The intriguing life and career of the multi-talented Ray Parker Jr. will be featured in a superb episode of “Unsung,” airing at 10 p.m., Monday, February 13, on TV One.
Described as “one of the baddest guitar players to ever hit this earth,” Ray Parker Jr. was sexy, devastatingly handsome and supremely talented as a musician, songwriter and producer. So what caused this young man, who seemed to have it all, to contemplate suicide? This and other questions will be explored and answered as “Unsung” delves into the life of the musical phenom, who was gigging with Motown’s famous Funk Brothers by the time he was 13 years old.
Refusing to work in Detroit’s auto industry as his father had before him, and turning his back on formal education in favor of a career in music, Parker became one of Motown’s most in-demand studio musicians, and was soon making $15,000 a month — more than his father made in a year. The proud and hardworking Ray Parker Sr. was so stunned that he accused his son of selling drugs.
“I wanted to be like my dad mentally, but I did not want to work like my dad when I grew up,” said Ray Jr.
Parker’s story is told by members of his group, Raydio, which he formed when he realized that he “couldn’t sing.” There is insightful testimony by Deniece Williams and Cheryl Lynn, both of whom benefited from Parker’s songwriting and production skills, and a highlight of the show is Chaka Khan’s a cappella version of “You Got the Love,” with Parker, her co-writer, accompanying her on guitar. There are also candid comments from music mogul Clive Davis who was at the helm of Arista Records when Parker’s musical gifts could no longer be ignored.
Parker, who even now rarely puts down his guitar, talks about the rise and fall of his career, including the drama surrounding “Ghostbusters.” The single went platinum in eight countries and won him the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1984.
While I don’t think that an artist who scored six consecutive gold records, eight platinum records and a Grammy can be considered “unsung,” this episode on the charismatic Ray Parker Jr. is riveting must-see TV nonetheless.
LOS ANGELES — Don Cornelius, the silken-voiced host of TV's "Soul Train" who helped break down racial barriers and broaden the reach of black culture with funky music, groovy dance steps and cutting-edge style, died early Wednesday of an apparent suicide. He was 75.
Police responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home around 4 a.m. He was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound about an hour later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to the coroner's office.
A police cruiser sat parked at the entryway of Cornelius' home on a two-lane stretch of Mulholland Drive in the hills above Los Angeles as detectives searched inside. News cameras camped outside as drivers on their morning commute drove by.
Police Officer Sara Faden said authorities have ruled out foul play. Detectives have not found a suicide note and are talking to relatives about his mental state.
His death prompted many to speak of the positive influence he and his show had on pop culture, music and the black community.
"God bless him for the solid good and wholesome foundation he provided for young adults worldwide and the unity and brotherhood he singlehandedly brought about with his most memorable creation of 'Soul Train,'" said Aretha Franklin, an early performer on the show.
Franklin called Cornelius "an American treasure."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson told KNX-Los Angeles that Cornelius "was a transformer."
"'Soul Train' became the outlet for African-Americans," Jackson said, adding that he talked to Cornelius a few days ago and there were no signs Cornelius was upset.
Others also expressed their grief.
"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," Quincy Jones said. "Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV there was 'Soul Train,' that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius.
"His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched," he said. "My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones."
Clarence Avant, former chairman of Motown Records, said, "Don Cornelius' legacy to music, especially black music, will be forever cemented in history. 'Soul Train' was the first and only television show to showcase and put a spotlight on black artists at a time when there were few African-Americans on television at all, and that was the great vision of Don."
"Soul Train" began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006.
It showcased such legendary artists as Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White and brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and had teenagers dance to them. It was one of the first shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, although the dance group was racially mixed. Cornelius was the first host and executive producer.
"There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity," he said in 2006, then added: "I'm trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them."
Chairman and chief executive of Black Entertainment Television Debra Lee cited Cornelius as a personal role model. She said she used to finish her chores early on Saturday mornings so she could check out the latest music, fashions and dance moves on the show.
"He was such a pioneer in the black music space but also in the black business space," she said. "He created the show in a very hostile environment. He made it a success and he made it a destination for African-Americans and lovers of our culture all over the country and all over the world.
"His reach is just amazing, and personally he was such a charming man," she continued, calling Cornelius "a great interviewer who knew how to connect to artists" and had "the best voice in the world."
Earvin "Magic" Johnson also cited Cornelius' business acumen.
"Don Cornelius was a pioneer & a trailblazer," Johnson wrote on Twitter. "He was the first African-American to create, produce, host & more importantly OWN his own show."
And, Johnson added, "Soul Train taught the world how to dance!"
Other entertainers and music fans also shared their thoughts about the show and its creator on Twitter, where both Cornelius and "Soul Train" were top topics Wednesday. Many cited Cornelius' classic show-closing refrain: "Love, peace and soul."
Singer-actor Ginuwine remembered the smooth-voiced producer as "someone who paved the way for black music."
"I still remember my first time on soul train," he wrote, "what an experience."
On his blog, music mogul Russell Simmons called Cornelius "one of the greatest music legends there was."
"Don Cornelius gave artists who had been segregated from most mainstream vehicles of expression a chance to perform in front of a huge national audience," Simmons wrote. "It was a tremendous opportunity that changed their careers and the whole music industry. To win a Soul Train Music Award meant that the most sophisticated tastemakers in the world loved your work."
"Soul Train," with its trademark opening of an animated chugging train, was not, however, an immediate success for Cornelius, an ex-disc jockey with a baritone rumble and cool manner.
Only a handful of stations initially were receptive.
"When we rolled it out, there were only eight takers," he recalled in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press. "Which was somewhere between a little disappointing and a whole lot disappointing."
The reasons he heard? "There was just, 'We don't want it. We pass,'" he said, with race going unmentioned. "No one was blatant enough to say that."
"Soul Train" had arrived on the scene at a time when the country was still reeling from the civil rights movement, political upheaval and cultural swings. It also arrived when black faces on TV were an event, not a regular occurrence.
"Soul Train" was seen by some at first as the black "American Bandstand," the mainstay TV music show hosted by Dick Clark. While "American Bandstand" featured black artists, it was more of a showcase for white artists and very mainstream black performers. "Soul Train" followed some of the "Bandstand" format, as it had an audience and young dancers. But that's where the comparisons stopped. Cornelius, the suave, ultra-cool emcee, made "Soul Train" appointment viewing by creating a show that showed another side of black music and culture.
When it started, glistening Afros dominated the set, as young blacks boogied and shimmied to the music of the likes of Earth Wind & Fire and other acts perhaps less likely to get on "American Bandstand."
"May u rest in peace and thank u 4 ur platform," rapper Q-Tip wrote on Twitter. "U will always be remembered."
People tuned into to see the musical acts, but the dancers soon became as much of a main attraction. They introduced Americans to new dances and fashion styles, and made the "Soul Train" dance line — where people stand line up on each side while others sashay down to show their moves — a cultural flashpoint.
"The 'Soul Train' line — that will go down in history as a way of dancing at parties all around the world," Lee said.
Though "Soul Train" became the longest-running syndicated show in TV history, its power began to wane in the 1980s and '90s as American pop culture began folding in black culture instead of keeping it segregated. By that time, there were more options for black artists to appear on mainstream shows, and on shows like "American Bandstand," blacks could be seen dancing along with whites.
But even when Michael Jackson became the King of Pop, there was still a need to highlight the achievements of African-Americans that were still marginalized at mainstream events. So Cornelius created the "Soul Train Awards," which would become a key honor for musicians. The series also spawned the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards and the Soul Train Christmas Starfest.
"For him to bring Soul Train to television at the time he did and keep it running for so many years as one of the longest running syndicated television shows in the history of this country is nothing short of phenomenal," said Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET and founder and chairman of RLJ Companies. "We grew up with him with his dress style, the fashions that he brought to television from the Soul Train dancers and the number of talent who got exposed on Soul Train, it was literally must-see TV. He will be sorely missed, but as an iconic television producer, he will always be remembered".
Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made "Soul Train" the destination for the best and latest in black music.
"I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for 'Soul Train,'" Cornelius said.
Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, called "Soul Train" a cultural phenomenon and its creator "a true visionary and trailblazer."
"He made an indelible impact on American television, one that will continue to be appreciated for generations to come," Portnow said. "His beautiful, deep voice and measured pace always sounded warm and familiar to the millions who admired and followed his broadcasts."
Donald Cortez Cornelius was born Sept. 27, 1936, in Chicago, graduated from DuSable High School in 1954 and served in Korea with the U.S. Marines.
He was working as an insurance salesman when he spent $400 on a broadcasting course and landed a part-time job in 1966 as announcer, newsman and DJ on WVON radio. Cornelius began moonlighting at WCIU-TV when Roy Wood, his mentor at WVON, moved there, and won a job producing and hosting a local show, "A Black's View of the News."
With the small station looking to expand its "ethnic" programming, Cornelius pitched his idea for a black music show, and "Soul Train" was born.
Asked why it endured, he told the Times in 1995: "There is an inner craving among us all, within us all, for television that we can personally connect to."
Cornelius stepped down as "Soul Train" host in 1993. The awards returned to the air in 2009 after a two-year hiatus. After owning "Soul Train" for its entire run, Cornelius sold the show to MadVision Entertainment in 2008. Last year's awards were held on Nov. 27 in Atlanta, with Earth Wind & Fire receiving the "Legend Award."
Cornelius had two children, Anthony and Raymond, with his first wife, Delores Harrison. His eight-year marriage to Viktoria Chapman, a former Miss Ukraine, ended in divorce in July 2009 after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery and was ordered to attend a yearlong domestic violence course.
In his divorce case, he also mentioned having significant health issues. -- (AP)
NEW ORLEANS — For years, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton has packed the smaller stages at the Essence Music Festival. This year, though, Hamilton scored a closing Sunday night spot on the festival’s main stage, something he’s been seeking ever since he got a taste of the event.
“So many years have gone by with me wanting to be on that stage,” Hamilton said. “This is such a huge accomplishment for me that didn’t come easily.”
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, wearing a flowing, tangerine-colored dress, opened her show with “(Your Love has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher,” “Natural Woman” and “Think.” Midway through her performance, she left the stage so the festival could pay special tribute to her life and career as part of a ceremony in which she received its Power Award. A video montage and brief history of her career was played for the audience before she returned wearing an olive- and gold-colored dress.
“We honor Ms. Aretha Franklin for having the greatest voice of all time,” said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recognized Franklin’s longevity in the industry and talent with awards from the state and city. “You are the essence of Essence,” Dardenne said.
Franklin thanked them all “for these very wonderful and significant awards” and then returned to the music with her hit “Chain of Fools.” She also played piano on several songs, including “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
At the end of her performance, R&B superstar Chaka Khan returned for an encore show that included the newly formed R&B Divas — Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert, Monifah Carter, Syleenah Johnson and Keke Wyatt — who paid tribute to the R&B artists who died during the past year, including Whitney Houston.
Backed by a full band, Franklin entertained the audience after Hamilton’s high-energy set which included most of his songs, opening the show with “Sucka For You,” “Cool” and “Comin’ From Where I’m From.”
Lesley Boudy, 27, who lives in the New Orleans area, said he liked Hamilton’s “overall vibe.”
“He was very interactive with the crowd, jumping off the stage and dancing with his fans on the floor. I liked that,” she said. “I was a little disappointed he didn’t sing his new hit, ‘Pray for Me,’ but I would love to see his high energy again next year.”
Hamilton noted he had consistently packed the SuperLounges set up inside the Superdome’s corridors, and he believed he had long ago earned the main stage inside the cavernous arena. Last year, he sang there with Jill Scott.
“One of the goals when you perform at smaller venues is that you want to be in a place where all your fans can come see you,” he said. “To be on that grand stage, wow, the feeling is unparalleled. I don’t think performing at the Grammys would feel this good.”
Gospel great Kirk Franklin and Fantasia also performed earlier Sunday at the festival, which is in its 18th year. Pastor Marvin Sapp, known for his hit “Never Would Have Made It,” joined Kirk Franklin on his hit “Smile.” The O. Perry Walker High School band, including three drum majors, backed Fantasia on her opening song, “It’s All Good.”
Chaka Khan Celebrates Graduates
With help from Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan, more than three dozen women on a yearlong journey of introspection and achievement, celebrated their transformations in a ceremony Saturday at the Essence Music Festival.
Last year, the Chaka Khan Foundation partnered with Essence and the New Orleans-based nonprofit Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies to guide the women through an in-depth, life-altering process. The results? Some of them finished their high school educations and others started their own businesses.
“Sometimes it takes a great disaster like Katrina to bring us together,” Khan said during her address to the graduates. “When I came out here to the festival last year, I couldn’t just sing ‘I Feel For You’ and go home. I felt compelled to do something after seeing the effect Katrina had on so many people.
“In no way can I identify with some of the losses you all have experienced, but now, today, we focus on the gains you’ve made. This is just the beginning. Just think — from here on out you will now become mentors like me. I’m so proud of you, and I love you all so much.”
Khan said the women in the program are not the same people she met a year ago.
“Seeing these women graduate is everything,” she said. “It’s made my whole year and knowing that they will pay it forward is even better.”
Dr. Denise Shervington, founder and president of IWES, said the program has helped the women become homeowners, repair their credit, get jobs, develop healthier relationships with themselves and others, and gain healthier lifestyles.
“Katrina wreaked havoc not only on the physical city but also on the spirits and souls of those who live here,” she said. “Fifty women came together with the hope that it was possible their visions could become a reality. More than 30 trusted the yearlong process and here we are.”
Kelly Harris, 33, of New Orleans, said the program has helped boost her self-esteem and self-worth.
“Not to sound cliché, but it’s really transformed me,” she said. “I feel more empowered. I feel like I’ve been given the tools to move forward and handle whatever comes my way as my life changes.”
Harris, originally of Ohio, said she moved to New Orleans for love and became “lost in the shadow of my husband. I had no friends and began to question who I was as I dealt with old demons of depression. I was struggling here and needed to reinvent myself.”
In doing so, Harris said the program sparked her to form Poems and Pink Ribbons, a breast cancer workshop that drew the attention of the National Poetry Society of America which gave her a grant to continue what she started.
Niya Cordier, 33, of New Orleans, said she struggled as the mother of a bipolar teenager to find the necessary support — the program gave her access to resources she might not have found otherwise.
She said her mentors also encouraged her to continue her education. Now she’s enrolled in a registered nursing program so she can continue advocating for children with mental illnesses.
“This was just the stepping stone I needed,” she said.
An all-female band that included graduate Sherelle Mouton, a percussionist from Lafayette, backed up Khan who sang her hits “Super Life” and “I’m Every Woman.” Mouton, 27, said she was excited about the opportunity to be on stage with Khan, but even more honored to have been part of the program.
“This experience just opened up so many doors for me,” Mouton said. “It made me not be lazy and encouraged me to have faith enough in myself to get my life going.”
Khan, who will perform at the festival’s closing night concert Sunday in the Superdome, said there are plans to create similar programs in other urban areas. — (AP)
The popular franchise “VH1 Divas,” returns to the network with “VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul,” premiering at 9 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19.
Paying tribute to the “great cities of soul music,” including Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and London, “VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul” will bring together the some of the best singers across the globe, men and women alike, to “honor the soulful cities that inspired these divas and their art.”
The headlining Divas include Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Jessie, J., Florence + The Machine, Boyz II Men, Estelle, Marsha Ambrosius, Travie McCoy, Anita Baker, Mavis Staples, Wanda Jackson and Ledisi.
Accompanied by The Roots, Philadelphia’s Grammy Award-winning hip-hop troupe, with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Adam Blackstone as musical directors, each “diva” will pay tribute through their own songs, as well as “some of the greatest classics that have shaped a genre.”
In addition, Terrence Howard, Nas, Common and La La Anthony will participate as presenters at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom, along with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, who will co-star in the upcoming feature film, “Joyful Noise.”
Something new has been added in 2011, as the “VH1 Divas” red carpet will stream live on VH1.com on Sunday, Dec. 18, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hosted by VH1 personality La La Anthony, the live stream will provide fans a front row seat to all of the red carpet excitement and will feature real-time interviews with some of entertainment’s biggest stars.
Premiering on VH1 in 1998, “Divas” has presented some of the “most memorable live female vocal performances in television history.” Last year, the show saluted the armed forces with “The USO Presents: VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” with Katy Perry, Nicky Minaj, Sugarland, Keri Hilson, Paramore and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. In years past, the show has featured Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Cher, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Beyonce’, Chaka Khan, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, Leona Lewis and Jordin Sparks.
As in previous years, “VH1 Divas” will benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of music education in a child’s life.
From the moment Chaka Khan came onto the music scene as a member of the funk band Rufus, one of the first multi-racial pop/rock/soul bands, it was apparent that a new voice of importance was emerging.
“Originally, I was planning on becoming an anthropologist or a sculptor or an artist,” says Khan, now preparing to take center stage at the Tropicana in Atlantic City on Saturday Jan. 21. “It was just serendipitous that I got into this business professionally. I happened to be singing one day and somebody came in, heard me sing and offered me a record contract. It was as simple as that. I was just doing it to make money.”
But Khan found much more than that. She found a career that has lasted more than three decades and influenced others all over the globe.
“I am from a musical family, so maybe it was meant to be,” she says. “My mother loved opera, and my father was a true jazz aficionado. In fact, I was given my Christian name after a Stan Getz song named Yvette. My dad was all about jazz, and I am too.”
Born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, her musical genes became obvious when she formed her first band, The Crystalettes, at age 11, and began her professional career at age 15. In the years to come, Rufus and Khan would prove to be one of the most influential groups around, and the central reason was Khan’s amazing vocal talents and electrifying stage presence.
Even after Khan decided to leave Rufus and strike out on her own, she continued to record Grammy winning music, including songs like “I’m Every Woman,” “This Is the Night,” “Got To Be There,” “I Feel For You” and more.
Although known for her soul and R&B music, Khan has demonstrated versatility through her pairing with countless artists, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. And her powerful vocals can be heard on a number of soundtracks, including the movies “Clockers,” “Miami Vice,” “White Knights,” “Bridget Jones” and “Madea’s Family Reunion.”
Today, Khan looks around and admires some of the newer singing stars, like Erykah Badu and Ledisi. But then there are others she simply cannot abide. “That’s because,” she says, “it seems like everybody wants to be in the music business, and with today’s technology, almost everybody can. There’s so much gadgetry available, much more than when I started out, that they can make a pig sound good or a dog do albums. It’s like a three-ring circus.”
But Khan prefers to keep making music the old fashioned way. She says, “I’m happy to still be in the mix. I didn’t come here to be a flash in the pan. Music is one of my callings. It’s the one that keeps me sane and balances me.”
And when she’s not singing, she does a great deal of charity work, including helping with the tutoring of eighth-graders at the University of Southern California and working to help post-Katrina victims.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, Khan says all that is very nice and sweet, but that’s not why she does what she does.
“Art is not, or should not be, competitive,” she says, “even though the industry has made it so. Art is unique unto the individual. And although we live in a competitive world in all aspects, the world should not be so.”
So, for now, Khan says she will just keep doing what she’s doing. Having appeared on Broadway in “The Color Purple,” she does not see herself doing anything like that again.
“I’m not a big Broadway person. It’s too much work for too little pay and too repetitious. I like change and going from city to city. I like singing the songs I want to sing. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my Broadway experience, but I don’t know when or if I might do it again.”
For times and ticket information, call 1 (800) 736-1420.
NEW YORK — Long ago, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts professed their love for rock ‘n’ roll. It’s time to see if the feeling runs both ways.
The iconic rock act is on the list of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees for the 2012 class released Tuesday. Women who rock feature prominently among first-time nominees. Joining Jett, whose “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” remains a classic rock standard 30 years after its release, are sister act Heart and Rufus with Chaka Khan.
They’re joined by Guns ‘N Roses, hip-hop pioneers Eric B. & Rakim, glum glam Goths The Cure and The Small Faces/The Faces, which includes Rod Stewart. Bluesman Freddie King and The Spinners are also first-time nominees on the ballot for the hall’s 2012 class.
Previous nominees up again include The Beastie Boys, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Donna Summer, Laura Nyro, Donovan and War and it’s an eclectic group, running from lush British folk to classic early beats and bone-crushing power rock.
An act must have released its first single or album 25 years ago to qualify for induction. More than 500 voters will determine who makes the hall. New members will be inducted at a ceremony at the hall of fame in Cleveland on April 14.
The leather-clad and tough-as-nails Jett was an early icon for women. A founding member of the all-female The Runaways, she went on to become a chart-topping success after forming the Blackhearts in 1982.
Heart similarly made an indelible mark on the rock scene of the 1970s and ‘80s. Among the first women to front an aggressive rock band, singer Ann Wilson and her sister, guitarist Nancy Wilson, cut some of the era’s most memorable songs, from “Barracuda” to “Magic Man,” and inspired a generation of women along the way.
Then a teen, Khan burst on the seen with the Chicago-based Rufus in the 1970s. She defied easy categorization, moving easily between R&B, rock and disco before going onto an enviable solo career. — (AP)
One of the most endearing and enduring voices of our time is that of Jeffrey Osborne, who has returned to the charts with his latest release "A Time for Love," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Current Contemporary Jazz chart. The 12-track disc is also a welcome reunion between Osborne and George Duke, who was at the helm for Osborne's massive hits "On the Wings of Love," "Stay With Me Tonight" and "Let Me Know."
In an exclusive interview, Osborne, who burst onto the scene as the lead voice for LTD's R&B classic "Love Ballad," stated that this is the perfect time in his career to release this artistic and entertaining collection of jazz-oriented standards, which includes such timeless tunes as "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Smile," "Teach Me Tonight," "When I Fall in Love," "What a Wonderful World" and "Nature Boy."
"At this point in my career, I'm able to do it, because it seems like as veteran artists, it gets tougher and tougher to get recording deals," Osborne said. "R&B seems to be declining - very much so. I mean, more so than any other genre of music, R&B has been diminishing quite a bit. Gospel is huge, country music has just exploded! It's unbelievable! Hip-hop is big, rap is big, but R&B seems to have diminished, so it becomes tough to put out an R&B record as a veteran artist, and even get any airplay anymore. They won't play new stuff, but they'll play my old stuff.
"So I figured that maybe I would like to just broaden my audience, because to keep putting out R&B records and not getting any airplay is kind of frustrating after a while, and I've always wanted to do it. The biggest problem has been trying to get a record company to agree to allow me to do it, because most times they want me to do original material. My career has slowed down a little bit, so I kind of pick and choose what I want to do now. The biggest problem was trying to find a company that would be interested in committing to a project like this and finally, Time Life came along and they were very receptive to it.
"I've always wanted to get back together with George Duke," Osborne continued. "We've talked for the last five or six years about doing this kind of a record, because he produced my first three solo albums. I kind of departed and started working with other producers, which was probably was one of the biggest mistake ever, because I never really found a connection with anyone like I did with George. So it's beautiful to finally get back together with him, to do a record like this, something that I've always wanted to do, and something that I'm very familiar with.
Albums of "standards" have been recorded by such iconic artists as Ronald Isley and Rod Stewart, a for Osborne "A Time for Love" proved to be a natural fit. "This is what I grew up listening to," he explained. "I was the youngest of 12, so I had to wait to listen to what I wanted to listen to, so I had to hear everything my brothers and sisters wanted to hear. So I grew up listening to Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae. You know, my father was a great jazz trumpet player, so I heard all the Ellington and Basie stuff and Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, so I'm very comfortable with this. I'm more comfortable than doing the R&B."
Indeed, Osborne has surrounded himself with superb jazz musicians for his latest recording, with Christian McBride (bass), John Roberts (drums), Everette Harp and Kamasi Washington (saxophone) and Paul Jackson (guitar), and trumpeters Rick Braun and Walt Fowler, all sitting in on the live sessions.
A highlight of "A Time for Love" is Osborne's charming and playful duet with Chaka Khan, as they interpret "Baby It's Cold Outside."
"It was great working with Chaka!" said Osborne. "She just came in and she was such a professional, because my first thought was, 'Chaka - she's gonna come in here and she's gonna blow me away!' She was just the opposite. She came in and she really sang the melody, and really treated it like that kind of song should be treated.
"Chaka came in and she was unbelievable. We had so much fun and started talking back and forth with one another - had a little banter going on that was funny. It was great! It was a pleasure working with her."
Osborne has been promoting his sucessful new CD around the country, and Philly fans should be pleased to know that the beloved baritone, who delights his audiences by coming out into the crowd, handing brave (or deluded) individuals his microphone and inviting them to "Woo, woo, woo," will be returning to the Dell Music Center this summer.
"It's a milestone for me, to be able to do a record like this," he said in conclusion. "Something that I know my father would appreciate and my mother would appreciate. They're not here today, but this is something that they would have loved to witness from me, doing a record like this. So I feel like I've accomplished something - like I've done something like on my bucket list!"
Multiple Grammy winners Patti LaBelle and Mary J. Blige will present special tribute performances when the Apollo Theater inducts Chaka Khan into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame at its eighth annual Spring Gala Concert on June 10.
Proceeds from the Spring Gala support the Apollo’s “year-round world-class performing arts events, innovative education initiatives and meaningful community programs, which honor the influence and advance the contributions of African-American artists and emerging creative voices.”
Khan joins LaBelle in the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame, which recognizes celebrated musicians, artists and entertainers whose paths to fame included the Apollo. Inductees include Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Qunicy Jones, Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Little Richard and Ella Fitzgerald. Each Apollo Legends Hall of Fame inductee is honored with a plaque in the Apollo Walk of Fame, installed under the theater’s iconic marquee on 125th Street.
“I am honored that the Apollo is inducting me into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame,” says Khan. “The Apollo Theater is an American institution and is world renowned for developing, nurturing and creating talent for decades. The Apollo Theater has supported my career and now they are a part of honoring my legacy. I am looking forward to the celebration.”
In addition, the Apollo will present Time Warner Inc. with its 2013 Corporate Award in recognition of the company’s outstanding philanthropy and community leadership. Lisa Price, Carol’s Daughter founder and president, will receive the Percy E. Sutton Civic Leadership Award, named in honor of one of New York City’s legendary leaders and a champion of Harlem and its cultural institutions. This award is given to an individual or group who has demonstrated extraordinary support for and understanding of the value of the arts.
The evening includes the gala concert and awards ceremony and a post performance party featuring a stylish lounge created by celebrity event planner Bronson van Wyck. For tickets to the 2013 Spring Gala call (212) 531-5347. For more information, visit www.apollotheater.org.