Song: When You Are Who You Are
Artist: Gil Scott-Heron
Another forgotten phenomenal musician! Well, perhaps forgotten in the mainstream world, but in the world of Funk and Jazz, I think he’s well remembered. In my opinion, in terms of musical status (or popularity if you will), I considered him among the same ranks as Jimmy Hendrix. Keep in mind, I mentioned “popularity,” not meaning to infer that their music are similar. I think their paths were obviously very different.
Gil Scott Was Very Politically Conscious!
The late Mr. Gil was very politically conscious. Growing up, none of my family (that I can recall) had any of his music. However, if I heard him on the radio or on TV I savored the moment and just enjoyed what I heard. I was too young to fully understand half the sh*t he said, but some how I knew there was some serious messages in his music. I admired him so much because he wasn’t just a politically conscious Black musician, he was one of the few well known music figures that actually went in to the communities and literally showed you the challenges of the Black communities. Very few musicians I can think of right now that were that passionate about educating the Black community. The only person that comes to mind at this moment is James Brown. And even then I wonder? Mind you, not saying James did nothing for the community, but there’s a difference between showering the Black community with money, and actually being in the Black community. Not to disrespect the late entertainer, but the more I reflect as I get older, I felt that James was motivated by pure fear (after the assassination of MLK) rather than “helping the community.” Fear in a selfish way. After the assassination of MLK, I felt that he was more concerned that it would have effected his ability to perform in the Black neighborhoods. I could be completely wrong about that, but….. Just my opinion.
Well, enough of my soapbox. During America’s political climax of the 60s-70s in regards to Black Americans, probably (I think) the most well known song (or perhaps technically not really a song) was called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971).” I know some of my young readers may not like to pay attention to lyrics, but I do recommend that you take the time to listen to that song. It is a true direct representation of what Blacks were going through in the seventies, and in many ways still going through. Shifting the topic a little, there’s a song Gil did that became one of my favorites, and it’s called “When You Are Who You Are.” I think what attracted me to this song was, lyrically speaking, it was one of the very few songs I’ve heard where the male artist sings loving someone for who they are, and not having the need to try so hard to impress him. The lyrics are just beautiful, as well as the music being nice and funky!
Song: Johnny Too Bad
Artist: The Slickers
Album: Johnny Too Bad (1971)
Genre: Sweet Reggae
Ok… I know, in general we shouldn’t judge people. But, I’m betting almost any amount of money that, unless you’re an old school Jamaican, or West-Indian (with age, or “seasoned” as we used to say), it’s likely you don’t know this group at all. The even sadder part is, there is so little written about this obscure group that there is little chance of discovery, unless you come from a family connected with reggae history. The Slickers was a Jamaican group that performed mostly rock-steady style of reggae. The Band’s career in music was extremely short (around 10 years give or take).
Only Well Seasoned Folk Would Know About This Group!
It’s unclear to me why they disbanded. It’s a shame because their song “Johnny Too Bad,” literally catapulted their career in ways we could not imagine. I mean, they were in fact talented, there was absolutely no reason why their career could not continue. I couldn’t even find an original album for this song. Almost every work I found from the group have all been released as singles. Now, this could also be possible that if there were more albums, they may have been released only in the UK.
If after listening to this reggae gem, you still can’t remember, or figure out where you’ve heard this song from. “Johnny Too Bad,” was on the hugely successful soundtrack to the movie called “The Harder They Come (1972),” starring legendary singer Jimmy Cliff. You know, I’ll share with you something interesting about the movie soundtrack. Growing up, I’ve always assumed that Jimmy Cliff was the only artist that sung “Many Rivers To Across,” just because I never recalled anyone else covering it. However, while searching for more of The Slickers’s music, Lo’ and behold, they have an UK album called “Many Rivers To Cross (1976).” Wow, it was strange listening to someone else sing this song. I really like the Slickers’s version of “Many Rivers To Cross,” but, I don’t know, if felt a more emotional connection to Jimmy Cliff’s version. Maybe I’m just a little bias ’cause I love Jimmy’s music. What you guys think?
Genre: Sweet Reggae
This may sound very arrogant…. But…. In this day and age, the only people who can probably appreciate an album like this, are Jamaicans and West-Indians in my age group. Very few Americans would know anything about this album; unless perhaps you’ve dated someone for many years who happened to be from the island. One of the things I miss most from my childhood growing up was, in my neighborhood, we had one of the only record shops dedicated to 100% reggae! Both full albums and 12 inch reggae; many if not all were imported. All in a very short walking distance. I remembered this album being one of many my mom purchased there. I think this was when I fell in love with Toots and The Maytels’s music for the first time.
The first song I heard was “Bam-Bam” by Toots & The Maytels. I loved this song so much. I don’t know what was it that I loved it so much. Maybe it was his unique voice? Maybe it was his soul that came through his music? Or maybe it was his passion for political change I heard in his music? I played that song so many times. The second song I fell in love with was “Pomps & Pride.” Very catchy tune, and you can’t help but to move your hips just a little bit when you hear it. I was really surprised to find out that Spotify has the entire entire album. The album has various artists, which includes Desmond Dekker (which is another talented favorite of mine.Save $10 On Any Purchase & Get Free Shipping On All Orders At MaddaFella.com! Use Code: MADDA10!
Aaah! You know, when I was practically still a baby, I believe this was the first album I remember seeing of Mr. Belafonte. I’m sure I still have the album somewhere ?. I’m just going to come out and say it. In America, unless you came from the Caribbean, almost no one thinks of Caribbean music; unless you’re dating someone who happens to by Caribbean; or someone is talking about going to a NYC carnival/West-Indian day parade. So many things you could be writing about for Black History Month.
Let’s see now. What we can say about the incredibly multi-talented and then very handsome, Harry Belafonte? Well, he was born on 1927! That’s right guys! That makes him about 92 years old now ? ! BTW, he still looks healthy and amazing! Belafonte wasn’t just a singer & actor, he was also a heavy civil rights activist and a humanitarian.
Tally Me Banana!
I think it’s safe to say that, when people hear the name Harry Belafonte (and if they do actually remember him), they would most remember him for his “Banana Boat” song released in 1956; sometimes called the “Day-O” song. And that maybe because the younger generation heard it used in the then popular hit movie called “Beetlejuice (1988).” By the way, I should add that another one of his popular songs called “Jump In The Line (1961)” was also in the movie as well. If I’m not mistaken, there was supposed to be a reboot of Beetlejuice this year. Not sure if the project was cancelled or not.
Anyway, Harry was so much more than just a Caribbean performer. You know, in today’s political climate, the news media always take shots at how many people in office who’s been entertainers. In reality, this is nothing new. I’d say what is new (probably), is the lack of characters of the “once a celebrity” politicians, etc. Harry had intelligence beyond his years, an intelligence that America then and today were not ready to hear. He surrounded himself with great men in their own right; Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston. And BTW, Charlton also fought fiercely for Black rights during the civil rights movement. Some how Charlton’s name always gets omitted in conversations of Black history.
Did you know that Harry was one of Martin Luther King’s very few confidants? Harry also helped MLK and his family financially, because king made very little money as a preacher in the beginning. Wow, that’s what you’d call a friend. Not many of those today (sorry to say). Did you also know that in the mid 80s, Harry helped to organize the whole “We Are The World Project?” Harry did so much for South Africa, especially when it came to the A.I.D.S. crisis. Africa had it really bad, there were no resources for them, neither was there education about the disease. Again, Harry Belafonte was, and still is, the last of his breed. He truly not only has a pure love for mankind, but sees the undying need to help each other.Diamond Hemp
The late Eunice Kathleen Waymon, or better known by her stage name, the legendary Nina Simone! Nina wasn’t considered to be a woman of classic beautify (especially as she got older). In fact, when I skimmed through her teenage photos and compared them to photos when she was in her 50s, it seemed as though she morphed in to an entirely different person. At one point, it appeared as though she exuded a lot of strong male energy. Years ago, I remember watching an interview she did, and she explained that prominent people in the music business told her that she would never make it as a performer. Why? They flat out said she was too ugly. I never forgot about that interview. It has to be on YouTube somewhere.
One Thing That Was True About Nina, She Stayed True To Her Blackness
Now, imagine hearing something like that, at a time when Black folk experience all manor of oppression. I can’t imagine how she must have felt. Today, I’m not sure if young people could understand this. Back in the day, calling someone ugly was worse than calling someone fat. And as a performer, the thought of whether or not people would actually pay to see her, had to have crossed her mind plenty of times.
Despite being told on a daily basis that she was too ugly for a contract deal, Nina stayed true to her Blackness, and stayed connected to her African culture. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit, if these same negative attitudes by White producers then, were responsible for her need to become a civil rights activist. It was interesting watching her make that physical transformation. From pleasing the executives by straightening her hair, putting on makeup, etc. To defying industry norms by wearing her hair natural, and fully embracing her African heritage by wearing African clothing. Just imagine how empowering that was.
Nina’s name is not on the lips of today’s music lovers. She mostly sang Jazz and some R&B. But let me tell you, she was a talented woman, with a very unique and brassy voice. In fact, some of her music has been remixed by some of the hottest DJs you can imagine. First Let me share with you some of my Nina Simone favorites. “Feeling Good (1965)” is a nice one I recommend; I also loved her version of “Screaming Jay” Hawkins’s “I Put A Spell On You (1965).” I also love her original “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (1964),” and despite what many people believe, this song was specifically written for Nina. Therefore, this song was NOT The Animals‘s original song.
Some of my favorite remixes include a song called “Baltimore,” I think it was remixed by Creed Taylor. It has a sick reggae beat, I love it. Another remix you must hear is a song called “I Can’t See Nobody,” remixed by Daniel Yaghoubi. “Turn Me On” is a cute remix done by Tony Humphies. Whenever you get a chance, I really think you should look her up on google, her story is fascinating. Nina died at the age of 70, in 2003. Her daughter followed in her footsteps. Lisa Simone Waymon Stroud, also known as simply Simone, is the splitting image of her mother. Watch her tear up her late mother’s song “Feel Good,” on YouTube.Save up to 94% off cover price on your favorite magazines