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Classic Movies and Television-House Party Collection Tags: classic tv movies house party kid N' play word life production.feature artist

House Party is a 1990 American comedy film released by New Line Cinema. It stars Kid and Play of the popular hip hop duo Kid 'n Play, and also stars Paul Anthony, Bow-Legged Lou, and B-Fine from Full Force, and Robin Harris in his last film appearance (who died of a heart attack nine days after House Party was released). The film also starred Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, A.J. Johnson, Daryl "Chill" Mitchell and Gene "Groove" Allen (of Groove B. Chill), Kelly Jo Minter, John Witherspoon, with a cameo by funk musician George Clinton. This was Robin Harris' last on-screen performance before his untimely death, shortly after the film was completed.

The film was written and directed by Reginald Hudlin, based on his award-winning Harvard University student film.[3] The film grossed $26,385,627 in its run at the box office with its widest release being 700 theaters. The film has since become a cult classic.

The lead roles were originally written for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

While in their high school cafeteria, Peter, also known as "Play" (Christopher "Play" Martin) announces to his friends Christopher aka "Kid" (Reid) and Bilal (Martin Lawrence) that he will be having a party at his house that night, as his parents are on vacation. The reluctant Bilal is to be the DJ. Kid is then involved in an altercation with school bully Stab (Paul Anthony) and his two brothers Pee-Wee and Zilla (Bowlegged Lou and B-Fine). When Kid comes home, he tries to convince his father, "Pop" (Robin Harris) to let him go to the party. At first Kid's father relents, but soon grounds Kid when a note from Kid's school informs him of the fight he was in. Rather than miss the party of the year, Kid sneaks out while his sleeping father is watching Dolemite - not realizing that his father woke up just as he closed the door. On his way to the party, Kid runs into Stab and his brothers, and ducks into an Alpha Delta Sigma reunion nearby to get away from them. Crashing the reunion, Kid has the DJ (George Clinton) scratch and mix a few of his old doo wop records so that he can liven the party with a rap, until Stab and the others turn up again. When trying to get away from Stab, he winds up knocking an older man down before attempting to make a run for it. However, Kid and the bullies are caught by the neighborhood police, who humiliate the four teenagers in front of the reunion party attendees before letting them go. Before that, he jumps over a fence to get away, ending up looking in a window where a fat man is having rough sex with his lady, and when he is discovered, Kid runs away, and the three punks are shot at.

When Kid finally makes it to the house party, he finds it in full swing, with attractive girls Sydney (Campbell) and Sharane (Johnson) also in attendance. After some music and dancing, Kid and Play first get into a dance contest with Sidney and Sharane, and later have a quick freestyle battle. Stab and his friends attempt to break up the party, but are arrested a second time by the policemen, who take delight in the prospect of beating them up. Kid's father eventually makes his way to the party, demanding to know where Kid is. When he doesn't spot Kid - Kid is upstairs helping Sharane get her coat - Pop vows to wait for the boy at home. Although Kid and Sydney each have an eye for each other, Sharane decides to openly flirt with Kid, much to Sydney's disgust. The three of them soon leave the party, but when Kid tries to make advances on Sharane, she rebuffs him. Kid then walks Sydney back home, and after some argument the two of them finally calm down and make conversation.


Sydney allows Kid to sneak into her house, and the two are about to have sex in Sydney's room when she stops him, wanting to know if she is simply his second choice. Kid admits that Sydney was his first choice all along, but they do not do anything when they see that the only condom Kid has is too old to be used. When Sydney's parents come home - now revealed as one of the couples at the high school reunion, including the man Kid ran into - Sydney hastily helps Kid sneak out of the house. He manages to get out of yet another scrape with Stab and his brothers, and they all end up in a jail cell, where Kid entertains the rest of the men in the cell by rapping, distracting them long enough for Play, Sharane, Bilal, and Sydney to arrive with enough cash to bail him out. Later on, the five friends say their goodnights. Kid and Sydney share a long passionate kiss goodnight. After Play and Bilal drops him off, Kid sneaks in the house and gets undressed. As he is about to get into bed, he looks up only to find Pop holding a belt. The movie then cuts to the credits where Pop whipping Kid can be heard.

Source: Wikipedia

This week's celebrity pick is the gorgeous, Queen Latifah
Category: Celebrity Pick
Tags: gorgeous queen latifah celebrity pick word life production.feature blog

Famed musician and actress Queen Latifah was born on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. Her debut album All Hail to the Queen sold more than 1 million copies, and the single "U.N.I.T.Y" earned Latifah her first Grammy Award. Latifah has also garnered acclaim for acting; she earned her first Oscar nomination (best supporting actress) for her performance in the blockbuster musical Chicago.

Rapper, record producer and actress Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. The second child of Lance and Rita Owens, Latifah is best known for her social politics, acting skills and gift for rhyme. When she was 8 years old, a Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah, meaning "delicate and sensitive" in Arabic. Latifah began singing in the choir of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and had her first public performance when she sang a version of "Home" as one of the two Dorothys in a production of The Wizard of Oz at St. Anne's parochial school.

In her first year of high school, Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms. In her junior year, she formed a rap group, Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D in response to the formation of another young women's group. Soon the group was making appearances wherever they could. Latifah's mother was a catalyst; she was in touch with the students and the music. She invited Mark James, a local disc jockey known as D.J. Mark the 45 King, to appear at a school dance. The basement of James's parents' house in East Orange, which was equipped with electronic and recording equipment, became the hangout of Latifah and her friends. They began to call themselves "Flavor Unit."

Breakthrough Album

James was beginning a career as a producer and made a demo record of Queen Latifah's rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the demo to the host of Yo! MTV Raps, Fred Braithwaite (professionally known as "Fab 5 Freddy"). The recording captured the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who immediately signed Latifah, and in 1988 issued her first single, "Wrath of My Madness." The track met with a positive response and afforded her the opportunity to launch a European tour, and to perform at the Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. The next year Latifah released her first album, All Hail to the Queen, which went on to sell more than 1 million copies.

Business Acumen

As she began to earn money, Latifah displayed an interest in investment, putting money into a delicatessen and a video store on the ground floor of the apartment in which she was living. She came to realize that she had a knack for business, and realized that there was an opening for her in record production.

In 1991, Latifah organized and became chief executive officer of the Flavor Unit Records and Management Company, headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey.

By late 1993, the company had signed 17 rap groups, including the very successful Naughty by Nature. In 1993, Latifah recorded a jazz- and reggae-influenced album titled Black Reign. While the album sold more than 500,000 copies, the single "U.N.I.T.Y." earned Latifah her first Grammy Award in 1995.

In the 1990s, Latifah branched out into acting. She made her big screen debut in Spike Lee's interracial romance drama Jungle Fever (1991). The following year, Latifah appeared in the crime thriller Juice with Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur. She soon landed a leading role on the small screen, appearing in the sitcom Living Single from 1993 to '98. The comedy, which also starred Kim Coles, Kim Fields and Erika Alexander, proved to be a ground-breaking show. It remains one of the few sitcoms to focus on a group of African-American women.

A talented performer, Latifah continued to tackle both comedic and dramatic parts. She co-starred in 1996's Set It Off with Jada Pinkett Smith and Vivica A. Fox, playing as a lesbian bank robber. Two years later, Latifah teamed up with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito for the comedy Living Out Loud (1998). She also appeared with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector.

Perhaps Latifah's most acclaimed film role to date came in the 2002 hit musical Chicago, starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger. Her portrayal of prison matron Mama Morton gave her a chance to show off both her singing talents and acting skills. For her work in the film, Latifah earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She lost to Chicago co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Latifah went on to receive strong reviews for 2003's romantic comedy Bringing Down the House co-starring with Steve Martin. The following year, she experienced some disappointment with Taxi, which co-starred Jimmy Fallon. The comedy proved to be a critical and commercial dud. She fared better with Beauty Shop (2005) and her voice-over work in the hit animated film Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

In 2007, Queen Latifah again delighted movie-goers with her musical talents. She appeared as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray with John Travolta. Her crime caper Mad Money (2008) with Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes received much colder reception. Returning to drama, Latifah gave a strong performance in The Secret Life of Bees (2008).

On the small screen, Latifah has made a number of guest television appearances over the years, including on the shows 30 Rock and Single Ladies. She also co-starred in the 2012 TV remake of Steel Magnolias with Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad and Jill Scott. Latifah branched out in a new direction the following year. She will enter the daytime television market with a new talk show. The Queen Latifah Show will debut in the fall of 2013. The program promises to be a mix of interviews and comedic and musical performances, according to BET.com.

In addition to acting, Queen Latifah serves as a spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics. She even has her own line with the company: The Queen Collection.

© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved. Source: Biorgraphy.com http://www.biography.com/people/queen-latifah-9542419?page=1


Known as the band without a face, Kiss is Ultimate Rock Classic Tags: kiss ultimate rock classic group word life production.feature.blog

Kiss will always be known, above all else, as the band without a face. Until 1983, when the group removed its distinctive comic-book makeup, the four members' faces supposedly had never been photographed (although pictures of them applying their makeup for an early photo session ran in Creem magazine in the early Eighties).

Theatrics and basic hard rock have been a main calling card for Kiss, who were one of the biggest-selling acts of the Seventies and who inspired the Kiss Army, as fans refer to themselves. The quartet formed in the heyday of glitter and rock theater, and it set out to define, at first, evil cartoon-character personas, highlighted by Gene Simmons' bass-playing, fire-breathing, tongue-wagging ghoul.

The group was founded by Simmons and star-eyed rhythm guitar-playing frontman Paul Stanley, who met in a band in 1970. They found "Catman" drummer Peter Criss through his ad in Rolling Stone. After rehearsing as a trio, the group took out an ad in the Village Voice for a guitarist with "flash and balls" and discovered Ace Frehley, who adopted a "Spaceman" persona. At the time, they were all working dead-end jobs, with the exception of Simmons, who taught school at P.S. 75 in Manhattan. Their visual image and game plan were in place from the start. After a few New York shows, Kiss met independent television director Bill Aucoin, who helped the group get a deal with Casablanca Records.

The critics hissed at the anonymous heavy-metal thud rock on the band's first three albums and howled at its mock-threatening image. Nonetheless, Kiss hit it off with its fans (the Kiss Army) from the very start. After some hard financial times (an entire 1975 tour was reportedly financed on Aucoin's American Express card), the band took off with Alive! (Number 9, 1975), which contained the Top Twenty hit "Rock and Roll All Nite."

In 1976 the band's sound and image shifted toward not necessarily softer but certainly more commercial fare, beginning with Criss' ballad "Beth" (#7, 1976), a million-seller that he wrote for his wife, Lydia. Accordingly, Kiss' audience grew from mostly male adolescent heavy-metal fans to include more teenyboppers. As the group racked up more and more platinum records - six between 1976 and 1979 - it became increasingly less threatening. Young fans were frequently photographed wearing the makeup of their favorite Kiss member.

On June 28, 1977, Marvel Comics published a Kiss comic book. The red ink used supposedly contained a small amount of blood from the band members themselves. It sold over 400,000 copies. In the fall of 1978 NBC broadcast a feature-length animated cartoon entitled Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, and Marvel issued a second Kiss comic. But the group's popularity was beginning to wane. Four simultaneously released solo LPs sold poorly — Frehley's was most popular — although the group had several hit singles, including the disco-metal oddity "I Was Made for Loving You" (Number 16, 1979).

In 1980 Criss left for a solo career. He was replaced by Eric Carr, who drummed into the Nineties but died of cancer at age 41. The group then briefly changed its image, abandoning the comic-book characters for a New Romantic–influenced look. Music From "The Elder," an overambitious concept album, featured songs cowritten by Lou Reed and was the group's first album not to go gold. Kiss quickly reverted to its ghoul makeup and primitive hard-rock music, and Creatures of the Night eventually sold 500,000 copies and was certified gold.

What to do? Change image again. Lick It Up (Number 24, 1983) depicted the group (now with Vinnie Vincent in place of Frehley) without its makeup and sparked a commercial resurgence. By the early Nineties, Kiss had sold more than 70 million albums. And as proof that in rock & roll anyone can become a legend if he sticks around long enough, 1994 saw the release of Kiss My Ass, on which artists as diverse as Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz, and Anthrax recorded their favorite Kiss songs as a tribute to the band critics loved to hate.

The success of the album anticipated the 1996 reunion of the original Kiss for the taping of MTV's Unplugged (Number 15, 1996), which in turn led to a full-on reunion tour — the year's highest-grossing concert attraction — complete with makeup, stage blood, and pyrotechnics. With Carnival of Souls (Number 27, 1997) already recorded, the recombinant Kiss released Psycho-Circus in 1998. Though much of the album was reportedly performed by session musicians, the album reached Number Three.

In 2000 and 2001, the band's original lineup toured, theoretically for the last time. But in 2003, a new lineup — with Tommy Thayer as "Space Ace" lead guitarist and Eric Singer as "Catman" drummer augmenting Stanley and Simmons — went on the road, earning the seventh highest total gross for music tours that year. Kiss toured again in 2004, but performed only occasional shows for the next few years, not hitting stadiums in earnest again until 2008. Then in 2009, the band put out Sonic Boom, its first new studio album in 11 years. Intended to mark a return to their classic Seventies glam-stomp sound, it hit Number Two in the U.S., Kiss's highest album-chart position ever, and helped kick off another tour of North America and Europe.

Whatever Kiss's future status might be, the band's legacy is ensured by the savvy merchandising of its instantly recognizable, cartoonish image, which has inspired pinball games, plastic action figures and more comic book spinoffs. Career retrospectives such as 2002's The Very Best Of Kiss (Number 52), and live albums such as 2003's Kiss Symphony: Alive IV (Number 18) will almost certainly continue to appear. Meanwhile, Simmons has enjoyed a long-term second career expanding his own, obnoxious personal brand — taking on radio host Terri Gross on National Public Radio in 2002, starring in the Gene Simmons Family Jewels reality show on the A&E network since 2006, and playing the occasional movie villain. All of which goes along with what could be this band's real credo: Rock & Roll all nite, and market yourself every day.

Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Chuck Eddy contributed to this article.

Joan Baez Is not only a Legend, but activist that stood up for the rights of everyday people throughout the course of her career Tags: Joan Baez music hall fame word life production.feature activist human rights










 2008 is a landmark year for Joan Baez, marking 50 years since she began her legendary residency at Boston's famed Club 47. She remains a musical force of nature whose influence is incalculable - marching on the front line of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr., inspiring Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic, singing on the first Amnesty International tour and just this year, standing alongside Nelson Mandela when the world celebrated his 90th birthday in London's Hyde Park. She brought the Free Speech Movement into the spotlight, took to the fields with Cesar Chavez, organized resistance to the war in Southeast Asia, then forty years later saluted the Dixie Chicks for their courage to protest war. Her earliest recordings fed a host of traditional ballads into the rock vernacular, before she unselfconsciously introduced Bob Dylan to the world in 1963 and focused awareness on songwriters ranging from Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Phil Ochs, Richard Farina, and Tim Hardin, to Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury, to Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Steve Earle and many more. If ever a new collection of songs reflects the momentous times in which Joan finds herself these days, and in her own words, "speaks to the essence of who I am in the same way as the songs that have been the enduring backbone of my repertoire for the past 50 years," Day After Tomorrow is that record, her first new studio album in five years.

Themes of hope and homecoming weave through Day After Tomorrow. Other songs explore the individual and collective anguish of life during wartime, starting with the Tom Waits title track, "Day After Tomorrow" (introduced on his 2004 album Real Gone, and reprised as the emotional closing track of Body Of War, the award-winning 2007 documentary of a paralyzed Iraq war recruit) and the haunting "Scarlet Tide" (written by Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett for the 2003 Civil War film, Cold Mountain).

Day After Tomorrow, recorded in Nashville, is Joan's first full-length album collaboration with Steve Earle, who produces, plays guitar and sings harmony. Earle is also represented by two new compositions: "I Am A Wanderer," written overnight before one of the sessions; and the album's opening track, "God Is God" (which has already won a place in Joan's concert sets, along with Earle's perennial "Christmas In Washington" - "So come back Woody Guthrie/ Come back to us now..."). A third Earle tune closes the album in acappella form, "Jericho Road," a song that would not be out of place on a Staples Singers record (from Earle's most recent album, Washington Square Serenade, though Joan is careful not to characterize it as a "gospel" tune.

 On two songs, Earle plays the harmonium, an unusual instrument with a curiously unique sound: "Henry Russell's Last Words" by Diana Jones (a true account based on an American mining disaster); and Austin, Texas stalwart Eliza Gilkyson's "Requiem," from her 2005 album, Paradise Hotel. "Requiem" is one of two Gilkyson songs on Day After Tomorrow, along with "Rose Of Sharon" (from Eliza's Redemption Road of 1997). "A little gem," says Joan, "such a sweet song. If I didn't know otherwise, I would have just assumed that it was an old English folk song." from her 2005 album, Paradise Hotel.

 Earle assembled a first-rate core of Music City "A-Team" players to accompany Joan, each one a headliner in his own right: respected singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Tim O'Brien (who shows up on mandolin, fiddle, and bouzouki) and Darrell Scott (guitars, dobro, banjolin, bouzouki), who frequently appear on each other's records; bassist extraordinaire Viktor Krauss; Nashville elder statesman Kenny Malone on drums and percussion; and an occasional jingle of tambourine by the album's veteran recording engineer Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle's long-time producer).

 Guest appearances are limited to two singers on Day After Tomorrow. Ray's wife, Siobhan Kennedy, sings harmony on "Mary," a Christian allegory written by Patty Griffin for her Flaming Red album of 1998. (The song took on a life of its own on the first Concerts for a Landmine Free World benefit album in 2001, and then on Willie Nelson's Songs for Tsunami Relief benefit album in 2005.) UK singer/songwriter Thea Gilmore recorded her harmony vocal in Liverpool for "The Lower Road," one of the songs on her May 2008 album Liejacker, her tenth album in ten years - though the song made its way to Joan months before.

Joan Baez and Steve Earle

Day After Tomorrow now forms (or completes) a trilogy of albums - with Steve Earle as a primal link - that began with 2003's Dark Chords On a Big Guitar, Joan's first new album of studio recordings in six years (at the time), and followed-up with 2005's Bowery Songs, her first live album in ten years (at the time). Both earlier albums brought Joan's history of mutual mentoring up into the new millennium - introducing new collaborations with younger artists and songwriters, a hallmark of her recordings and performances ever since she first stepped on a stage.

Dark Chords On a Big Guitar was a fresh collection from contemporary songwriters whose work resonates with Joan. The songs were drawn from the pens of Ryan Adams, Greg Brown (two songs including "Rexroth's Daughter," whose lyric gives the album its title), Caitlin Cary, Joe Henry, Natalie Merchant, Josh Ritter and Gillian Welch & David Rawlings . The album closed with Joan's definitive version of Steve Earle's "Christmas In Washington."

 In August 2003, just prior to the September release of Dark Chords On a Big Guitar, Joan was invited by Emmylou Harris (who credits Joan as a primary influence) and Steve Earle to join them in the UK for two Concerts For a Landmine Free World. Joan returned to the UK in January-February 2004, for a sold-out 16-city tour (with Ritter opening). The conclusion of that tour coincided with the fifth annual BBC2 Folk Awards, where Joan presented Steve Earle with the Lifetime Achievement Award - the same honor she received when the awards were inaugurated in 2000. Joan and Steve joined together that spring for a U.S. tour.

 Joan returned to New York City in November 2004, for two nights of live recording at the Bowery Ballroom on the Lower East Side, the Friday and Saturday after Election Day. The resulting album, Bowery Songs, captured the message of that fateful week, from her opening acappella benediction of the patriotic "Finlandia," to the prophetic and telling versions of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and Steve Earle's "Jerusalem," the album's two closing tracks.

 The spirits of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan were felt throughout Bowery Songs - Joan has been singing Woody's "Deportees (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)" since the 1960s but this was her first live release of the song. Dylan's "Farewell, Angelina" was the title tune of Joan's 1965 LP that contained two Guthrie songs and four by Dylan, one of which was "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," a 'Bowery song.' Joan also sang "Seven Curses," Dylan's 1963 adaptation of the Child ballad "The Maid Freed From the Gallows" aka "Anathea" (and a stunning reminder of Joan's unmatched guitar skills.)

 As on previous live albums, Bowery Songs spanned Joan's entire career - from "Silver Dagger" (opening song of her first solo LP, 1960), "Jackaroe" (first heard on 1963's In Concert Part 2, later transmogrified by the Grateful Dead), and "Joe Hill" (sung at Woodstock), through the venerable Irish "Carrickfergus" (from 1989's Speaking Of Dreams), and the songs from 2003's Dark Chords On a Big Guitar. It was also noted that four of the 'Bowery songs' were previously unrecorded by Joan: "Finlandia," "Seven Curses," "Dink's Song," and "Jerusalem."

Bowery Songs reminds us that at crucial moments during her long and storied career - which is to say, at crucial moments in America's history over the past five decades - Joan has recorded and released live performance albums that have served as critical barometers of our times. So Bowery Songs was framed in a rich tradition, capturing the work of an artist whose finest moments often happen onstage.

Fifty Years of Joan Baez

 In the summer of 1958, Joan Chandos Baez, a 17-year old high school graduate (by the skin of her teeth) moved with her family - her parents Albert and Joan, older sister Pauline and younger sister Mimi - from Palo Alto to Boston. They drove cross-country with the Kingston Trio's "Tom Dooley" all over the radio, a guilty pleasure of Joan's. She was an entering freshman at Boston University School Of Drama, where she was surrounded by a musical group of friends who shared a passion for folk music.

 A stunning soprano, Joan's natural vibrato lent a taut, nervous tension to everything she sang. Yet even as an 18-year old, introduced onstage at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959, her repertoire reflected a different sensibility from her peers. In the traditional songs she mastered, there was an acknowledgment of the human condition.

 She recorded her first solo LP for Vanguard Records in the summer of 1960, the beginning of a prolific 14-album, 12-year association with the label. Her earliest records, with their mix of traditional ballads and blues, lullabies, Carter Family songs, Weavers and Woody Guthrie songs, cowboy tunes, ethnic folk staples of American and non-American vintage, and much more - won strong followings in the US and abroad.

 Among the songs she introduced on her earliest albums that would find their ways into the repertoire of 60's rock stalwarts were "House Of the Rising Sun" (the Animals), "John Riley" (the Byrds), "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" (Led Zeppelin), "What Have They Done To the Rain" (the Searchers), "Jackaroe" (Grateful Dead), and "Long Black Veil" (the Band), to name a few. "Geordie," "House Carpenter," and "Matty Groves" inspired a multitude of British acts who trace their origins to Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span.

 In 1963, Joan began touring with Bob Dylan and recording his songs, a bond that came to symbolize the folk music movement for the next two years. At the same time, Joan began her lifelong role of introducing songs from a host of contemporary singer-songwriters starting with Phil Ochs, Richard Farina, Leonard Cohen, Tim Hardin, Paul Simon, and others. Her repertoire grew to include songs by Jacques Brel, Lennon-McCartney, Johnny Cash and his Nashville peers, and South American composers Nascimento, Bonfa, Villa-Lobos, and others.

 At a time in our country's history when it was neither safe nor fashionable, Joan put herself on the line countless times, and her life's work was mirrored in her music. She sang about freedom and Civil Rights everywhere, from the backs of flatbed trucks in Mississippi to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963. In 1964, she withheld 60% of her income tax from the IRS to protest military spending, and participated in the birth of the Free Speech movement at UC Berkeley. A year later she co-founded the Institute For The Study Of Nonviolence near her home in Carmel Valley. In 1966, Joan Baez stood in the fields alongside Cesar Chavez and migrant farm workers striking for fair wages, and opposed capital punishment at San Quentin during a Christmas vigil.

 The following year she turned her attention to the draft resistance movement. In 1968, she recorded an album of country standards for her then-husband David Harris. He was later taken into custody by Federal marshals in July 1969 and imprisoned for 20 months, for refusing induction and organizing draft resistance against the Vietnam war. As the war escalated, Joan traveled to Hanoi with the U.S.-based Liaison Committee and helped establish Amnesty International on the West Coast.

 In the wake of the Beatles, the definition of folk music - a singer with an acoustic guitar - broadened and liberated many artists. Rather than following the pack into amplified folk-rock, Joan recorded three remarkable LPs with classical instrumentation. Later, as the '60s turned into the '70s, she began recording in Nashville. The "A-Team" of Nashville's session musicians backed Joan on her last four LPs for Vanguard Records (including her biggest career single, a cover of the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" in 1971) and her first two releases on A&M.

 Within the context of those albums and the approaching end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, Joan turned to the suffering of those living in Chile under the rule of Augusto Pinochet. To those people she dedicated her first album sung entirely in Spanish, a record that inspired Linda Ronstadt, later in the '80s, to begin recording the Spanish songs of her heritage. One of the songs Joan sang on that album, "No Nos Moveran" (We Shall Not Be Moved) had been banned from public singing in Spain for more than forty years under Generalissimo Franco's rule, and was excised from copies of the LP sold there. Joan became the first major artist to sing the sung publicly when she performed it on a controversial television appearance in Madrid in 1977, three years after the dictator's death.

 In 1975, Joan's self-penned "Diamonds & Rust" became the title song of an LP with songs by Jackson Browne, Janis Ian, John Prine, Stevie Wonder & Syreeta, Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band - and Bob Dylan. His Rolling Thunder Revues of late 1975 and '76 (and resulting movie Renaldo & Clara, released in 1978) co-starred Joan Baez.

 In 1978, she traveled to Northern Ireland and marched with the Irish Peace People, calling for an end to violence. She appeared at rallies on behalf of the nuclear freeze movement, and performed at benefit concerts to defeat California's Proposition 6 (Briggs Initiative), legislation that would have banned openly gay people from teaching in public schools. Joan received the American Civil Liberties Union's Earl Warren Award for her commitment to human and civil rights issues; and founded Humanitas International Human Rights Committee, which she headed for 13 years. She won the San Francisco Bay Area Music Award (BAMMY) award as top female vocalist in 1978 and 1979, and a number of film and video and live recordings released in Europe and the U.S. documented her travels and concerts into the '80s.

 In 1983, she performed on the Grammy awards telecast for the first time (singing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind"). In the summer of 1985, after opening the U.S. segment of the worldwide Live Aid telecast, she later appeared at the revived Newport Folk Festival, the first gathering there since 1969. In 1986, Joan joined Peter Gabriel, Sting and others on Amnesty International's Conspiracy of Hope tour; her subsequent album was influenced by the tour, as it acknowledged artists and groups whose lives in turn were influenced by her, with songs from Gabriel, U2, Dire Straits, Johnny Clegg, and others. Later in 1986, however, she was chosen to perform The People's Summit concert in Iceland at the time of the historic meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Joan's 1989 concert in Czechoslovakia was attended by many of that country's dissidents, including President Vaclav Havel who cited her as a great influence in the so-called Velvet Revolution.

 After attending an early Indigo Girls concert in 1990 (the year after their major label album debut), Joan teamed with the duo and Mary Chapin Carpenter (as Four Voices) for a series of benefit performances. The experience reinforced Joan's belief in the new generation of songwriters' ability to speak to her. When her album, Play Me Backwards, was released in 1992, it featured songs by Carpenter, John Hiatt, John Stewart, and others.

 In 1993, Joan became the first major artist to perform in Sarajevo since the outbreak of the civil war as she traveled to war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina at the invitation of Refugees International. The next year, she sang in honor of Pete Seeger at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala in Washington, D.C. Also in 1994, Joan and Janis Ian sang for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Fight the Right fundraising event in San Francisco.

 In 1995, Joan received her third BAMMY as Outstanding Female Vocalist. Joan's nurturing support of other singer-songwriters came full circle with her next album, Ring Them Bells. This idea of collaborative mentoring was expanded on 1997's Gone From Danger, where Joan was revealed as a lightning rod for young songwriting talent, with compositions from Dar Williams, Sinead Lohan, Kerrville Music Festival newcomer Betty Elders, Austin's The Borrowers, and Richard Shindell (who went on to tour extensively with Joan over the years).

 In August 2001, Vanguard Records began the most extensive chronological CD reissue program ever devoted to one artist in the company's history. Expanded editions (with bonus tracks, and newly commissioned liner notes) were released of her debut solo album of 1960, Joan Baez, and Joan Baez Vol. 2 (1961). The six-year campaign went on to encompass every original LP she recorded while under contract to the label from 1960 to 1972. In 2003, spurred by Vanguard's lead, Universal Music Enterprises gathered Joan's six complete A&M albums released from 1972 to 1976 into a mini-boxed set of four CDs, also with bonus material and extensive liner notes.

 The release of Dark Chords On a Big Guitar in September 2003 was supported with a 22-city U.S. tour. On October 3rd, Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin presented her debut performance of "The Joan Baez Suite, Opus 144". Written for Isbin by John Duarte and commissioned by the Augustine Foundation, the piece featured songs from Joan's earliest days in folk music.

 On the night of February 11, 2007, at the 49th annual Grammy Awards telecast viewed by more than a billion people worldwide, it was announced that Joan Baez had received the highly prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, the greatest honor that the Recording Academy can bestow. In turn, she introduced the live performance of "Not Ready To Make Nice" by dark horse nominees the Dixie Chicks. It was an ironic moment, as Joan's 'lifetime' of activism resonated in sync with the trio. They had been blacklisted by country radio and the Academy Of Country Music (ACM) when they criticized the President and the impending war in Iraq back in March 2003.

 Most recently, Joan was seen by a billion tv viewers around the world, standing center stage behind Nelson Mandela at the "46664" 90th birthday celebration in his honor, at London's Hyde Park on June 28, 2008.

 "All of us are survivors," Joan Baez wrote, "but how many of us transcend survival?" 50 years on, she continues to show renewed vitality and passion in her concerts and records, and is more comfortable than ever inside her own skin. In this troubled world, to paraphrase "Wings," she will always continue to seek "a place where they can hear me when I sing."

 --Arthur Levy, July 2008



HONORING GOSPEL LEGEND RICHARD SMALLWOOD Tags: richard smallwood new vision gospel legend word life production.feature

Richard Smallwood is a legend in his own time. After four decades as one of the most popular inspirational artists in the music business, with classic tunes such as “Total Praise;” “Center of My Joy;” and “I Love the Lord” to his credit, the Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and pianist continues to enjoy widespread popularity and influence. His songs have been recorded by Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, Kelly Price, Gerald Levert, American Idol’s Ruben Studdard, and a who’s who of the gospel world. Even the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has recently recorded a Richard Smallwood tune, “Faithful,” on her latest CD.

Recently, while standing before a recording studio full of hand-picked friends and music industry colleagues, gathered for an intimate live recording session of Smallwood’s new CD, PROMISES (Verity Gospel Music Group), he made a startling confession. “I had not written a song since my mom died in 2005,” he told the stunned audience. “I thought the gift I had dried up. I would try to write and nothing would come. I’d sit at the piano, I’d pray and there was nothing.”

“Then, in 2009, I was watching CNN and was overwhelmed by the negativity I saw,” Smallwood recalls as his breakthrough. “I began to think that, regardless of what the media says, we as God’s children are heirs to the Kingdom and He has made us certain promises. He promised that He’d take care of us, and that He’d provide for us. If God says it, that settles it. I wanted to write a complete project with songs that dealt with the promises found in His Word so that I could encourage and remind us that God is still in control. Soon after, I began dreaming songs. I have dreamed a few songs before, but I can count the times on one hand that I remembered what I had dreamed after I had awaken. But this time, not only could I remember what I had dreamed but sometimes more than one song would come at the same time and I could barely keep up with them. I knew that God was saying something that we all needed to hear.”

We can now hear what is arguably Smallwood’s most personal and intimate album yet. It features a tribute to his musical mentor, Walter Hawkins, who died of pancreatic cancer this past July; a collaboration with his protégé, Donald Lawrence; a cameo by jazz-soul artist Lalah Hathaway (daughter of his `60s Howard University classmate, Donny Hathaway); his trusty ensemble of singers known as Vision; and yet another collaboration with his co-producer Steven Ford who first collaborated with Smallwood on his 1987 CD Textures, which included the popular “Center of My Joy.”

With Smallwood’s vast accomplishments, it could be easy to rest on his laurels, but that’s not his style. Since childhood, the Atlanta, GA native has been driven. His father, former pastor of the historic Union Temple in Washington, D.C., was a tough taskmaster, and his mother encouraged his early love of music. The two extremes fueled his passion. He began to play piano by ear by the age of five. By seven, he was taking formal lessons and by eleven, had formed his own gospel group. In junior high school, future pop star Roberta Flack was one of his teachers and musical mentors. He later graduated from Howard University cum laude with a degree in music. He was very active on campus as a member of Howard’s first gospel group, the Celestials, and a founding member of the renowned Howard Gospel Choir. Along the way, he also developed lifelong relationships with fellow classmates such as Donny Hathaway, Debbie Allen, and Phylicia Rashad who would all make names for themselves in show business.

After college, Smallwood taught music at the University of Maryland before founding the Richard Smallwood Singers in 1977. Their progressive, contemporary sound earned them a record deal with Benson Records in 1981. Their debut LP, The Richard Smallwood Singers, spent 87 weeks on Billboard magazine’s Spiritual chart and cultivated a fresh, young sophisticated audience for the ensemble. Their next LP, Psalms, hit #1 and they were on a roll. They, then moved over to Word Records in 1987 where they recorded gospel standards such as “Center of My Joy,” “Calvary,” and “Holy Holy.” The group’s popularity led to an invitation to perform in the Soviet Union – reportedly the first gospel group to do a concert tour of the country at the time.

After a couple of albums with Sparrow Records in the early `90s, Smallwood retired the Smallwood Singers and birthed the choir, Vision. Their debut CD, Adoration: Live in Atlanta, appeared on Verity Records in spring 1996. It featured the smash radio singles “Total Praise” and “Angels.” In the years since, Smallwood and Vision have released radio blockbusters such as “Healing,” “Anthem of Praise” and “Bless The Lord.” It’s been over four years since Smallwood’s last project, Journey: Live In New York, which debuted at #1 in fall 2006 and spawned the radio hit, “I’ll Trust You.”

With co-producer Steven Ford (who has collaborated with artists ranging from Vickie Winans to Tye Tribbett) at the helm, Smallwood offers the same sophisticated symphony of praise that established his name over 30 years ago. “Not too many people understand my musical insanity,” he joked at the live session. “And Steven Ford has been working with me since the Middle Ages.” The two veterans pulled their best resources to spotlight a collection that spotlights not only the promises of God but also further solidifies Smallwood’s stature as one of gospel music’s greatest tunesmiths. Like Donald Lawrence said on that cool December evening, “Richard writes like Rogers & Hammerstein. His songs are ageless and they never go away.”

That’s a promise that Richard Smallwood is sure to keep.

Journey: Live In New York #1 Top Gospel Albums (2006)
The Praise & Worship Songs
Of Richard Smallwood #14 Top Gospel Albums (2003)
Persuaded: Live in D.C. #3 Top Gospel Albums (2001)
#12 Heatseekers (2001)
Healing: Live In Detroit #3 Top Gospel Albums (1999)
#10 Heatseekers (1999)
Rejoice #18 Top Gospel Albums (1997)
Adoration: Live In Atlanta #5 Top Gospel Albums (1996)

Memorable Moments #19 Top Gospel Albums (1999)
Live #11 Top Gospel Albums (1993)
Testimony #8 Top Gospel Albums (1992)

Portrait #9 Top Gospel Albums (1990)
Vision #9 Top Gospel Albums (1988)
Textures #7 Top Gospel Albums (1987)

Psalms #1 Top Gospel Albums (1984)
The Richard Smallwood Singers N/A (1982)

Grammy Nomination, Best Trad. Gospel Performance: Persuaded: Live in D.C. (2001)
Grammy Nomination, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Performance: Live (1993)
Grammy Nomination, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Performance: Testimony (1991)
Grammy Nomination, Best Soul Gospel Performance: Portrait (1990)
Grammy Nomination, Best Soul Gospel Performance, Male: You Did It All (1988)
Grammy Nomination, Best Soul Gospel Performance, Duo or Group: Psalms (1984)

NAACP Image Award Nomination for Best Gospel Artist, Traditional
Album: Persuaded: Live in D.C. (2001)

Stellar Award, Choir of the Year - Healing – Live in Detroit (2000)
Stellar Award, Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year – Healing – Live in Detroit (2000)
Stellar Award, Traditional Choir of the Year - Healing – Live in Detroit (2000)
Stellar Award, Choir of the Year - Healing – Live in Detroit (2000)


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