Among the most influential groups in the history of popular music, Sly and The Family Stone fused funk, soul, rock and R&B to create a sound that resonated well beyond the charts. Led by the brilliant and charismatic Sly Stone, it was a sound that by turns reflected the idealism of the ’60s, and the fracturing of those ideals in the decade that followed. The band’s performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 showed a group at the height of their powers, while suggesting a future of unlimited musical possibilities.
Stone (born Sylvester Stewart, March 15, 1944) was the youngest of four of a deeply religious middle-class household from Dallas, Texas. The parents encouraged musical expressions, and Stone excelled in mastering every instrument he touched. Early examples of Stone’s color-blind band dynamics were evident when he became one of the first non-white members of his high school musical group, The Viscaynes, and recorded several solo singles under the name “Danny Stewart.”
By 1964, Stewart had become Sly Stone, a disc jockey for San Francisco R&B radio station KSOL, where he integrated music by white artists into a Black radio playlist. Stone had produced for and performed with Black and white musicians during his early career, so the eventual Sly and the Family Stone sound continued that melting pot, or stew, of many influences and cultures, including James Brown proto-funk, Motown pop, Stax soul, Broadway showtunes and psychedelic rock music.
The Family Stone original founding members — saxophonist Jerry Martini, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and drummer Greg Errico — are Rock & Roll Hall of fame inductees and still tour the globe featuring the songs of the first interracial, multi-gender band. Wah-wah guitars, distorted fuzz basslines, church-styled organ lines and horn riffs provided the musical backdrop for the vocals of the band’s four lead singers. Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham and Rose Stone traded off on various bars of each verse, a style of vocal arrangement unusual and revolutionary at that time in popular music. Robinson shouted ad-libbed vocal directions to the audience and the band; for example, urging everyone to “get on up and ‘Dance to the Music’” and demanding that “all the squares go home!”
“One of the greatest things that Sly did as part of the line-up, with the original band, there wasn’t no four chicks or all the women in the background and just him out front — we were all on the front line, every one of us,” said Martini. “That’s how it is now. Cynthia really stands out now because she is so dynamic.”
Sly and the Family Stone cut a phenomenal swath through the landscape of popular music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, impacting music festivals and releasing some of the greatest rock and roll music ever recorded. The groups work would go on to influence generations of artists — from Herbie Hancock, who was inspired by Sly’s new funk sound to move towards a more electric sound with his material in1973’s “Head Hunters”; to Miles Davis, who worked with Stone for his 1972 LP “On The Corner”; to as varied a line-up of talents from Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince and Chuck D.
“The music was absolutely the catalyst that made it all stick; that gave us the focal point,” explained Errico. “When we went on the road we were a family. We had each other’s back and dealt with all the issues and allegations. It was good, and you’ve go to have that or otherwise you’re not going to make it through the moment. We definitely did have that, and you could feel it in the music and those moments, those recordings that were captured, and you could feel that spirit, that energy and that togetherness. It’s there — it lives in the music.”
But even while crafting great music, the group gradually disintegrated, torn apart by drugs, personality clashes, and the glare of the public spotlight. Stone, now 69, himself became deeply reclusive, his recordings increasingly sporadic, while refusing to grant interviews for decades. On June 25, the story of Sly and the Family Stone kicks off a new season of TV One’s “Unsung,” the NAACP Image Award-winning series celebrating the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, have not received the level of recognition they deserve or whose stories have never been told. During this groundbreaking episode, Stone emerges to tell that tale, with the help of bandmates and family members — a unique and remarkable musical journey that, after four decades, is still unfolding.
Or, as Martini underscores: “His songs are going to live on — they’re standards.”
Sly and the Family Stone premieres on TV One’s series “Unsung” on Monday, June 25 at 9 p.m. The episode repeats at midnight.
Occasionally, what you don’t know can hurt you. For instance, if you grew up on classic R&B and weren’t aware that 1480 WDAS-AM was reactivated last November as “The Soul of Philadelphia,” you’ve been missing out on the Motown sounds and Philly grooves of your youth.
The broadcast day begins with Bobby Holiday, the pre-dawn purveyor of doo-wop, disco and classic soul who takes to the airwaves from 6 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.
If the jovial jock seems vaguely familiar, it may be because this is the Chicago native’s second stint in Philadelphia. In the late ’90s, he was an on-air personality on 103.9, and literally made headlines when in 1999, he vowed to live on the roof of TGI Friday on City Line Avenue day and night until the Eagles won a football game. Amid the intense scrutiny of the media, not to mention rush hour traffic, Holiday spent 20 days and 19 nights perched on top of the restaurant before the Eagles finally put the Dallas Cowboys out to pasture for a win.
Holiday, a Chicago native, whose career spans more that two decades, was out of work and cooling his heels in the Windy City when he decided to return to Philly “off a hunch.” “It’s the first time I moved to a city without any prospects for a job,” said Holiday, during a recent visit to the Philadelphia Tribune offices. Why Philly? “I had the most fun in radio here,” he said without hesitation. “I had fun in other places, but Philly was where I became ‘Bobby Holiday.’”
“I got here and I tried to find some jobs at some radio stations,” he recalled. “I knew Ken Johnson, who was an operations manager. I had a meeting with him and he didn’t have anything at the time, but kept my name on file. Then, come December, he calls me and tells me, ‘They’re starting WDAS-AM again.’ I’m like, ‘That’s their Spanish station?’ He goes, ‘Yes.’ I’m like, ‘There better be more to it than that!’ He goes, ‘We’re going to turn it into an Urban AC (Adult Contemporary).” I’m like, ‘Thank you, ’cause I only have two sentences worth of Spanish, and after a while that’s going to get boring!’
“When they said what it was, it was ‘Best of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, I’m like, ‘OK!’ He goes, ‘So you can handle that much?’ and I said, ‘Yeah!’ Then when he said what I’d be doing, ‘I’m like, ‘So you want me to do mornings — come on before Butter?’ He goes, ‘Yeah,’ and I’m like, ‘I love my life!’ In January, it’ll be a year.”
Holiday indeed felt fortunate to have worked with Philadelphia radio icon Joseph “Butterball” Tamburro, calling him “a beautiful brother.” Tamburro, who was affectionately known as ‘Butter,’ followed Holiday from noon to 6:00 p.m. weekdays before passing away last July. “There’s only been three times when I’ve been emotional,” said Holiday. “When I announced the passing of Harold Washington, the mayor of Chicago, when I announced on November 4, 2008, that we have a Black president, and when I announced that Butter passed away.”
But for the most part, it’s been all good. Spinning such R&B gems as “Take This Heart of Mine” by Marvin Gaye, “You Haven’t Done Nothing” by Stevie Wonder, “Crazy” by the Manhattans and “Part-time, Party Time Man” by the Futures, with The Trammps’ “Hooked for Life” thrown in for good measure, Holiday, 44, loves to interact with his listeners and has regular callers, including “Peaches” and “Robert,” as well as a very special “fan” with the exotic name of Parella.
Judging from some of his on-air exchanges, the fun-loving Holiday, to quote the great Eagles’ safety, Brian Dawkins, another one of Philly’s adopted sons, still isn’t afraid to “act a fool,” much like in the days when he decided to participate in a celebrity boxing match against former heavyweight boxing champ, Jacqui Frazier, or audition for the Fox reality competition, “So You Think You Can Dance.” Apparently not ...
But above all else, Holiday, who felt that there was “something here” for him when he decided to return to the City of Brotherly Love, is proud to be a part of the WDAS legacy.
“I knew that Butter ran it, and I knew that ‘DAS was legendary — the AM and the FM,” he said. “So it’s one of the those situations where when I started in radio, when you dream of getting to a Philly or Chicago or New York, and you finally get here, and these people that you look up to are now your colleagues, that’s a trip!”
So if you love old school soul, and prefer a bit of local flavor to the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner morning shows, tune in to 1480 AM, and make every weekday a “Holiday.”
Creatively executing raps that evoke social, political and economic change while balancing life an as educator seems effortless for Philadelphia rapper Aquil Heru. As he prepares for his debut on an international stage, Aquil (his stage name) has placed a mark with hip-hop enthusiasts and legendary producers.
Aquil will perform at Toronto’s North by Northeast Festivals and Conference (NXNE) on June 14. The seven-day festival will host 650 bands and screen 40 films from June 11 to June 17. Aquil accredits this new travel experience to Internet technologies and non-traditional ways of showcasing his music.
“Social media has helped me network and meet people that I never would have known. Social media has allowed me to reach a few people that actually listen and give my music a chance. Without Sonicbids.com I wouldn't have performed at the Brooklyn Hip-hop Festival or NXNE,” Aquil said.
He is no novice to music festivals. In the summer of 2010, Aquil performed at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival.
“I got to see how festivals work; the good and the bad of performing at those type of events. I got to meet a lot of people that I never thought I would or people that I consider legendary like De La Soul, Pete Rock and Buckshot.”
To date, his career has yield four albums: Blues People, Darkroom (of my mind), On the Ascendant and The Bright Lady Sessions.
From the collaborative project of The Bright Lady Sessions, Aquil worked with South Jersey rapper, Yahzilla, and hip hop producers 9th Wonder and the Soul Council. Recorded live at 9th Wonder’s North Carolina studio, Aquil explained that completing the nine-track EP was a memorable experience.
“It was great. They invited me and Yahzilla down to record with them in their studio called Bright Lady Studios for the entire weekend. We went down there from Friday to Sunday and basically recorded all day and all night and they let us record for free. They didn’t charge us anything. They gave us beats for free. Everybody was feel friendly.”
Aquil did admit that the experience taught him to be creative more quickly.
“I basically got an introduction to doing things on the spot, coming up with ideas and songs and basically completing them right on the spot,” he said.
Currently, he is working on his fifth album Land of Synth — which will feature soulful sounds of synthesized instruments. The project will be released in late summer.
Along with his music career, Aquil balances life as a first- and second-grade teacher at K.W. Reed Christian Academy for Boys. Teaching reading, science, math, English, social studies and language arts, Aquil said being an educator has given him new skills.
“I’m basically the mentor, big brother, teacher and it’s been a great experience. I learned a lot about weaknesses and strengths and also how to reach people. I’ve learned a lot from them as far as just how to communicate better and get ideas across.”
And with a teacher who appreciates composition of music, respects timeless artists and takes notes from different music genres, Aquil’s students are exposed to Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Ahmad Jamal in the classroom.
His career as a musical artist and teacher remain separate, but Aquil makes efforts in both areas to combat negative stereotypes of rappers.
“I don’t try to fit into the stereotype of what people think being a Black man is. I don’t try to fit in the stereotype of being a gangster, or a thug or a former drug dealer. I don’t front like I came up from a certain type of environment even though I’m from North Philly.
“I do music as true to myself as I can. I write from my experiences or even from my imagination, but it’s not from a point of view where I’m talking about a heist or crime spree. I’m talking about things that I imagine. I try to write what I think and feel, but at the same time, what I imagine how things could be.”
Join Aquil at his next Philadelphia performance at Silk City, 435 Spring Garden Street, June 20 with Afloe, WrittenHouse, Sela, Yahzilla, Electric Lady, Arckatron and Aeon.
With the Broadway opening and subsequent success of “Motown: The Musical,” a Motown Renaissance is spreading across the nation, with even “Dancing with the Stars” enlisting the services of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stevie Wonder on next week’s show as motivation for the contestants to quickstep, samba and shimmy their way to the coveted Mirror Ball trophy.
As part of its “Destination Divas Month,” TV One captures a bit of the Motown momentum with “Diana Ross: For One and For All,” a 9o-minute special presentation airing at 8 p.m. on April 20. The network describes the encore presentation of a legendary concert broadcast directed by Steve Binder, the “iconic performance that “cemented Diana Ross’ status as a legend.”
On July 21, 1983, Ross made history when she took the stage in New York’s Central Park for a worldwide live broadcast before an audience of more than 800,000 fans. Despite a relentless downpour and in “one of music’s most memorable moments,” she pushed on for much of the set, urging the drenched crowd to stay with her.
Accounts state that with gale force winds and driving rain, the lights and cameras blew out one by one, until only one camera still worked. Eventually the torrential storm put an end to the performance, but not before a promise to return the next day. True to her word, Ross performed the entire concert again on July 22 for the people of New York, and as planned, the proceeds from the concert befefitted the Diana Ross Playground, which was built three years later in Central Park. Binder received the Cable ACE Award for his direction of the event.
When President Barack Obama is inaugurated Monday Jan. 21, some of the brightest stars in the entertainment galaxy are poised to take part in the festivities, which include a "massive" ball expected to draw more than 35,000 revelers.
Smokey Robinson, Usher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry and Brad Paisley are among the artists recently announced to sing at Obama's inaugural balls on Jan. 21 and a children's concert on Jan. 19. Also slated to entertain are Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and the cast of "Glee."
Previously announced to perform at Obama's signing ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol are multiple Grammy Award winners Beyonce', who reportedly will deliver the National Anthem; Kelly Clarkson, who will sing "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)" and James Taylor, who will perform "America the Beautiful."
Other event performers include Nick Cannon, "pop-rap" foursome Far East Movement, Grammy-nominated pop-rock trio fun., R&B "boy band" Mindless Behavior and youth gospel choir Soul Children of Chicago.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Smokey Robinson told The Associated Press that he'll be at The Inaugural Ball with his own band, but he isn't sure which songs he'll sing. Robinson said he's always happy to perform when the president asks because he's so proud of the first family.
"I've been in the White House many, many, many times for many presidents and this is the first time for me that it's really felt like when I go to the White House or something like that, it feels like you're going to your family's," Robinson said. "It feels like you're going home because that's how they treat me and that's how they treat my wife."
The Associated Press states that while Obama has cut the number of inaugural balls lower than any president since Dwight Eisenhower was first sworn into office in 1953, the two celebrations, both held in the Washington Convention Center, will be elaborate. The larger of the events, simply called The Inaugural Ball, is expected to draw more than 35,000 in a reflection of the "quadrennial demand" in Washington to toast the president in person on such an historic day.
Those who can't score any actual face time with the Obamas at the Convention Center can celebrate at several unofficial balls across Washington. Charity group Musicians On Call, which sends performers to play bedside for hospitalized patients, is being headlined by chart-topping singer Ke$ha.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report
NEW YORK — In an era when Beyonce and Jay-Z are music royalty, when Barack Obama is the nation's chief executive, and when Black stars in the cast of a TV show are commonplace, it may be hard to grasp the magnitude of what Don Cornelius created once he got his "Soul Train" rolling.
Yes, the syndicated series delivered the music of Earth Wind & Fire, the Jacksons, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder into America's households, infusing them with soul in weekly doses. Yes, it gave viewers groovy dances and Afro-envy, helping get them hip to a funky world that many had never experienced, or maybe even suspected.
But it was more than that. Before BET would give African-Americans their own channel, and before Black music and faces found their way to MTV videos as well as network dramas and comedies, "Soul Train" became a pioneering outlet for a culture whose access to television was strictly limited.
"Most of what we get credit for is people saying, 'I learned how to dance from watching "Soul Train" back in the day,'" Cornelius told Vibe magazine in 2006. "But what I take credit for is that there were no Black television commercials to speak of before 'Soul Train.' There were few Black faces in those ads before 'Soul Train.'
"And what I am most proud of," he added, "is that we made television history."
"Soul Train" (which went on for 35 seasons) didn't make history just by influencing the music charts. It served as a pop-culture preview and barometer of fashion, hairstyles and urban patois.
By some measure, "Soul Train" was the equivalent of Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," although belatedly. Arriving on the wave of the Civil Rights Era, it premiered 13 years after "Bandstand" went national, then took a while longer to attract local stations to air it and advertisers to support it.
From there, it became a Saturday afternoon ritual as soul and rap artists (and white artists, too, including Elton John and David Bowie) showed off their latest releases while kids responded on the dance floor.
"When you come up with a good idea, you don't have to do a whole lot," Cornelius told The New York Times in 1996 in describing his show's formula. "The idea does it for you."
On "Soul Train" ("the hippest trip in America," the announcer proclaimed, "across the tracks of your mind") the host, of course, was Cornelius, but to describe him as the Black Dick Clark is somewhat misleading. (A bit like calling Pat Boone the white Little Richard, as David Bianculli noted in his "Dictionary of Teleliteracy.")
For Cornelius, the difference was all in the execution, as he told The Associated Press in 1995.
"If I saw 'American Bandstand' and I saw dancing and I knew Black kids can dance better; and I saw white artists and I knew Black artists make better music; and if I saw a white host and I knew a Black host could project a hipper line of speech — and I DID know all these things," then it was reasonable to try, he said.
On his show, Cornelius was the epitome of cool, with a baritone rumble that recalled seductive soul maestro Barry White, and an unflappable manner.
He laced his show with pro-social messages directed at his Black audience.
On a 1974 program, he interviewed James Brown about the tragedy of violence in Black communities ("Black-on-Black crime looks very bad in the sight of The Man," Brown said sorrowfully). Then he brought on a 19-year-old Al Sharpton, already a civil rights activist, who presented Brown with an award for his music.
But Cornelius never let preaching get in the way of "Soul Train's" hipness — or of his own.
Standing by Mary Wilson of the Supremes on another edition, he displayed a slim Black suit that flared into bellbottoms, a grey shirt with white polka dots, and a huge afro.
"What do you do for kicks?" he asked Wilson, who mentioned bowling as one hobby, but said how much she wanted to dance with Cornelius on "Soul Train."
"You can dance with me," Cornelius replied. "But not on television." -- (AP)
French-born Frédéric Yonnet, best known for his on-stage collaborations with music icons Stevie Wonder and Prince, has been described by Rolling Stone magazine as Prince’s “killer harmonica player.” Yonnet’s musical skills and stage presence crush every preconceived notion you’ve ever had about the harmonica. For decades, it has primarily served as the instrument of choice for street musicians and loners who express themselves through country or blues. However, in Yonnet’s hands, those stereotypical walls come tumbling down with each note he plays. He presents the harmonica in a refreshing and modern context — as a lead instrument in a supremely tight 8-piece band throwing down urban jazz, funk and R&B. Yonnet, who is featured on the title tracks of Philly-based Kindred The Family Soul’s current top-charting release, “Love Has No Recession,” has also performed with Erykah Badu, John Legend and India.Arie.
In 1998, while performing at the Cannes Film Festival, Yonnet met several Americans who encouraged him to showcase his talent in the United States. In 2001, Yonnet moved to Washington, D.C. where he performed in area festivals and clubs, quickly developing a reputation as a “genre-bending” harmonica player. After hearing Yonnet’s music, comedian Dave Chappelle invited him to make guest appearances during Chappelle’s 10-city Block Party Concert tour in 2006. Later that year, Yonnet, along with Erykah Badu and Goapele, were invited to Ohio to perform at the AACW Blues Festival hosted by Chappelle.
During Chappelle’s introduction of Yonnet at Bluesfest, he tells the story of how he introduced Yonnet to Stevie Wonder when they were backstage at the 2006 Grammy Awards. “[Fred] pulled his harmonica out of his pocket in front of Stevie Wonder and I said ‘Damn,’ and he started playing that harmonica — I was scared for him… and Stevie started doing like this, [swaying back and forth] — now they hang out every Tuesday and Thursday.”
While the pair may not be hanging out twice a week, Yonnet and Wonder have performed together numerous times, always teasing the crowd with a competitive rendition of Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” “Every time (Wonder) comes to town, or if we are in the same city, we try to connect as much as possible,” said Yonnet. “When we do get together, the harmonica is definitely a language that we have in common.”
It was during a Stevie Wonder concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden when Prince first saw Yonnet perform. Several months later, Yonnet was invited to record and ultimately tour with Prince. “Dave Chappelle actually brought us to Prince’s house that night, and Prince recognized me after a couple of plays,” recalled Yonnet. ”He then started calling me to work with him.”
Yonnet’s star-crossed path began with his birth in Normandy, France. His paternal grandfather, Jacques Yonnet, was the noted French artist, writer and author of "Paris Noir” — a memoir that explores the dark heart of the “City of Lights.” As a child, Yonnet and his father performed as a comedy duo in small theaters across France. By the age of 14, he started playing drums and after demonstrating considerable promise as a drummer, he was selected to perform at the Marciac Jazz Festival. However, throughout his childhood, Yonnet suffered with asthma. By 19, he decided to revisit an instrument he had as a child, the harmonica. After dedicating time to mastering the instrument, he noticed a significant decrease in his asthma attacks. Today, he carries a harmonica instead of an inhaler and his past experiences as a drummer influences his rhythmic and percussive style of harmonica playing.
“My attraction to the instrument comes from so many different perspectives,” explains Yonnet. “First, I do have asthma. I realized later on, after practicing the harmonica for a little while, that it helps me in managing my respiratory deficiencies. Also, I have a love of music. I wanted to be a drummer, but as I was playing the drums I realized I could not really take the lead, and I was limited in certain ways harmonically. So I go from playing the drums, to something that fits in your pocket. And that’s the other side of the harmonica that really, really made me fall in love with it. It is very friendly, it fits in your pocket, it’s inexpensive, it’s you lose one it’s easy to get it replaced. All your creativity can really go into something that is almost like a toy. But the real lesson I got from it is that it is limited in a way that forces you to extend your perspective to the instrument, and bring things to the instrument that is in your own mind.”
Frédéric Yonnet will open the 42nd season at the Painted Bride Art Center with two shows on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and feature works from his new project “Reed My Lips: The Rough Cut.” Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 day of show. Patrons with proper ID are welcome to BYOB for this special event. For concert-goers and nightlife seekers alike, a pre-concert reception takes place at 6 p.m., before the 7 p.m. show; an after-party, sponsored by GPTMC’s Philly 360, will take place immediately following the 9 p.m. show. Patrons will enjoy cabaret-style seating and free range over the Bride’s café and spacious bi-level gallery while DJ Joey Blanco of Soul Travelin’ fame provides an eclectic mix of classic soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (215) 925.9914, or visit paintedbride.org. The Bride is located at 230 Vine Street on the northern edge of Old City.
LOS ANGELES — However riotous the Eddie Murphy stories from Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan, Adam Sandler and Russell Brand, the highlight of Spike TV's tribute to Murphy was the comedian's duet with Stevie Wonder.
Murphy joined the subject of one of his most classic impressions for a rousing rendition of Wonder's 1973 hit "Higher Ground" during the taping of the Spike TV special "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only," which is set to air Nov. 14. The Roots served as the house band.
Jamie Foxx, Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Keenan Ivory Wayans were also among those paying tribute to Murphy Saturday at the Saban Theater.
Accompanied by a pretty blonde, Murphy beamed throughout the two-hour program, saying he was touched by the tribute.
"I am a very, very bitter man," he said with a beguiling smile. "I don't get touched easily, and I am really touched."
Morgan called Murphy "my comic hero" and came onstage wearing a replica of Murphy's red leather suit from his standup show "Delirious."
"He set the tone for the whole industry a long time ago," Morgan said before taking the stage. "He inspired me in a fearless way."
Sandler was still in high school when he first saw "Delirious," which he described as "one of the most legendary standup specials of all time."
"Everybody on the planet wanted to be Eddie," he said. "He funnier than us. He's cooler than any of us."
Samuel L. Jackson said Murphy "changed the course of American film history" by giving Jackson his first speaking role on the big screen, in 1988's "Coming to America."
"If it weren't for Eddie, we might not have all the wonderful films that I've made," Jackson quipped.
"He is a true movie star," Jackson continued, lauding Murphy's performance in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop." ''You became an inspiration for all young African-American actors."
The program featured clips of Murphy's standup shows, his film appearances in "Shrek" and "Nutty Professor" and his work on "Saturday Night Live."
Murphy insisted before the tribute that he is retired from performing.
"I'm just a retired old song and dance man," he said, adding that he only makes rare appearances these days. "That's what you do when you're retired: You come out every now and then and talk about the old days."
The 51-year-old entertainer took the stage at the conclusion of the tribute to say he was moved by the honor.
"This is really a touching moving thing, and I really appreciate it," he said. "You know what it's like when you have something like this? You know when they sing happy birthday to you? It's like that for, like, two hours... and I am Eddied out." – (AP)
Music legend Berry Gordy is looking for supremely talented African-American entertainers, ages 8-11, to play the roles of young Michael Jackson, little Stevie Wonder and pre-teen Berry Gordy in “Motown the Musical,” coming to Broadway in 2013.
The nationwide search recently began with the launch of an audition website where Gordy reveals what he is looking for in the young men who will get to play these iconic characters on the Broadway stage in spring 2013.
“I’m not looking for imitators,” Gordy says. “What I’m looking for [are] people that are smart and can be themselves in the role, and he has to be extremely talented, plus he has to give me the same chills that I got when I saw Michael Jackson in the first place. My character as a little boy, he has to be funny, a scamp, a little bit of a hustler — a determined person. I’m looking for someone who can not be me, but be themselves and cover those various areas.”
To qualify, the right actor/singer/dancer will need a “phenomenal high tenor singing voice and be able to move and sound like Michael Jackson in his Jackson 5 days.”
Full details are on the “Motown The Musical” website casting page:
Producers are seeking:
• Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, was discovered in 1968 by Berry Gordy as part of the “pop phenomenon” The Jackson 5, when he was 10 years old.
• Stevie Wonder, who was 11 years old when he first recorded for Motown in 1961
• Berry Gordy, mischievous youngster from a middle-class family in ’30s Detroit, a bit of a hustler and a bit of a dreamer.
“Motown The Musical,” produced by Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris and Berry Gordy, and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, is “a gripping story about the protégés and stars of a uniquely talented musical family who, under Berry Gordy’s guidance, began the ‘Sound of Young America’ and went on to become some of the greatest superstars of all time.”
The musical will feature a book by Gordy, as well as music and lyrics from the Motown catalogue, featuring dozens of hit songs made famous by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5 and many more.
“Prejudice, hatred, starvation … I’m tired of praying for things we don’t want to change.” — Stevie Wonder
From start to finish, the 2012 National Urban League Conference in New Orleans was hotter than a New Orleans summer. It also may have been our most successful gathering ever. The conference opened on July 25 with a major domestic policy speech by President Obama in which he announced a new initiative promoting educational excellence for African Americans. And it closed on July 28 with words and songs of inspiration by American musical icon, Stevie Wonder, who, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, received a National Urban League “Living Legend” Award.
For more than 40 years, Stevie Wonder has gifted generations of Americans with his unequalled talents as a musician, songwriter and singer. From his days as the harmonica playing, hand-clapping 12-year-old “Little Stevie Wonder” in the early 1960s to his status as a multiple Grammy-winning icon today, Stevie has amassed one of the most prolific and recognizable song-books in the history of American music. His repertoire is full of the lyrics of love and music meant to lift the spirit, challenge injustice, heal the soul and promote peace. In the early 1980s, Stevie was a leader in the campaign to declare Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. The song he wrote and recorded about that effort, “Happy Birthday,” became an anthem of the King Holiday movement and its chorus has since become a standard sing-a-long at African-American birthday parties.
In recent years, Stevie has expanded his social activism even beyond the stage and studio. He has lent his voice and some of the proceeds from his songs to ending South African apartheid, helping people with disabilities, fighting against hunger and homelessness and aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. For 16 years, he has provided toys for children and families in need with his annual House Full of Toys benefit concert. In 2009, United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-moon named Stevie Wonder a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Upon accepting his Living Legend award during our Whitney M. Young Awards gala, Stevie delivered a heartfelt appeal for people around the world to come together to end prejudice, hatred and starvation and to live up to the high ideals that are the focus of so much prayer and so little action. He said “It’s time to get beyond those things that have crippled us for centuries.” One of those crippling drawbacks is voter suppression which has once again reared its ugly head. Guaranteeing the right to vote for every American is the focus of the National Urban League’s “Occupy the Vote” campaign. It was also the theme of our conference.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Stevie could not resist sitting down at the piano and inviting the rapt audience to join him in a medley of some of his greatest hits, including “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” It was a fitting way to end our conference. The Living Legend award honors those who most exemplify the ideals of the Urban League movement. We could not have chosen two better recipients this year than U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the legendary Stevie Wonder. — (NNPA)
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.