Chicago’s first permanent resident was a trader named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a free Black man apparently from Haiti, who came here in the late 1770s.
Today, Chicago is known as a world-class city of beauty and culture. It’s a city where people of every race and religion come to pursue the American dream.
Chicago is also a city of breathtaking beauty and extreme architecture, with tall glass and steel buildings. In fact, Chicago is a living museum of architecture, thanks to the genius of men like Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and hundreds of others.
Many would agree that Chicago is the birthplace of the modern building. From historic landmark buildings to contemporary technological masterpieces, this city is home to unique and innovative designs that have shaped American architecture.
How many know that the modern skyscraper was invented here in the 1880s, in part because the downtown was small and land prices high? By the end of 2000, six of the world’s tallest buildings were found in Chicago: The John Hancock Center was the first Chicago building to rise more than 1,000 feet when it opened in 1969, and the Sears Tower is arguably still the tallest on the planet in several categories.
Nicknamed the “Windy City,” often a reference to the winds that blow off Lake Michigan, Chicago offers much more than its stunning architecture. To begin with, because of its location in the middle of the country, Chicago has always been a magnet for artists and performers, from the vast American heartland.
Jazz came to town from New Orleans via the Mississippi in the 1920s. And the blues arrived when African Americans headed North in the 1930s during the Great Migration. And loving both forms of music as I do, I was thrilled to find plenty available — especially at night when there are enough clubs and concert halls to please even the most discriminating taste.
And speaking of taste, there are more signature dishes for which Chicago is known the world over. Deep-dish pizza, gyros and Cracker Jack were all invented here. And the local barbeque is legendary.
Chicago also honors its history. For example, you can take an in-depth look at Chicago’s rich African-American heritage in Bronzeville.
In its heyday, this historic neighborhood of parks, museums and cultural centers, was an urban mecca for African-American businesses, culture literature and politics, and a national destination for African Americans journeying from the South.
Also available to visitors is the informative “Roots of Chicago Blues & Gospel” tour that allows you to relive the stories of blues musicians and gospel greats while tracing the history of these singular urban art forms. From the Mississippi Delta to Chicago’s South and West Sides and beyond, you can appreciate just how the contributions of local musicians influenced the world and discover the places that put Chicago on the map. The tour included Bronzeville, as well as Record Town and Pilgrim Baptist Church, the home of gospel.
And if architecture, music, food and history aren’t enough reasons to plan a trip to this great city, Chicago’s visual arts selection just might be.
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the world’s leading art museums with a renowned impressionist and post-impressionist collection of works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh and others.
World-renowned for its diverse collection of museums, you can also explore those offering a wide variety of subjects, from modern arts, African-American culture, astronomy, natural history and much, much more.
So if you’re looking for an elegant, adventurous, mouth-watering, cultural and fun trip for your next vacation, Chicago should very well rank high on your list.
On his “American Idol” contestant page, Joshua Ledet noted that his mother greatly influenced his musical style.
And even though she didn’t believe he could make it as a professional singer because of his extreme shyness, young Ledet proved her wrong and made his way to the finals in the popular TV show, and is now performing with the other finalists in the “American Idol Live!” Tour, taking place Friday night, Sept. 7 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“I originally auditioned before but didn’t make it past the audition stage,” Ledet said. “That was season ten. But the next year, for season eleven, I did get through, made it to the semi-finals, and finally finished in third place. The only way I could get through it all and combat my stage fright was by tuning everything out.”
Music just comes naturally to him.
“Everyone in my family does something musically. My mother sings, and the rest of my brothers and sisters — there are eight of us — sing as well,” he said.
Ledet grew up singing in his family church, and writes songs and lyrics for and attends the House of Prayer in Holiness Church in his home town in Louisiana’s Calcasieu Parish. He admits the first concert he ever attended was by Beyoncé and he still holds her up as one of his own personal idols.
“I would say musically I’ve also been influenced by Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson Fantasia Barrino, James Brown, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder and Elton John,” Ledet said. “But I would say probably the biggest influence in my life was Michael Jackson. Growing up, I loved watching him dance and listening to him sing. I always wanted to be just like him.”
He was greatly influenced, yes, but Ledet says he learned during his singing career that the best thing he could be was himself.
“I had to learn to be different from the others and to find out who I was as an artist. I had to stop trying to figure myself out and realize that all I’ve been through, all my many experiences, made me who I am today. And now I just have to learn to enjoy that.”
Today, on this current tour, Ledet travels with first place winner Phillip Phillips, and other Idol finalists including Jessica Sanchez, Heejun Han, Colton Dixon and others.
And although Ledet was originally studying criminal justice at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, his life now revolves around music. And he’s hoping it will remain so.
“Five years from now I hope to spend my time in the studio recording music that will become inspirations to others,” Ledet said.
With a mantra that translates into “try, try again,” Ledet said, “No matter what happens, never give up your dream. Keep making music because it’s the only way you’ll eventually make your dreams come true.”
For times and ticket information call 1-800-736-1420.
Al Green, better known today as the Rev. Al Green, was the first great soul singer of the 1970s, and arguably the last great Southern soul singer.
With his seductive singles for Hi Records in the early ’70s, Green bridged the gap between deep soul and smooth Philadelphia soul. He incorporated elements of gospel, interjecting his performances with wild moans and wails, but his records were stylish, boasting immaculate productions that rolled along with a tight beat, sexy back vocals and lush strings.
“But in the beginning, I didn’t even know I could sing,” says Green, set to take the stage in the Arena at Trump Taj Mahal on Saturday August 25. “I first found out I could sing when I was in the seventh or eighth grade.”
Green was living in Michigan at the time and working on a lathe building furniture. “The lathe made a loud noise and I started singing to myself, figuring nobody could hear me,” he remembered. “But I was wrong. People started gathering around behind me, and when I saw them, I shut the lathe off, and they started applauding. I think it was at that moment I knew what I could do.”
Eventually, going on the strength of that small but appreciative audience, Green formed a group called Al Greene (he later dropped the final “e”) and The Creations in high school. Later, Green came into contact with bandleader Willie Mitchell of Memphis’ Hi Records and signed on.
Under Mitchell’s tutelage, Green was encouraged to sing in his own, unique voice rather than trying to sing like some of his favorites like Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Sam Cooke.
It worked, and Green subsequently produced gold singles and many successful albums. But a horrific incident in 1974 by Green’s then girlfriend Mary Woodson White, which left Green with burns on his back, stomach and arms, is often credited with giving the singer a wake-up call.
“But that’s nonsense,” Green says. “That was no wake-up call for me. Some people try to make that incident a turning point in my life, but I was singing and making hit records way before that.”
According to Green, what happened before that in 1973 was that he had a religious experience that was truly a turning point in his life. “But it was all confusing and I didn’t know what to do with it. I wondered why the Lord had given me all these wonderful songs and then gone on to give me religion.”
But he went with what he felt, eventually becoming an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976. He continues to serve in that capacity, delivering services down the street from Graceland.
Concentrating his energies today on pasturing his church and gospel singing, he sometimes goes on to do other things that please him as well. For example, in 1982, Green appeared with Patti LaBelle in the Broadway musical “Your Arms Too Short t Box with God.” In 2001, he went on to appear in the movie and soundtrack of “On the Line.”
He’s also amassed many gold records and dozens of awards along the way. “And remember,” he says, “I don’t do anything I don’t have to do. I sing now because of the effect it has on people, because it brings meaning to their lives. All my songs mean as much to them as they do to me.”
A decade ago, he published “Take Me to the River,” a book discussing his career. Today, he says he’d like people to know the following about him: “Tell your readers that Al Green is unpredictable and sometimes unreliable. Tell them he’s a natural, soulful human being. And tell them that I love them and hope they can identify with the kind of love and happiness I sing about in all my songs.”
For times and ticket information, call (800) 736-1420.
The PTL Club first took interest in BeBe Winans and his sister CeCe in 1982 as background vocalists for the show. After going to North Carolina to audition, they were accepted, moved to the PTL campus, and were on the show for about five years.
The duo recorded and released an album that did well on the charts, but later left PTL to pursue their singing career. Five successful albums later, the brother and sister decided to split up and pursue their own solo careers.
“CeCe and I were always very close,” says BeBe Winans, who will be taking center stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Aug. 23. “My whole family is very close, and we sang together a lot. My mother, father and grandparents also sang, so music was truly a part of my upbringing.”
Part of a big family, Winans said his father always encouraged the siblings to be close. “And to this day, my sister and I live very close to each other in Nashville. We talk and see each other as much as possible. So singing with CeCe was always easy for me to do and I really miss it. There’s so much history with her, so much we accomplished with each other, that, at times, it’s much easier to sing with her than sing alone.”
In 2009, they got a chance to do just that, doing the album “Still Together.” On it was the song “Close to You,” which won a Dove Award in 2010 in the category of Urban Recorded Song.
Along the way, Winans’ own solo career was on the upswing. In 1989, he won his first Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Male for his contribution to “Abundant Life,” a track on his brother Ronald’s Family & Friends Choir.
More were to follow, “but that’s not why I sing,” Winans says. “When I look at the awards they remind me of the people who listen to my music. I love people, and they are the reason I do what I do. I definitely want to touch people through my songs. I want them to lift their heads up and be OK. I think music is love and the method through which we can accomplish our dreams.”
Over the years, Winans went on to accomplish many of his dreams. By 2003, he had started his own record label, The Movement Group, and partnered with Still Waters, an inspirational and gospel imprint of Hidden Beach Records.
He made his film debut in 2004 in the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” with Denzel Washington.
He also appeared on Broadway in “The Color Purple,” and is looking forward to returning to the Great White Way soon in a musical he’s writing about his family.
“After doing ‘The Color Purple,’ I said I might never return to Broadway because it’s such hard work,” Winans explains. “But looking back, I realized how much I actually enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to producing my own show there.”
One of Winans’ most recent projects is the release of his latest CD, “America America,” featuring such songs as “Star Spangled Banner,” My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and others. “People wondered why I was doing something like this. There’s not even a genre for it,” Winans says. “But the reception has been absolutely wonderful. I wrote three songs for the CD and the others are all classics. I just wanted to remind people of how wonderful our country is and how blessed we are to live here.”
To coincide with the release of that CD, Winans decided to write a book describing his friendship with Whitney Houston titled “The Whitney I Knew.” In it he talks about the late star’s final days and more. “Her death was quite a surprise to me,” he said. “We had walked through some of the darkest times in her life, so many of us were caught off guard when this happened. But she was such a wonderful person, and will really live on forever in all of us through her extraordinary work.”
For times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.
For the first time ever, the King of Funk is bringing his one-of-a-kind, high-energy show to the legendary Resorts AC’s Superstar Theatre stage. Known for their music and soul performances, Morris Day and the Time is set to blow the roof off the theater tomorrow night, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m.
Day’s career has spanned almost 30 years, and he says there’s never been a time he didn’t want to make music. “Ever since we got our first TV set, and I watched “American Bandstand” and the guys of Motown and all that stuff, I was fascinated with the whole idea of becoming a musician.”
And that dream went even further when his mother bought him a drum set when he was about ten years old. It wasn’t long after that that Day got into a band, originally named “Champagne.”
“I never thought seriously about playing music until I got older and ended up in a band in high school with Prince and Andre Cymone,” Day recalls. “Those guys were serious-minded musicians and music was about all they ever talked about. So I got serious at that point myself.”
Later, the band broke up and Day moved away as Prince went on to get his own record deal. Day worked at different odd jobs, trying to save as much money as he could. Eventually, he moved back to Minneapolis, met up with Prince again, who offered to put together a band for him.
“I took him up on his offer. We wrote a couple of songs together and before long, we were up and running,” Day says.
An early stand-out performer, Day played an essential role in the development of the Twin City dance/club sound of the 1980s. He was a founding member of Prince’s band, the Time, in 1981, bursting onto the public scene with the group’s self-titled album, “The Time,” which included “Get It Up,” “Cool” and “Girl.”
“Those days with Prince gave me and other young talented musicians in the area a chance to shine,” Day says. “It was such an innocent time. We were just doing our own thing, being ourselves and trying to be good artists. I’m proud of where I came from musically and the things we’ve done, and look forward to bringing both the old and the new to Atlantic City.
In 1984, Day struck out on his own, and released successful albums that sold millions. His latest CD was released just last year, and combines classic old school sounds with new music featuring hot new artists. And although he admits it didn’t do as well as might be expected, it did well enough to keep his music in front of his fans.
And when he wasn’t making music, Day tried his hand at acting, although he admits it wasn’t exactly for him. He says, “On film and on television I almost broke the surface, but I found out that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I didn’t enjoy being thrown into [a] shark pit with all these people who did this for a living. I never felt secure going into a room full of people looking at me and saying they’d get back to me. I didn’t like the feeling I got. But if someone came to me with a part that was perfect for me, I think I might try it again.”
In the meantime, Day continues to make music and watch his children play as well. “My youngest is just five years old and already playing the drums quite well. It’s almost as if I was living through my kids and happy that my sons are talented and happy. So they will always keep the music alive for me.”
For times and ticket information, call (800) 736-1420.