Unlucky for some but 13 represents the amount of years that the “High Priestess Of Soul” Nina Simone left this plane to travel beyond “The House Of The Rising Sun” aged 70. Nina had an intellect that was often frowned upon as though she should be mentally sectioned and often spiritually would quote through her music and her activism “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. I loved her defiance against the establishment who sought to silence her because she believed “Everything Must Change” and you could “Go To Hell” if you thought otherwise. With her “Love Me Or Leave Me” attitude, Nina a true Nubian African American “ Little Girl Blue” from a young age, nurtured her gift on cross pollinating classical, jazz, blues, gospel R&B and pop. Don’t get it twisted Nina could be “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter” in a unique way, somewhat like a “Mood Indigo” parody. Her griot tales were mesmerising to her indigenous culture, those often considered to be “Strange Fruit”, in how proud they could be “To Be Young Gifted & Black” whether she spoke out about “Mississippi Goddam”, the excellence of “Mr Bojangles” or sharing her tales to the “African Mailman”, “The Pusher”, the “See-Line Woman” or the “Blues For Mama”. Like putting my finger in a socket I felt that quiver shiver in her voice when she’s sing with so much impassion. With those twinkling trickles of her piano playing prowess, I became enchanted as though she was truly saying to me ”I Put A Spell On You” cause you’re mine and you will forever be a fan of my music. Well Nina ‘Ain’t No Use” me arguing there as Nina was a true Civil Rights campaigner, who risked and sacrificed her career for those who felt ”I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”. “Why?” because Nina’s ethos was “You’ll Never Walk Alone” “In the Morning” or “In The Dark”. Thank you Nina Simone for leaving me and those who love the essence of your beautiful music “Feeling Good”.
Roger Prince Nelson was born June 7th 1958 apparently after his fathers Prince Rogers Trio jazz band. Growing up in Minneapolis Prince was exposed to both rock and soul which would become an advantage in addition to his light complexion in how he transcended both the black and white audiences. Prince showed promise in pursuing music aged 12 with his group of five years Champagne . Aged 17 Prince linked up with Pepe Willie’s 94 East outfit laying guitar licks on tracks “10.15” , “Fortune Teller” and five “Cookhouse 1975 sessions” “If We Don’t You See Me”, “I’ll Always Love You”,”Games” and “Better Than You Think”. Pepe saw Prince’s raw potential and years later releases the “Historical 1977 Session’s” featuring Prince on a favourite instrumental of mine “If You Feel Like Dancin”. By the late 1970’s Prince landed a record deal with Warner Brothers who afforded him what the other labels wouldn’t, the chance to produce his own albums,. This was important to Prince who as a truly gifted multi instrumentalist, played all the instruments on both his debut and follow up albums “For You” and “Prince” circa 1978 and 1979. The latter 1979 album carried “Sexy Dancer” and “I Feel For You” a song that would later be covered and taken to huge heights by label mate Chaka Khan. The single that really broke Prince mainstream was “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and this gave Prince his first performing TV performance. Prince was so overwhelmed and rendered speechless with stage fright, so much so, he vowed that would never happen to him again. Prince admittedly developed his sound in a similar vein to a hero of his Larry Graham’s Grand Central Station funk, vocal and musical ethos, when I spoke with Larry Graham 3 years back for Soul Survivors. With an incredible vocal range by his 3rd, 4th and 5th albums “Dirty Minds”,“Controversy” and “1999”, Prince remained funky producing cuts such as “Head” Controversy “Lady Cab Driver” and “1999”. He managed to masquerade a very unique dual identity persona in both his music and physical dress guises. Prince was able to flex outrageously between both the soul/punk funk world like his contemporary Rick James with equilibrium, and synonymously please the pop and rock world. However it was his risqué cross dressing androgynous sexual/kinky feline persona, wearing hi heels, suspenders, stockings and make up,and a contrasting new romantic, bohemian, Edwardian and gothic style that made him such an anomaly . Flirting with challenging political, social and sexual statements, Prince by the mid 1980’s was a visual personification of Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone , James Brown and Michael Jackson all morphed into one very fit, athletic,exciting and dynamic performer. Women drooled over him and men either envied or wanted to be like him, Prince was that charismatic . Between 1982 and 1984 Prince introduced and produced albums by Vanity 6 with “Nasty Girls” being a massive Electric Ball room classic I danced to, and The Time Band, thank heavens for “7779311”. From the Minneapolis camp artist’s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis formally of The Time Band went on to become prolific producers in the 1980’s for Janet Jackson, The SOS Band and Change. Morris Day(Time Band) and Apolliona (Vanity 6) co starred in Princes’ 1984 semi autobiographical film “Purple Rain”. The film score was revolutionary like the name of his band, which spawned many hits including the no bass line classic “When Doves Cry” and the Academy award winning best song “Purple Rain”. Between then and 1987 with the films success Prince now had Lisa & Wendy in his band and continued his musical prowess writing a number 2 charting “Manic Monday” recorded by the Bangles. After another swift change in the line up, Prince worked with Scottish pop star Sheila Easton on “You Got The Look “and recruited percussionist Sheila E who had a club hit with “Love Bizzare”. Both featured on the 1987 “Sign Of The Times” double album. I often wondered if Ready For The World wrote “Oh Sheila” in the style of Prince because of those two ladies? “Housequake” was like Ron Seal ..exactly as the title suggests, with “Starfish And Coffee”, “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker” and the social commentating “Sign Of The Times” propping up another great concept album. Up until that time from the early 1980’s, Prince and an iconic hero Michael Jackson were the only two black artists who were making waves in a very white dominated MTV world. Although Micheal had more kudos in the industry I’d say that Prince was the more acceptable face as a rock star, partially because his less than squeaky clean image and the fact he could dance and play his guitar with equal eroticism. Prince had his own label Paisley Park with Madhouse and Mavis Staples as signed acts and hits with “Boys And Girls” and “Kiss” covered by Tom Jones. Prince made another three films “Sign Of The Times”, “Under The Cherry Moon” and “Graffiti Bridge”. As we tail off the late 1980’s Prince’s outfit The Family had a club hit with “Screams Of Passion” and that albums “Nothing Compares To You” became a worldwide hit for Irish singer Sinead O Connor. His “Love Sexy” with “Alphabet Street”, collaboration with Chaka Khan and film score for the Batman movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson keep Prince relevant as a pioneering entrepreneurial artist . Embracing on occasion jazz, rap, hip hop, and reggae rhythms, Prince in his career has been nominated for over 20 Grammys and won 7, 9 MTV awards and won 4 and 1 successful Academy award. Prince is a controversial character changing his band often and his name. He’s become a Jehovah’s Witness via a huge mentor and friend Larry Graham and can announce he’s doing concert in less than an hour and sell out. After major wrangling with Warner Brothers Prince went to Sony and recorded the “Musicology” album before he gave an album “Planet Earth” with funky “Chelsea Rodgers” away free for the second time in the Mail On Sunday here in the UK. This paid off in making an 18 million dollar profit from doing sold out concerts as he forwent his 4.6 million licensing fee. 21 years after “Purple Rain”, Prince has influenced many including Melisa Morgan’s superb 1984 cover of “Do Me Baby” Ginuwine’s vocals on an almost “When Doves Cry” produced “I Owe You “ by rapper Nas and Bilal’s latest 2015 album. I conclude I saw Prince at last in 2007 at The 02 Greenwich and he was funky. He will be forever hailed as the “Extraloverable” “Royal Purple Funkness and king of the Minneapolis sound. June 2015
Those words of wisdom providentially were featured in Issue 60 10 months ago of “The Soul Survivors Magazine’ issue 60. This is like James Brown & Micheal Jackson on repeat for me..the last in the legacy of the triple whammy performers who could sing and dance and the same time with simultaneous and separate breathing!! I don’t want to believe it..God help those if this is a scam it’s worse than any imaginable “Controversy”!!. I’m totally speechless ..His Royal Pupleness on the Queens 90th earthday..this is providential and for me who is gonna take the baton for the all round entertainer of massive “Housequake” proportions? Lynda Cann, Josephine French and Ronnie Stephenson ..I feel your pain as true Your Royal Purpleness devotees ..Trust me ..Soul Survivors Magazine will pay homage to his Royal Purpleness Prince..I did a piece on Roger Prince Nelson in the magazine June last year issue 60 and was inspired to do this drawing a week after his 56th earthday which I’m very proud of.. He really was Mr “Musicology” and I named a night after that track back in December 2013 championed by me and Dezzi Deleone . Nuff said!!..”When Doves Cry”..this is this time to to fly to musical heaven..!! April 21st 2016
Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born a Tauren on 20th April 1951 in New York and grew up in a lower Manhattan housing project till his father passed when he was 8 years old before moving to the Bronx. Influenced by his parents and older sister singing, whilst at William Howard Taft high school he formed a vocal group Shades Of Jade with friends Carlos Alomar Diane Sumler and Fonzi Thornton whom he would work with in future times. As part of a musical theatre workshop, they recorded “Listen My Brother” which Luther and his group sang on the children’s Sesame Street in 1969.
By 1973 he written 2 songs recorded by Delores Hall and a year later school friend Carlos Alomar became David Bowie’s guitarist and invited Luther to a recording session at the famous Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Bowie upon hearing his velvet tones recruited Luther who co wrote “Fascination” and did BV’s on the “Young American” album. Also rumoured is that Luther sang BV’s on “Golden Years” a track he would sing with another outfit Mascara a few years later.
His composition “Brand New Day” was featured in both the film and Broadway musical of “The Wiz”. By now he was working with Bette Midler, Judy Collins, Gary Glitter and the Brecker Brothers. Whilst working with Bette Midler he met Arif Mardin of Atlantic who worked with the Average White Band Aretha and Chaka Khan and reacquainted his Shades of Jade outfit with the addition of Christine Wiltshire who went on to work with Jocelyn Brown and Leroy Burgess and record two albums under the guise of Luther.
Providential not co incidental Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were part of Luther’s Band reigniting their collaborations from the Sesame Street band. Cotillion dropped the group and Luther ended up retaining the rights to the album so they were out of print why I don’t know as they were nice albums. He became an in demand session singer working with Chic headlining the BV’s of the their “C’est Chic” debut album and the original instrumental version of “Everybody Dance”, Sister Sledge, Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Odyssey, Peter Jacques Band, New York City Band, BB&Q Band, Kleeer to Cat Stevens, Ringo Starr & Carole Bayer Sager.
As disco became prevalent Luther fronted bands Lemon, Gregg Diamond, Charme, Mascara and Change…the rest is history. Now 1981 his voice was unmistakable and he touted a successful record deal with Epic a subsidiary of Sony. Again releasing album after album he alongside his partner in rhyme the Marvellous Marcus Miller he co wrote and produced his own albums as well as a few for Cheryl Lynn, Aretha Franklin. Covering many a classic by artists Brenda Russell, Stevie Wonder and Burt Bacharach & Hal David, and Heatwave, Luther had a unique style of replicating a composition as though he’d sung it first.
Luther has sung with many female vocalists including Cheryl Lynn, Gwen Guthrie, Patti Austin, Dionne Warwick, Janet Jackson & Patti Labelle. Travelling around the world doing live concerts, I was lucky enough to see him in the mid 80’s at Wembley, Luther was undoubtedly instantly recognisable on a track even if he was doing BV’s.
His film credit includes “The Meteor Man” a Robert Townsend film where he played a villain within a gang. As wells singing for the 70’s gang epic “The Warriors” and writing a song sung by Roberta Flack for the film starring Cicely Tyson and Richard Prior “Bustin’ Loose”.
Lending his voice to many musical styles mostly gospel & soul based but versatile in other genres, he truly was one in a million as sung by Dee Dee Bridgewater. Even now I discover tracks he featured on and when you listen carefully you wonder how you never recognised him as on it. The reason being that he blends in with background as much as he shines in the fore front. Two years back Melba Moore told me to listen to her album “Closer” and when you hear Luther on “Something On Your Mind” I you’ll understand why. Vocalist songwriter producer and an all around African American Artist of huge proportions…I miss you Luther “Velvet Voice” Vandross.
This was written in July 2010 to celebrate at the time 5 years of losing Luther. I also did a show links included below around the same time so enjoy..Fitzroy
Nicholas Caldwell was born April 5th 1994 in San Francisco. He was a co founder member of Solar Records most successful and consistent male vocal group The Whispers, who originally formed as a vocal quintet before a name change in 1964. Nicholas was a harmonising baritone singer of the group and also the main choreographer. His first performance was for Sly Stone then a Dj in San Francisco and despite passing the audition he declined to join The Temptations. Nicholas penned and arranged quite a few of the groups songs including “Lady”, “Small Talkin’“, “For Romancin’”, “Chocolate Girl”, “Say You (Would Love For Me Too)” and “Give It To Me” as well as for other acts and artist. He wrote, produced and arranged for Collage’s “Do You Like Our Music? / “Get In Touch With Me” albums and Leroy Hutson’s “Nice And Easy”. Nick survived a triple by pass in 2000 but unfortunately passed 5th January 2016. I asked fellow Solar Records recording artist Jeffrey Daniel about his memory of the late Nicholas Cardwell in the current issue 63 of The Soul Survivors Magazine, and this is what he had to say…
Soul Survivors: Towards the end of last year we lost some heavyweight artists including Natalie Cole and Nicholas Caldwell of The Whispers who you would have worked closely with being part of the Solar family. How did his passing impact on you?
Jeffrey Daniel For me personally Nick Caldwell is a very very dear person. When we used to tour with The Whispers I just used to watch this guy. He was the biggest guy on the stage but the lightest on his feet. And even though his beard covered most of his face when he flashed that smile, it made his teeth so much whiter. I used to be in awe watching him dance specifically as his movement was so remarkable. You never heard of any dramas with him, he was never in a bad mood, he was such an honourable and respected person who had a high level of integrity. I just pray for his soul and celebrate knowing him and for the life that he led as being part of The Whispers.
Greetings on this for some a Bob Geldolf & The Boomtown Rats..”I Don’t Like Monday’s”. I woke up this morning about an hour ago and saw that Facebook was awash with proud West Indians blitzing the forum, so I had to investigate like Inspector Morse. “Bumbararss”..”Kiss Me Neck Back” and “Bluudfyaaaah” was the linguistics somersaulting out my mouth. The Windies beat Blighty in the T20 Cricket Final in some pure Jerk Chicken style. Now that game I wished I seen, 19 runs of 7 balls…. was a not so impossible mission to accomplish from the secret agent Bajan Carlos Braithwaite. He lashed in the last over four 6’s of 4 four balls, and must have had a Imagination “Flashback” injection of his predecessor Bajan batsman Sir Gary Sobers, to win the T20 for a historical 2 time. Not only did the women’s team win, lest we forget the under 19’s won too, so like De La Soul “Three Is The Magic Number”. I was proudly beaming like a Ronnie Foster “Cheshire Cat” at such an achievement and triple whammy feat.
That’s the way the mop flops in life when the so called “likkle picnniees” from the the colonised Carribean beat their coined “motherland” of the UK, especially in sport. So I watched Good Morning Britain at 6am and wait for Kate Galloway or Jeremy Kyle to see what their featured news would be, and true to form they never mentioned the historical win from the Windies. Had that been Engerrrrland beating the Windies, I’d give you odds on favourites that Kool & The Gang ‘Celebration “would have been William Bell “Headline News”.
Upon seeing that, I then had a Benjamin Button moment suddenly hit me, when I regressed back to a true ‘Jackanory’ story from the very early 1970’s, remembering a distinct conversation with some fellow white kids in my school, in between classes or in the playground, asking who I supported in the 1974 Football World Cup that was happening at the time. I naturally said Brazil which didn’t go down to well, only to be told I should support Engerrrrland because ‘I’m British’. My defence was Brazil was the best team and they were also a reflection of how I see myself as a 10 year old black boy. Different story though when it came to West Indies V Engeerland in cricket. These were the glory days of Blighty’s Tony Greig, Derek Underwood (my fave Engerrrrland bowler by the way) and Alan Knott. The Windies ‘Hot Pepper Sauce’ line up included Viv Richards, Alvin Kallacharan, Clive Lloyd, Micheal Holding and Gordon Greenidge. I’d be taunted repeatedily with “We’re gonna beat your lot today” by the same white kids..”your lot”?? Even at that age I’m thinking “So when it comes to cricket you accept that I’m Jamaican and black first, but not in the “beautiful game” of football..??Interesting”.
40 plus years later that same bittersweet taste still rears it’s head in the difference of cultural appreciation but at least it makes “Headline News” in my blog. Being of dual nationality heritage it does sometimes cause “Controversy” like Prince but I’ll say this, it’s unfortunate Engerrrrland lost and Ben Stokes feels like he’s got a Facebook poke, but Buddddrrrrruuuuppps to Carlos Braithwaite for being a Tony The Tiger “GRRREAT”.. Step sah like Buju Banton and “Walk Like A Champion”
Have a not so Bangles classic “Manic Monday”..Enjoy Fitzroy
Born 2nd April 1939 and passed away 1st April 1984 Marvin Pentz Gay Jr, I must “Praise” “You” as a blessed spirited and musical griot who “In Our Lifetime” remains for me one the ultimate Soul Survivors.. You helped me and many other to understand that “Life Is For Learning” and as a people there is still “Time To Get It Together” to “Turn On To Music” and enjoy the “Funky Reincarnation” ..I’ll be doing a Marvin Gaye hour to be broadcast as a celebration on www.nuwaveradio.net so tune in this weekend. Happy earthday Marvin!!