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Bill Withers is an artist to be remembered Tags: bill withers music hall fame word life production new quality entertainment

Bill Withers was simply not born to play the record industry game. His oft-repeated descriptor for A&R men is “antagonistic and redundant.” Not surprisingly, most A&R men at Columbia Records, the label he recorded for beginning in 1975, considered him “difficult.” Yet when given the freedom to follow his muse, Withers wrote, sang and in many cases produced some of our most enduring classics, including “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Grandma’s Hands” and “Who Is He (and What Is He to You).”

“Not a lot of people got me,” Withers recently mused. “Here I was, this black guy playing an acoustic guitar, and I wasn’t playing the gut-bucket blues. People had a certain slot that they expected you to fit in to.”

Withers’ story is about as improbable as it could get. His first hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” recorded in 1971 when he was 33, broke nearly every pop music rule. Instead of writing words for a bridge, Withers audaciously repeated “I know” 26 times in a row. Moreover, the two-minute song had no introduction and was released as a throwaway B-side. Produced by Stax alumni Booker T. Jones for Sussex Records, the single’s structure, sound, and sentiment were completely unprecedented and possessed a melody and lyric that tapped into the zeitgeist of the era. Like much of Withers’ work, it would ultimately prove to be timeless. Reaching Number Three pop and Number Six R&B, “Ain’t No Sunshine” would go on to win the Grammy for Best R&B Song of the year. The song has since been covered more than 250 times, sampled by a bevy of rappers, and is routinely featured in movies and TV shows.

Born in 1938 in Slab Fork, West Virginia, one of 13 children (only six survived past infancy), Withers spent much of his childhood shuttling between his mother’s home in nearby Beckley and his father’s home in Slab Fork. For African-American males growing up in that part of West Virginia, working in the coal mines was about the only option available. In fact, Withers was the first male in his family not to work in the mines, opting instead to join the navy at the age of 17. Slowly learning to overcome a debilitating stammer under the employ of Uncle Sam, Withers elected to stay in the navy for nine years.

While serving overseas, Withers arranged for his mother to move from West Virginia to San Jose, California, where he joined her upon being decommissioned in 1965. For the next two years, Withers worked a variety of jobs, while cruising the local music clubs most evenings. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, he would sit in, singing blues standards with such West Coast stalwarts as Clifford Coulter and Johnny Heartsman.

His then-girlfriend bought him a plane ticket to New York, where he stayed with his sister, whose landlord happened to be Clarence “C. B.” Bullard, Atlantic A&R man and manager of Harlem’s legendary Record Shack. Bullard arranged for Withers to record a single for a short-lived West Coast label owned by Hy and Sam Weiss and Mort Garson.

Chasing the dream, in 1967, Withers moved to Los Angeles to work with Garson, who produced and arranged Withers’ first single, “Three Nights and a Morning,” the only release on the obscure Lotus Records. When “Three Nights and a Morning” sank without a trace, Garson introduced Withers to jazz pianist Mike Melvoin, who then recommended him to Charles Wright (“Express Yourself”); Wright, in turn, connected Withers with keyboardist Ray Jackson, then a member of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Withers was working for McDonnell Douglas, and then Weber Aircraft, assembling washrooms and air stairs; he used his earnings to record demos with Jackson of “Justified” (later recorded by Esther Phillips), “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” (subsequently cut by Diana Ross), and a couple of other songs.

After being rejected by several labels and industry moguls, the tape eventually landed in the hands of Clarence Avant, founder of Sussex Records. Liking what he heard, Avant wanted Bones Howe, who’d just produced several Fifth Dimension hits, to produce Withers’ first record. Avant’s friend, Stax VP Al Bell, had a stroke of genius and suggested that Booker T. Jones produce the record. Jones opted for a stripped-down ensemble, employing Booker T. & the MG’s bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, with Jones himself handling keyboards and guitar. Stephen Stills sat in on piano on a couple of tracks, including “Grandma’s Hands.”

During a third session, held six months later, Chris Ethridge and Jim Keltner replaced Dunn and Jackson. Jones crafted the ethereal string arrangement for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and suggested that Withers bring his carpet-covered drafting board to the studio – it was the same board Withers used at home to stomp out the beat while playing acoustic guitar. It was also Jones who convinced Withers that repeating “I know” over and over again would increase the tension in the song exponentially.

In 1972, by the time Withers was ready to record his second album, Still Bill, Jones had relocated to Northern California. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had recently split up, and Ray Jackson, drummer James Gadson, guitarist Benorce Blackmon, and bass player Melvin Dunlap had joined forces with Withers, creating one of the greatest unsung ensembles in R&B history. Rehearsing the new material in Gadson’s garage, Withers – with the help of Al Bell – persuaded Avant to let him produce himself.

“Al Bell is my guardian angel,” asserts Withers. “Clarence is a business guy. Al Bell is a music guy who did business. Al Bell got me!”

The result was an extraordinary sophomore effort that includes both “Use Me” (Number Two pop and R&B) and “Lean on Me” (Number One pop and R&B). Heavily in demand, Withers then wrote songs for both José Feliciano and Gladys Knight, while turning down opportunities to write soundtracks for what he considered to be degrading blaxploitation flicks. Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall and +’Justments followed, the latter producing three R&B hits, before Sussex Records went bankrupt in 1975. Columbia bought the company’s tapes at auction and, in a separate deal, signed Withers to a long-term contract.

Four albums, Making Music, Naked and Warm, Menagerie and ’Bout Love appeared on Columbia in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979, each album getting further and further away from the funky, sparse sound that had originally made Withers such a success. When Withers blanched at a Columbia A&R man’s suggestion that he record a cover of “In the Ghetto,” his career was placed on hold.

“I couldn’t get into the studio from 1979 to 1985,” he says.

Unable to record for his own label, Withers cut “Soul Shadows” with the Crusaders in 1980 and then the Top Five hit “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. in 1981. The latter appeared on Washington’s label, Elektra, and won Withers his second Grammy for Best R&B Song. Staying on the jazz-pop tip that had worked so well with the Crusaders and Grover Washington Jr., Withers recorded a Number 13 R&B hit with Ralph MacDonald, “In the Name of Love,” released on Polydor in 1984, and in 1985 recorded – under his own name – a final album for Columbia, Watching You, Watching Me.

“I didn’t navigate that corporate thing well,” explains Withers. “They would have some A&R guy that had nothing to do [with me] culturally, didn’t understand at all where I was from, or what I was doing or why. . . . That’s when it ended for me.”

Since 1985, withers has spent his time raising a family, living off his considerable songwriting royalties, and enjoying life out of the spotlight. On occasion, he will write a song at the request of a friend, contributing two such compositions to Jimmy Buffett’s 2004 album License to Chill, one to George Benson’s 2009 CD Songs and Stories, and most recently, in 2013, penning “I Am My Father’s Son” for the unveiling of a statue of basketball great and Withers’ friend Bill Russell.

Withers’ gifts are many and varied. His ability to address fundamental aspects of the human condition not commonly considered in popular music, such as friendship (“Lean on Me”), the importance of one’s grandparents (“Grandma’s Hands”), and male vulnerability (“Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Let Me in Your Life,” “I Hope She’ll Be Happier” and “Better Off Dead”) sets him squarely apart from most rock and R&B artists. His knack for simple, memorable, yet poignant turns-of-phrase is equally remarkable, and his melodic gifts are extraordinary.

Alongside Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway and Gil Scott-Heron, Withers was the leading figure in the nascent black singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. In addition to his quintessential ballads, he also crafted funky groove-based songs such as “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?,” “Use Me” and “Railroad Man,” situating himself squarely within current and past African-American traditions. He penned a number of songs addressing social issues specific to black culture, history, and living conditions, including “Harlem,” “Cold Baloney” and “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” all featured on the superb 1973 set, Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall. The latter track may be his finest moment on record, with Withers masterfully articulating the incredibly moving lyric with a variety of blues and gospel vocal devices.

Withers’ songs have proved to have a life of their own. In 1987, Club Nouveau cut a dance version of “Lean on Me” that topped the pop charts, settled at Number Two R&B, and garnered Withers his third Grammy for Best R&B Song. Originally a Number Six R&B hit for Withers in 1977, a 1988 remix of “Lovely Day” by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand reached the UK Top 10. Eight years later, Meshell Ndegeocello had a Number One dance hit with a cover of “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” That same year, Blackstreet, featuring Dr. Dre, hit the top of the charts with “No Diggity,” featuring a prominent sample from “Grandma’s Hands.”

Other artists who have sampled Withers’ recordings include DMX, Jay Z, Akon, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur, Fatboy Slim, and R. Kelly. In addition, Withers’ songs have been covered by a staggeringly diverse array of artists, ranging from Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Isaac Hayes, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and Gil Scott-Heron to Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Maroon 5, Brian Eno, Michael Stipe, Alt-j and the cast of Glee.

In 2005, Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Two years later, “Lean on Me” was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  

- See more at: https://rockhall.com/inductees/bill-withers/bio/#sthash.RkukWftA.dpuf

 

They Live - On Classic Movies and Television Tags: they live 1988 roddy piper word life production new quality entertainment feature blog

They Live is a 1988 American science fiction satirical film written and directed by John Carpenter. The film stars Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster. It follows a nameless drifter referred to as "Nada", who discovers the ruling class are in fact aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to spend money, breed and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media.

An unemployed drifter referred to as Nada (Roddy Piper) finds construction work in Los Angeles, and befriends fellow construction worker Frank Armitage (Keith David), who leads him to a local shantytown soup kitchen. There, Nada notices strange activity around the church; a blind preacher (Raymond St. Jacques) loudly chastising others to wake up, a police helicopter scouts them overhead, and a drifter (George Buck Flower) complains that his TV signal is continually interrupted by a man warning everyone about those in power. Nada discovers the nearby church is a front: the choir is actually an audio recording and the building is filled with scientific equipment and cardboard boxes. Nada finds a box hidden in the wall, but escapes when the preacher catches him. At night, the police bulldoze the shantytown. Nada returns in the morning to find the church empty, but with the hidden box still there. In an alley, he opens the box and finds dozens of sunglasses. Taking one, he hides the box of remaining sunglasses in a garbage can.

Nada discovers the sunglasses are special. After putting on a pair, he sees the world in black and white and discovers it is not what it seems. Media and advertising hide constant subliminal totalitarian commands to obey and conform. Many in authority and wealthy are actually humanoid aliens with skull-like faces. In a grocery store, Nada confronts an alien woman, who then speaks into her wristwatch notifying others about him. Two alien police officers try to apprehend Nada but he kills them, taking their guns. He goes on a shooting spree, killing several aliens that he encounters in a nearby bank. He sees one vanish using its wristwatch. Nada escapes, destroying a small, flying saucer-like alien surveillance drone and taking a Cable 54 assistant director Holly Thompson (Meg Foster), hostage. At her hill-top home, Nada tries to convince her of the truth. He also begins suffering migraine headaches from using the glasses. Holly does not believe him. Catching him unaware, Holly knocks him through a window and calls the police. Nada tumbles down a steep hillside and escapes, leaving his belongings behind.

Nada returns to the alley, where he finds the garbage can that he hid the other glasses in empty. He sees and enters a nearby garbage truck, where he discovers and saves the box. Frank meets him to give him his paycheck and tells Nada (now considered a wanted man) to stay away. Nada fights with Frank in a long battle, trying to force him to put on a pair of sunglasses. Finally, Nada holds Frank down and puts them on him and he sees the truth. The two rent a hotel room to discuss their predicament. Gilbert (Peter Jason), a member of the shantytown, discovers them and notifies them about a secret meeting with other activists.

There, Nada and Frank are given special contact lenses to replace their sunglasses. They learn from the bearded man's broadcast that the aliens control Earth as their third world, depleting its resources and causing global warming before moving on to other planets. The aliens use a subliminal signal broadcast into people's brains to camouflage themselves. Destroying its source will allow everyone on Earth to see their true form. Frank is given an alien wristwatch, a complex radio and teleportation device. Holly appears, apparently joining the cause before apologizing to Nada. However, the police suddenly attack the meeting, killing anyone in sight while Nada and Frank are cornered fighting their way out. Frank accidentally opens a temporary portal by throwing the watch, through which the two jump into a network of underground passages.

The two find the aliens in a grand hall celebrating with their elite human collaborators. The homeless drifter from earlier, now a well-dressed collaborator, believes the two to be collaborators as well. He takes them on a tour of the passages, revealed to link the alien society, including a space travel port. A further passage leads to the basement of Cable 54 station, the source of the aliens' signal. The two then launch an attack through the building to find the broadcaster on the roof, before meeting Holly and taking her along. As Nada climbs to the signal broadcaster disguised as a satellite dish, Holly kills Frank. Revealed to be a collaborator, she takes aim at Nada and persuades him to stop as an alien police helicopter hovers overhead. Nada complies by dropping his weapon, but then retrieves a hidden pistol from his sleeve and kills her. He then shoots and destroys the broadcaster before being fatally wounded by the aliens in their helicopter. Before he dies, Nada gives them the finger as his last gesture now that he scored the final victory over the aliens. With the signal destroyed, humans are shown discovering the aliens in their midst on television, in a bar, and comically one woman finds the man she is having sex with is actually an alien.

The idea for They Live came from a short story called "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1960s, involving an alien invasion in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which Nelson, along with artist Bill Wray, adapted into a story called "Nada" published in the Alien Encounters comic book anthology (cover date: April 1986)  John Carpenter describes Nelson's story as "a D.O.A. type of story, in which a man is put in a trance by a stage hypnotist. When he awakens, he realizes that the entire human race has been hypnotized, and that alien creatures are controlling humanity. He has only until eight o'clock in the morning to solve the problem." Carpenter acquired the film rights to both the comic book and short story and wrote the screenplay using Nelson's story as a basis for the film's structure.

The more political elements of the film are derived from Carpenter's growing distaste with the ever-increasing commercialization of 1980s popular culture and politics. He remarked, "I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something... It's all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money." To this end, Carpenter thought of sunglasses as being the tool to seeing the truth, which "is seen in black and white. It's as if the aliens have colorized us. That means, of course, that Ted Turner is really a monster from outer space." (Turner had received some bad press in the 1980s for colorizing classic black-and-white movies.) The director commented on the alien threat in an interview, "They want to own all our businesses. A Universal executive asked me, 'Where's the threat in that? We all sell out every day.' I ended up using that line in the film." The aliens were deliberately made to look like ghouls according to Carpenter, who said: "The creatures are corrupting us, so they, themselves, are corruptions of human beings."

Because the screenplay was the product of so many sources: a short story, a comic book, and input from cast and crew, Carpenter decided to use the pseudonym "Frank Armitage", an allusion to one of the filmmaker's favorite writers, H. P. Lovecraft (Henry Armitage is a character in Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror). Carpenter has always felt a close kinship with Lovecraft's worldview and according to the director, "Lovecraft wrote about the hidden world, the 'world underneath'. His stories were about gods who are repressed, who were once on Earth and are now coming back. The world underneath has a great deal to do with They Live."

After a budget of approximately three million dollars was raised, Carpenter began casting the film. For the crucial role of Nada, the filmmaker cast professional wrestler Roddy Piper, whom he met at WrestleMania III earlier in 1987. For Carpenter it was an easy choice: "Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him." Carpenter was impressed with Keith David's performance in The Thing and needed someone "who wouldn't be a traditional sidekick, but could hold his own." To this end, Carpenter wrote the role of Frank specifically for the actor.

They Live was shot in eight weeks during March and April 1988, principally on location in downtown L.A. with a budget only slightly greater than $3,000,000. One of the highlights of the film is a five-and-half minute alley fight between David and Piper over a pair of the special sunglasses. Carpenter recalls that the fight took three weeks to rehearse: "It was an incredibly brutal and funny fight, along the lines of the slugfest between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man.”

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 83%, with the critical consensus saying "A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter." Metacritic, an aggregator of film critics' ratings and reviews, gave the film a rating average of 52 out of 100.

In his review for the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "Carpenter's wit and storytelling craft make this fun and watchable, although the script takes a number of unfortunate shortcuts, and the possibilities inherent in the movie's central conceit are explored only cursorily." Jay Carr, writing for The Boston Globe, said "[O]nce Carpenter delivers his throwback-to-the-'50s visuals, complete with plump little B-movie flying saucers, and makes his point that the rich are fascist fiends, They Live starts running low on imagination and inventiveness", but felt that "as sci-fi horror comedy, They Live, with its wake-up call to the world, is in a class with Terminator and RoboCop, even though its hero doesn't sport bionic biceps". Allmovie contributor Paul Brenner gave the film three and a half out of five stars.

In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Since Mr. Carpenter seems to be trying to make a real point here, the flatness of They Live is doubly disappointing. So is its crazy inconsistency, since the film stops trying to abide even by its own game plan after a while." Richard Harrington wrote in The Washington Post, "it's just John Carpenter as usual, trying to dig deep with a toy shovel. The plot for They Live is full of black holes, the acting is wretched, the effects are second-rate. In fact, the whole thing is so preposterous it makes V look like Masterpiece Theatre". Rick Groen, in The Globe and Mail, wrote, "the movie never gets beyond the pop Orwell premise. The social commentary wipes clean with a dry towelette - it's not intrusive and not pedantic, just lighter-than-air."

The 2012 documentary film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology presented by Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek starts with an analysis of the film They Live: Žižek uses the main trope of the film, the wearing of the special sun-glasses reveals the truth of that which is perceived, to explain his definition of ideology. Žižek states:

"They Live is definitely one of the forgotten masterpieces of the Hollywood Left. ... The sunglasses function like a critique of ideology. They allow you to see the real message beneath all the propaganda, glitz, posters and so on. ... When you put the sunglasses on you see the dictatorship in democracy, the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom."

The film opened on November 4, 1988 and debuted at #1 at the North American box office grossing $4,827,000 during its opening weekend. However, the film's audience quickly dwindled and it spent only two weeks in the top ten. The film had a total domestic gross of $13,008,928.Carpenter is on record as attributing the film's initial commercial failure to the hypothesis that "[those] who go to the movies in vast numbers these days don't want to be enlightened". The film's original release date, advertised in promotional material as October 21, 1988, was pushed back two weeks to avoid direct competition with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which was a success at the box office.

The film was ranked #18 on Entertainment Weekly magazine's "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" list. Rotten Tomatoes ranked the fight scene between Roddy Piper's character, John Nada, and Keith David's character, Frank Armitage, seventh on their list of the "The 20 Greatest Fights Scenes Ever".

Jonathan Lethem called They Live one of his "favorite movies of the eighties, hands down," and wrote a book-length homage to it for the Soft Skull Press Deep Focus series.

Shepard Fairey also credits the movie as a major source of inspiration, sharing a similar logo to his "OBEY" campaign. "They Live was .the basis for my use of the word 'obey,'" Fairey said. "The movie has a very strong message about the power of commercialism and the way that people are manipulated by advertising.

On November 6, 2012 Shout! Factory released a Collector's Edition of the film on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Legacy

Obey Giant by Shepard Fairey

In 1995 street artist Shepard Fairey added the OBEY slogan to his iconic OBEY Giant street art as a direct homage to the "OBEY" signs found in the film.

In the 1996 video game Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem paraphrases John Nada (Roddy Piper) by saying "It's time to kickbutt and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum."

The fight between Jimmy and Timmy in the 2001 South Park episode Cripple Fight is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the fight between Nada and Frank.

Film director Darren Aronofsky cited They Live as one of the influences for the hardcore wrestling scenes of his 2008 film The Wrestler.

In the 2012 film Stand Up Guys, Al Pacino and Christopher Walken have the following verbal exchange, which is a paraphrase of a line of dialogue spoken by John Nada (Roddy Piper): "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum."

Val (Al Pacino): "So, what will it be? Chew gum or kick ass?"

Doc (Christopher Walken): "I'm all out of gum."

The fight between Nada and Frank was parodied in the 2013 video game Saints Row IV, with Keith David and Roddy Piper contributing voiceover work to portray themselves. Additionally, later in the same quest, David broadcasts a message similar to the bearded man's over the radio.

Defcon 22, the hacker conference, "do not obey" is displayed on their computerized badges.

Thelious Monk Junior (1917 - 1982) Pianist and composer
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: thelious monk jr voices jazz musi word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Thelonious Monk is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time and one of first creators of modern jazz.

Thelonious Monk is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time and one of first creators of modern jazz and bebop. For much of his career, Monk played with small groups at Milton's Playhouse. Many of his compositions have become jazz standards, including "Well, You Needn't," "Blue Monk" and "Round Midnight." His spares and angular music had a levity and playfulness to it.

Musician. Thelonious Monk was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. When he was just four, his parents, Barbara and Thelonious, Sr., moved to New York City, where he would spend the next five decades of his life.

 

Monk began studying classical piano when he was eleven but had already shown some aptitude for the instrument. "I learned how to read before I took lessons," he later recalled. "You know, watching my sister practice her lessons over her shoulder." By the time Monk was thirteen, he had won the weekly amateur competition at the Apollo Theater so many times that the management banned him from re-entering the contest.

 

At age seventeen, Monk dropped out of the esteemed Stuyvesant High School to pursue his music career. He toured with the so-called "Texas Warhorse," an evangelist and faith healer, before assembling a quartet of his own. Although it was typical to play for a big band at this time, Monk preferred a more intimate work dynamic that would allow him to experiment with his sound.

 

In 1941, Monk began working at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, where he joined the house band and helped develop the school of jazz known as bebop. Alongside Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he explored the fast, jarring, and often improvised styles that would later become synonymous with modern jazz.

 

Thelonious Monk's first known recording was made in 1944, when he worked as a member of Coleman Hawkins's quartet. Monk didn't record under his own name, however, until 1947, when he played as the leader of a sextet session for Blue Note.

 

Monk made a total of five Blue Note recordings between 1947 and 1952, including "Criss Cross" and "Evidence." These are generally regarded as the first works characteristic of Monk's unique jazz style, which embraced percussive playing, unusual repetitions and dissonant sounds. As Monk saw it, "The piano ain't got no wrong notes!" Though widespread recognition was still years away, Monk had already earned the regard of his peers as well as several important critics.

In 1947, Monk married Nellie Smith, his longtime sweetheart. They later had two children, whom they named after Monk's parents, Thelonious and Barbara. In 1952, Monk signed a contract with Prestige Records, which yielded pieces like "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "Bags' Groove." The latter, which he recorded with Miles Davis in 1954, is sometimes said to be his finest piano solo ever.

Because Monk's work continued to be largely overlooked by jazz fans at large, Prestige sold his contract to Riverside Records in 1955. There, he attempted to make his first two recordings more widely accessible, but this effort was poorly received by critics.

Not content to pander ineffectively to a nonexistent audience, Monk turned a page with his 1956 album, Brilliant Corners, which is usually considered to be his first true masterpiece. The album's title track made a splash with its innovative, technically demanding, and extremely complex sound, which had to be edited together from many separate takes. With the release of two more Riverside masterworks, Thelonious Himself and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Monk finally received the acclaim he deserved.

In 1957, the Thelonious Monk Quartet, which included John Coltrane, began performing regularly at the Five Spot in New York. Enjoying huge success, they went on to tour the United States and even make some appearances in Europe. By 1962, Monk was so popular that he was given a contract with Columbia Records, a decidedly more mainstream label than Riverside. In 1964, Monk became one of four jazz musicians ever to grace the cover of Time Magazine.

The years that followed included several overseas tours, but by the early 1970s, Monk was ready to retire from the limelight; save for his 1971 recordings at Black Lion Records and the occasional appearance at the Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall, Monk spent his final years living quietly in seclusion. After battling serious illness for several years, he passed away from a stroke in 1982. He has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry, and featured on a United States postage stamp.

As a pioneering performer who managed to slip almost invisibly through the jazz community during the first half of his career, Monk is exactly the type of figure who invites rumor and exaggeration. The image the public has been left with is that of a demanding, eccentric recluse with an inborn gift for piano. The real person was more complex. "People don't think of Thelonious as Mr. Mom," his son points out, recalling his father changing diapers, "but I clearly saw him do the Mr. Mom thing, big-time."

Whatever Thelonious was to the media, it's clear what his legacy will be to jazz music: that of a true originator. Monk probably said it best when he insisted that a "genius is one who is most like himself."

Source: Biography.com

Matthew Henson - Co-Discover of North Pole
Category: Black Men Rock!
Tags: matthew henson north american word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Matthew Henson was an African American explorer best known as the co-discoverer of the North Pole with Robert Edwin Peary in 1909.

Famed African-American explorer Matthew Henson was born in Charles County, Maryland, on August 8, 1866. Explorer Robert Edwin Peary hired Henson as his valet for expeditions. For over two decades, they explored the Arctic, and on April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson and the rest of their team made history, becoming the first people to reach the North Pole—or at least they claimed to have. Henson died in New York City on March 9, 1955.

American explorer Matthew Alexander Henson was born on August 8, 1866, in Charles County, Maryland. The son of two freeborn black sharecroppers, Henson lost his mother at an early age. When Henson was 4 years old, his father moved the family to Washington, D.C., in search for work opportunities. His father died there, leaving Henson and his siblings in the care of relatives.

Henson ran away from home at age 11, and was taken in by a woman who lived near his home. At age 12, he left to work as a cabin boy on a ship. Over the next six years and under the mentorship of Captain Childs, Henson learned literacy and navigation skills.

After Captain Childs died, Henson returned to Washington, D.C. and worked as a store clerk for a furrier. It was there that he met Robert Edwin Peary, an explorer and officer in the U.S. Navy Corps of Civil Engineers. On the recommendation of the store owner, Peary hired Henson as his valet for his travel expeditions.

Career as an Explorer

In 1891, Henson joined Peary on a Greenland expedition. While there, Henson embraced the local Eskimo culture, learning the language and the natives' Arctic survival skills. At the trip's end, in 1893, Henson remained the sole member of Peary's entourage—the rest of the team had abandoned the mission.

Their next trip to Greenland came in 1895, this time with a goal of charting the entire ice cap. The journey almost ended in tragedy, with Peary's team on the brink of starvation; members of the team managed to survive by eating all but one of their sled dogs. Over the next two years, the explorers returned to Greenland to collect three meteorites found during prior explorations, ultimately selling them to the American Museum of Natural History and using the proceeds to help fund their future expeditions.

Over the next several years, Peary and Henson would make multiple attempts to reach the North Pole. Their 1902 attempt proved tragic, with six Eskimo team members perishing due to a lack of food and supplies. They made more progress during their 1906 trip: Backed by President Theodore Roosevelt and armed with a then state-of-the-art vessel that had the ability to cut through ice, the team was able to sail within 174 miles of the North Pole. Melted ice blocking the sea path thwarted the mission’s completion.

The team's final attempt to reach the North Pole took place in 1908. Henson proved an invaluable team member, building sledges and training others on sled-handling. Of Henson, expedition member Donald Macmillan once noted, "With years of experience equal to that of Peary himself, he was indispensable."

The expedition continued into the following year (1909). While other team members turned back, Peary and the ever-loyal Henson trudged on. Peary knew that the mission's success depended on his trusty companion, stating at the time, "Henson must go all the way. I can't make it there without him." On April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson, four Eskimos and 40 dogs (the trip had begun with 24 men, 19 sledges and 133 dogs) finally reached the North Pole—or at least they claimed to have.

Source: Biography.com   

Celebrating the Life of Theodore "Teddy" Wilson Tags: celebrating life theodore teddy wilson word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Theodore "Teddy" Wilson (December 10, 1943 – July 21, 1991) first appeared as the delivery agent that delivers Fred a telegram inviting him to a bogus junk man convention in Hawaii in Episode one of "Hawaiian Connection" aired on September 24, 1976. Later, he appeared as Phil Wheeler, an old army buddy of Fred's who bought the Sanford and Son Salvage and the Sanford Arms, in the failed 1977 NBC-TV spinoff comedy series titled The Sanford Arms. Teddy was probably best known for his recurring role as Sweet Daddy Williams on the CBS-TV sitcom series Good Times.

Born in New York City, Teddy made his acting debut in the blaxploitation film, Cotton Comes to Harlem, along with Sanford and Son series star Redd Foxx. He would go on to appear in several blaxploitation films of the era. In addition to films, Wilson also landed roles in several popular television shows. Wilson portrayed Earl the postman and barber in the series That's My Mama. He also played several characters in the 1970s sitcom What's Happening!!, including the role of Al Dunbar in a popular two-part episode. In the conclusion of the two-part episode, Wilson's character gets arrested for bootlegging a Doobie Brothers concert.[1][2]

In 1977, Wilson starred in the short-lived sitcom The Sanford Arms, a spin-off of Sanford and Son. After the series was canceled, Wilson made various guest appearances in episodes of The White Shadow (he also wrote a 1980 episode), Enos, Gimme a Break!, The Golden Girls, and What's Happening Now. In 1986, he had a recurring role on another short-lived series, The Redd Foxx Show.

Wilson continued to work steadily throughout the late 1980s and 1990s appearing in Alien Nation, CBS-TV's Dallas, ABC-TV's Family Matters, Tales from the Crypt, Gabriel's Fire, Mama's Family, and NBC-TV's Quantum Leap. He was also featured in films The Hunter (1980), Blake Edwards' A Fine Mess (1986) and That;s Life! (1986). Wilson made his last onscreen appearance in Blood in Blood Out, a 1993 crime drama series released after his death.

In 1980, Wilson married actress Joan Pringle. The couple had two children. On July 21, 1991, Wilson died of a stroke at the age of 47 in Los Angeles, California.

Source: Wiki

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