Any Philadelphia native that ever attended a “blue light” house party or witnessed a spectacular “Battle of the Groups” at the legendary Uptown Theater, knows that those occasions would not have been nearly as monumental or as memorable without the music of the “supersonic” Delfonics, comprised of brothers William “Poogie” Hart and Wilbert Hart, along with original member Randy Cain and his replacement, Major Harris, both now deceased.
Their timeless tunes and the complicated relationship between the two supremely talented siblings will be explored when TV One presents “Unsung: The Delfonics,” airing Nov. 20 at 8 p.m.
Beginning in 1966 with their debut, “He Don’t Really Love You,” the Delfonics released a series of songs that epitomized love and romance, and an era when men truly had to work to win a woman’s affection and respect:
If I saw you with somebody new,
I’d be so helpless.
So tell, me. What are you gonna do?
Don’t leave me breathless.
In addition to the poignant “Break Your Promise,” the group’s catalog of classics includes the fervent “Hey Love!” “Somebody Loves You,” “Ready or Not,” “I’m Sorry,” “When You Get Right Down to It” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind this Time?)”, as well as their signature song, the captivating crossover hit, “La La Means I Love You.” The Delfonics’ heavenly harmonies were embellished by the bold orchestral arrangements of classically trained musician Thom Bell, and supported by the prolific rhythm section of Ronald Baker (bass), Norman Harris (guitar) and Earl Young (drums).
Turn your head ‘round.
Take off that frown.
You’re in love!
Open the door!
Don’t cry no more!
You’re in love!
“Philadelphia and its music and its artists have actually played a pretty substantial role in our show through the years,” said producer Mark Rowland, who recalled that Philly natives Phyllis Hyman, Teddy Pendergrass and Tammi Terrell have all been featured on “Unsung.”
“The reason why I really wanted to do this show is because in many ways, the Delfonics are co-architects of what has become known as the Philly Sound, and the Philly Sound, along with Motown and Stax, to me, are the three great pillars of soul and R&B music in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Rowland chronicles the rise and fall of the Delfonics, including the complex, often strained relationship between the Hart siblings, both gifted singer/songwriters — charismatic and confident older brother William, who is blessed with a soaring, unmistakable falsetto, and the cerebral, sensitive Wilbert, who possesses a soothing, touching tenor voice.
“One of the best lyricists in the world: William Hart,” Wilbert Hart asserted. “He had the ability to put a story together that you could relate to, and that’s a blessing.”
Among those interviewed for the revealing documentary are William Hart Jr., Maurice Hart, legendary disc jockey Sonny Hopson, Sheila Hart, air personality Dyana Williams, Pamela Hart, producer Adrian Younge, journalist/author Nelson George, and drummer Earl Young, who played on the Delfonics’ biggest hits.
“I never saw money as being a problem between the two brothers,” said music business consultant and songwriter Linda Lou McCall, as the show examines the strife that is so evident between William and Wilbert. “It was the two brothers who were the problem between the two brothers.”
“I think the thing that happened between us — a long story short — is greed,” Wilbert said during an exclusive interview at the Philadelphia Tribune offices. “We didn’t look out for one another. I’m going to say one another, because I don’t want you to feel as though it was one-sided all the way, but it was certain things that happened to me in this situation that caused me to lose respect actually, for my partner in the situation. Anytime you would find someone who would actually take money from you … In the beginning, we were fighting this thing together against people who were trying to do us harm. I’ve always been the one who always got the lawyers and tried to straighten things out, and this is what I’ve been doing — my path with the Delfonics. So, when I found out that my brother would be one of those people who would attack me in that certain way, that kind of like, broke my heart.”
In regard to the ongoing conflict with his brother, William, when asked about the possibility of a reconciliation, replied, “I never had a conflict. I wrote hit records. I wrote hit records, so I didn’t have a conflict. Somebody had a conflict, but it wasn’t the guy that wrote the hit records!”
Regardless of the circumstances, William would like viewers to leave the show on a positive note and said, “I want them to see how beautiful we were as a group back in the day, I want them to see why so many people tried to imitate the Delfonics’ sound. There’s always a signature sound in every group. I happened to have a signature sound connected with the Delfonics. Smokey [Robinson] had a signature sound connected with the Miracles, and Little Anthony has a signature sound that is connected with the Imperials.”
As for Wilbert, he is ecstatic now that the Grammy Award for “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time?),” which won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, Vocal or Instrumental in 1970, is now in his possession. His receipt of the coveted golden statuette has been delayed for more than 40 years, but that is another story for another day.
“[It’s] just great music that’s very under-rated as a whole, as a catalog,” said Rowland. “Everyone knows the two big songs, but once you get past that, people might recognize a couple of the others, but most of the other songs really don’t get played on the radio much anymore, but they really stand the test of time. Those five albums are just packed with great music.”
The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts recently announced the honorees for its Second Annual Clef Club Jazz Awards, taking place on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Philadelphia Clef Club, 736-38 S. Broad St. A VIP Reception begins at 6 p.m. and the Awards Program at 8 p.m. This year’s Clef Awards theme is “Preserving, Presenting and Educating.”
The Philadelphia “Clef Club Jazz Awards” will recognize the following performing artists who were selected by a public vote conducted on the organization’s website:
Farid Barron — piano
Robert (Bootsie) Barnes — tenor saxophone
Tony Williams — alto saxophone
Terell Stafford — trumpet
Jeff Bradshaw — trombone
Mike Boone — bass
Lucky Thompson — drums
Monnette Sudler — guitar
Sherry Butler — female vocalist
Billy Paul — male vocalist
John Blake Jr. — violin
The Distinguished Jazz Honoree’s award will be presented to Dr. Walter Lomax (posthumously) and Helen Haynes, who will be recognized for their contributions and support of the arts and education. The Living Legends Awards will be given to bassists Reggie Workman and Jymie Merritt.
A highlight of the evening will be an address by a member of the board of directors regarding the status and new direction of the Clef Club. There will be performances by the Student Ensemble under the direction og Lovett Hines, and the Clef Club Resident Ensemble will serve as the “house band” for the awards program featuring, classic tunes across time.
The Clef Club Jazz Awards were established to recognize jazz musicians and performing artists who have contributed to the legacy of jazz and performing arts in Philadelphia. Tickets to the event are: VIP $100 (includes exclusive reception); General admission $45 and Clef Club Members $35. For information on tickets and donations, please call (215) 893-9912 or visit www.clefclubofjazz.org.
Film Life, Inc., a multifaceted entertainment company, recently announced that the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, will be moving to New York City in 2014, taking place June 19-22. The ABFF is considered the leading U.S. festival presenting films by or about people of African descent, and is “widely respected as a pipeline for Black talent.”
Committed to the belief that Black content creators and artists deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts, Film Life CEO and ABFF founder Jeff Friday conceived the festival as a vehicle to promote diversity in film and television. Established in 1997, the ABFF (renamed the American Black Film Festival in 2002) has showcased over 700 films to date, and through its selective competitions annually introduces the top echelon of emerging artists to the industry at large. Past alumnae who can attribute their career success to the ABFF include Will Packer (“Think Like a Man”), Roger M. Bobb (“For Colored Girls”) and Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”).
“New York offers a much larger gateway for us to further our mission,” said Jeff Friday. “It is our goal to not only support Black filmmakers, but to promote their work for everyone’s enjoyment! Ultimately, we’d like to see Black film have as great an impact on American culture as we have had in music, fashion and sports. I am truly honored to have HBO as a collaborative partner for the past 17 years and salute them for their support of the ABFF and other festivals of this nature.”
“HBO is proud of the small role we have played in ABFF’s emergence as a preeminent film event,’ said Dennis Williams, vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility. “Their move to New York elevates ABFF to an even grander stage, allowing it to tap into New York’s expansive creative community. A perfect pairing!”
The organization states that the hub of the festival will be Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood between the Metropolitan Pavilion and the SVA Theatre. Activities during the four-day event will include screenings, panels, workshops, talent showcases and celebrity conversations. The culminating ceremony, “ABFF Honors,” is a star-studded awards presentation whose past honorees include Halle Berry, Lee Daniels, Spike Lee, Keenan Ivory Wayans and Morgan Freeman. Sponsors to date include: HBO (Founding and Premier) and Nielsen (Supporting). It is anticipated that the ABFF will attract more than 30,000 attendees.
“As one of the most popular film locations in the world, we are pleased to welcome the American Black Film Festival to New York City next June. We cannot think of a better backdrop than NYC for the American Black Films Festival to host its 18th annual event and we look forward to welcoming former and new attendees to the City for this high caliber event,” said NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta. Festival passes and tickets are on sale now. For more information visit www.abff.com.
Tickets are still available for the 2013 Marian Anderson Award Gala honoring Motown founder and 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Berry Gordy. The 15th anniversary award presentation, hosted by comedian-actor Chris Tucker, who recently appeared in the Academy Award-nominated feature film “Silver Linings Playbook,” will be held at 8:30 p.m., Nov. 19 at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall.
To honor Gordy’s musical legacy, the performance lineup will feature stars of American pop music. The program will include two multiple Grammy-winning groups: Philadelphia’s own Boyz II Men, who recorded for the Motown label, and Kool & the Gang. Joining them will be Philly phenom Cody Wise, who starred in “The Lion King” on Broadway.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, music moguls Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who by their own admission, used Motown as a “model” to establish their own company, Philadelphia International Records, will present a special tribute to Gordy, as will Motown legend William “Smokey” Robinson, who spent several years as vice president of the company, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
There will also be a special performance by Tony Award nominee Brandon Victor Dixon, who stars as Berry Gordy in “Motown The Musical.
Finally, to mark the 15th anniversary of the Marian Anderson Award, organizers will honor former Governor Edward Rendell as its “founder” and for his impact on the arts in Philadelphia.
In announcing Gordy as the Marian Anderson Award’s 2013 recipient, Award Chair Pamela Browner White said, “This year we will be honoring an individual who created a new genre of American music that is beloved around the world, by young and old, Black and white. Just as Marian Anderson did for classical music, Berry Gordy created an extraordinary common ground for all music lovers. Through his work with so many great artists, our society was brought closer together and we continue to sing the classic songs of the genre he created.”
Tickets for the gala and concert can be purchased through Ticket Philadelphia at http://bit.ly/1fz6Sw3 or by calling (215) 893-1999.
As technology continues to advance at warp speed and creative artists express an increasing desire to control their own work, there are now resources that help writers, filmmakers, designers, composers and performers fund and and finish their projects without surrendering creative control to corporate fat cats.
Artistic aspirations are being realized through “crowdfunding,” the “collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.” Crowdfunding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding, motion picture promotion, free software development, inventions development, scientific research and civic projects.
Popular crowdfunding websites include Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and director Spike Lee reportedly launched a Kickstarter campaign to “crowdfund” a forthcoming feature film. Nelson George, a renowned author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist and filmmaker, is raising funds for “A Ballerina’s Tale” via Kickstarter. The film documents the story of African-American ballerina Misty Copeland, a star with American Ballet Theater and arguably, best known for her alleged romance with Prince. Actors Lake Bell and Zac Braff have financed projects through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.com.
However, anyone with ambition and an idea can try crowdfunding, and multi-talented local musician, Donald Hunt, has launched a 45-day Indiegogo campaign with the goal of raising $15,000 to fund his debut album titled “Life of Imagination.”
Hunt is a talented and highly trained artist who graduated from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts with a major in instrumental music, before earning a bachelor of music degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music and beginning graduate studies in the Arts Administration program at Drexel University.
“It’s a vocal jazz album,” said Hunt, who studies voice with Sherry Butler at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts.
“It has original songs and it has jazz standards. These are songs that I wrote with my musical partner — one of my best friends from Berklee — Nik Rodewald, and the music covers a wide range of styles, from swing to Latin styles, gypsy jazz, blues, it covers a wide range of styles.”
As a brand new artist who recognized crowdfunding as the wave of the future, Hunt decided to give Indiegogo a try.
“All of my friends and peers who had funded their projects, whether it be albums or documentary films through Kickstarter, Indiegogo or other crowdfunding websites, I thought that was where the trend’s going,” Hunt said. “Because a lot of artists are having trouble getting funded from say, a record company or a film distributor. So this is a new way for me to set up my own project on my own terms.”
Hunt believes that his ambitious goal can become a reality with the help of loyal supporters. All funds will go towards production elements of the album including engineering and producing, mixing and mastering, string quartet arrangements and musician fees.
“I’m just someone who’s really passionate about music. and I found that with jazz,” Hunt said in conclusion. “It really captures my personality a lot. I kind of discovered that I really wanted to do this through listening to Miles Davis with my buddy, Nik, and we thought that since we have a similar writing style, it would be great to work on an album together and see what comes of that.” For information visit bit.ly/175oywd or http://donaldhuntmusic.com.