Let’s Take A Moment Day 482

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Tom Petty music quote

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

In 1969 a series of concerts took place in New York City. Dubbed “The Harlem Cultural Festival” and held at what is now Marcus Garvey Park, it featured so many of my favorite performers from the Motown soul & gospel genres. These concerts were held over a six week period & most of the shows were recorded. But at the time there was no interest in buying them for a film Those involved did not know if that was because another music festival-Woodstock-was taking place that August or because black music was still considered secondary in the summer of 1969.

Whatever the reason, the tapes of the Harlem shows were left in a basement for 50 years until 2019. At that time they came to the attention of a producer who purchased them & turned them into a film that was released this year. Unbelievable, right? Another shocking aspect to this story? I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THE CONCERTS OR THE MOVIE UNTIL LAST WEEK!!!

I uncovered the film about seven days ago when I went to Hulu for my weekly “Lost” re-watch. Instead I saw the ad for the movie, aptly titled “Summer Of Soul”. It premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in January and in theatres & on Hulu in June. My jaw dropped as I read the info about the film. It spotlights the performances of the incredible artists who were there interwoven with present day interviews with them and others involved in the festival itself.

How could something so incredible like a concert series of this magnitude get shelved for five decades? I am a native New Yorker, not to mention a profound fan of music, yet I lived all these years without even knowing this festival took place??? I cannot help but hang my head in extreme shame.

The film marks the directorial debut of Questlove, the co-frontman & drummer of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” band, The Roots. In addition to being a musician and songwriter, Questlove has also made a name for himself as a producer, music journalist, author, disc jockey and now film director.

Discovering that an event like this took place but was never a matter of record matches my shock & amazement from the first time I saw “Hidden Figures”. To discover how important women-black women, especially-were assisting the U.S. Space Program & that was left out of the history books we read as kids is astounding. How many young girls might have had different dreams if they knew intelligent groundbreaking women were busting through glass ceilings half a century before? And how many aspiring musicians would have been inspired by this concert series?

But there is so much more to enjoy about this movie than the music. It is a time capsule to revisit the past. A look back at what are now vintage images of the culture at that time, the fashion, the style, the city store fronts and the people is simply hypnotic. The same goes for the clips of archived vintage footage from national news programs regarding the current events of the day like the Vietnam War & the Apollo landing which occurred the same summer. Those were interspersed with local stories about the heroin epidemic, the poverty level & the downward spiral of Harlem in general.

We also get a look at the city’s mayor at the time-John V. Lindsay-as well as a 27 year old minister, Reverend Jesse Jackson, who lead the crowd in a spiritual moment while he gave them his first hand account of watching Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King get shot. Undeniably powerful stuff.

My favorite moments include a newly solo David Ruffin singing “My Girl” sans The Temptations & hitting those high notes in such a remarkable effortless way; Stevie Wonder exhibiting his numerous talents from behind a microphone, a keyboard and a drum set; Sly Stone, the original poster boy for diversity not only as a black performer with white band members but with female ones as well. And they were not just back-up singers, either. They both sang & played instruments like the keyboards & the trumpet. The Family Stone performed three songs “Sing A Simple Song”, “Everyday People” & “Higher” which played as the credits began to roll.

Then there was Nina Simone captivating the audience with her powerful voice as she slammed the piano keys throughout her fierce performance. Gladys Knight & The Pips were on fire as were the gospel numbers, especially The Edwin Hawkins Singers rousing performance of “Oh Happy Day”. One of the women interviewed in the present who attended the show as a teenager summed it up best when she said: “Those artists crossed genres. They were trying to reunite people with music”. I have never been without music but I am just thrilled to be united with this movie. It is that good.

Another group that performed on what was called the festival’s “gospel day” was The Staple Singers. They were a family group comprised of Roebuck “Pops” Staples & his children: son Pervis & daughters Cleotha, Yvonne & Mavis, who turned 82 years young yesterday In addition to singing with her family, Mavis also sang a gospel song with Mahalia Jackson on “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” after Jackson’s stirring speech about and in honor of Rev. King’s favorite church song. It was nothing short of sublime.

In the present interview as the clip of the two women played, Mavis revealed that she still considers that moment her biggest honor and the experience “the time of my life”. She was born July 10, 1939 in Illinois. She & her family moved from gospel to secular music in the mid 1960’s. In 1968 they were signed to Stax Records. By June 1972, they had the #1 song in the country for one week with today’s track. It may be her birthday but it is her audience that receives a gift every time she sings.

Happy birthday, Mavis & here’s to 100 more. And a ginormous thank you to everyone who put this festival together, all the artists who performed there & the people who gave us the movie showcasing it all. It is an astounding treasure.

I know a place
Ain’t nobody cryin’
Ain’t nobody worried
Ain’t no smilin’ faces
“.

Soul picture

Mavis and Mahalia

Top: The movie poster for 2021’s “Summer Of Soul”. Bottom: Mavis Staples (L) and Mahalia Jackson (R) in a still from the film. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

The Staples Singers: “I’ll Take You There” (1972, written by Al Bell).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 406

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

May 2021 blog

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

On this day in 1978 one of my all time favorite music docs was released. “The Last Waltz”, a film about The Band’s farewell concert directed by eminent director Martin Scorsese, was released on April 26, 1978. This was the movie that let me see some of my favorite artists perform for the first time including The Band themselves, Neil Young, Van Morrison, The Staple Singers, Muddy Waters and my great musical love, Eric Clapton.

He had been covering many of his favorite blues songs since Cream’s 1966 debut album and he continued the tradition in to his solo career. Today’s song was recorded live at my old stomping grounds, The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on June 28, 1975, as part of Clapton’s 1975 live album, E.C. Was Here. But watching him perform it with one of his favorite bands in this superb film made it extra special.

You’re gonna reap just what you sow
That old saying is true
Just like you mistreat someone
Someone’s gonna mistreat you
:”.

Eric and Levon

Levon Helm on drums and Eric Clapton on guitar in a scene from 1978’s “The Last Waltz”. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Eric Clapton & The Band” “Further On Up The Road” (From the music documentary The Last Waltz, released April 26, 1978. Recorded live on November 25, 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Originally recorded in 1976, written by Don Robey and Joe Medwick Veasey).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 131

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Thoreau music quote

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day.  And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Record labels are as much a part of musical history as the singers and musicians signed to them.  One of the labels very close to my heart is Stax Records.  Based in Memphis, TN and founded in 1957 as Satellite Records but it changed to Stax in 1961 when it began sharing the same offices as one of their subsidiaries, Volt Records.  The name Stax was derived from combining the first two initials of the owners last names, ST from Jim Stewart and AX from his sister, Estelle Axton.

The label’s house band was Booker T & The MG’s and featured recording artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas and his daughter, Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, The Bar-Kays, Eddie Floyd, Albert King and Wilson Pickett, who sings today’s song which he co-wrote with The MG’s guitarist, Steve Cropper.  By 1967 the label saw its greatest success as well as the loss of its heart, soul and much of its financial stability after the deaths of Otis Redding and four members of The Bar-Kays in a plane crash that December.  Despite success in the 1970’s by The Staple Singers and Shirley Brown the label filed bankruptcy at the end of 1975.  By 1982 it became a reissue label and in 2003 The Stax Museum of American Soul Music opened in Memphis.  But for a little while, Stax was the record label with the most soul in the south.  And one listen to today’s song by The “Wicked” Pickett proves that point beautifully.

I’m gonna wait till the stars come out
And see that twinkle in your eyes
I’m gonna wait ’till the midnight hour
That’s when my love begins to shine.”

Steve Cropper (L) and Wilson Pickett (R), both circa 1965.  (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Wilson Pickett:  “In The Midnight Hour” (1965, written by Steve Cropper & Wilson Pickett).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.