Posts Tagged ‘James Brown’

This Christmas Mix

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From my City to yours… happy holidays everyone!  Just in time for your last minute shopping trips, decorating and family gatherings – due to popular demand – here is my first Christmas Mix.  The name, This Christmas Mix, is obviously a play on the great Donnie Hathaway’s tune, This Christmas.  That is one of many songs included in this mix.  You’ll hear some Soul, R&B, Jazz, Go-go and gospel Christmas favorites.  So often, I find Christmas is used as an excuse to make some pretty bad music… but I think these tunes are classics and it’s just not Christmas to me until I hear them. Download this mix as a gift for someone on your list or just stream it during your holiday gatherings.  Thank you so much for your support.  Happy Kwanza, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.  Love!

Download the 192kbps/HQ version (99.1 MB) here!

 

Top 5 Soul Males

 

Otis Redding

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The first time I heard Otis Redding scream out to try a little tenderness, it cut straight to my 8 year-old soul.  I think all 70’s babies who call themselves Otis Redding fans have walked this path of getting to know someone we didn’t experience first hand, but wanted to know more about.  I’ve researched to learn what created this music pioneer; this large, country, black man with little education yet an ability to not only lead an integrated band but play for hippies at the Monterey International Pop Festival.  The Nation, not just the black community, mourned the death of this man.  In my opinion, he was a tower of influence gone too soon, a child of gospel and blues and a father of soul.  Any man who can whistle through more than half a number one hit has to be a musical genius.  Redding’s special phrasing within a song; the sorrow; regret and passion he communicated can’t be taught, it must be lived.  I hear Otis and think, maybe if today’s artists knew what it was to suffer, to have to moan and groan their way into joy, our music would have the subtle complexity that would cause a generation 30 to 40 years from now to seek it out. Sadly, I don’t think that will be the case.

James Brown

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James Brown was more than a singer and dancer, he was one of the most respected black men of his time.  I know this because right next to my grandmother’s crushed velvet picture of Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was a framed picture of James Brown.  These men and Jesus were the only non-family members on my Grandmother’s walls.

While African-American historians may debate that it took Brown too long to say, “I’m black and I’m proud,” what mattered in my life is that he did say it and he said it loud.  Soul Brother Number 1, Brown was the archetype.  His hard driving beats on the one laid the groundwork for the best in soul and later the best in hip-hop music.  In fact I think all of my favorite hip hop classics used Brown samples.  Admittedly, I was once a bigger fan of Brown’s band than I was his vocals until I heard “It’s a Man’s World,” from that moment on I became a complete fan.

 

Sam Cooke

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I understand that Sam Cooke first made the ladies swoon with his mellow delivery of gospel hymns.  It’s so hard for me to imagine a gospel rock star but that could be because Cooke was the last.  In my memory, there was always so much sadness associated with his name because of his tragic and untimely death.  But this is a man to be celebrated.  Sam Cooke was a man; unlike so many acts before him, there wasn’t a perm in his hair or heels on his feet to help integrated audiences feel more comfortable with his black masculinity.  He was an unapologetic male with a well spoken and well sung opinion about who we were as a people and who we could be.  He believed a change was going to come, and for many singers who followed, Sam Cooke was that change.

 

Donny Hathaway

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Donny Hathaway began singing in DC while he attended Howard University; in fact he played with drummer, Ric Powell who grew up with my Dad and lived next door to my Grandparents in Northwest, Washington.  The more I grew into a Donny Hathaway fan the more jealous I became of my parent’s stories of seeing Hathaway perform at clubs around the City.  He actually sang happy birthday to my Mom one night at a club in Southeast.  So that’s how my connection to Hathaway began.  As a kid, my parent’s stories lead to me sneaking away with some of my Dad’s 45’s and playing Donny on my Barbie record player.  I would listen to The Ghetto and This Christmas over and over again.  Then when I got into high school I found my Father’s album of Donny Hathaway live and my entire world changed.  I could just feel myself sitting in that dark club screaming, “Ow!” as he stroked the keys.  I love his voice and style.   I even love it when neo-soul artists try to sound like Hathaway because a few have come really close.  Donny Hathaway is an inspirational and talented contributor to music then and now.

 

Al Green

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What can I say about the sexy and necessary sounds of Al Green?  Man I love his music!  I am from top to bottom a fan of Al’s work, he kills every song from the highest moan to the lowest beg… you feel Al Green.  Even his latest come back album killed it!  It was almost like he just stopped by to remind R&B that it takes some soul to make great music.  I respect Al Green’s gospel music, but I need his soul music.  While Al Green’s vocals are always celebrated, enough can’t be said about his amazing band.  Al Green’s music has also been used in some memorable R&B and hip-hop samples.  Green’s music was well ahead of its time and filled with beautiful rhythmic complexities.  From the bass to the drums it’s hard to choose what sounded best, and with Al on the vocal it was all too perfect to even try.