Here is one of our Roll call Of Fame sections of the current issue of The Soul Survivors Magazine for Aug & Sept 2020. To check out the rest of the magazine click on the is link https://www.thesoulsurvivorsmagazine.co.uk/current-issue/ and enjoy..Fitzroy
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”.
I drew this picture 1 year and four days ago, providential not coincidental sadly. “It’s Critical” that we remember Billy Paul one of the deep and philosophical “Black Wonder’s Of The World”. Billy Paul was for Philadelphia International Records what Marvin Gaye was to Motown, musical griot and deliverer of the the gospel and spiritual truth. Before Tashan kindly gave me his song “Soul Survivors” to use as my radio show theme tune, I’d previously chosen Billy’s version of “Only The Strong Survive” as my intro. I loved Billy’s voice and smoothness and he was clearly someone who was clearly proud of his “Brown Baby” heritage. I guess in right now “The Whole Town’s Talking” “Sooner Or Later” about the lost of this artist who certainly helped “Let The Dollar Circulate” in Philly. Billy was so full of “Enlightenment” and will be fondly remembered for his effort to “Bring The Family Back” as he educated many in the “Game Of Life”. Always championing “People Power” whether he was “Takin’ It To The Streets”, encouraging the population including “Me & Mrs Jone” to “Let’s Make A Baby”, identifying the phony Billy Paul “False Faces” or advising “Only The Strong Survive”. Billy Paul had style, a voice of pure “Peace Holy Peace” quality and most certainly for me was a “First Class” act, so “Thank You For (This Blessing)” Billy and Rock the mic In Paradise (R.I.P)
Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff from our July 2012 issue 40 of the Soul Survivors Magazine speaking about Billy Paul :
Me: If there is one artist who always had some kind of positive unity and love message throughout his entire albums it was brother Billy Paul. On the War Of The Gods album you describe him as a prophet instrument of god bringing messages to brothers and sisters on the planet. Titles like “See The Light”, “Black Wonders Of The World”, “False Faces”, “Lets Make A Baby”, and “Me & Mrs Jones” with his serene vocals, Billy captured the hearts and imagination of many..How did you come across him and recognize his potential?
Kenny: “Black Wonders Of The World” Yeah that was a good one.”
Leon : “Wow I forgot about that one.
Kenny: “Billy Paul.. I new him from South Street in south Philly when he had a clothing store selling African garments and at the time I had a record shop in Broad & South and see him all the time. Billy used to sing at a club called The Sahara and he’d pack them in there. He was a local favourite like the Soul Survivors were. Billy recorded an album called “Billy Paul Feeling Good At The Cadillac Club” and we went and cut a few extra songs on there. One was called “Missing You” and “Don’t Think Twice” . Then we went to Neptune Records and Billy was part of our group. He had a good band and a unique voice and he was a great performer. When we came up with “Me & Mrs Jones” that started it even though he had an album before that called “Going East” which was an excellent album. Asking all these question draws out some energies coz your taking me way back to the early days . LOL
Leon : I remember the album cover was unique with Billy on the magic carpet ride which was actually a song on the album. Billy was and still is unique and although there’s been many renditions of “Me & Mrs Jones”… it’s Billy song.
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
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!!
…The Young Soul Rebel Rebel
Regressing like Benjamin Button to the “Golden Years” circa 1973-1974 I recall a specific memory of my pre-teenage youth at the height, birth and merge of glam rock and disco. One day my school chum Kevin “Ted” Goodchild who was naturally ginger haired walked in to our classroom and I and everybody either gasped or had been subliminally living the Tremelo’s “Silence Is Golden” experience. Kev was bravely sporting the David Bowie Aladdin Sane persona hairstyle and I’m certain Kev’s sudden popularity with the girls made him “Top Of The Pops” that day. He looked so cool like Fonzie and I admired him, because not even the older kids could touch that kind of bravado. Only last year December 2015 after I reminded him of this on his earthday via Facebook, he managed to find the photo of that momentous hair cut. Within a month his iconic “Hero” singer songwriter, musician, actor, artist and ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ millions of records, The Star man, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and “Young American” ‘blue eyed soul boy’ David Bowie, passed away two days after his 69th earthday on the 8th January 2016.
Straight Outta Brixton south London born as David Robert Jones, he would become the ultimate and iconic “Rebel Rebel” reinventing himself with the many “Changes” of popular music. David Bowie was south London’s musical rock star like Michael Caine was to the movie industry, and was quite an anomaly as an individual. With his unusual androgynous features, different coloured eye pupils and eccentric fashion attire, David was a bit of a silent ninja who appears to be shy but could be profoundly articulate and quite well spoken when challenged especially in TV interviews. He had a unique, unorthodox soulful coolness to his voice and one of his songs up there for me personally with Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody” is his “Space Oddity” themed “Life On Mars”. If you were to check Bowie roots into R&B, listen to his intelligently constructed novelty single from 1967 “The Laughing Gnome”, as it is based on that Motown back beat that has become synonymous with what is refereed to as the Northern Soul sound.
Although he had dabbled with elements of more funkier rock and soul cuts like “1984” from the 1974 “Diamond Dogs” album, it was in 1975 when David, looking for a new musical direction went to Philadelphia’s famous Sigma Studios, and records his soul surviving album “Young American” that cements him in R&B musical history. Reputedly regarded by Bowie as his ‘plastic soul’ album it hosted the talents of percussionists, the late Ralph McDonald and Larry Washington, saxophonist David Sanborn, bassist Willy Weeks’s, backing vocalist Ava Cherry and an in demand velvet voiced Luther Vandross. The title track “Young American” showcases the harmonious tones of a young Luther, who co wrote Bowie’s funkiest soul track “Fascination”. “Fascination” was covered in 1977 by Fat Larry’s Band, and Luther Vandross revised the lyrics and recorded his own incredible version called “Funky Music” on his debut Luther album in Cotillion 1975.
What created history is David Bowie being one of the first British caucasian artists, second to Elton John to appear on Don Cornilious’s “Soul Train” TV soul show. On Nov 4th 1975 he appeared performing to a black audience, renditioning his funky penned “Fame” with the late John Lennon. The then dubbed super heavy minister of funk James Brown was influenced by the track simulating blatantly elements for “Hot (I Wanna Be Loved)”. I guess now both James and David can have a spiritual copyright and royalties discussion whilst they are they “Breakin’ Bread” like Fred Wesley & The New JB’s, around the creator’s dinner table. I personally loved Bowie’s ‘blue eyed soul’ era when he continued later with “Stay” and “Sound And Vision” his fusion of moog funk and pre sub bass menagerie of the “Golden Years”. “Golden Years” would later be covered by a Luther Vandross affiliated outfit Mascara in 1979 and by Loose Ends in 1985. When both Chic’s Nile Rodgers and David Bowie were looking to resurrect their careers, they providentially collaborated on Bowie’s “Lets Dance” album, the title track reminding me of Saturday nights dancing amongst electro and Nu Romantic appreciators at the old Camden Palace Camden circa 1983.
14 years later the late Notorious BIG and Puff Daddy would use that sample for Biggy’s “Been Around The World”. No stranger to being sampled in hip-hop Public Enemy and Jay Z sought his catalogue as well as Vanilla Ice for “Ice Ice Baby” utilising David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure”. Bowies “Black Tie, White Noise” feature Al B sure as a response to the LA Riots in 1993 filmed with powerful video. Despite some alleged earlier association with fascism in the mid 1970’s when he was going through a turbulent rehabilitation period for which he since apologised for, Bowie seemed to have quite an affinity with black music from a very early age. In a 1983 interview with MTV, Bowie flipped the script and raised the issue of the lack of black music video’s on the predominantly rock TV channel. The interviewer was clearly unprepared for Bowie’s intrusive questions and was left feeling suitably uncomfortable answering David’s questions. David later married black world famous super model Iman with whom he had a child, Alexandria Lexi Jones. Bowie’s previous wife was model Angie Bowie, and they had a son filmmaker Duncan Jones previously known as Zowie Bowie.
So now we hear the cry for ground control to Major Tom for the expected return to “Space Oddity” from “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. Bowie was part of the soundtrack to my life. I liked much of his music but not all of it. He certainly had a distinctive style like his song “Fashion”, that is similar to fellow universally known entertainers, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince that made him instantly recognisable on a track. I like many other music lovers recognise the artistry of David Bowie and was taken aback at the announcement of his passing. The gathering in Brixton singing the funky soul folk pop classic “Star-man” says it all. It seems poignant and scarily prophetic that his 1980 classic title “Ashes To Ashes” is somewhat relevant now. But it’s mentioned in a universal and positive way of spiritual spreading his musical ashes to all who loved him. Rock the mic In Paradise (RIP) David Robert Jones universally known as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane aka David Bowie.
Cover image by Fitzroy Facey