Besides celebrating family and friends that have passed on, I like to include musicians and artists who have inspired me in some way. This year, many great musicians have passed. Consider this a digital ofrenda to them. I hope these musicians have inspired you as much as they have I.
The Bass Players
Two amazing bass players passed this year. Bob Babbitt was a member of the infamous Funk Brothers, the backing group of musicians that played on many of the best Motown recordings of the 60’s and 70’s. Donald “Duck” Dunn did the same damage for Stax Records as a member of Booker T And The MG's, playing behind many of the greats on the Stax Records roster. You may not know their names but I bet you can hum their bass lines by heart.
Babbitt played bass on such Motown classics as "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder, "War" by Edwin Starr, "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues" by Marvin Gaye, "Band Of Gold" by Freda Payne, "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", and "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" by The Temptations.
On April 10, 2012 at 7:30pm, our friends at The Booksmith will host reissue producer/music scholar Pat Thomas for a signing of his new book LISTEN, WHITEY! Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965 – 1975 and the companion album (out now on Light in the Attic Records), which is being called the definitive Black Power aural document!
Over a five year period, Pat Thomas befriended key leaders of the seminal Black Power Movement, dug through Huey Newton’s archives at Stanford University, spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on eBay, and talked to rank and file Black Panther Party members, uncovering dozens of obscure albums, singles, and stray tapes. Along the way, he began to piece together a time period (1967-1974) when revolutionaries like Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, and Stokely Carmichael were seen as pop culture icons and musicians like Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon were seen as revolutionaries.
LISTEN, WHITEY! chronicles the forgotten history of Motown Records; from 1970 to 1973, Motown’s Black Power subsidiary label, Black Forum, released politically charged albums by Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, Bill Cosby and Ossie Davis, and many others, and explores the musical connections between Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Graham Nash, the Partridge Family (!?!) and the Black Power movement. Obscure recordings produced by SNCC, Ron Karenga’s US, the Tribe and other African-American sociopolitical organizations of the late 1960s and early ’70s are examined along with the Isley Brothers, Nina Simone, Archie Shepp, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Clifford Thornton, Watts Prophets, The Last Poets, Gene McDaniels, Roland Kirk, Horace Silver, Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, Stanley Crouch, and others that spoke out against oppression. Thomas further focuses on Black Consciousness poetry (from the likes of Jayne Cortez, wife of Ornette Coleman), inspired religious recordings that infused god and Black Nationalism, and obscure regional and privately pressed Black Power 7-inch soul singles from across America. The text is accompanied by over 200 large sized, full-color reproductions of album covers and 45 rpm singles, most of which readers will have never seen before.
For the past couple of hours, Twitter, Facebook, and other online sites have been abuzz with word that soul singer Teena Marie, who was once known as Rick James' protégé, died today (Dec 26th, 2010). According to several sources close to the singer, the word out there is sadly true. Additionally, such outlets including CNN and Philadelphia soul and R&B radio station WDAS-FM have confirmed the report, saying that Teena Marie died from a heart attack the age of 54.
Born Marie Christine Brockert, Teena Marie released thirteen studio albums. Her debut was 1979's Wild and Peaceful, and her most recent one was last year's Congo Square. Teena Marie, aka Vanilla Child, will be remembered for such solo hits as "I Need Your Lovin," "Square Biz," "Lovergirl," "Cassanova Brown," "Out On A Limb," and "Ooo La La La" (which the Fugees famously sampled on "Fu-Gee-La"). Teena Marie is also known for doing a series of duets with (her producer/mentor) Rick James such as "Fire and Desire."
40 years ago today, Thomasina Winifred Montgomery, better known as Tammi Terrell, died of a brain tumor just a month short of her 25th birthday. She was one of that incredible crop of 1960’s soul diva’s who knew how to seduce or belt out a song. Today she is best remembered for her Motown duets with Marvin Gaye with singles like “Ain't No Mountain High Enough”, “Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing”, “Your Precious Love” and “You're All I Need to Get By.”