Category Archives: Music, From Way Back When to Now

Great finds around the WWW – with videos where possible

New Music – Madisen Ward and the Momma Bear

Black folks are very deep in the roots of Folk Music in America. All the way back to the beginning.

What is interesting is that we are beginning to see more artists explore those roots with new music. In terms that one of my goals is to introduce non-traditional (R&B/Hip-Hop/Jazz) music to those who visit my site, I’d like to introduce (to anyone who doesn’t know) Madisen Ward and Momma Bear, a Mother-Son duo…

Here they Cover Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”

And their own “Yellow Taxi”

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear will perform on NBC’s Today on Monday, November 23rd. The mother-son folk duo from Kansas City are currently on the road touring their debut album ‘Skeleton Crew’ and are confirmed to play two sold out shows at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on December 30th and 31st on New Years Eve. The album which was released this past spring, has been praised by NPR, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, The Tennessean and more:

“There’s sweetness to Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear’s music that makes me smile, and then there’s so much more” – Bob Boilen, NPR

“This is an album that will stay in your vinyl collection for a long, long time.” – Paste, 25 Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)

“50 Best Things We Saw at SXSW 2015” – Rolling Stone


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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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Allen Toussaint 1938-2015

Another of the New Orleans music greats, Allen Toussaint has passed.

Legendary musician Allen Toussaint dies after performance in Spain

Legendary musician Allen Toussaint died Monday following a performance in Spain. He was 77 years old.

Madrid emergency services spokesman Javier Ayuso told the Associated Press that rescue workers were called to Toussaint’s hotel early Monday morning and managed to revive him after he suffered a heart attack.

But Ayuso says the 77-year-old Toussaint stopped breathing during the ambulance ride to a hospital and efforts to revive him again were unsuccessful.

He was taken to Jimenez Diaz Foundation Hospital in Madrid and was pronounced dead on arrival, El Mundo reported.

Toussaint had just performed at the Teatro Lara before his death.

Toussaint grew up in the New Orleans neighborhood of Gert Town, raised by his parents Naomi Neville and Clarence Toussaint. In at least 20 songs, Toussaint credits his parents as writers.

In the 1960s, he wrote and produced a series of hits for New Orleans artists, such as Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas and the Neville Brothers, among many others. Many of his hits were later covered by pop and rock artists, such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Ringo Starr and Alex Chilton.

In the 1970s, Toussaint teamed with Patti Labelle and produced the album “Nightbirds,” which birthed the No. 1 hit “Lady Marmalade.” The song has been covered, redone and remixed numerous times by countless artists.

Paul McCartney and Wings also paired up with Toussaint on the album “Venus and Mars.” On that record, Toussaint played on the song “Rock Show.”

Other songs, such as “Ruler of My Heart,” “Fortune Teller” and “Working in the Coal Mine,” are among many that artists covered in nearly all music genres.

Toussaint’s legacy earned him inductions into multiple halls of fame, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011.

And of course Labelle’s classic hit written and produced by Toussaint., with him on keyboards –

With Irma Thomas performing and writing “Ruler of My Heart”

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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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Rhiannon Giddens on Nina Simone biopic, Music, and Racism

Rhiannon Giddens is an emerging crossover star (former Opera star), as welcome at the Grand Old Opry as the Kennedy Center Stage.  Here she discusses the impact of discrimination as well as the new Nina Simone biopic.

Rhiannon Giddens: “Songs don’t change anything; they inspire people to change things”

This is her newest release –

And something a bit more “folksy”

And if you don’t believe “The Grand Old Oprey”…Here she is there…

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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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Nina Simone “Biopic” Controversy

This is a strange one. A “biopic” done by RLJE, whose chairman (and BET founder) is Robert L. Johnson somehow cast a HIspanic woman to play the lead role as iconic singer Nina Simone. Not that Zoe Saldana is a bad, or unqualified actress – but the role seems to be a major, major stretch.

Starting with Zoe, vs two shots of Nina –

Now…Apparently with the help of makeup and prosthetics, Zoe looks like this in the movie…

Not seeing any resemblance at all here folks…

Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana to be released in December

The long-anticipated Nina Simone biopic, starring Zoe Saldana as the iconic singer-songwriter and civil rights activist, is finally coming to theaters.

RLJ Entertainment announced that it has acquired North American rights to Nina, and the film will be released this December.

“I had the special privilege early in my career of working with Ms. Simone while coordinating a performance for former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy and knowing first-hand of her major contribution to the soul and emotion of the Civil Rights Movement,” RLJE chairman and BET founder Robert L. Johnson said in a statement. “I look forward as I am sure many others will, to her story and legacy being made available by RLJ Entertainment to consumers on various media platforms in the coming months.”

Written and directed by newcomer Cynthia Mort, Nina follows the rise of the legendary American vocalist, a 15-time Grammy nominee known for iconic standards like “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” “Feeling Good,” and “To Be Young Gifted and Black.” Her struggles to balance her career and her activism left her living alone in France, feeling isolated from her own country. It was there that she met Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), who became her assistant.

Nina’s release has been delayed for several years, with casting changes, public controversy, and even a lawsuit. Mary J. Blige was originally attached to star as Simone back in 2010, but she dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. She was replaced by Saldana, but some criticized the new casting, saying that Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, was too petite and light-skinned to play Simone. The film’s release was delayed further when Mort herself filed a lawsuit against the production company last year.

Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, has also criticizedNina, choosing instead to work on this year’s Netflix documentary about her mother, What Happened, Miss Simone? 

Quite frankly, other than in vocal talent – I am not even feeling it on Mary J. Blige playing NIna…But at least Blige’s sultry voice puts her one step ahead of Zoe, who is not a singer.

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Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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The Wiz

My favorite “Dorothy” –

Apparently Stephanie Mills will be playing “Auntie Em” in the 2015 version on NBC.

Toto Is the Only White Cast Member in the First Promo for The Wiz Live!

In what is becoming a yearly tradition, NBC is resurrecting a classic Broadway musical for a star-studded live performance, and this time, it’s The Wiz, the 1975 Tony Award-winner adapted from L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and featuring an all-black cast. (Today, it’s probably most remembered for Sidney Lumet’s movie adaptation, starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and a pre-Off the Wall Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.) The first promo is here, and while it doesn’t tell us much, it immediately calls to mind the bright, effervescent Oz of the 1939 Judy Garland filmrather than the grittier, ’70s-era New York City seen in the 1978 movie. Also, the part of Toto will apparently be played by an adorable white-haired terrier rather than a black one, making Toto the only white member of the cast.

Could it be that this time around, NBC’s live musical could actually serve as good live theater, rather than something to hate-watch and snark about on Twitter? We shall see—the failed movie adaptation aside, The Wiz is inarguably a stronger, better show than the incredibly dated Peter Pan, and while we initially had other folks in mind, the cast (which also includes newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, and Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow, plus Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, and The Wiz’s original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills) looks pretty great. The live show airs on Dec. 3.


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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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New Music – Fantastic Negrito

Ok…Strange choice of a name, but listen to the guy. Raw, unadulterated talent – with a rawness reminiscent of some of the old Mississippi bluesmen like Pinetop Perkins and John Lee Hooker. The following vid has 4 songs, as part of the NPR Tiny Desk Performance Series.

America Has Lost Its Soul. This Unforgettable New Singer Has Found It.

How a busker with a “claw” became Fantastic Negrito.

The man now known as Fantastic Negrito is wearing a three-piece checkered suit with a crisp, mustard-yellow shirt. Two small holes mark the knees of his pants, and orange striped socks flow into his tan leather shoes. The 47-year-old singer-songwriter hammers away on his Goodwill-bought guitar in a ravaged section of downtown Oakland, California, talking about how this is the place “where the real shit comes from.” Need to test a song? “Hit the streets. It’s very unsafe, and that’s good—strangers tell you the truth.”

Xavier Dphrepaulezz (his real name) isn’t supposed to be here, not really. Ever since he made it to what people keep telling him is “the big time,” he’s had to sneak out. Last February, he beat nearly 7,000 contestants competing for a chance to perform in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, and he’s been on a meteoric rise ever since: His EP of raw, impassioned roots music reached No. 7 on Billboard‘s blues charts in February and was iTunes’ No. 7 blues album in August. His managers want him to save his voice for the paying gigs. They’re asking him: Why would a venue pay 10 grand if you keep playing in the streets for free?

But this is where it all began—at train stops and doughnut shops—before the “international sensation” talk, the courtship from major record labels, and invitations to play music festivals like South by Southwest and Outside Lands. His success happened so fast, seemingly overnight: “I throw up before every show, man. Terrified.”

The road to becoming Negrito could have started in his childhood: a troubled upbringing in the hood, a stint “slinging crack for the CIA” in the ’80s, the death of his brother and a friend, some time in foster care during his teens. There was the beginning of a music career: a million-dollar deal with Interscope Records and a polished but failed studio album that, he says, “didn’t connect with anyone.” But it really began with a car accident one late night in Los Angeles in 1999.

Dphrepaulezz doesn’t remember the impact, only that there was a pretty girl in the passenger seat, then what felt like a lifetime of vivid dreams. The coma lasted three weeks, until he emerged to a stale hospital room where steel rods pinned his broken bones together. His strumming hand was permanently locked at the wrist, creating what he calls “the claw.”

After the coma, he didn’t pick up a guitar for five years, partly because of his injuries, partly because he was disillusioned with his first try at a career. But he did get grounded, got married, had “a beautiful child.” One night, when his 18-month-old son was inconsolable, Dphrepaulezz found an old beat-up guitar, played an open G chord, and, as he told SFGate, “the look on his face was the most honest and committed expression of joy I had seen in my life.”…Read the rest here

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Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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Smokey Robinson, On Why He Wrote “My Girl” For the Temptations

Incredible bit of history here, from the guy who lived it.

The Reason Smokey Robinson Wrote ‘My Girl’ Had Nothing To Do With A Girl

It was primarily because of one man: David Ruffin.

It’s almost impossible to think of the song “My Girl” without immediately humming those first few notes of its iconic opening riff. It was one of the biggest hits to come out of Berry Gordy’s Motown — “My Girl” became a best-selling single, rose to the top of the Billboard charts, became The Temptations’ first number-one song and marked the first time the label itself landed a number-one hit with one of their male vocal groups. Even today, more than 50 years after its release, “My Girl” still stands out, ranking among the best songs of all time.

A big part of the song’s success was its writer, Smokey Robinson. Smokey was one of Motown’s big songwriters/producers at the time; he was also the lead singer of his own vocal group, the Miracles. And, yet, Smokey never intended to keep “My Girl” for himself — it was always meant for his so-called competitors.

As Smokey tells “Oprah’s Master Class,” competition at Motown may have been fierce, but it was incredibly common for everyone to work together in an effort to strike gold with a big hit.

“It would be nothing for us to go into the studio and help one of our competitors with a song that they were working on, with an artist that we were working on,” Smokey says. “We all did that, for each other.”

In fact, Motown’s policy was that no one had a lock on a particular artist; any writer or producer could choose to work with any willing artist. This is what happened with Smokey and The Temptations. He very deliberately wrote “My Girl” for them.

“Were it not for The Temptations, I never would have written ‘My Girl,'” Smokey says.

When The Temptations first signed with Motown, the label’s founder, Berry Gordy, instructed Smokey to “get some hits on them.” Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams typically alternated as the group’s lead singers, but Smokey saw incredible potential in background singer David Ruffin.

“I wrote ‘My Girl’ for David Ruffin’s voice,” Smokey says. “The Temptations were so creative in making up the background vocals… All the stuff that they’re singing on ‘My Girl,’ they made that up themselves.”

The combination of those background vocals, Ruffin’s distinct voice and Smokey’s writing is what made the song such a hit, three important factors that all aligned at the right moment.

“No, I don’t wish I would have kept it for myself,” Smokey says of the song. “[The Temptations are] the ones who brought it out of me!”

This strong sense of community was always prevalent in Smokey’s career with Motown. Everyone there, he adds, felt like family.

“I always was so happy whenever I got a hit record on one of the artists,” Smokey says. “They were my brothers and sisters. If I could do something to enhance their career and make things better for them, that made me happy.”

See the full interview on OWN Nov 1st at 8 PM.

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Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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