Category: Uncategorized

An Interview with Franklin Willis

Recently we interviewed Franklin Willis, music educator, vocalist, and education consultant. Willis, who performed twice as a part of our Emerging Artist Series at Sips & Stanzas, spoke candidly about the landscape of African American music, the importance of music education and what the museum will mean to our culture.

Describe your background. How were you introduced to the music world?

I was introduced to music at a young age while singing in the youth choir at Temple Church (Nashville, TN), performing in school talent shows, family reunions or any opportunity I was given to showcase my singing ability. I received my formal musical studies at Nashville School of the Arts (NSA) and was exposed to a variety of music genres and performance opportunities. While in the madrigal choir at NSA, I discovered my passion and joy for singing; upon graduating, I attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on a vocal scholarship. During my matriculation, I had the opportunity to sing at several community gatherings and functions, including serving as a vocal soloist with the Chattanooga Preservation of African American Song, a community vocal ensemble whose mission is to revitalize the history of music composed by African Americans. I then transferred to the University of Memphis to complete the Bachelor of Music in Vocal Music Education.

For the past nine years when I’m not on the stage singing, I am preparing our future singers, musicians, and songwriters in the classroom as a music educator. I currently serve as the music teacher at Andrew Jackson Elementary School (Metro Nashville Public Schools). My specialty is embedding musical instruction that will empower and engage all children to achieve their best.

How has music influenced your life?

It is the one constant in my life. It’s what can connect me to a person without speaking. It serves as a soother, wakeup call, or even a celebration. I couldn’t imagine a world without music.

How has the landscape of African American music changed over the years?

In my opinion, African American music has always helped shape and describe what’s going on in current events. From Negro spirituals to Hip Hop music. Our music tells a story. Sometimes a story of pain, hard times, trials, or even times of rejoicing, celebration, or a shout of praise. Our music will always adapt and change to tell the story.

Why is music education important?

Music Education Is important because music is something that reaches across all cultures. Music connects people that have the most and the least in common. Because of that music education is important so that the conversation and creativity continues. I believe that the study of music is a unique creative experience that provides opportunities to reinforce skills and concepts of other disciplines while developing lifelong learning skills. I am passionate that the cultivation of musicianship begins at a young age and that every child has musical potential.

You were a part of NMAAM’s Emerging Artist Series at Sips and Stanzas. What was that experience like?

For me, this was an amazing opportunity to share my gift with others. Art is unique in that it can be interpreted differently from one person to the next. I enjoy creating experiences for an audience through my artistic expression. The way I feel when I perform and my interpretation of the material affects how a member of the audience interprets it and shares with another and so on. The best thing is that a group of people can all hear the same thing and have several different or alike interpretations. That’s what is so great about music! So, to be featured as an emerging artist and to be able to share my talents and create a unique experience for a group of people was FUN!

What will a museum like NMAAM mean to the city of Nashville?

The Museum will serve as a resource for learning. A place to store information and preserve history. It will be a place where visitors to the city can see firsthand the love of art and how important it is in the local culture. Also, how African Americans have contributed to not only American culture but to the world culture.

Fill in the blank: My music matters….because it does the talking when words don’t make sense.

How can people learn more about you?

Twitter and Instagram @fwillismusic and my website: www.fwillismusic.com

A Valentine’s Day Playlist: Classic Romantic Duets

Valentine’s Day is usually all about couples, but it’s also the perfect time to throw on some love songs. Over the years, some of the classic duets feature powerhouse vocals that are musically compatible and have contributed to America’s soundtrack.

From slow jams to songs that are perfect ways to get your two-step on, we have come up with some of our favorite romantic duets that you can add to your playlist to help celebrate the day of love and romance!

Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway crafted a recipe for love with their hit “The Closer I Get to You.” The single got even more leverage in 2003 when Luther Vandross and Beyonce covered the song.

The powerful vocal pairing of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell expressed relationship goals through the universal language of music. They had so many hits together, but “My Precious Love” tells a tale of the joy of finding the one.

What could be more romantic than having an “Endless Love?”  Lionel Richie joined forces with ‘The Boss’ Diana Ross for the single that was featured on the soundtrack for the movie Endless Love. This song got even more mileage out of it when Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey’s cover blazed up the charts in 1994.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1967 hit “If This World Were Mine” inspired Cheryl Lynn and Luther Vandross to cover the song for Cheryl Lynn’s album Instant Love in 1982.

“Baby Come to Me” by Patti Austin and James Ingram has been hailed as one of the biggest baby making jams.

You can’t have a duet list without mentioning the ones that were truly relationship goals; songwriting partners and real life spouses Ashford & Simpson. Their single “Solid” is an uptempo love song that is truly timeless.

Bobby Womack and Patti LaBelle’s “Love Has Finally Come at Last” makes you want to find a lasting love and never let go!

Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle took a page out of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s book when they performed together making listeners believe there was a love behind the scenes. The duo paired up for this love song “Never Knew Love Like This” for Alexander’s album Heresay.

King of Pop Michael Jackson could reign on his own but add in the vocals of Siedah Garrett and you have a song we just can’t stop loving! This 1987 hit “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” appeared on Jackson’s Bad album.

Hip hop meets R&B in this inspired Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit, “I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need To Get By” by Method Man and Mary J. Blige. The award winning single is easily one of hip hop’s greatest love songs.

Avant and KeKe Wyatt teamed up for several duets throughout the years, but their magic on the soulful “You & I” makes you just love the idea of being in love.

Eric Benet and Tamia made beautiful music with “Spend My Life with You.”

Of course the list of duets that have contributed to America’s soundtrack is a lengthy one and we couldn’t include them all. Head over to social media and let us know what your favorite duets are!

Remembering Dennis Edwards

You can’t mention the Temptations without thinking of their former lead singer with the distinctive growl and soulful vocal style of Dennis Edwards. The music world is still reeling from the news that the man that led the Temptations to their first Grammy award passed away February 1 from reported complications from meningitis, one day before he would have turned 75. If you were lucky enough to meet Dennis Edwards, you would be greeted with a big heartwarming smile and a twinkle in his eye. His larger than life personality and gospel infused powerful vocals were the perfect vehicle to drive the Temptations music through the late 1960s through the 1970s, putting his distinctive mark on America’s soundtrack.

Dennis Edwards was born in Alabama and later moved to Detroit. He joined the early Motown group, the Contours in the 1960s, best known for their 1962 hit “Do You Love Me” that was recorded before Edwards joined the group.

The Contours opened for the Temptations, and when lead singer David Ruffin left the group in 1968, Edwards joined the Temptations as their new front man.

Mr. Edwards joined the Temptations just as they were about to take on a new direction under the guidance of producing and songwriting legend Norman Whitfield, who was developing a sound influenced by the psychedelic stylings of Sly & the Family Stone; taking a departure from their signature songs like “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “My Girl.” Temptations members Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Paul Williams all sang lead at one point or another but it was his gritty soul that cemented the group’s sound on songs like “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),” “Cloud Nine,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Shortly after Mr. Edwards joined the group and recorded “Cloud Nine,” it won the group and Motown’s first Grammy in 1968. In 1972, they won another Grammy for “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

 

 

Dennis Edwards left the Temptations in 1977 to pursue his solo career but rejoined the group years later.  During his solo career, he released the hit, “Don’t Look Any Further” featuring Siedah Garrett in 1984.

The song’s beat has been heavily sampled over the years, including in Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full,” Tupac Shakur’s “Hit Em Up,” and Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Get Money” with the Notorious B.I.G.

Siedah Garrett released a statement to the National Museum of African American Music about how working with Mr. Edwards helped her career:

“In the early 80s, I primarily was an unknown demo singer for L.A. based songwriters and producers and I recorded the song demo of “Don’t Look Any Further” for Dennis Lambert & Franne Golde. Motown accepted the song for their artist, Temptations ex member Dennis Edwards’ solo album. They wanted it to be a duet with Chaka Khan, but as fate would have it, Chaka was unavailable, and the company and Dennis agreed to use my demo vocal for the record. Once the single became a hit, Dennis asked me to do a club tour with him, and that was a fantastic experience for me. I feel his loss, and will be forever grateful to Dennis for giving me my first shot. I extend my condolences, prayers, and gratitude to his family for blessing us with his very special talent.”

Edwards released other solo hits in the mid-80s like “(You’re My) Aphrodisiac” and “Coolin’ Out.” His last album with original material was Talk to Me in 1993, followed by The Temptations Greatest Hits Live in 1995.

In the late 80s, he teamed up with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks for a “Tribute to the Temptations” tour.

The Temptations received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2013 that Edwards received along with Otis Williams and the survivors of the deceased group members. In 1989, the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the 1990s, he toured with a group called Dennis Edwards and the Temptations which led to a legal battle with Otis Williams over the use of the Temptations name. He settled by touring up until 2017 as the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards.

Living legend and founder of the Temptations, Otis Williams released a statement on social media last week:

“We learned today with great sadness of the passing of our brother, Dennis Edwards. He is now at peace, and our love and prayers go out to his family. At this moment and always, we acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to The Temptations legacy, which lives on in the music. Temptations, forever.”

Dennis Edwards will be missed but his contributions to America’s soundtrack lives on forever.

Jackie Wilson’s Influence on the American Soundtrack

Turn on the television in 2018 and you are guaranteed to hear a commercial using Jackie Wilson’s 1967 hit “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” That is proof that Jackie Wilson played an integral part in crafting America’s soundtrack.

Jackie Wilson was at the height of his career in the 1950s through the 1960s during a time devoid of social media and the internet. It was a time where music reflected the racial injustices when fans couldn’t wait to see their favorite performers on shows like American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show and Shindig!. It was a time when the Apollo Theater and the Copacabana was the place for artists to signal their arrival in the world of celebrity.

Jackie Wilson possessed a voice that had the vocal gymnastics to hit the mat, spring forward and catapult into the falsetto range and tumble across multiple octaves. He was an operatic tenor that harbored a glass shattering falsetto, used gospel drenched phrasing, and he had the ability to juggle several of the octaves in his range in the space of one syllable.

If you’ve never been privy to see Wilson perform in person or in rare footage, then allow me to paint the picture for you.  Jackie Wilson’s stage presence was like no other and very easy to see how he received the moniker “Mr. Excitement.” Wilson’s show embodied electrifying dance movements that required jumping, twisting, and often times he relied on his boxing training to provide his fancy footwork on the stage. Wilson would glide across the stage only to take a dip down to his knees and spring up from the floor like his legs were made of jelly never missing a note. He would loosen his tie and take off his jacket without missing a beat. Just when you think things are about to cool off, he would be on his back close to the edge of the stage, crooning, as the ladies screamed and ripped his clothes off, clamoring for a chance to be closer to Mr. Excitement.

Jackie Wilson got his start singing in Detroit clubs after a successful short career as a Golden Gloves boxer. Wilson was a teenager when he replaced Clyde McPhatter (who went on to form the Drifters); singing lead for Billy Ward & the Dominoes before branching off into a solo career of his own. He was later signed to the Brunswick Records label.  Wilson soon had his breakthrough with the help of Berry Gordy Jr. and Roquel Billy Davis. The duo penned hits like “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet)”, and “Lonely Teardrops” allowing Wilson to top the R&B charts and break the top 10 on the pop charts.

 

Jackie’s first Gold record was the co-authored Berry Gordy Jr. penned single, “To Be Loved” in 1958.  More R&B chart-toppers followed in quick succession: “You Better Know It,” “Doggin’ Around,” and “A Woman, a Lover, a Friend.”

Throughout the years, he continued to transcend genre lines by crossing over  from R&B to the pop charts with hits like  “Night, ”Baby Workout” “Danny Boy”, and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” to name a few.

Wilson had about two dozen chart topping hits from 1958 to 1968. In all, Wilson had 47 R&B hits, 24 of those crossed over to the Pop Top 40 chart. He released over 25 albums over the span of his career.

On September 29, 1975 Jackie Wilson suffered a heart attack in the middle of a performance of “Lonely Teardrops” during a show in New Jersey. He went into a coma and never recovered. He remained incapacitated for the next 8 years of his life, unable to speak, dance, or sing again.  Wilson passed away January 21, 1984 at the age of 49.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

It’s been 34 years since his death, but Jackie Wilson’s influence can be heard in many artists from the past to the present. Both Elvis Pressley and Michael Jackson have praised and credited Jackie Wilson for influencing their stage performances. During the Grammy Awards in 1984, Michael Jackson gave a tribute to Jackie Wilson during one of his many acceptance speeches that night, he said, “Some people are entertainers and some people are great entertainers. Some people are followers and some people make the path and are pioneers. I’d like to say that Jackie Wilson was a wonderful entertainer.”

Jackie Wilson is a musical legend that should be remembered for his contributions to music history. As for me, “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” when I hear Jackie Wilson’s music. “You Better Know It” that Jackie Wilson’s music and legacy lives on.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Remembering ‘Queen of the Blues’ Denise LaSalle

The music world is mourning the loss of ‘Queen of the Blues’ singer and songwriter Denise LaSalle. LaSalle passed away January 8. Media outlets report LaSalle suffered from health issues in recent months that resulted in the amputation of her right leg after she suffered a fall. She was honored with the “Queen of the Blues” title following the death of the previous “Queen of the Blues” Koko Taylor in 2009.

LaSalle’s musical contributions have helped to shape America’s soundtrack. She combined the blues with a soulful touch that allowed music lovers to appreciate the fusion of the two sounds. Her on-stage performances often took on a risqué tone with her language and jokes.

LaSalle was born Ora Denise Allen in Mississippi on July 16, 1939.  According to reports, she took LaSalle as her stage name after she moved to Chicago in her teens and started singing. Her debut solo single, 1967’s “A Love Reputation,” laid the groundwork for what would soon become her signature LaSalle sound.

LaSalle then started working with legendary Memphis producer Willie Mitchell. Their union helped to make her a household name with songs like “Hung Up, Strung Out” in 1970, and her signature tune “Trapped by a Thing Called Love” in 1971. “Trapped by a Thing Called Love,” which she also wrote, hit the top of Billboard’s R&B chart.

LaSalle is also well known for the ’70s song, “Now Run and Tell That.”

Mississippi’s Malaco label became her home where she officially became known as a blues singer. She credits the genre change for breathing life into her career in an interview with Blues Blast.  “It gave my career a new start, because I was kind of lost in the shuffle as an R&B singer,” says Denise. “When I got the opportunity to become a blues singer in 1982, I accepted it. There was no real competition, except the real Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, (and) except for Etta James. These were the only ladies out there that was really doing anything, cutting records and getting airplay. It was kind of the place to be.”

LaSalle penned other songs like “Your Husband is Cheating on Us,” “I Wanna Do What’s on Your Mind” and “It’s Lying Time Again,” a cover of Rockin’ Sidney’s “My Toot Toot,” that she called “My Tu Tu,” and “Love Me Right.”

 

In the ’90s, LaSalle turned her focus to gospel music; and in 1999 released the album God’s Got My Back. She crossed back over to secular music for her 2002 album Still the Queen and she continued on that path through her 2010 album 24 Hour Woman.

LaSalle was inducted into Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2015. The National Museum of African American Music also honored Lasalle in 2014.

“Denise LaSalle shaped American music,” H. Beecher Hicks III, president and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music, said in a statement. “Her personality, her music and the role she played in shaping her genre truly made her the Queen of Blues. We were proud to honor her with NMAAM’s inaugural Rhapsody & Rhythm award in 2014, and to have truly experienced the reach of her craft and her impact on Jefferson Street when we jammed with her during the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival that year. Her legacy is a vivid illustration of the many ways R&B, blues and soul have blended to create America’s soundtrack.”

In an interview with the Jackson Sun in March 2017, LaSalle announced plans to open a Denise LaSalle Blues Academy of Performing Arts to teach the youth about the Blues. She was also on track to release her third gospel album The Gospel Truth.

 

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

“Living on Soul” Celebrates the Daptone Records Family

Living on Soul chronicles a concert at the legendary Apollo Theater featuring the late Sharon Jones and the late Charles Bradley along with other top soul, funk, and gospel performers that are a part of the Daptone Records family.

Sharon Jones was the lead singer of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings a soul and funk band based in New York. Jones was nominated for her first Grammy in 2014 for Best R&B Album for Give the People What They Want. She recorded six albums with the Dap-Kings and was known for her exhilarating live shows. She was also very vocal about her battle with pancreatic cancer and passed away in November 2016.

 

Charles Bradley was an artist that celebrated the feel of funk and soul from the 1960s and 1970s. His final album Changes was released in April 2016. After a bout with stomach and liver cancer, Bradley passed away in September at 68 years old.  Bradley was known as the “Screaming Eagle of Soul.”

In December 2014, the Daptone Records family presented a three-night Super Soul Revue concert at the Apollo and filmmakers Jeff Broadway and Cory Bailey caught it on film for the documentary Living on Soul. It captures the rousing shows along with background of the musicians.

I spoke with Jeff Broadway about Living on Soul and its impact now that two of the artists in the film have passed away.

Shameika: In your own words, what is Living on Soul about?

Jeff Broadway: This film is about a family of musicians. A family that has traveled a long and winding road together. The Apollo wasn’t the destination; but it was symbolic of the collective success the artists have shared in their journey together. We wanted to celebrate them as performers, artists and people.

Shameika: What made you decide to create this film?

Jeff Broadway: Neal Sugarman invited us on the road when Daptone took their Soul Revue to Europe in Summer 2014. It was at Glastonbury that Neal learned of the Apollo’s residency invitation, and we knew we had a real music film on our hands then.

Shameika:  Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley have both passed away, yet have prominence in the film, what makes their presence so powerful in the film? Will we learn anything new about them?

Jeff Broadway: They were powerful people and performers alive; and now that they’ve passed on, their presence in the film is only that much weightier. Depending on your frame of reference, there are certainly things to learn about each of them in the film.

Shameika: The Hollywood Reporter’s review on the film said that the rapport between various races is powerful in the film. Can you talk about how music brings people together and how the film portrays that?

Jeff Broadway: The Hollywood Reporter also called the film one of the best live performance films in recent memory. We’re more focused on that. However, people do like to speak about the black-and-white nature of the Daptone camp, though it doesn’t register with them at all. We thought it important to include Sharon’s story about meeting the Dap-Kings for the first time, but by and large, the issue of race is not one we felt pertinent to this film.

Shameika: Why do you think it’s important to preserve moments like this legendary concert on film, and have a museum like the National Museum of African American Music to preserve and celebrate music?

Jeff Broadway: Daptone kind of represents one of the final bastions of a classic American tradition; soul music. The opportunity to film Sharon, Charles and the rest of the gang in the house that James Brown built was important for so many different cultural and musical reasons. We are just grateful that we were the people to do it, and that institutions like the NMAAM exist to preserve and celebrate important American culture.

Shameika: What’s your favorite moment in music history?

Jeff Broadway: There are too many to cherish to have just one.

Living on Soul is available on iTunes and On Demand.

 

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Taking a Ride Down Memory Lane on the Hippest Trip in America: The Soul Train Awards

The Hippest Trip in America is a musical journey that many grew up on that quickly became the soundtrack for many of our lives. Soul Train is the brain child of the late legendary Don Cornelius that ruled the airwaves from 1971 until 2006. We can all relate to tuning in to see our favorite performers, dancers, and of course the infamous Soul Train line. During its run on the musical tracks, the show featured performances from a variety of genres including R&B, soul, disco, gospel, and hip hop.

While this year marks 46 years since Soul Train made its national television appearance, the brand is still being kept alive thanks to the Viacom BET Networks acquisition of the Soul Train brand. BET Presents: 2017 Soul Train Awards marks 30 years since the awards show first aired in 1987.

BET will air this year’s show on November 26 and  the National Museum of African American Music will live tweet the event. First, let’s take a look at some memorable performances from the Soul Train Awards over the years:

1987 the first Soul Train Awards show had Whitney Houston on a stage delivering nothing but good vocals with her Kashif produced single “You Give Good Love.”

What do you get when you put four legends together on one stage? In 1987, a soul stirring performance from Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, and Dionne Warwick singing a riff filled version of “That’s What Friends Are For.”

 

In 1990, one of the most seductive songs was performed on the Soul Train Awards stage. It was the Quincy Jones single, “Secret Garden” featuring Al B. Sure!, James Ingram, El Debarge, and Barry White. As the quartet crooned, the fans screamed out in pleasure for the entire performance.

 

1991 had fans begging “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em” as rapper MC Hammer and his team of dancers wore the Soul Train Awards stage out with a medley of hits from “Let’s Get It Started” to “Turn this Mutha Out.” The crew had the crowd hype with 7 ½ minutes of non-stop dancing. Hammer also picked up a couple of awards as well that night.

A severely sprained ankle couldn’t keep Michael Jackson from making folks “Remember the Time” during his seated performance at the 1993 Soul Train Awards. Unfortunately, the audio was taken off of all the performances on YouTube, but that doesn’t stop this electrifying performance from the King of Pop and neither did that chair! MJ even took home three awards that night including best R&B male album, R&B male single and a special humanitarian citation.

That same year the ladies of En Vogue performed a medley that paid tribute to some of the greats that came before them. The songs included “Best of My Love,” “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Respect,” and “Lady Marmalade.”

 

While it’s not a performance, one highlight from the past is Prince’s acceptance speech when he received the Artist of the Decade for Extraordinary Artistic Achievements at the 2000 awards. Prince dropped knowledge that night!

 

 

 

2011 had us all doing the bird dance as Morris Day and The Time hit the stage as the Original 7ven!

2014 saw one of the most anticipated reunions right on the Soul Train Awards stage with the bad boys of R&B also known as Jodeci. From “Stay” to “Forever My Lady” the guys did a melody of their biggest hits taking the fans down memory lane!

 

The Soul Train Awards annually salutes the best in R&B, soul and hip-hop. Solange heads the 2017 class with seven nominations while Bruno Mars follows close behind with six nominations. Additional nominees include Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Bryson Tiller, Khalid, and SZA. Multi-platinum and seven-time Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, artist, actress and producer Toni Braxton is set to receive the coveted Don Cornelius Legend Award. The third annual Lady of Soul Award will be presented to Grammy Award-Nominated, multi-platinum, female R&B trio SWV.

Join us on Twitter for a live tweet on November 26 at 8pm. Follow @theNMAAM.

Profile: The Sensational Nightingales

When mentioning traditional southern black gospel music, you can’t leave out North Carolina based gospel quartet The Sensational Nightingales. The group is one of the earliest gospel quartets. The group was founded as The Nightingales in 1942 by Barney Parks in Philadelphia. Parks was previously with the Dixie Hummingbirds. The original Nightingales line up included Howard Carroll, Paul Owens, Ben Joiner, and William Henry. They recorded several sides for Decca Records.

In 1946, Parked discovered a singer named Julius “June” Cheeks who had a soulful filled voice that evoked the emotion of a preacher. His vocals punctuated with high falsettos to raspy growls, he could carry the audience on an emotional musical religious journey. Cheeks style has been said to have been borrowed by artists like Bobby Bland and Wilson Pickett. Cheeks was influenced by the likes of groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Fairfield Four, and the Soul Stirrers. Cheeks was singing with a quartet called the Baronets in South Carolina when he was approached to join the new line up of The Nightingales. That new group led by Parks consisted of Cheeks, Joseph “Jo Jo” Wallace, and Carl Coates.

The Nightingales rehearsed for a month in Goldsboro, North Carolina before their first appearances and since they were so sensational, they added the moniker to their name to become The Sensational Nightingales.

The group signed with Peacock Records and released their first single, “Will He Welcome Me There” in 1947. During the ’50s their hits included “New Burying Ground,” “Somewhere to Lay My Head,” and “See How They Done My Lord.”

 

Over the years, Cheeks would leave and return to the group until 1960 when he left to form his own group The Knights. The Sensational Nightingales added Charles Johnson to the roster to sing lead until the mid-80s, when he was replaced by Calvert McNair. The group is often referred to as “The Gentlemen of Song” for the way they carry themselves while singing soul stirring quartet harmonies.

 

The current line-up of The Sensational Nightingales consists of 91-year-old Joseph “Jo Jo” Wallace, Larry Moore, Horace “Sug” Thompson, and Darrell Luster, and they are still actively performing.

In October 2017, the group was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame for their contributions to the music industry.

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Profile: Babyface

Turn on the radio and you are bound to hear a hit that Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds wrote, produced, or sang.  The 11 time GRAMMY winner is still a musical force to be reckoned with after a career spanning four decades. Edmonds is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter who got his start performing with funk legend Bootsy Collins and joining the ’70s group Manchild. From there he became a member of the band The Deele where he would meet and eventually collaborate with his future production partner and co-founder of LaFace Records, Antonio L.A. Reid. Babyface flexed his songwriting skills with the tune “Just My Luck” then “Slow Jam” for Midnight Star’s No Parking on the Dance Floor album. He also penned the classic slow jam “Two Occassions” by The Deele.

In the ’80s Babyface, Reid, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis crafted the sound of the ’80s by tailoring material to individual artists, writing their own songs and creating their own tracks which are now thought of as timeless classics. With the Whisper’s hit “Rock Steady” it showcased the Babyface and L.A. Reid sound and production pattern that was a mixture of dance music with a helping of romance. The hits just kept coming; from “Dial My Heart” for the Boys, “Girlfriend” for Pebbles, “Every Little Step” and “Roni” for Bobby Brown, “My, My, My,” for Johnny Gill, “Ready of Not” for After 7 and the list goes on.

Babyface ventured out on his own as a solo artist in the late ’80s. His consecutive multi-platinum albums Tender Lover, For the Cool in You, and The Day, solidified his career as an artist. As the co-founder of LaFace Records in 1989, Babyface is also responsible for nurturing the careers of artists like Outkast, Usher, TLC, and Toni Braxton. On his website, he says making people feel good is the goal when working on music.  “That’s ultimately what any musician or songwriter does,” declares Babyface. “We try to to make people feel good.” That feel good music has garnered Babyface many accolades including several awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and more than 200 top 10 R&B and over 50 top 10 pop hits (including 16 No. 1’s);  generating cumulative single and album sales of more than 500 million units worldwide.

After releases like Face2FaceGrown & Sexy and the covers collection Playlist, Babyface returned in 2014 with Love, Marriage & Divorce, a duets album with Toni Braxton that later earned a Grammy for Best R&B Album. He then released another solo album called Return of the Tender Lover in 2015.

Let’s stroll down memory lane and take a look at some of Babyface’s receipts over the years!

 

From the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, this penned and produced single is a heartbreak ballad. Babyface wrote nearly all of the songs on the film’s soundtrack.

 

Babyface rolling out his own receipts during a 2016 concert in Dallas, Texas:

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika

Q&A: Paul Laurence Breathes New Life into Music

It’s been a lengthy hiatus, but a familiar face with a signature sound is marking his return to the music scene by breathing new life into R&B. The music that super producer, songwriter, singer Paul Laurence created during the ‘80s has transcended decades and has become the soundtrack of many of our lives; from romantic interludes to party jams. Laurence is most known for his work on hits like Stephanie Mills’ “(You’re Putting) A Rush on Me,” and Evelyn King’s number one hit back in the summer of 1981, “I’m in Love.”  The ’80s would not have been complete without Freddie Jackson’s Laurence produced and penned tracks like “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake),” “Tasty Love,” and “Jam Tonight” to name a few.

 

Laurence also stepped in front of the mic as an artist; signing with Capitol Records in the ’80s. He released his debut album Haven’t You Heard in 1985. Singles such as “She’s Not a Sleaze” featuring Freddie Jackson and Lillo Thomas, “Strung Out,” “Make My Baby Happy,” and “I Ain’t Wit It” revealed that Laurence had the ‘Midas’ touch for creating timeless music.  Laurence made the decision to walk away from the industry for several decades but recently returned back to the studio. From his new group Melodik, to re-launching his career as an artist and producer, Laurence is hoping to set a precedence for the industry going forward through his imprint Poplar Music Entertainment Group.

I had the chance to chat with the legendary Paul Laurence about some of his career highlights.

Shameika: Who are some of the artists, producer, or songwriters that influenced you?

 Paul Laurence:  If I had to go back to the beginning I’d have to say James Brown. He was at the forefront of music even then, and if you listen to it now, in some ways it still sounds ahead of its time. Nobody has been able to, even in regular R&B or per say you can kind of reach for and kind of sound the same, nobody sounds like James Brown, even today. I’d say he is the true Godfather of R&B black music evolving into what it is today. To me, he is really the innovator of it all.

Shameika: What would you say is your favorite moment in musical history?

Paul Laurence: The first time I heard the first a song that I had worked on-heard it on the radio, that was big for me. That was a personal historical moment. That was the culmination of a dream, and this was before the internet, so it was a big deal to hear your stuff played on the radio. It was the song I did with Evelyn King called “I’m in Love.”

Shameika: You took a 30 year break, then you returned to the industry and released a couple of singles and now you are working with the group known as Melodik.

What made you decide to come back to music?

Paul Laurence: It’s one of the things that I can truly do well and I enjoy it. There was a time when that particular brand of music that I was doing; well nobody was really into anymore. So now everything seems to have come full circle. I believe the industry has settled after the whole Napster downloading issue. I think it’s finally now settled into a thing where people do miss the stuff that I do. Hopefully I’m not tripping (laughs).

My music is starting to now resonate with young folks today because maybe they heard it growing up and it reminds them of their parents because they listened to it. So it really has come full circle.

Shameika: What would you say your sound is as a producer, artist, or even as a songwriter? Can you describe the Paul Laurence sound? Is there a formula that you follow to get that particular sound?

Paul Laurence: There’s a lot of great stuff that has influenced me that I can’t call it. If I had to pinpoint it; I’d call it R&B that actually changed the world. From the ‘70s to Motown and all that is what influenced me; so what you hear from me is a culmination of all of that Motown from the ‘60s to the ‘70s. Then you have the funk bands from Earth Wind & Fire to the Ohio Players to Teddy Pendergrass to Al Green; so my sound is really a gumbo of all of that.

Shameika: Let’s talk about the production backstory on a few songs.

How about your 1989 single “Sue Me?”

Paul Laurence: That song was actually written for Earth, Wind, & Fire. I had met with Maurice White in California and he loved the song, he just had a problem with the words “Sue Me” (laughs). So he’s like ‘we want to do the song but, ‘Sue Me?’ really?’ So I said it’s not what you think, but I think even if I had changed it, he still wouldn’t have done it. At that particular time he was meeting with a bunch of us that were hot at the time, like Larry Blackmon, myself, and some others. So when their next album came out, none of us were on the album, they just used the producers and writers they had been using. That’s the back story.  I didn’t want it to go to waste and I loved the song, so I recorded it. Those high parts on the song were supposed to be for Phillip Bailey and then Maurice doing the lower stuff. That’s how it was concocted.

Shameika: How about any of the Freddie Jackson songs that you wrote or worked on?

Paul Laurence: At that time Freddie and I were like brothers and had been in each other’s lives for about 6 or 7 years. He would come in and knock it out and we’d go on to the next one. He gave me the nickname ‘Mr. One Mo’ because I’d always says “One More Time!” That became my name around the studio and he’s the one that started it.

Shameika: What’s the story on remaking Prince’s 1982 hit “Do Me Baby” with Meli’sa Morgan?

Paul Laurence: Actually that was an idea from Capitol Records. The head of A&R called and asked what I thought of Meli’sa Morgan doing the song and I thought it was a great idea. I was thinking of the whole arrangement in my head while we were talking. I didn’t hear anything else during that conversation until we were hanging up. I heard the whole song in my head as he spoke. So we went into the studio and did the song exactly the way I heard it in my head. Of course Meli’sa did a great job with it.

Shameika: How about the song “Help Yourself to My Love” that is on Kashif’s 1983 Kashif album?

Paul Laurence: We were in the studio one day and Kashif was working on his album. We were sitting in the control room one day and I was on the piano and he was on the Moog Bass and we were working on a song. Then he said “LJ, you got a song for me right?” The first few times he asked I didn’t have a song since I think I was working on a Lillo Thomas project. Anyway, so finally I walked in and gave him something. I walked over to the piano and he was actually working on another song at that particular time, and he put it to the side to listen. So I started playing it and he said cool. So he sat with it for a bit so he could figure out what he wanted to do with it and add his touch to it; then we started jamming and recorded it.

Shameika: Talk about your new group Melodik.

Paul Laurence: Melodik is a female group out of Virginia State University. I met one of the members prior to the group. Her dad got in touch with me a few years ago and wanted me to check her out to see if she had something. She had it. Of course over time she went to school, she got in touch with me and said she was singing with a group and I didn’t take it serious, I thought it was some choral ensemble or something. She got in touch with me and sent a video of the group, and I saw the three of them and thought wow. A year prior to that my guys and I held auditions looking to put together a female group and got nothing. So it just kind of fell in place when I wasn’t looking. I asked them if they’d be interested if working on a couple songs of mine and they did. In terms of the future, I’m actually getting ready to record some more stuff with them and we don’t really know what’s out there. It’s about doing music and seeing what happens at this point. It’s about doing music so younger folks can get back into R&B because you don’t hear it much anymore. You don’t really see some real singing from the younger artists anymore. So we’re just trying to get that stuff back out there and get folks used to hearing it again and hopefully something will kick off from it. The first single is called “I Still Miss You.”

Follow Paul Laurence on Twitter for the latest updates @PaulLaurence and check out his website.

 

About the Author

Shameika Rhymes
Shameika Rhymes

Shameika Rhymes is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and has written for outlets like ET Online, ESSENCE, EBONY Magazine, JETMag.com, Shondaland.com, SoulTrain.com, WEtv.com and her own website, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @Mofochronicles @WriterShameika