Music has the ability to lift the spirits during these trying times. And the blues will get you through. For instance, try French vocalist Cyrille Aimée’s jazzy take of the Michael Jackson pop standard “Off the Wall.” The King of Pop ruled R&B and pop in the early 1980’s. And R&B always had B, and so did jazz. Many think jazz and blues were born together in New Orleans during the late 19th Century. And every once in a while a track grabs you with its minimalism, blue note management and knowing delivery and you stop to think about the blues involved. Enjoy Cyrille’s version and let her blues take your mind off your blues.
Just when we need a pick-me-up song and a way to help out, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy continues his ongoing and amazing collaboration with Stax-Volt soul music legend Mavis Staples.
“The song speaks to what we’re going through now — everyone is in this together, whether you like it or not,” said Staples. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what race or sex you are, where you live…It’s hit so many people in our country and around the world in such a horrible way and I just hope this song can bring a little light to the darkness. We will get through this but, we’re going to have to do it together. If this song is able to bring any happiness or relief to anyone out there in even the smallest way, I wanted to make sure that I helped to do that.”
Accordingly, proceeds from the track — available to purchase at Bandcamp — will benefit My Block, My Hood, My City, a Chicago non-profit organization helping seniors get access to the essentials needed to fight COVID-19.
King of the Chitlin’ Circuit, Bobby Rush, turns 86 today! His incredible energy and vitality are an inspiration to us all. Winner of his first Grammy in 2017 for Porcupine Meat, he’s miraculously back with another strong release Sitting on Top of the Blues in 2019.
Happy 86, Bobby! To catch his vertical leaps, check him out in BCI #15
Funky bassist, Runnin’ Pardner and Meterman George Porter, Jr. holds forth on bass, blues, country and how the Meters got their moniker. The early days as Art Neville and the Boys came to an abrupt ending with a game of chance, or perhaps it was all the design of Rock Hall of Fame writer-producer Allen Toussaint. Catch some funky live licks with Mike Lemmler on keyboards and stickman Terrence Houston caught live. They hold down a Monday night residency at the Maple Leaf.
Soul songwriting legend Dan Penn laying down “Memphis Women and Chicken” at Chickie Wah Wah. The elder statesman of white soul has contributed numerous standards such as “Dark End of the Street,” “You Left the Water Running” and “I’m Your Puppet.” In this intimate show, with a tune-hungry audience crowding the stage, the master made every note count.
Soul drumming legend James Gadson graces the Blues Center Interview series with recollections of Ray Charles, The Temptations, Beck and more. He also chimes in on the blues, New Orleans central role in the music and Aaron Neville.
BCI #14 woodshedding with soul drummer James Gadson
Billy discusses New Orleans recordings at Specialty Records by Art Rupe with Lloyd Price, Little Richard, Larry Williams and their effect American teens and DJ Alan Freed. John Lennon and the Beatles took note covering Larry Williams tracks “Bony Maronie,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Slowdown” and “Bad Boy.” Billy also talks about writing songs for Rick Nelson, Dolly Parton and Robert Plant. Billy won a Grammy for one of his 300+ liner notes. He has stayed busy in Hollywood, but grew up in the soul scene of Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Find out why Jerry Wexler signs Led Zeppelin and subscribe to catch the whole series!
Gil Scott-Heron was one of the most influential spoken-word poets of late 1960s and early 1970s. His post-beat poetry concerned a wide array of urban socio-economic, political, and racial issues. The ‘Godfather of Rap’ absorbed stylistic inspiration from Langston Hughes, Malcolm X and Huey Newton. A self-described “bluesologist” concerned with the traditions of blues and jazz music, he was born in Chicago, and grew up partly in Tennessee and the Bronx. Worldly and wordy from a very young age, he published his first volume of poetry at the age of 13. While attending Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he started the band Black & Blues with musician/producer Brian Jackson.
The ‘revolution’ began when Heron recorded his well received debut album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox on Flying Dutchman Records in 1970. The album opened with the hip anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” which derives its name from a catchphrase used by African-American activists during the 1960s. The next year, Scott-Heron recorded Pieces of a Man, marking a shift to a funkier-sounding yet more structured album. In 1974, Scott-Heron and Jackson released their collaborative album Winter in America on Strata-East Records, which retrospectively became their most critically-acclaimed work. Winter in America delivered a combination of blues, soul and jazz with his rapping and often melismatic singing. These early works of Gil Scott-Heron were seminal to styles of music such as hip-hop, neo-soul, and contemporary jazz.