Au Revoir, Joni

2017/03/12


Sixty is supposed to be the new forty, or so I’ve been told by quite a few sixtysomethings. Now I find out that Joni’s dead. No, not Joni Mitchell, but the melodic-voiced charismatic, pretty sibling of Philly R&B group Sister Sledge:  Joni Sledge.

Only last week I was checking out Sister Sledge’s live performances of the near past in Western Europe via YouTube. I was singing along with them, from “We Are Family”: Have faith in you and the things you do / You won’t go wrong (oh no) / This is a family jewel. But I didn’t see Joni, whom I often thought the most vivacious of the ensemble — after Kathy — and the most vocally talented. Now she’s gone. A family jewel, dead at sixty.

 

Goodbye, Joni.

Image result for public domain photos of Joni Sledge

 

Image result for public domain photos of Joni Sledge

Sister Sledge

Image result for public domain photos of Joni Sledge

Image result for public domain photos of Joni Sledge

 


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


Image result for public domain photos maurice white

Eternal, blissful,

Wind-kissed, romantic spirit,

Forever Maurice.

 

 
Serenade restless angels. Rest in peace, Maurice.

 

 
© 2016 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Ode to BOWIE

2016/02/08


 

Razor-sharp wit-lust

Reigns from rock-punk-funk heaven —

Our Ziggy Stardust!


Rock in Peace, David Bowie

 

 
© 2016 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


Folks, I’ve never blown — now, now, this is a non-fiction blog post, not one of my Negrotica naughties — a trumpet or any other kind of horn. Well, unless a conch shell counts? I’ve blown a few deadlines, many chances, some fuses including ones in my brain, okay.

When I was a young girl stuck with a play-by-number organ, instead of gifted with a piano that must’ve dropped from my Christmas wish list — e-v-e-r-y year — while Santa Claus was either texting his head elf or sexting Mrs. C (or vice versa), my mind was blown upon watching “Soul Train” one Saturday morning: The band rocking out on Don Cornelius’ hip show was Sly and The Family Stone. (I was a kid; I knew nothing about lip syncing and instrument syncing back then.) However groovy and funky the frontman was, I was transfixed by Cynthia Robinson (pictured above within a photo of Sly and The Family Stone) showing the trumpet who’s boss. “Daddy, I didn’t think a girl could do that. Gee, wow!” Yeah, those were the days when lots of working-class families had one television (or only one color television), so the entire nuclear unit would be watching shows together. Those also were days when I used to exclaim in such geeky ways.

When the musical dynamics changed on “Stand,” I nearly lost my lil mind. Amid my father’s crisp fingersnaps sounding like the popping of fresh stringbeans and my choreography unbefitting of a Brownie, I never lost sight of my role model and heroine: Cynthia.

This past weekend, I had a good time viewing a rebroadcast of TVOne’s “Unsung” profile of reclusive musical genius Sly Stone during the dynamic cable network’s marathon of ninety-nine episodes. (Just a sampling of the unique, seven-year-old biographical series blows both A&E’s “Biography” and VH-1’s “Behind the Music” out of the broadcast journalism water.) As I was sitting riveted on my settee, and cussing every time the need for English subtitles arose during Sly’s raspy accounts of onstage performances and on-the-road antics, I was elated to see and listen to music legend Cynthia Robinson — one of the world’s first female trumpeters — providing her perspective of experiences as a key member of The Family Stone. After smiling at the still photo of  her with her then-school-aged daughter, I received a pleasant surprise when Cynthia got real in a sassy, Cheryl Lynn way on the topic of romancing the head stone.

“That was my man!” she said about Sly. It was like witnessing Cynthia transforming into a chick nearly fifty years younger because her face lit up like that of any assertive young woman boasting about her main squeeze. There she was, my first female idol — after my mother, grandmothers and my septuagenarian Puerto Rican baby-sitter — rolling forward and backward on her hips and rejoicing with laughter as she waxed rapturously about a true love. Methinks I spied upon the pearly whites of a victorious mistress. To be fair, and clear, she was commenting within the context of Sly being married at the time and, thus, she was acknowledging not being his woman.

Hmmm … How many Black women of various ages today are rising above the funk of spinster-style fatalism, choosing to share rather than despair? It’s not for me to judge any sista’s decision — conscious or subconscious — to ignore her boo’s tan line around a particular digit or, for that matter, to relish droppin’ it like it’s hot on the finger that his wife had “put a ring on it.” Whoah-ho-ho, all I’m saying, here, is that Cynthia — in love as in music — was ahead of her time. She owned it. Therefore, by living in the authenticity of her being, she rendered the word “mistress” an anachronism.

Never ever hard on the eye, Cynthia Robinson was, musically speaking too, a beautiful badass to the end. My only regret is never having the chance to see her featured with Prince in any live concert. As the Bard might say: To think, perchance to dream.

 

She would’ve turned seventy years young this coming January 12th. Rest in peace, Cynthia.

 

 

Text only: © 2015 Chantale Rêve  All Rights Reserved

Image result for death of trumpeter Cynthia RobinsonImage result for death of trumpeter Cynthia Robinson

Image result for death of trumpeter Cynthia Robinson

Paris, Je T’aime

2015/11/16


Many of us can laugh at the fiction of a zombie apocalypse on large and small screens, but real-life humanity is eroding at an ever more rapid pace. From everyday manslaughter such as road rage and hit-and-runs, and gang-related and police-related homicides, to deaths resulting from Man’s continual assaults on the environment — humans continue to use their free will to stamp out others’ freedom to live.

Paris, je t’aime.

Numbed by the mass-media coverage of the multi-venue massacres in Paris, France, over the weekend, I’m finally able to write a blog post.  This post serves to express my condolences to the families and friends of all the innocent people murdered and injured in the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 — people who may not have agreed with whatever decisions their government’s politicos made in the past and who were just trying to enjoy an evening of music, dining and sports.  Paris, je t’aime.

John Lennon’s “Imagine” wasn’t just a song. Not only during the holidays, we really need to share more kindnesses among us.  We really need peace and love on earth.

Paris, I love you.


This morning, while watching two episodes of the early-1970s sitcom “That’s My Mama,” I began reminiscing about the crush I had on the lead star, Clifton Davis.  Davis’ only competition in my young mind was Michael Jackson, whose posters adorned every wall in my pretty-in-pink bedroom.  Once I drifted down from the cloud-nine childhood fantasy of my marriage to Davis, I decided to do a Wiki-peek at Davis’ beginnings and current goings-on.  I was familiar with his acting credentials post-“That’s My Mama.”  For example, I was a die-hard fan of “Amen” (1986-1991), the groundbreaking prime-time sitcom that parodized the (Protestant) African American church, in which Davis portrayed the charismatic, dedicated minister, the Rev. Dr. Reuben Gregory.

As the main story arc charted the Rev. Dr. Gregory’s new career as a minister, another, parallel arc charted the church deacon’s daughter’s strategy to get her man — or, to put it more aptly, her man of the cloth.  Pictured in character in the above photo are (l-r) Davis as the Philly reverend with the legendary Sherman Hemsley as Deacon Ernest Frye and Anna Maria Horsford as Thelma Gregory (née Frye).  “Amen” airs in syndication on TVOne, and as I’m in the Northeast,  I set my DVR for 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

While conducting my Wikipedia research, I recalled that Davis sang in different episodes of “Amen,” but I was totally surprised to discover that he wrote the song “Never Can Say Goodbye.”  The melodic, midtempo song was first recorded by The Jackson 5 and became a big pop and R&B hit for the legendary band.  Years later, disco queen No. 3, Gloria Gaynor (Donna Summer taking the top spot, followed by Sylvester), covered Davis’ song.  Of course it’s the ever-popular anthem and karaoke mainstay “I Will Survive” that placed Gaynor in the disco pantheon.

I also learned in my research that Clifton Davis had been a songwriter before becoming an actor, and that revelation got me thinking about the TVOne program “Unsung.”  I view “Unsung” fairly regularly, and I realize that the show strives for objectivity in its profiles of Black artists, so that’s fine and all.  However, I’m wondering now that the show has been airing for more than two years, why it focuses predominantly on singers, musicians and actors.

I can understand why the network would want to limit its focus to these categories of artists (for the time being), but doesn’t art also encompass dancing, painting, sculpting and photography?  In no way am I attacking TVOne — although when I visited its website, some kind of “toolkit” attempted to attack my computer … hmm — but I ‘m trying to open up dialogue about which art forms get promoted more aggressively in the Black media.

In the realm of drama, Clifton Davis is but one example of a Black artist who is unsung.  Thus, I hope that the producers of “Unsung” come across my blog — since it appears they have ignored my missives — and consider expanding the thrust of “Unsung.”

Regular readers of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog already are aware that I love to digress, so I will do that once again.  While there’s a sprinkling of actors profiled on “Unsung,” singers and musicians are featured mostly.  If it’s true that TVOne is responding to what its viewers have requested, then in this blog I’m appealing to those viewers, too.  What am I getting at in this double appeal (i.e., to the producers and viewers of “Unsung”)?  Well, how about:  I’m sick and tired of folks, no matter what the phenotype, thinking of all Black people as musically gifted.

There’s a line spoken by a white character, an executive sports agent, in “The Game,” which is a well-acted dramedy series (returning on January 11, 2011, and airing on BET) that takes a satirical look at the relationships between Black footballers and their agents, and at the romantic relationships of all involved.  I can’t recall the exact quote, but the character is replying to an underling (also white) who compliments Tasha Mack’s (Wendy Raquel Robinson’s) vocal talent.

In the episode, Tasha mistakenly thinks that fellow agent Rick Fox (who from 2008-09 portrayed a fictional version of himself on “The Game”) sabotaged her career, and so she tells him off in song.   Her boss joins her in singing Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” mocking her and Rick’s situation, until she leaves in disgust.  When the underling comments on Tasha’s great singing voice, his boss shrugs it off by saying something akin to, “They [emphasis mine] all do.”

My detractors will say, “Oh, Chantale, you’re just being too sensitive,” or, “Chantale, Chantale, stop playing ‘the race card.'”  To them I say, “Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real.”  You see, at different times in my life I’ve been asked some of the most annoying questions, or have heard annoying comments, related to music by white people such as:  “You mean you never sang gospel in church?” and “How come you don’t play piano?”  These questions and remarks rank right up there, or I should say smell rank down there, with such asinine questions and remarks as:  “What was it like to grow up in the ghetto?” and, my favorite from 1996, spoken by my white manager:  “Your hair looks too fancy for the office.  You should get your hair braided, to look more corporate.”   That last comment was made by one of the white-feminist bullies to whom I referred in my Paris memoir on this blog, titled, “To Be Black, American, Female and Alone:  A Brief Paris Memoir.”

My point about “Unsung,” though, should be clear.  That is:  Black people are just as well-rounded within the arts as without.  As “Unsung” prefers to focus on Black artists, it would be wonderful and groundbreaking to view profiles of Black people whose art forms have been underreported if not unrecognized.  Here’s a sampling of unsung Black artists by category:  photography (e.g., Rashid Johnson, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Deborah Willis and Linda Day Clark), choreography (e.g., Judith Jamison and Bebe Miller), paintings (e.g., William T. Williams, Sam Gilliam, Mickalene Thomas, Louis Delsarte and Kehinde Wiley), sculptures (e.g., Allison Saar and Willie Cole), poems (e.g., Nikki Giovanni, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Rita Dove, James A. Emanuel, Lucille Clifton, Lady Lee Andrews, Quincy Troupe), novels (e.g., ZZ Packer and Tayari Jones), graphic novels (e.g., Lance Tooks), collage art (e.g., Kara Walker), and multimedia (e.g., Betye Saar, Lezley Saar, Faith Ringgold, David Hammons, and Adrian Piper).  Yet all of the above-named artists of color, covering a wide age range, are very much alive as of this writing.  When I was a journalist, I had the pleasure of interviewing and witnessing the art of some of the aforementioned individuals, and I only wish that they could be lifted from the shadows before it’s too late.

As with many forms of change, baby steps are needed.  For now, it’s worth repeating that TVOne’s “Unsung” does a fine job of profiling Black singers and musicians.   Songwriters do get tossed in the mix as commenters on the subject of the profile rather than any of them ever being the subject.  I’m not referring to songwriters who also are performers, such as Angela Winbush and Teena Marie.

I was happy to see Winbush featured, but surprised to find that Lady Tee is unsung!  And in no way is “Lady Tee” Black, just as Dusty Springfield wasn’t, yet she had a soulful voice.  (What, is Joss Stone destined for “Unsung” 20 years from now?)  True, back in the day everybody on the block and beyond wanted to think that Teena Marie was Black, but I did and still do give her props for giving shout-outs to Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni (“just to name a few”) on the smash “Square Biz.”

Another Black songwriter who is unsung is Leon Ware.  The Europeans love him and know who he is.  We here in the United States should, too.  Well, many of us over the age of 40 and Black or Latino or Black and Latino probably know who Leon Ware is.  I mean, the man penned “I Want You,” recorded by Marvin Gaye and later by Fourplay featuring El DeBarge and Patti LaBelle.  Yeah, that’s all, right?  C’mon, people.  Ware also shared songwriting credit with “T-Boy” Ross on “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which was written for tween-aged Michael Jackson.  Jackson made it a hit, and the song later was covered by Marvin Gaye, Jose Feliciano and many others.  Gen Xers who know Ware’s name probably associate him with the song he wrote for Maxwell:  the groovilicious “Sumthin’ Sumthin’.”

 

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

Above:  Veteran actress Mary Alice, who portrayed the mother in the original Sparkle (1976) as well as memorable recurring TV characters on “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times” (pictured here in 1993 at the 45th Emmy Awards’ Governor’s Ball) definitely is unsung!  Here on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog, I have noticed searches for “Mary Alice” by readers who are curious as to what happened to this fine actress.  Why haven’t any roles been created for her and other Black actresses of her generation (including Lynn Hamilton – see her in the photo below) to claim?

Photo Source: en.wikipedia.org

Above:  Veteran actress Lynn Hamilton, who portrayed “Donna,” the fiancée of entrepreneurial junkman Fred G. Sanford (Redd Foxx) in the landmark 1970s sitcom “Sanford and Son,” was phenomenal in John Cassavetes‘ Beat Generation film Shadows, but she’s still unsung!

Photo Source: imdb.com

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

 

While one might not expect a Black painter or sculptor to be featured on “Unsung” anytime soon, could we at least have a few more actors?  I’ve mentioned Clifton Davis (again, an actor who was a songwriter first), and here are other unsung actors:  Mary Alice, Carl Lumbly, Novella Nelson, C.C. H. Pounder, Ernie Hudson, John Amos, Sherman Hemsley, Marla Gibbs, Vondie Curtis-Hall, S. Epatha Merkerson, Richard T. Jones, Lonette McKee, Philip Michael Thomas, Forest Whitaker, Tyra Ferrell, Blair Underwood, Regina Taylor, Viola Davis, Michael Beach, Dennis Haysbert, Reginald VelJohnson,  Andre Braugher, Clark Johnson, Mekhi Pfifer, Jesse L.Martin, Giancarlo Esposito, Jeffrey D. Sams, Wendell Pierce, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Audra McDonald, Mykelti Williamson, LaTanya Richardson (who many folks still refer to as Samuel Jackson’s wife, and while that’s honorable, she should be respected as an actor in her own right).

That’s by no means an exhausted list of underrated Black actors, but  the laundry must get done today.  Then again, all the washing machines probably are stuffed with lazy tenants’ clothes, anyway, so I’ll state further that I cry out for the cardiac paddles when I see a photo of an unsung Black actor in the “In Memoriam” portion of the Academy Awards broadcast.  I had one of those shocking moments when I spotted Alaina Reed-Hall’s photo flash by on screen.  The first time I saw Reed-Hall was on “Sesame Street,” and I find it disturbing and sad that both she and Matt Robinson — who created the “Roosevelt Franklin” Muppet  (the Muppet banished from “Sesame Street”) — were unsung.

It’s hard to believe two other unsung actors are deceased:  from “All in the Family” and its spin-off, “The Jeffersons”:  Isabel Sanford (the ORIGINAL “Weezy”) and Michael Evans (who co-created “Good Times” with Eric Monte).  Sanford passed in 2004;  Evans, in December 2006.  Sanford was the first Black actress to win an Emmy for Lead Actress (1981).  Sherman Hemsley, actor of the stage (“But Never Jam Today” and “The Lottery” with Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Company; and “Purlie,” which was his Broadway debut) and screen (“All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Amen”), died in 2012.

 

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

 

 

 

 

You know, too bad TVOne didn’t think of expanding the focus of “Unsung” by the start of 2010.  Already we’ve lost a major yet unsung actor, Vonetta McGee, in July.  (My condolescences go out belatedly to McGee’s husband, actor Carl Lumbly.)

Beautiful, elegant and eloquent, Vonetta McGee is immortal for her roles in Clinton Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction (1975), which also starred Eastwood, and the Blaxploitation-era horror flick Blacula (which scared the bejesus out of me at the time because I was a kid).  However, how many of us recall her role in Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (1990), which starred Danny Glover?

The photo below shows Vonetta McGee paired with Max Julien in Gordon Parks Jr.’s classic western, Thomasine & Bushrod (1974).  I remember that film better than I do Bonnie & Clyde. I suppose the reason for that is:  As a young child, I was proud that the lead actors resembled folks in my family rather than the folks fleeing my suburban neighborhood.

 

 

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

 

REST IN PEACE, VONETTA MCGEE (pictured above with her co-star in Thomasine & Bushrod, Max Julien, star of the seminal Blaxploitation film, The Mack)

Max Julien

 

“2 Talented 2 B 4gotten”  Copyright © 2010 Chantale Reve  All Rights Reserved

Article was first published on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog on December 4, 2010.


GUSTAVO CERATI

Ibero-American Rock Legend

August 11, 1959 – September 4, 2014


May They Rest In Peace Once They Get Justice:

Eric Garner and Michael Brown — Slain in the Streets

 +   +   +

Rest In Peace:

James Garner, Lauren Bacall and Richard Attenborough — Passed Away


Above:  The late Robin Williams as “Mork” in “Mork & Mindy”

Only last night I was viewing, for the umpteenth time on my DVR, the “Tavis Smiley” two-parter in which iconic comedic auteur Mel Brooks had the Black TV host in stitches.  Brooks extolled the exquisite comedic talents of Cleavon Little and Richard Pryor, the latter whom he called “perhaps the greatest comedian of all time” and the former whom Smiley imagined would’ve had limitless potential in the comedy and acting realms.  Brooks’ appearance on Smiley’s PBS program was on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Blazing Saddles.  And now, before retiring to bed, while searching online for something to chuckle over, I’ve just read that comedic actor (and a damned great straight-up dramatic actor) Robin Williams is dead, allegedly committing suicide at age sixty-three. And yeah, Williams got a chance to appear on the “Richard Pryor Show” in the late ’70s.

Decades before ADD became a household acronym, fast-thinking and -talking Williams blew our minds organically (or so was our wishful thinking) as one-half the titular characters of the 1970s sitcom “Mork & Mindy.”  It took awhile, but eventually he had me at “Nanu-nanu.” He was on top of the worlds — Earth and Ork — during that television breakthrough, but his list of stand-up shows and film credits would become longer.

Williams was an amazing character actor. Some of my favorite films starring Robin Williams are:  Mrs. Doubtfire (the best man-in-drag movie — with or without prosthetics — since 1959’s Some Like It Hot; 1980’s de Palma homage to Hitch, Dressed to Kill; and 1982’s farce Tootsie); Dead Poets Society; Moscow on the Hudson; PopeyeGood Will HuntingPatch Adams; The Fisher King;  Good Morning, VietnamWhat Dreams May Come; Father’s DayThe Bird Cage; and Insomnia.  And I’m not counting his myriad voice work in great animated films such as Happy Feet and Aladdin.

Overlooked among his TV feature film work was his touching role as a sort-of angel (to Susan Sarandon‘s melancholy character) in the  HBO yuletide drama Noël, which included in the superb ensemble cast another actor we lost too soon and this year:  Paul Walker.

Robin Williams is and will continue to be missed.  Despite his mortal departure creating a dark mood, the night sky beams one star brighter.  We Earthlings have a way to keep him in our orbit, for his pan-galactic humor always will be a click away.

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved