R&B-The Music, The Message, The Magic

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Hi Readers,

It is that time again. Last June, I expounded a lot on the style and forms of Black music.

This year, I want to explore the message of R&B and its importance to the African American community.

Recently I was watching a series called Unsung on TV One-a station oriented towards the Black community.

One of my favorite R&B groups was featured-The Manhattans. They scored big in the late

70’s with classic hits such as “There’s no me without you”, “Kiss and say goodbye”, and “Shining Star”.

In all of these ballads, the woman is exalted, treasured and loved.

Somehow (with the exception of Baby Face and a few others) the contemporary romantic Soul ballad has become raunchy akin to its rap counterpart.

Instead of being exalted and put on a pedestal, women are referred to as jeeps, and other inanimate objects.

For instance, the R. Kelly and Notorious B.I.G. collaboration-“You must be Use to Me Spending” is a prime example of the declining positive influence of R&B music.

Please understand readers that I applaud the artistry of rap and hip hop. I just don’t always agree with its message.

Unfortunately rap and hip hop has gotten away from the positive images and messages of the late 1970’s and mid 1980’s.

It seems that the classic message of love and unity that was a cornerstone of Black popular music has been corrupted by the marriage of rap and R&B and the materialistic values that it has come to embrace.

If we are to ever sustain a vibrant community where love is the central theme, how can contemporary R&B songs such as “You Make Me Want to Leave the One I’m With” contribute to healthy Black relationships?

If we gauge the health of our community by the quality and current state of our music-then we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

There may be some who would criticize our balladeers for displaying a great sensitivity towards our women.

Baby Face’s “Whip Appeal”, The O’Jay’s “We Cried Together”, The Isley Brother’s “Living for the Love of You” and “Hello It’s Me” are prime examples of the stability of Black love.

By stability, I mean these men prove disprove the myths and ideas about what qualities constitute a “Real” man.

Take note: If all of our male singers and lovers have negative and hateful messages-then our women will in turn become hateful and negative.

They are only responding in turn to the treatment they are receiving.

And readers, haven’t we had enough of the battle of the sexes between Black men and women?

Think Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale.

Critics of Black popular culture always convey that hip-hop is another form of Black cultural expression.

If that is true I guess hip hop chronicles the breakdown of the elements that has sustained our communities through the many obstacles we have faced in this country as second class citizens.

Just imagine if the singers who have often acted as our great love poets would make a conscious return to the great standards set by the mighty balladeers of our past.

Just imagine how far our community would move forward in a direction that will sustain us for generations to come.

Well, that is all for now readers. I am glad to be back after a long hiatus.

Until next time….



Black Music Month-Old School R&B Bass

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Hello readers,

Welcome back to our tribute to Black music month.

Last time we paid tribute to the great falsettos in classic Black music.

This time I want to focus on the great bass singers in R&B.

What would dynamic soul music be without the rich baritone voices that have been the inspiration and backdrop to some of our greatest love affairs?

One of my favorite bass singers was Melvin Franklin of the Temptations.

I remember the temptations’ rendition of Silent Night when I was a child. Melvin’s deep vocals on the track made the song distinctive and memorable.

Because of Melvin’s contributions, I felt that African Americans could claim Christmas as a holiday of our own.

I remember on Papa Was a Rolling Stone-perhaps one of my favorite Temptations’ songs of all times-Melvin’s addition of “Now That Aint Right.”

Although Dennis Edwards without a doubt owned the song from start to finish, without Melvin’s part, the song would have appeared incomplete.

For me, Melvin was immortalized in the Temptations’ reunion song Standing on the Top when he sang “We Want the Funk”.

This song was a testament to the staying power of the soul and tenacity of R&B.

I t was the last time when the original members would perform together again.

Lou Rawls…….

Lou was the ultimate natural man!!!!

Lou Rawls first came into my consciousness when I was a pre-adolescent with the hit You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.

This song was Lou’s signature hit that identified him across generations.


Because of the lasting longevity of this song, I presumed that this was his breakout hit.

I knew that he had a long singing career.

I didn’t know that preceding this song, he had best sellers such as Natural man and Tobacco Road.

My favorite Lou Rawls song is I’ll See You When I Get There.

I love the intro when he makes a call to his lady love: How you’re doing, I hope that you’re fine. Did your day take you through changes and mess up your mind.

Out of Sight……

This is one of those easy listening mellow grooves that you can swear was just recorded yesterday.

Lou Rawls was definitely a master of the grown and sexy.

And, speaking of grown and sexy, Isaac Hayes was definitely one of its progenitors.

Brother Isaac…….

Soul man # 1 was the force behind such hits as the theme song Shaft, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Do Your Thing, I Stand Accused…..

Readers don’t laugh…..

One of my life’s fantasies includes being serenaded by Isaac while he sings Dionne Warwick’s classic Walk on Bye.

Isaac’s soul drenched version conjures a man steeped in pain over the loss of a lady he loves very much. He is in so much pain, that he forbids her to acknowledge him.

Probably more than falsettos, bass singers have the power to project the most raw of human emotions.

Especially when it comes to romance.

When it comes to Romance,

Barry White, the maestro of love, has no peers.

I repeat- no peers!!!!

Barry has produced such a vast corpus of seductive love ballads that I don’t even know where to begin…….


Honey Please….

I Got So Much to Give….

I can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe….


Love Serenade….

Staying Power…..

Never Gonna Give you Up……

Let the Music Play…

Baby Blues….

Love Making Music….

You Turned My Whole World Around…..

You’re the First, the Last, My Everything…..

Practice What You Preach…..

See, I told you readers.

Pick a favorite Barry White song.

Imagine this song without Barry’s lush and seductive baritones.

Pick say for instance-Never Gonna Give You Up.

Remember when Barry sings….Whatever you want, girl you got it. And whatever you need I don’t want to see you without it.

The sexual and emotional impact of this song demands that strong rich Black texture to make it come alive and be the bedrock of which fantasies are made.

Barry’s Love Serenade is one of the most sex engaged songs that I ever heard.

It sends shivers down my spine even now when Barry sings..

Take it off. Baby take it all off. I want you the way you came into the world. I don’t want to feel no clothes. I don’t want to see no panties and take off that brassiere my dear.

Eric Benet, Keith Washington and other contemporary balladeers seem like generic carbon copies compared to Barry.

One often overlooked but noticeably trait of Black Bass singers is well-their Blackness.

Whether by fate or design, the richness of the vocals of Black bass singers matched with the deep richness of their complexion makes for a powerful combination in the recorded history of classic Soul/R&B.

Join me next time readers when we explore the richness of Blue Eyed Soul.

Until Next Time…..

Black Music Month-Old School R&B Falsettos

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Hi Readers,

Summer has finally arrived.

And with the summer season comes the explosion of fantastic music concerts.

Lest we forget, June is Black music month.

Because I live in Chicago where warm weather is greatly anticipated and revered, I enjoy long leisurely walks during the summer months.

I depend on great music to accompany me.

In particular, old school R&B.

The range of artists I enjoy and their unique styles are too numerous for me to recount.

Though there are some styles and techniques that I really love.

I especially adore the many falsettos in classic Black music.

In this post, I want to pay homage to some of the greatest falsettos in classic R&B.

One dynamic falsetto singer that comes to mind is Eddie Holman.

You know readers-from the 70’s smash hit Hey There Lonely Girl.


What a sweet and tender ballet.

Eddie’s perfect high falsetto is in keeping with the tone of the song in which a sensitive brother implores a lady with a freshly broken heart that he will help her heal.


Every time I hear this song, it only sounds better!!!!

Maybe our contemporary crooners with a penchant for sensitivity should take a chapter from Eddie’s playbook.

And speaking of style, how can we ever forget the fabulous Stylistics?

For those not in the know, they are the masters of classics-You are Everything, I’m Stone in Love With You, You Make Me Feel Brand New, Betcha By Golly Wow, People Make the World Go Round!!!!

I remember Marvin and Diana covering You Are Everything as a duo.

I loved the remix-with Diana’s smooth vocals next to Marvin’s gruff rendition-you can feel the sex appeal seeping into your pores.

As much as I love Marvin and Diana’s version, I prefer the Stylistics cover because it harkens back to an era when real men had no qualms about expressing their most tender and deepest feelings.

Speaking of expressing feelings, do you remember the group Switch?

For those of you who are scratching your heads, I hope you can remember 70’s classics such as I Call your Name and There Will Never Be.


Credit can be given to Bobby DeBarge-older sibling of the famous DeBarge family.

I think the first time I ever heard Switch it was the song, I call Your Name.

I remember the opening lines…

“I use to think about immature things like do you want me, do you love me….”

I imagined an adolescent.

Bobby was anything but an adolescent!!!!

Handsome in that 70’s style with curly locks, cafe au lait skin- this song was the perfect match to Bobby’s impressive falsetto.

What a lethal combination.

I sang this song often as a pre-teen.

My favorite line…”Oh when I’m lonely when I’m discouraged I call your name. There is no substitute for you.”

Man these lyrics take me back. Even now, I can feel the powerful impact of this song; of a young man missing a woman near and dear to his heart.

And speaking of Cafe au lait 70’s falsetto singers, Smokey Robinson is hands downs-without a doubt the greatest of them all!!!!

Marvin Gaye once proclaimed Smokey the world’s greatest poet.

Where to start…

There is one poignant song that I especially adore-More Love.

According to Smokey, he composed this song after he and his first wife, former band mate Claudette Robinson suffered a heart breaking miscarriage.

It starts off….

“Let it be soon don’t hesitate, make it now don’t wait. Open your heart , and let my love come in. I want the moment to start when I can fill your heart with more love…My love will be so sound it will take a hundred lifetimes to tear it down.”

If Smokey would have never composed or sang another note, the lyrics he wrote and the endearing way he sang them in tender love to his wife, would have solidified his career for me.

And speaking of Smokey Robinson’s compositions and singing, if I had a favorite I guess it would be Ooh Baby Baby.


“I did you wrong my heart went out to play I’m only human but what a price to pay.”

What’s better than a silky smooth crooner pouring out his words of love for you?

One who is begging for forgiveness!!!!

Readers those are songs that still sustain me in a contemporary climate in which male singers vilify women instead of respecting and loving them.

Well that is all for now.

Join me next time when I take a look back at the greatest bass singers in R&B.

Until next time…..

Tribute to Black Music Month



Hi Readers,

For those of you who are unaware, June is Black Music month.

In several upcoming posts, I will be paying tribute to Black American music.

This genre of music has left a distinct mark upon American culture.

Black music has at times been a panacea to slaves forced to toil for free under the hot and treacherous Southern sun.

It has helped to ease the immense burden of prisoners also forced to toil under the hot Southern soil on notorious chain gangs.

It has been a beacon for patriotic Black Americans in their quest to prove their worthiness of first class American citizenship.

It has sustained African Americans through the turbulence of legally sanctioned Southern segregation.

It provided a creative outlet for revolutionaries who adopted a militant stance in their journey to self-discovery and recovery.

It helped alienated urban youth in the last quarter of the twentieth century to educate indifferent Americans of the social ills that still held them in a death grip.

Finally, in the 21st century, Black American music is a solidifying force that has the power to transcend race and help us discover our common humanity!!!!

In my next post I will explore the wonderful glories of Old School R&B.

Until next time…….


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