When I learned, with the rest of the world. about the passing of the legendary, and much beloved, singer and song stylist Al Jarreau, I didn’t just weep. I put on every vinyl record, cassette and CD that I own of Jarreau’s marvelous musical stylings. He may be gone in physical form, but we’ve got his luscious, bluesy, jazz-scat-fantastic voice with us always. Don’t y’all remember, from “Roof Garden,”  “Does-anyone-wanna-go-walkin’-in-the-garden / Does-anyone-wanna-go-dance-up-on-the-roof”?  Yes, to both!

Jarreau mesmerized us, whether we were in our homes or watching him live onstage, as he mimicked guitars, drums (beatboxing) and synthesizers. This was long before the a cappella gone mainstream — but, still, a beautiful thing — of gifted ensembles such as Duwende and Pentatonix.

Of the many songs that he finessed with his mighty pipes, my faves — well, every song he sang was a favorite — include “Spain I Can Recall,” “Rainbow in Your Eyes” (my goodness, what a sexy song, and I love the way Jarreau lets his alto just ride those rhythms), “Tell Me What I Gotta Do,” “Roof Garden,” “It’s Not Hard to Love You,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “Mornin’,” “We’re in This Love Together,” “After All” and “Moonlighting.” Nuh-unh, don’t ask incredulously, “Moonlighting”?  That’s right. I didn’t stutter. “Moonlighting” was my jam in the late 1980s!

Well, I’ll pause my melancholy musings tonight and turn to his pop-fresh “Mornin’,” the celestial bridge of which reflects where I think of him residing … well, let’s say, flying in the afterlife:

My heart will soar
With love that’s rare and real
My smiling face will feel every cloud
Then higher still
Beyond the blue until
I know I can
Like any man
Reach out my hand
And touch the face of GOD

Image result for public domain photos Al Jarreau

Rest in peace, Alwin Lopez “Al” Jarreau

Credit for top photo of the one and only Al Jarreau:  By Stig Ove Voll – originally posted to Flickr as Al Jarreau, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5050243

“From THE Rooftop Garden to the Rainbow in His Eyes: Al Jarreau’s Everlasting Serenade”  © 2017 Chantale Rêve


After tuning into WBLS-FM this evening and listening and swaying to a suite of hippitydippityhopheavenly songs by A Tribe Called Quest — including “Lyrics to Go,” which samples Minnie Riperton‘s “Inside My Love” and loops her incredible, extended note in the whistle register appropriately on that ethereal ballad’s climax — I turned to the Internet to research how many rap tracks sampled Riperton’s voice and/or instrumental hooks from songs that she recorded solo and, years prior, with the band Rotary Connection. Serendipity intervened when I found Ismael AbduSalaam‘s excellent blog post, which I’ve reblogged here.

Beats, Boxing and Mayhem

For many casual listeners, Minnie Riperton is remembered as a one hit wonder of sorts for her classic 1975 single “Loving You.” That is truly a shame because Minnie has, in my opinion, of the greatest voices and octave ranges in music history. Over 30 years after her tragic early death, I take a look back on how Riperton’s music has blessed Hip-Hop culture.

Minnie Julia Riperton was born in Chicago on November 8, 1947, the youngest of 8 children. Her parents recognized her predeliction to music early on, and enrolled her in operatic training at the Lincoln Center. While she would retain her opera influences, Riperton later dropped out of college to pursue soul and rock music.

After bumping around in the mid 60s singing backup with assorted girl groups, Riperton recorded her first solo songs (“Lonely Girl,” “You Gave Me Soul”) under the pseudonym Andrea Davis, which was…

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This Buffalo Gal will always remember your genius.  Without you, we Americans under age 45 wouldn’t know jack about British punk. You put punk’s edginess in rap/club music, and for that I’m so grateful. Recently I played my “Hey DJ” twelve-inch single so repeatedly that I nearly wore down the needle.  I couldn’t have known on that exhilarating weekend that you were so close to your transition.

We never would have crossed paths.  In my youth, I lived in a predominantly Black suburban community far from New York City’s urban core.  But in my district, as in the more densely populated  areas of the city, rap music increasingly became the music of choice — as well as a coded medium for freedom of expression — for many Black and Latino teens.

In those days, there weren’t many places where I didn’t hear “Buffalo Gals” — from summer block parties and house parties to inner-city roller discos and disco bowling alleys.  Your McLarenettes, not the Miss Americas of the past, were my American idols.  “Buffalo Gals” was pure sonic brilliance (“all that scratchin’ is makin’ me itch,” indeed).  I loved the studio-warped voices and thick synth beat loops.  I remember all of us would know whenever the song was starting because your primal scream would summon us to round up our rumps to the dance-floor-of-the-moment:  “Eeeeeeee-lelelelelele-eeeeeeee /HOLLLAAAAAA!!!”

Through your immense but underrated contribution to rap/club music,  I learned who you were and where you were:  at the fuckin’ top of the world of punk.

For those of you readers who are teens or twentysomethings now, please do your booties justice and check out “Eiffel Tower,” the best cut on the superb No Small Affair soundtrack.  Or, if you can’t find the cassette, wait out the credits at the end of the movie — or hunt down McLaren’s Swamp Thing CD. Then try to sit still as you listen to the feisty McLarenette rapping with love as if the phallic monument were her valentine bursting red-hot outta steel:  “I feel sexy/ Sexy Eiffel Tower/ You make me feel so tall, Eiffel / Hour after hour!”

The way homegirl goes “huh-huh!” is exhilarating! Although her tough-sounding interjection sorta mimicked (in an imitation-is-flattery kinda way) what New York City Black male rappers were doing in the first era of dueling MCs, when Kurtis Blow was a fuckin’ hip hop deity as Prince was to funk-pop and as George Clinton at the helm of Parliament Funkadelic was (Emperor) to pure funk, it (the “huh-huh!” on “Eiffel Tower”) also was the B-Gal response to George Michael’s testosterone-soaked, double-entendre of pumping-iron sounds (HUH!) in counterpoint to his own ad-libs on the fade-out of “I Want Your Sex.” I’m making this comparison now, in hindsight, so it doesn’t matter whose song — McLaren’s or G.M.’s — was released first.

And Malcolm, I would’ve never known about names such as Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, of the Sex Pistols, without first having been exposed to your spaced-out funky compositions. “Buffalo Gals” was a breathtaking detour — and escape — for a once-sheltered, though far from pampered, adolescent.  Among the youths, who needed drugs when one could dance and electric-boogaloo away the angst and sorrow?  Thumping beats like those in “Buffalo Gals” held the power to shock life back into a nihilistic existence when The Breakfast Club soundtrack couldn’t deliver an enduring dose of kinetic relief.

You waved your magic wand in the fashion world, too.  I would’ve never stuck safety pins in strange places and frosted my hair pink (the first of many colors) if it weren’t for the anti-attire that outfitted punk rock posturing.  It’s funny how these fashion statements (and let’s not forget the renaissance of the mohawk) are now so mainstream among teens and adults.  No doubt you envisioned that  happening … in your lifetime.

So glad you lived long enough to watch us — from all walks of life, and around the world — appreciate your legacy.  How ironic that today’s youth would compliment your amazing music, calling it “sick.”  I’ll be missing you like mad-crazy.

 
Lyrics near the end of “Buffalo Gals” (from the LP Back to Skool, Charisma Records Ltd., 1982), recorded by Malcolm McLaren & The World Famous Supreme Team:
 
   

” … Three Buffalo Gals

Three Buffalo Gals

Three-three-three-three

Three Buffalo Gals

Gals

Gals

Buffalo

Buffalo

Three-three-three-three-three

[Bridge]     Yo, girl

It’s a pity that you’re so dirty

You’re dancing just to be friendly

So pretty, you drive me loco

You’re so pretty, you make me blush so-o-o

Yeah, HAH, you’re a Buffalo Gal,

Yeah-ah-ah-heahhh

 It’s a pity that you’re so dirty

You’re dancing just to be friendly

So pretty, you drive me loco

So pretty, you make me blush so-o-o

(She’s looking like a hobo.)

 [Sonic scratching]

Harmony

Harmony

Harmony

[Sonic scratching]

 Harmony

 Three Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

‘Round the outside, ’round the outside (un-huh)

Two Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

‘Round the outside, ’round the outside (un-huh)

Three Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside (you know it)

Four Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

‘Round the outside, ’round the outside

Four Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

And do-si-do your PARTNERS! … “

This piece is dedicated to all those Buffalo Gals and Boys out there; it’s time to find a roller disco near you so you can do-si-do your partners.  It’s also dedicated, of course, to Malcolm McLaren, who’s probably jamming at a “sexy Eiffel Tower” in a hip galaxy where all high frequencies of his life’s music have eliminated the need for morphine drips to alleviate the pain.

First published on WordPress.com 2010-04-09


With so many music legends (not all in the following list being singers or musicians) having made their transition in the past year — in just the past nine months, one-half of Ashford & Simpson, Nickolas Ashford; the legendary Etta James; “Soul Train” creator and host Don Cornelius; pop-soul princess Whitney Houston; “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark; disco queen Donna Summer, go-go music pioneer Chuck Brown; and, just yesterday, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees — I thought I would pay homage to immortal singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton Rudolph via a review I wrote in November 2011 of “Closer,” a song written by new-generation artist Corinne Bailey Rae that reminds me so much of Minnie.

Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog

Before I get hate mail for critiquing a song released more than a year ago, please allow me to protest: I was so busy writing fiction and posting on my then-new blogs, and engaging in non-fiction in the form of job hunting, that I didn’t have the time to listen to radio stations and catch up on YouTube views and surf the various music vid channels on cable. But there’s a reason that I’ve climbed from under a novella-in-progress and interrupted my reading of a clever mystery novel to write about a singular song. Are you in suspense yet?

For the past few months — through grief over a pet’s demise and major family ties, sublime joy over several personal matters, and sheer fascination over rediscovering my natural hair — I haven’t been able to shake an obsession. Whether cooking up red rice, chilling out after a day’s work, writing…

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 Photo Credit (above):  Asterio Tecson

The first time I heard Whitney Houston’s voice, the song playing on an FM radio station was “You Give Good Love.” The year was 1985; the season, late spring. As a young woman barely out of her teens, I found Whitney’s sweet but throaty, gospel-trained alto the perfect vehicle for depicting the awe and beauty of falling in love, and the apprehension, courage and responsibility of being in love.

My paltry paycheck couldn’t come sooner. Once back home from the record store, with the Whitney Houston album spinning loveliness from my File:Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston (album).jpgturntable, I couldn’t get over the contradiction between the jacket’s front and back covers. On the front was a close-up of a fresh-faced girl like me wearing a pastel gown like a goddess of virtue and, flipped, was a full-length image of a leggy woman in a stunning white swimsuit posing like a sensuous warrior at the ocean’s edge.

At the age I was then, Whitney’s songbird voice spirited me through my academic weekdays and crisp, green weekends. In those days of firsts — pink-frosted feathery haircuts, lipstick, kisses, miniskirts, lingerie, nightclubs, concerts, and forbidden invitations — life transformed into rainbow colors as soon as the needle dropped to the vinyl or the chunky “Play” button was pressed on the Walkman.

When the straight, popular girls (read: big-busted skanks) would snatch away the straight and bisexual normal boys, the only guy I had to hold me was a figment of my imagination. That was OK, though, because all I had to do was shut the door to the attic, snap my fingers to summon my fairy godsista, Whitney, and “dance with somebody who loves me.”

The Greatest Love of All

Image via Wikipedia

Back then, whether a record or an artist won a Grammy didn’t matter to me. As long as the music moved my bottom half — heaven forbid if the lyrics also stirred my soul, as in “Thinking About You,” Whitney’s duet with synth maestro Kashif — I found kinetic bliss a prize worth pursuing. An undergrad degree was more difficult to achieve through a combo of unpredictable death benefits, an eleventh-hour grant that covered only senior-year textbooks, and a part-time night job the commute from which courted danger in a predominantly white section of town. With A Dirty Mind and Around the World in a Day bookending my freshman and senior years, it was a miracle that any schoolwork got done. Though, it was easy to understand how I got done. Seriously, Prince (before and during The Revolution), Whitney, Michael Jackson, Angela Bofill, Madonna and Eldra DeBarge all helped me get through college studies and some heavier stuff right at home.

Thanks to the conviction with which Whitney sang “Saving All My Love for You” and, in a duet with Jermaine Jackson, “Take Good Care of My Heart,” I had intuited a clue to love’s mystery and had received fair warning of the complex emotions that unfolded in relationships which catapulted my tenderoni self into adulthood. By the time Whitney was full-bodied, her mature pipes fluttering and “shooping” through “Exhale,” so was I.

When it came to covers, Whitney reshaped a song and made it her own. Several examples of Whitneyfied remakes include “The Greatest” (originally recorded by R&B-jazz singer-musician George Benson for the 1970s movie The Greatest, starring then-heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali) ; “Living for the Love of You” (The Isley Brothers); “I’m Every Woman” (Chaka Khan); “I Believe in You & Me” (from the soundtrack of The Preacher’s Wife [that film itself a reimagining of The Bishop’s Wife], and originally recorded by The Four Tops); and, as alluded to in the title of this blog post, the thematic song for the 1992 blockbuster film The Bodyguard: “I Will Always Love You” (written by and originally recorded by Dolly Parton).

Whitney Houston   -   Concert in Central Park ...

Whitney Houston – Concert in Central Park / Good Morning America 2009 (Photo credit: asterix611)

Over the past decade, it was refreshing to find Whitney — daughter of the legendary gospel and soul singer Cissy Houston, cousin of pop icon Dionne Warwick, and goddaughter of “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin — performing more gospel songs live and with verve. She was very much alive. She looked and sounded inspired. It’s not my place to judge whether her elated or dreamy expressions were from natural highs or recreational ones, for Whitney showed the world that, despite the various drug-related controversies and media witch hunts, she was but a humble servant of her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is to Him I’d like to think her soul floated for divine comfort and joy, and eternal rest.

This weekend, Black Entertainment Television (BET) re-aired “Celebration of Gospel,” from 2011, in which Whitney surprised the on-site and television audiences by stepping onstage in a pretty, gray dress to join the legendary Kim Burrell for a stirring gospel duet. The riveting encore moved emcee Steve Harvey, too. I had watched the excellent program when it was first broadcast, and its appearance on my TV set on February 12th led me to the news announcement, during commercial breaks, of the tragedy. My fairy godsista, Whitney, was gone.

I didn’t learn of the much-adored yet widely maligned pop icon’s passing until today — Sunday — because over a sixteen-hour period I had been sketching and writing the short story “Mixed Signals” for my Negrotica blog. I usually don’t believe in coincidences, but it’s an eerie one that around the time Whitney was reported to have died (according to the news I viewed on BET and CNN today, February 12th), I had incorporated the emotional relevance of her song “Run to You,” from The Bodyguard soundtrack, into the aforementioned short fiction.

Cover of "The Bodyguard (Special Edition)...

Cover of The Bodyguard (Special Edition)

Whitney’s film career was launched in 1992 with The Bodyguard, a romantic thriller that I loved then and now in spite of a plot which has more holes than a thin slice of Swiss cheese. No disrespect to her co-star, the gifted and handsome actor Kevin Costner, but the movie (co-produced by Costner) turned into a critical vehicle for Whitney Houston and revitalized her pop music image. According to Wikipedia, Lawrence Kasdan, The Bodyguard’s screenwriter and a co-producer, had pegged Steve McQueen and Diana Ross for the leading roles back in the ’70s, when he scripted the film. As a gi-normous Harrison Ford aficionada, I didn’t need Wikipedia to inform me that Kasdan wrote the screenplays for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi.

Although Whitney’s model good looks were taken for granted in The Bodyguard, the woman was incredibly sexy and portrayed the seducer, which for me was a first for a Black actress in a major motion picture involving an interracial romance as a subplot. Were it not for Whitney’s alluring crescents for eyes, expressive lips, serpentine movements and earthy charm, there would’ve been no credible chemistry between the “Queen of the Night” and her protector, and no basis for the 360° farewell kiss at film’s end. Midfilm, though, Costner’s Frank Farmer had my cheeks burning when he taught Houston’s Rachel Marron a horizontal lesson about tinkering with a sharp sword.

Having let down his guard and agreed with (t)horny Rachel to give her an authentic dating experience, he invited her into his private world: his kind of bar, his kind of flick, his kind of fetish. One would think that the vintage Japanese film which they had viewed at the cinema in town was In the Realm of the Senses. (Surely I joust, you say? Hai, hai. Besides, Rachel’s neck scarf was worn loosely, and there was nary an egg in sight.) Experiencing Far Eastern cultural aftershocks from the samurai movie, Rachel gave herself the green light to pierce through to Frank’s sensual layer. While she certainly was no Black geisha, she approached her off-duty bodyguard’s mounted weapon with slippered poise.

Her demoted, incompetent bodyguard, Tony, had learned the hard way just how proficient Frank was with knives, but she was about to get the point of his fetish. Although she first had seduced Frank, she was now in his man-cave by his design, and he only needed to be lured to the edge of passion to take over the seduction. Executing a few, faux samurai moves, Rachel extended the sword like a temptress with penis envy. After halving her silk scarf like an illusionist’s act gone awry, he got her undivided attention. Awestruck and startled was she. Twinned with desire was he. Unheard but understood was his direction to his member to: “Chaaaaarge!”

Their suppressed, forbidden lust unsheathed, they were woman and man, no longer pop diva and bodyguard — at least not until dawn. Can any true appreciator of The Bodyguard forget how the camera slowly revealed Frank’s massive, long blade penetrating the crotch of Rachel’s dainty, lace, limp panties? Am I the only one who frankly didn’t give a damn that it was overkill when the camera next panned over to the bed, where the pair lay embracing each other in their afterglow? The bedroom was bathed in indigo blue; their faces, in blissful satisfaction (hers) and ambiguous regret (his).

For me, Frank’s perilous sword maneuver — his chivalric touché to Rachel’s initiation of foreplay — in The Bodyguard was the sexiest Kevin Costner scene since his smooches north and south on Sean Young’s statuesque bod — he in uniform, she in lingerie — across a limo’s wide backseat in the Cold War-era suspense film No Way Out (1987), based on Kenneth Fearing’s novel The Big Clock. While the film’s eponymously titled, synth-drenched balladic duet led off by Paul Anka saturated the night, Costner’s naval commander and Young’s two-timing mistress frolicked and panted away behind the involuntarily shut slide, leaving the disappointed chauffeur (Bill) to circle DC’s illuminated monuments. And, no, Costner’s Tom Farrell didn’t leave his hat on.

File:TheBodyguardSoundtrack.jpg

Not since The WIZ, Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain had I played an original soundtrack (OST) back to back over an entire year! I adored then, as I do now, every track that Whitney laid down on The Bodyguard OST. Also highly listenable are the cuts not performed by her, such as “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day” — Clivilles-Cole’s sensually aerobic rendition of Bill Withers’ 1977 hit song “Lovely Day” — which remind us of their contributions to the film’s atmospherics. That is, they musically aid director Mick Jackson in dramatizing the enviable (to some) lush life juxtaposed with a paranoid sensibility that can accompany the perils of celebrity. To date, The Bodyguard remains the highest-selling OST on Earth.

Not one film that Whitney’s talent, name and fame carried — not a one — tanked. I’ve exhausted my praise for The Bodyguard. Now please allow me to take you back down memory lane, for this now-ascended star who in mortal life easily flashed her megawatt smile also had entertained us with her commendable work in The Preacher’s Wife (with Denzel Washington), Cinderella (with singer-actress Brandy in the title role) and Waiting to Exhale (with a tremendous ensemble cast that included Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and the late Gregory Hines).

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[I’m infamous for my asides, so here we go:

Aside #1: Thank you to director and Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker for bringing us the gem Waiting to Exhale in 1995. We need, no, crave, many more films that represent the multifaceted Black Experience. We are human, too, and so non-Blacks (now’s not the time to pelt me with the anthropological “Lucy” theory) will perceive and appreciate the universality in our stories just as we do in theirs. If we can guffaw through The Help — a film I refuse to sit uncomfortably through when an über-rich person such as Oprah Winfrey keeps touting it — then non-Blacks and Blacks can view a film about, say, a happily married, working-class Black couple trying to deal with their twentysomething son’s PTSD after he has survived his “tour” in Afghanistan but no one wants to hire him.

Here, I’m making my plea to: Spike Lee, Kasi Lemmons, Forest Whitaker, Sanaa Hamri, Tyler Perry, Carl Franklin, Marlies Carruth, F. Gary Gray, Darnell Martin, Antoine Fuqua, Neema Barnette, Denzel Washington, Julie Dash, Clark Johnson, Cheryl Dunye, Lee Daniels, Angela Robinson, John Singleton, Coquie Hughes, Sheila Norman, Martin Lawrence, Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Hughes Brothers, Ayoka Chenzira, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and the rest of you responsible Black American, Caribbean and other African-descended filmmakers. Please lift your cameras and, for the auteurs among you, your pens now like never before!

Aside #2: I’m still wishin’ and hopin’ and prayin’ that somebody will make a major motion picture about the life of Tammi Terrell — and I’m for real. I’m continuing my campaign launched with my November 2010 post on this Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog, in which I stated that actress Taraji P. Henson would be magnificent cast as Tammi. If those with the capital to fund just about every damned thing else could get in touch with author Vickie Wright and her co-author on the Tammi Terrell bio, Ludie Montgomery, who is Tammi’s sister, then these wonderful ladies will be able to bring their film project to fruition. I plan to be on line on opening night.

Aside #3: Now, what’s being plated in heaps among the annual sampling of films (and TV shows) containing predominantly Black casts? Junk food. We desire soul food! Tyler Perry shouldn’t take all of the heat. He’s a self-made millionaire in an industry that would never do what he does: employ many long-seen-and-heard-from Black actors. And they’re major talents. But I take issue with the excessive histrionics and slapstick that often distract from the serious matters which Perry had the insight and courage to explore. Don’t get me wrong; Madea is fucking hilarious! However, when we already are presented with such a gigantic woman — Perry in drag as a caricature of a composite of grannies and great-aunties some of us know or knew all too well — do we really need the actors in supporting roles going over the top like Madea’s prosthetic tatas? Or should I say, taDAHS!

I’m all for tribute and affection wrapped in comedic irreverence, but in the burial scene in Meet the Robinsons, did Jenifer Lewis’ strident-voiced character need to desecrate “Amazing Grace” and get shoved into the open grave? Why didn’t Perry go further and write a few broken limbs into the script? You Tyler Perry fans know that’s a rhetorical question. Perry sketched a two-dimensional cartoon character, for in the kitchen scene that follows the burial shot, Lewis emerges only with a facial bruise and a crooked wig. Rubbish.

Auteur Spike Lee justifiably was publicly critical of Perry’s representations of Black people and the ironic acceptance by Blacks. But the responsibility of making quality films cannot rest solely on Spike’s shoulders — by the way, I’d say that if he stood over six feet tall. Spike isn’t flawless, of course. He seemed preachy in parts of his 1990s films, such as the scene in Jungle Fever in which Wesley Snipes’ adulterous protagonist steps out of character to give a PSA-worthy speech about unwed teenage mothers. Yes, Spike misstepped there by not ministering to unwed teenage fathers.

However, Spike doesn’t rely on slapstick and on Black characters acting like white actors in blackface in a minstrel show. That’s Perry’s forté. I only hope that I don’t waste $12 ($20 with popcorn and a beverage) walking out of Perry’s Good Deeds the way I did with For Colored Girls.

Aside #4: We are force-fed a plethora of movies from male-dominated POVs that depict Black men, women and children as “coons” — yeah, I went there. Those types of characters are nothing but 21st-century versions of actors made to ape around in flicks that European American audiences flocked to see during the half-century following the end of legal U.S. slavery.]

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Back to the subject of this blog post: the late great Whitney Houston

When Sparkle, her last film and a remake of the 1976 classic that starred singer-actress Irene Cara in the title role, is released this summer, let’s all go out and support it. Thank you, Bishop T.D. Jakes, for bringing it … and for bringing it back to life. Yes, thank you for resuscitating a film that most of the world forgot, perhaps because it’s about a Black adolescent (singer Jordin Sparks in the title role) — a middle child — who has God-given talent, a big dream, a strong church family, a supportive and adoring friend and, most importantly, a single mother who loves her so much that she fears losing her to vices and materialistic success.

In Sparkle Whitney portrays the matriarch of a family of sisters in a role originated by the graceful actress Mary Alice, who illuminated the small and big screen with an authentic, downhome kind of femininity and mature sensuality. (Mary Alice was ubiquitous in 1970s television programs, especially “Sanford and Son” opposite comedic legend Redd Foxx, and she’s long overdue an “Unsung” profile on TVOne.  Hint, hint.) Recalling Mary Alice’s poignant performances during my youth, and how she balanced poise and feistiness, I’m so happy that someone had the prescience or genius to consider Whitney Houston — a religious, doting mom to a teen-age daughter who publicly had expressed her own music industry dreams — for such a coveted role in Sparkle. Timing is everything, and Whitney is a natural for the part.

Those of you who either lined up outside the cinema house in ’76 (as I did that autumn with my mom) when the original Sparkle was released or have viewed it on cable television (thanks, TVOne) or DVD, know that all three daughters were fast-tracked into adulthood amid harsh urban realities. You also may recall that the eldest sibling, “Sister” (pronounced Sistuh), played to the hilt by Lonette McKee, lost her battle to drug addiction — heroin, the drug plied by her pusher-lover, Satin. It’s inspired casting when one considers Whitney’s courage to make a comeback after struggling with a failed marriage — one in which substance abuse and love were intertwined (if not symbiotic), by the pop icon’s own admission.

In the film’s original version, set vaguely in the late 1950s to early 1960s, the midtempo song “Hooked on Your Love” seduced the moviegoer with its muted horns and stripper beat while the gowned-down girl group (McKee’s, Cara’s and Dwan Smith’s characters, in proper birth order) sashayed what their momma gave them to the delight of single and attached men seated at tables in the nightclub. It would be a travesty if in the rebirthed Sparkle movie, “Hooked on Your Love” (sung on the soundtrack album by Aretha Franklin; in the film, by McKee on lead vocals) were omitted instead of re-envisioned.

This time, the whole world will take notice of the film, not only for the dramatic performances and the great soundtrack, but also for its lifesaving messages about loving and believing in oneself and about the significance of supporting and standing up for family and friends when one gets a divine call. Yes, the entire world will pay attention to Sparkle this time around because Whitney Houston no longer is.

Cissy Houston, thank you for trusting the world with your beloved “Nippy.” Many out there did your baby wrong, but they’re greatly outnumbered by us — the longtime fans that discovered who Whitney was through the music which also helped us discover ourselves, who encountered an angel on earth and whose love for her will live on like her amazing legacy.

Just Whitney

Image via Wikipedia

 In Memory of Our Recently Departed Sista-Girl,
Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

© 2012 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


It figures only an Abagond post can coax me back onto the Internet while I’m still nursing an injury.  A freak accident with a sex toy — just joking! 

Seriously, though, people.  Check out this link to read Abagond’s blog post titled “Maxwell” (February 11, 2011), here on WordPress: http://abagond.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/maxwell/.

As with most of Abagond’s posts, you get the brilliance of his intellect and the insightful and always entertaining comments from his faithful readers. Hats off — or in my case, ACE bandages off — to you, Abagond!  For the reasons stated in Abagond’s post and for so many more, Maxwell is so truly a sexy human being.  He even oozes sex when he twitches his hand as he reaches for that high note that might become elusive if he keeps smoking (what, I won’t say).  I don’t care how he styles his hair, or if he starts sporting a baldie, or if he goes back to his springed-out ‘fro.  I don’t give a damn whether he’s wearing a suit, jeans, pajamas or just a thong — or, good God Almighty, nothing at all!

My point is:  Maxwell’s entire being is purposeful and generous; handsome and lovely.  He’s got the perfect balance of yin and yang.  I even love the scar on his face — not how he got it, of course, but how that flaw adds to his slightly rugged deliciousness.  Like he’s a bad boy gone good.

Ooooh, did those words just escape mine lips?

Only an Adonis can release such inhibitions in the, uh, this, observer.  M — as he is affectionately known among his many adoring female fans — is so much more than the Isaiah Mustafa of the neo-soul, “grown & sexy” genre.  If his essence could be bottled, I’d be bankrupt.  Well, I’m nearly there anyway, but I’m just saying …

Does M have bedroom eyes or does he have on-the-hood, over-the-dining-room-table, in-the-bleachers eyes, or what?  He has soul-searching, Eros-revealing, temperature-raising, clothes-shedding, panties-shredding eyes.  At his late-September 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden, M brought us all out of the rain and made me do what a decade previously only Prince (or whatever the Artist was calling himself then) could do:  make me lose my damned mind.

M was singing “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” when, suddenly, he hopped up on a platform. That athletic move placed him 10 feet away from me (yeah, only me!).  He was so close that I could smell his perspiration.  Mmmmm … it was like M-brosia.  Yeah!  I was dancing in front of my $175 seat, dangerously close to the row’s edge and slinking my long neck scarf to the beat.  Then he done did it.  M winked at me with a smile as he sang the lyric “You’re the highest of the high.”  I was high all right — on an unobtainable-love jones.

When that man-god glanced up at me, with the sweat on his face gleaming like the breasts bursting out of my bra, it was somewhat like that scene in West Side Story.  I’m referring to the pivotal moment when Antone glimpses María, and María glimpses Antone, and the starcrossed lovers’ magic parts the crowd at the high-school dance.  Then it’s just the forbidden pair.

Well, never mind that 1961 movie masterpiece, even though the Garden is technically on the West Side.  It was just M and I because our star-fan-crossed magic didn’t just part the MSG audience; it shoved all those folks and their popcorn aside.  M winked at me indiscreetly with an eye so sparkling amid the stagelights that it out-Mayweathered Floyd’s pair.  It may have been a bit cold in the Garden that night — as if that were the real reason for sporting diamond-hard nipples — but there was no “chilli” reception from moi.  I nearly choked myself with that scarf, and suddenly all my past joking about Isadora Duncan’s fate wasn’t so funny anymore.

After I recovered and M jumped back down to the main stage, I sat down awk…ward…ly (gurrrls, you-know-what-I’m-sayin’).  Then I began screaming so hard for that suited-down, sweaty man to do things to me that only the characters in my erotic short stories do.  The boyfriends and husbands of the women seated in the row below mine turned around to sneer.  What, had my cheering for M emasculated the would-be lovers, or were they angry that this cheerleader’s pom-pons were concealed?  Or maybe they actually believed the exaggerated effects of those K-Y Intense ads on late-night television (except for Black channels, on which the ad also runs in the daytime on weekends)?  Or, better still, could it really be that they also had paid $175 but times two, plus dinner, and all that math added up to zero probability of either sex or (the men’s) masturbation that night?

Unlike some lovemen’s concerts, a Maxwell show isn’t foreplay; it’s competition.  When the guys swiveled their heads Exorcist-style in my direction another set of deafening screams later, I pre-empted their satanic rumbling by crossing my forefingers and burned into their evil souls a knowing look that said:  “Yeah, and now M has raised the bar, so you’re going to have to step it up tonight and ‘stop the world’ or get a fistful without the tears.”  Maybe I said that in Latin, but all I know is I got no more dirty looks from the “pea” nuts gallery.

Not to quote James Ingram, but just once I’d love to watch M perform his rare (underground) hit “Lock You Up N’ Love Fa Days.”  That midtempo song is part of the European-distributed CD suite titled Til the Cops Come Knockin’:  The Opus (a/k/a The Opus).  If you don’t have The Opus, brothas and sistas, you got to get your own!  Make sure you get the five-track and not the three-track, though.

If I ever get to experience M perform “Lock You Up,” I can’t promise I won’t get locked up for doing that to someone … that is, anyone not clinging to a girlfriend or wife in the audience.  I also can’t promise I won’t rip off my panties and fling them at the soulman when he sings, “I can’t leave you alone, baby” at the end of that naughty song.  Then again, I’m a better catcher than a pitcher, so I’d just let them cling to me.

(In my best Barbara Feldon/”Agent 99″ voice)  Ohhhhh, Maaaaxwelllll


Toward the finale of “A Very BET Christmas” last night, I was reminded why my senses were left fluttering upon my first listen to Marsha Ambrosius‘ ascending the scale in Floetry’s rendition of  “Butterflies,” written by Ambrosius and covered by Michael Jackson.  My spirit is still shimmering from Ambrosius’ angelic performance of “Christmastime Is Here” on the BET holiday special.

“Christmastime Is Here,” for the younguns among you, is a song written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi that was performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio in the evergreen Peanuts holiday TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Listening to Marsha Ambrosius render “Christmastime Is Here,” with no children’s choir within range of a snowball fight, the song’s magic still managed to transport me to a wondrous state.  Like an enchanted sleigh that can morph its dimensions to ride up and down a spiraling snow-coated mountain, Ambrosius performed deft maneuvers with her voice that left me all goosepimples.  When she sang “Sleigh bells in the air,” trilling in soprano on the last word, she captured the emotional essence of the holiday season.

Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart were amazing as Floetry.  Now, I can’t wait for Ambrosius’ new solo CD, Late Nights & Early Mornings (J Records), which is due out in January.  Thus far, I’ve heard only one song, “Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player),” and already I’m sold.  Not only does her voice sound as lush as her surname, but also she knows how to drop an internal rhyme like an insidious slight.

Any songwriter who has the audacity to use Kim Kardashian’s name as a run-of-the-mill action verb in a lyric, as if she plucked the reality TV star out of an underused thesaurus, is worthy of a Grammy Award for Song of the Year.  That “Hope She Cheats on You” is based on a real-life, once-upon-a-time fiery tale makes the multiple metaphors in the lyric “Kim Kardashianed her way up” especially searing.  My favorite symbolism in that lyric, and by no means a sexy image, is the broken-home metaphor branded into Kim Kardashian’s household name.  Curvaceous in physical form and in aural delivery, Ambrosius can turn heads and a phrase sharper than kittenish Kardashian can pivot on stilettos.

The BET Christmas show on December 12 also sparkled with Keri Hilson’s lovely version of “The Christmas Song” (written by Mel Tormé and popularized by Nat “King” Cole) and Ne-Yo’s eggnog-warm vocals on “This Christmas.”  For me, no one but Donny Hathaway (the song’s co-composer) sounds absolutely perfect on “This Christmas.”  Still, Ne-Yo put his own Gen X groove on the soulful carol, right down to his moving, gospel-tinged ad-libs.  Suffice it to say, the brotha’s baaad!   For this music-lover, Ne-Yo conjured up Donell Jones with his inspired tenor — or maybe it’s the ubiquitous, übercool fedora.

The only disappointment on “A Very BET Christmas” (and it pains me to say this because he gave me one heck of an interview back in 1992, the year of his phenomenal solo CD, In the Storm) was Eldra DeBarge.  Po’ lil El just kept on struggling to tread water in the wake left by the powerhouse singers who had preceded him (for instance, Jazmine Sullivan — hello?).  As DeBarge croaked out notes at the beginning of “Silent Night,” his frail performance was abruptly interrupted by the beginning credits of Soul Food and its theme song by Boyz II Men.  Maybe not a silent night but, for El DeBarge, a silenced one.

For those of you who missed last night’s broadcast of “A Very BET Christmas,” you can catch the show Wednesday night.  Check your local listings for the time.


 

Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve


Progressive global grooves in “Bang Bang Bang” – the first single from the forthcoming CD The Record Collection by Mark Ronson and The Business Intl – hooked me on the first listen with addictive shots more potent than any espresso from my favorite overpriced coffeehouse.  The hot track already reached the top 10 in the U.K.; it took a recent episode of HBO’s “Entourage” to bring the tune to the attention of many here in the U.S.

“Bang Bang Bang” shoots out the gate in a parallel galaxy where the decade of the 1980s is once again hip and where The Man gets the bird flipped via finger snaps.  Metaphoric lyrics combine with funky, clear vocals from featured artists Amanda Warner and legendary rapper Q-Tip on intoxicating rhythms intended to boost dancers’ serotonin levels.  By midsong, clubbers won’t need a dance floor because they’ll be floating on endorphins.

Q-Tip punctuates the electronic beats with razor-sharp precision, while the techno-fluid momentum keeps everybody bouncing throughout the roller rink.  Layered grooves emit lasers sure to ricochet from club to club around the world while managing to hit their targets – the mind, booty and feet – in every destination.  Amanda Warner and Peter Wade Keusch comprise the synthpop duo MNDR (pronounced “mandar”).

Sometimes vacuous lyrics hide behind catchy beats and slick keyboard melodies.  Not here.  The clever play of the lyrics and rhyming in “Bang Bang Bang” offer scathing commentary of big business and, in this music listener’s opinion, specifically of the lucrative “record” business.  Listen as Q-Tip shows why he’s an iconic hip hop artist and MNDR’s Warner reveals why she’s about to be technopop best known vocal secret.

Both of the featured artists in “Bang Bang Bang” turn the French Canadian children’s song “Alouette” on its head, if you’d pardon the pun.  Like many centuries-old nursery rhymes and other songs from different cultures, “Alouette” has gruesome origins.  It’s a melodious song about killing a lark, a bird that used to be hunted for human consumption. The lyric Je te plumerai la tête basically is a lovely sounding way of saying “off with your [the lark’s] head.”  The literal translation is:  “I shall pluck your head.”

Alors, in the empowering anthem “Bang Bang Bang,” a lark becomes a hunted executive – albeit very rhythmically hunted.  Whoa!  What a way to ruffle some pretty lofty feathers!  Oui, the best tripped-out dance tune of 2010 is symbolism for corporate greed on a global scale.  And not only greedy “record” company execs come to mind in the lyric about the “bald head.”  Those of us, now numbering in the millions, who have been downsized while execs line their already downy nests with more currency can get our cathartic pleasure through the song’s incisive lyrics and kinetic energy.  In this quicksand economy, “Bang Bang Bang” perversely turns the term headhunter upside down.  But thanks to Ronson and company, we can dance the pain away in the realization that our personal power can lead us to spiritual elevation.

I must admit, though, when I first heard “Bang Bang Bang” I wasn’t listening to the lyrics for any social and/or political context.  The tune first had a serious effect on my gluteus maximus while my mind mellowed out on the sweet female vocals and suave male vocals interacting with the shifting rhythms.  I write “shifting” because the second set of musical dynamics are so refreshingly swift that I envision skateboarders synchronizing deft maneuvers in urban environments from New York to Tokyo.

With every new dance song that attracts me kinetically, I reach a point where I want to know what a song is about, so after slowing down my glutes, I sought the English lyrics of “Bang Bang Bang” before the French ones.  That was a big mistake, however, because I found myself bopping my head at the beginning while singing:  “Fellas, I’m fucking fellas.”  Then I wondered:  Wait, wait, this woman can’t be saying that!  Then I thought of the anti-feminist attitude of some neo-punk songs, such as “I Know What Boys Like” by The Waitresses, and then I justified my original guess with:  Sure, she can be boasting about fucking fellas.

To my dismay, however, I later found out – thanks to Google – that MNDR’s Warner is singing:  Feathers, I’m plucking feathers.  I guess I’d better brush up on those French lessons I abandoned last year because if I had gathered that the chorus goes Je te plumerai la tête, then I would’ve realized the reference to plucking the head of a bird.  But hey, I didn’t grow up in Quebec province, so I never cared about the meaning behind the song “Alouette” … until now with this bangin’ song.  I do wish I could be in some haute Montreal club dancing to it, though.  I know:  Get job first, save money, and then warp speed to Montreal!

I’m a good kidder, but make no mistake.  The language lesson took my listening and dance experience of “Bang Bang Bang” to the outer zones of pleasure.  Read that any way you want.  It’s no secret, among my friends and readers of my music reviews, that I tend to dig songs that incorporate other languages and/or musical textures in a way that synchronizes vocal rhythms with instrumental percussion.

Not all musical hybrids work well, but those in “Bang Bang Bang” do.  It’s as if Mark Ronson and The Business Intl are channeling the best of ’80s New Wave synthpop dance sounds through the lenses of hip hop culture with the precision of an audio engineer.  I haven’t been this stratospherically transported by a song since the innovative world music recorded in the ’80s by David Byrne and his Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Malcolm McLaren, Prince and The B-52s.  And I can’t wait to hear the entire CD by Ronson and The Business Intl.  Again, it’s titled The Record Collection, and it will be released next month.  It’s Ronson’s third CD and it features a vivid list of collaborators.  Stay tuned.

For now, I’ve put the lid on the double-shot espressos.  Instead, as Q-Tip persuades the listener in the beginning of “Bang Bang Bang,” I turn the volume “up a little bit more” each time I wait for Warner and Q-Tip’s punky, plucky “Un, deux, trois.”  On “three,” I open my mind for the aural shots that remind me I’m not only alive but also ecstatically embodied in the moment.  Beam me up to la bonne, bonne vie!

 

 

© 2010 Chantale Rêve


The entire Sube Azul CD, by a refreshing new indie artist — Argentinian singer-songwriter Sofia Rei Koutsovitis — is the most awesome and authentic Latin jazz experience that I’ve had in months. I admit to being partial to songs that have elements of either tango or flamenco, so my favorite song on Sube Azul is “Imaginaria.”

“Imaginaria” lifts the spirit with mood-elevating dynamics that make me smile and shake what my mama gave me. The flamenco thing that gets brewing about midsong and that picks up toward the end is such a beautiful display of Sofia‘s enviable vocals riding on and through complex rhythms. I’m a big fan of emotive singing, and Sofia doesn’t disappoint here (or anywhere else on the CD).

Sube Azul manages to be eclectic and original, and this chanteuse’s sensual voice makes it all go down smooth. Bravissima!
 

Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve