Minnie Riperton Turns 69!

 

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Photoshoot from 1975 in L.A. (credit Michael Ochs Archives)

 

Today marks the 69th birthday of daughter, mother, wife, songstress, and songwriter Minnie Riperton. Riperton passed on July 12th, 1979. She was 31 years old. Gone Too Soon! It has been 38 years since the multi-octave, Angelic voice that dwelled inside her was silenced forever.

We remember Minnie Riperton for her remarkable voice – a lyric coloratura soprano, which she used to set new vocal parameters in pop music. Classically trained in Opera, Riperton vocally backed artists such as Etta James and Stevie Wonder, and in her own career, she was able to subtly blend her agile opera styles into the soul and R&B music she sang.

Ultimately, she set the high note template for the likes of Mariah Carey and others in pop music.

Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976. However, she continued recording, touring, was nominated for an American Music Award for favorite soul/R&B Female Artist, as well as became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society until her death 3 years later.

Minnie Riperton’s Legacy is rooted in her vocal Perfection and her ability to communicate the sentiments of a song to the masses like no other. Happy Birthday, Minnie Riperton!

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AAMAM: Screamin’ The Gospel! Part 28 of 30

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Archie Brownlee is on the far right. (1936-1960)

The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi were no doubt one of the greatest, if not THE greatest singing group in gospel music.  Noted for their strong harmonies and hard gospel singing style the group delivered deeply emotional and spiritual Christian messages in song. Helping to catapult the group, which had its beginnings in the Piney Woods School for the blind near Jackson, Mississippi, was lead vocalist Archie Brownlee.  His vocal presence was commanding and felt immensely in every song.  Brownlee became famous for his ability to release an intense guttural scream in song.  In a spiritual sense he was attempting to connect with the Angels and God in heaven.

Vocals like Brownlee’s were, for the most part, unprecedented in recorded gospel music of the era, rather, vocals like his were most familiar within the walls of the Black church.  Many of Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi’s contemporaries heavily borrowed from their hard gospel harmonic singing style and the guttural screams of Brownlee.  Pop artist such as James Brown, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke, who have their roots in gospel music, cited The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi and Archie Brown as influential in their craft.

Take a listen to the Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi and the screams of Archie Brownlee.

Enjoy AAMAM!

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: Michael Jackson Six Years Removed. Part 25 of 30

a mikeSix years ago today Michael Jackson (1958-2009) shocked the world when he died of an overdose in his home. The world was left with an unfillable void.

Listen to everything Michael!

Continue to rest R.I.P. Legend. Icon. King of Pop!

AAMAM appreciates Michael!

Check out “Smooth Criminal” Live!

AAMAM: You Go Girl! Part 8 of 30

chaka khanCo authored by Lerniece Charles

In 1978, Chaka Khan, in route to going solo from the hit band Rufus recorded and released “I’m Every Woman” written by the perpetual hit making team Nick Ashford and Valarie Simpson. The song was Khan’s first break out song as a solo artist. “I’m Every Woman”’s R&B and disco back beat supported lyrics that empowered women who were, at the time, increasingly entering the workforce and controlling their own destiny.

The song had a tremendous effect on the way it made women feel. For instance my wife loves this song and says it made her feel empowered—she felt like she “could do anything” when she heard it. Today she says she is especially fond of the lyrics:

“I aint braggin’ ‘cause I’m the one

You just ask me ooh and it shall be done

And don’t bother to compare ‘cause I’ve got it, I’ve got it, I’ve got it! Yeah!

You go girl! Happy AAMAM!

AAMAM: Sorrow, Memory, and Poetry Part 4 of 30

billieRecorded on April 20, 1939 Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” spoke of the haunting imagery all to familiar to African Americans especially in the South. Holiday’s voice and cadence embodied the sorrows, horrors, loss, and spiritual pain that was lynching.  The lyrics of “Strange Fruit,” which became Holiday’s signature song, was written as a poem by Jewish writer and teacher Abel Meeropol in 1937.  He responded in poetry to a photo image of a lynching.  Meeropol hoped his poem would add voice the atrocities of lynchings and help further the campaign of antilynching laws, which were vigorously shot down in the Senate during era of the song’s popularity.

This is AAMAM. Listen to remember and be well.

AAMAM Begins With The Godfather Of Soul! Part 1 of 30

James-BrownWow! It’s June already! So that means it’s African American Music Appreciation Month. America has officially recognized and celebrated the contributions of African American composers, musicians, and singers since 1979. Thanks President Jimmy Carter.

To celebrate, I’ll attempt to post a song a day of the best songs ever composed, sung, and recorded by our (yours and mine) favorite and amazing African American musicians and singers ever!

First up, James Brown’s “Say It Lout-I’m Black And I’m Proud!” Released in August of 1968, “Say It Loud” ushered in a bold new perspective of “Blackness” and identity for African Americans in a newly realized post Dr. Martin L. King era. The song became the sonic manifestation of Black empowerment!

Happy AAMAM!