Archive for April, 2011

Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man

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An unforgettable voice has been silenced.  Phoebe Snow instantly shot up to the top of her game in the 70’s after the release of her mega hit Poetry Man.  She talked about how the song was based on her own relationship with a married man.  Phoebe said the first time she played the song for her Mother, her Mom was shocked and hoped no one would ever hear her daughter’s frank portrayal of adultery. That song would eventually shoot up to #4 on the billboards.  Soon after that, Phoebe Snow graced the front cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

She was on her way to superstardom when she gave birth to her daughter, who was born with a severe disability; soon after, Snow decided to walk away from fame to be a full time Mom.

Snow’s voice was folksy, honest and warm.  In Poetry Man, her kind and sincere vocals draw you in as she describes the sweetest kind of love.  Then the song takes an unexpected turn when she says goodbye to her lover who’s leaving to go see his wife.  Snow explained the song by saying sometimes life is messy.  She was a great musician, and singer songwriter who will be dearly missed, please enjoy Poetry Man. Rest in peace Phoebe Snow.

 

Grace Jones – Slave to the Rhythm

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Slave to the Rhythm is one of my favorite songs from the 80’s.  I remember this song debuting and sounding like nothing I had heard on the radio before; but the sound was still familiar, that was because members of the D.C. Go-go band, E.U. were backing Grace Jones up on this groundbreaking single.  As much as I love this song, it’s so hard to work it into a mix because of its uniqueness.  Grace’s vocals are too rock to group it with 80’s R&B, the strings in the music don’t blend well with old school Go-go and the song’s too soulful to sit next to 80’s pop; just like Grace Jones, it stands alone.  Please enjoy Slave to the Rhythm, and if you can find it, the 9-minute extended version is a real masterpiece.

 

Wonder to Michael Jackson’s Ear

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If you are not aware of the sincere adoration and brotherhood that existed between Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, you have missed out on one of the most fascinating bonds in modern music history.  Jackson often spoke about Wonder, specifically how watching his fellow Motown label mate inspired him to produce and write his own music.

As a member of the Jackson 5 Michael covered Wonder’s hits, and as a solo artist he collaborated with him.  Their friendship helped to empower Jackson as he propelled into the biggest star the world has ever seen.

Radio and TV personality Donnie Simpson, who was a friend of Jackson’s, told me that what made Jackson great was his natural talent; but what made him extraordinary was that he was a natural talent who intensely practiced and studied his craft as if he had no gift.  It was this strive for perfection that led him to study the musicianship of Stevie Wonder.

Witnessing Wonder take the lead of his musical direction while at Motown showed Michael that he could do it too.  Jackson had known Wonder for some time and was introduced to him shortly after being signed to Motown.  Their  kinship would grow into a kind of exclusive fraternity of musical genius.

The impact of Jackson’s death on Wonder was clearly seen when he performed just a few months after Michael’s memorial at the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  During a tribute to Jackson, Wonder broke down while singing The Way You Make Me Feel. He was barely able to regain his composure and continue singing the song.

It was a moment so emotional that it almost seemed as if the band should have stopped playing and given Wonder a moment to collect himself.  Surely to some in the audience it must have been a little off putting to see this man cry in the midst of a celebration.  To me, it was clear… I believe that as he sang those words, Wonder reflected on how Michael made him feel, from the moment he first entered Stevie’s recording session as a curious child until his death.  Wonder watched and helped Jackson develop from a lead singer in a teen group to the King of Pop.

These two icons found one another and understood each other in a real way.  There are some things that are rare in life, musical child proteges is one of them so it is understandable that these two legends leaned one another.  Both performed their entire lives and lived under extreme public scrutiny.  Both were labeled geniuses at an early age.  But what Michael achieved was greater than anything before him and for Wonder to know that he played a major part in inspiring this megastar must have made him feel a kind of pride and humility that only a very few of us will ever have the chance to experience.  How many of us have participated in the creation of genius?

That explains why Wonder sang I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer at Jackson’s memorial service; these pictures tell the story. It seems the sun was always shining on these two men when they were side by side.

Their bond is the inspiration behind my first documix, Wonder to Michael Jackson’s Ear. It’s a quote taken from Jackson as he described why music should be without boundaries and labels. He said, “It’s music, it’s wonder to the ear and that’s what counts.”

When I began working on this piece several months ago I had 6 hours of music and about an hour of interviews from both Jackson and Wonder; somehow I got it down to less than an hour and 20 minutes.  This piece features Michael Jackson covering some Wonder hits and also the song Buttercup, written by Wonder for the Jackson 5; it was released after Michael’s death.  You will also hear Wonder’s heartbreaking dedication to MJ sang at his memorial service.

This documix takes you on a journey that begins with two young artists who love to sing and entertain and ends with two men who found a deep love and respect for one another.

I would like to thank one of my sister-girl’s, Lula, for requesting a Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson mix.  What had begun as a simple mixtape for a friend became a fantastic musical journey for me that I hope you too will enjoy.  May it be wonder to your ear.  Love!

Download the 192 kbps version (98.4 MB) here!