…until her death prompted my investigation.

It became clear to me why I hadn’t been allowed to write this post ’til right now. Because I was unaware that I needed to show my appreciation and gratitude to the ultimate Soul Sista of a different hue.

Amy…I’m glad I discovered just in time how much you will be missed!

Good Vibes: The Art of Appreciation

I was observing a summer program middle school class in Baltimore last week, and the day’s theme was “appreciation”…what it looks like and how one shows it. The students’ answers varied greatly and many were hilarious. But the depth at which some of the students expressed appreciation for others was especially touching.

Shelly B Interviewing Carolina Music Award Nominee, Ryan Daniel

I began to think about what ways I show my appreciation. Not just to my loved ones and close friends, but to general people I come across. Like the driver who let me merge in front of her in traffic when no one else would, or the pedestrian who said ‘bless you’ in response to my startlingly loud sneeze. A simple wave of the hand or ‘thank you’ should suffice in those types of scenarios. But what about expressing appreciation for those people who actually go out of their way to do something extraordinary for the betterment of others?

And not just because it’s their job. But because it’s in their heart!

I received a big, ol’ hunk of that Saturday night as I hosted a Media and Business Networking Event in Raliegh, NC. The event was powered by DeVaNy Entertainment in conjunction with the 4th Annual Carolina Music Awards.

“4th Annual?!?!”, you say? Didn’t even know such a thing existed, didja?!?!

Well, it does…and what better way to show your appreciation for all of the independent artists that call the Carolina’s home than to have a special weekend celebrating their gifts, skills, passions, and talents. No one was left out. There were artists there representing Hiphop and R&B, of course. But there were country singers, rock bands, producers, and even models, who were nominated to receive an award, in attendance.

Part of my hosting duties was to bring each nominee to the front of the room and introduce them to the crowd…even give them a lil’ time to shine and explain what they were all about to the members of the audience. What struck me most, during these interactions, was how humble just about each artist was and how “grateful” they were to be nominated. Believe me, to an artist, there’s no greater feeling than to know that so many people appreciate what you do, and you come to appreciate those fans, in turn.

Remember, these are “indie” artists…people (like me) who sell their cd’s from the trunk of their car…or simply give their music away in the hopes that people will just listen. Even if what they do doesn’t necessarily feed their pockets, showing them how much their talent is appreciated definitely feeds their spirit.

And I appreciate my boy, Ted Moffatt (half of DeVaNy entertainment), for allowing me to take part in the festivities.

And I appreciate You for taking the time to read this…thank you!

Good Vibes: The Beauty Of The Duet

There’s something about the blending together of two distinct voices that can bring the sunshine out of any cloudy day! The vocal interplay, the harmonizing, the balance…when laced together properly, a duet can freeze a moment in time for even the most casual music connoisseur.

I was reminded of this a few mornings ago while driving up I-95. It was a beautiful, sunny morning on the way to being a hot, summer day. My sunroof was open (one of my few luxuries in life), my sunglasses were on, and one of the morning radio shows was playing a new song from Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton, “So In Love“. The upbeat, bouncy love song was the perfect compliment to my morning ride.

Then, as if reading my thoughts, the music programmer  followed the one new hit with another, “4Evermore”  by Anthony David featuring Algebra Blassett and Phonte’. Nodding my head to the two-steppers groove, I could only imagine how many couples would be making their first appearance as husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife…go NYS!!), using this song as the backdrop for their first dance.

And that’s the magic of a classic duet…it makes you remember love and with whom you shared that love. Like anytime I hear Rick James and Teena Marie belt out “Fire and Desire“, I’m instantly transported back to 10th grade and the powerful, three week romance I had with a young woman in my class. We claimed that as our song and anytime one of us called the other, we’d have it playing in the background. Then I remember her literally disappearing from my life, only to reappear three months later already five months pregnant with someone else’s child!

Or the first time I heard “Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This“, by Will Downing and Rachelle Ferrell. It was the night before the last day of my freshman year of college, and I was in my dorm room packing when it came on the radio. It was such a significant song for me, at the time, because I was completely in love with this young lady at my school…but we were both seeing other people! Listening to the song everyday that summer didn’t help matters much.

Please excuse my seemingly tragic experiences related to my favorite duets.

Okay, so for the normal person, a duet is simply magical in the way that it fills your spirit up with that feeling of being loved. From Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack to Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, from Rick James and Smokey Robinson to Luther Vandross and Gregory Hines, there’s definitely nothing better than a duet about love!!!

Good Vibes: Blacks versus Black Rock

In the second season of The Chappelle Show, Dave did a hilarious sketch about how white people can’t dance. But he had a theory. It wasn’t that white people couldn’t dance…it’s just that they only respond to electric guitar. And in the sketch, he went about testing his theory with the help of John Meyer.

As a control test group, Dave took John to a barber shop in Harlem and let him play a few riffs for the barbers and their patrons. The all black and Latino “control group” responded with looks of disgust, until eventually one of the patrons told John, and his guitar, to “Shut the F@#% Up!!!”

As brilliant as that sketch was, I found something troublesome about the whole premise. Black folks don’t like the electric guitar?!

How can this be? Some of the meanest electric guitar players were and still are black! Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, BB King, Wes Montgomery…!

With this theory swirling around my head, I immediately went to my music collection and put on some Jimi Hendrix. As I listened to the brilliance of this man and the way he made his instrument talk, squeal, and holler, I started thinking about the brutha who would rock Jimi tee-shirts in high school. We all looked at him like he was a weirdo…some sort of alien, even!

But he obviously understood something that the rest of us didn’t get at the time.

When did our culture, as a whole, fall out of love with the electric guitar? In asking some of the older brethren of color, they would say that black people never really dug the electric guitar that much…that Jimi was looked at as a weirdo, himself, around the way.

One of my elders pointed specifically to the Motown Sound that was so positively pervasive in the 60’s and 70’s. Even though their was an electric guitarist within the Funk Brothers, the instrument was not often featured on many of the Motown hits. The sound that came to define our post-civil rights culture, and the artists who created it, relegated the electric guitar to the background. James Brown, one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, notoriously kept both Jimi Hendrix and Bootsy Collins stuck within the mire of his rhythm section.

Even though black people and Rock-n-Roll have this wonderfully interwoven history, it seems that for many there has always been this love/hate relationship. Overall, black people rejected the music and it’s shining symbol, the Electric Guitar. And those in the culture who embraced it were pushed to the fringes!

But that hasn’t stopped black folks from continuing to experiment with the genre. In Living Color kept black rock alive in the 80’s, Tracey…I mean, Ice T and his group, Body Count, were met with great controversy in the 90’s, and Mos Def and Lil’ Wayne have both ventured into the Rock realm since the turn of the century.

Seriously, can you imagine the state of music had Prince, Lenny Kravits, or Rick James not touched an electric guitar?

I just hope we never turn our backs on the electric guitar, and if it’s up to contemporary musicians like Curt Chambers (see video below), we never will!