AAMAM: The Marvelous Voice Of Luther Vandross. Part 26 of 30

lutherWhen celebrating African American Music Appreciation Month we must marvel at the Black voice in song.  It has a wonderful vibrato and tone filled with hope everlasting.  It can gracefully reach a brutal yet angelic fortissimo then in an instant render into a peaceful pianississimo whisper.  It can bounce around in a most staccato way and still lull a baby to sleep amid the bright lights and big city.  It tells stories of the Black experience past, present, and future.  It seeps into our memories and keeps us warm at night and calm in the midst of a storm. And it certainly can fill us with an abundance of joy!

Singers who have mastered the art, temperament, and technical requirements of the Black voice such as Billie Holiday, Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Minnie Riperton, Teddy Pendergrass, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Rachelle Farrell, Lalah Hathaway, Jose James, Ledisi, and Gregory Porter, just to name but a few, have delivered various musical motifs to global life.

Only select singers can be singled out to be examined for their abilities, cultural merits and social achievements and their motif of love. In this case, there is one singular Black voice, among few, who is known almost exclusively for the vocal ability to croon about love. Luther Vandross can be counted among those who have mastered the art, temperament, and technical requirements of the Black voice. Known at times as the “heavy weight of soul,” Vandross, with his voice, carved out a place for lovers to dwell. His voice smooth and alluring signaled both men and women to come hither (I’m having fun with this).  With a seemingly effortless glissando from a low holler to a righteous scream through several octaves, Vandross’ voice formed to cupid’s function.

Luther Vandross has many songs that can be used as examples to show how his voice, in all its power and ability, can set the tone in the mind and hearts of any listener. However, this post will use his 1983 release “Make Me A Believer” and that quintessential love motive. With its smooth glossy 80’s feel it tells of one lover’s desire to hold another in full belief that love will never end all the while Vandross’ voice is marvelous in tale.

AAMAM has a voice for lovers!

AAMAM: The Fugees! Part 24 of 30

fugeesFugees! Straight up, no filter, one of the baddest hip hop groups on the planet. Yeah, I said it!

The Fugees (Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel) exploded on onto the hip hop scene in the early ‘90s. They gave us two albums Blunted On Reality and The Score and hit after hit after hit! Their lyrical style infused intelligently packed and quick witted word play with streams of sung vocals all set to music with Caribbean undertones, which spoke volumes in terms of empowerment to youth culture like no other. And just like (snap) they were gone! The group disbanded in ’97. They left a welcomed stain on hip hop culture.

It’s a good thing there is Youtube so we all can be reminded of the how great the Fugees were

Check out one of their early supper hits “Nappy Heads.”

AAMAM has a date for Friday!

AAMAM: Marvin Gaye’s Smooth 1, 2 Punch! Part 23 of 30

marvin-gayeWith its smooth and relaxed intro, Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit “What’s Going On” was a departure from the glossy and neatly orchestrated Motown Sound his audience was so used too.  Gaye had reached a point in his life where he felt the needed to sing about the ills of society, war, poverty, and racism rather than sing dreamy love songs.  His decision to do so was well received in “What’s Going On.”  Gaye self-produced his song combined elements of classical music and R&B to create a unique sonic backdrop for a powerful message addressing the problems of the early ‘70s.

Sit back and take a listen to the masterful recording “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye!

AAMAM is always smooth!

AAMAM: Thank You For Being 100, Sly! Part 22 of 30

aaaThe close out of the ‘60s era ended with the release of a song that examined the experience of trying to fit in to a society that struggled to accept individuality to say the least. Sly And The Family Stone released “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” in December 1969.

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” became a hit and remained high on the music charts for the first half of 1970. Sly And The Family Stone was famous for pushing social and cultural messages through their songs.  They forced the listener to bop their head, snap their fingers, and stomp their feet to the most current social concerns of that era. “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” was indeed such a song. Filled with personal experiences from Sly, the song created an image of a person struggling with overzealous authority, the awkwardness of high society, and the price to be paid for being different all the while being both thankful and  resentful for the experience as ones true self.  If you can get past the funkiest of grooves provided by the band (take note of Larry Graham’s ground breaking thumb slapping technique) the message in the lyrics are loud and clear.

Just to mention–upon listening to the first verse, one will notice a seemingly prophetic image of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman take shape:

Lookin’ at the devil, grinnin’ at his gun. Fingers start shakin’, I begin to run. Bullets start chasin’, I begin to stop. We begin to wrestle, I was on the top.

However, this is not prophetic in the least; this type of imagery has been a constant in American society before Sly’s era, during Sly’s era, and sad to say, certainly since Sly’s era.

Take a listen.

Authentically AAMAM!

AAMAM: Curtis, Your Future Is So Very Bright! Part 21 of 30


Curtis Mayfield. (1942-1999)

The year1970 witnessed the released of Curtis Mayfield’s album Curtis. On it Mayfield acutely addressed the social climate of urban America.  Facing forward with the ‘60s in his rearview mirror, Mayfield’s Curtis headed down a highway of new musicality robust in optimism—new found humanity for a people in search of their just rewards for a battle well fought.

Mayfield’s Curtis musically ushered in a bright new future with its uplifting lyrics and music, which could be heard on his single “Move On Up.”  Tom Maginnis, music reviewer for Allmuisic .com, best describes the texture of “Move On Up” as he says,

The optimistic atmosphere can be heard from the very opening joyous horn riff, signaling a kind of feel-good fanfare as the song’s brisk rhythm is quickly sustained by a grooving percussion section of congas, Don Simmons’ rollicking drum kit, and a steady strum of clean electric guitar. Mayfield uses a variety of horn and string riffs as an ingenious call and response device to his silky smooth vocal performance at various points throughout the song’s intricate arrangement of a multitude of instruments. The overall effect is one of a unstoppable wave of positive sound, rolling forward, moving on up, as Mayfield offers words of encouragement, of progress through hard work and perseverance.

With that being said, have a listen!

You have a bright future with AAMAM!

AAMAM: We Shall Overcome, Charleston! Part 19 of 30

churchToday I dedicate the song “We Shall Overcome” to the grieving family and friends of the victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.  What happened there was a horrible and sad event perpetrated by a lost and hate filled individual. I pray for the healing and the restoration of hope for the city as well.

The song “We Shall Overcome” has served as the hope-filled anthem of the Civil Right movement.  Its message contains a powerful sentiment of hope and redemption for those in crisis. The song was popularized by the civil rights activist and folk singer Pete Seeger who taught the song to just about everyone he met. The song “We Shall Overcome” was derived from gospel music composer Rev. Charles Albert Tindley’s song “I’ll Overcome Someday” written at the turn of the century.

Coincidently, research suggests “We Shall Overcome” was first sung in Charleston S.C. by churches and striking food and tobacco workers in the late 40s.  As such the song must continue to be sung in the city of Charleston. In fact all of our collective voices should sing in unison to usher in a feeling of hope all across America. Hope is what we need.

We shall overcome, Charleston!

The Power of AAMAM is real!