CLASSICS: A MIX OF GENRES

Most young visitors are too young to remember this woman. Perhaps you weren’t even born yet. The above is a photo of Vanessa Williams, who was a former Miss America! Winning that crown was huge for women of color all over America! However, her fame and title was short lived, when in 1984 photos of her were published in Penthouse Magazine posing nude with another woman caused a huge scandal! Vanessa was about 21 then, and expressed great shame for taking those photos. However, many people in the porn industry (mostly men) suggested that it would boost her career. It made sense that they would say that right? I don’t know if it actually boost her career, but I didn’t think it hurt it either. What really confused me was that, while the public (and the “Miss America” organization) came down on her like a ton of bricks, the reality was I lot of those same people (men) were salivating over those photos. What a bunch of Hippocrates!! In 2017, I don’t think anybody would be phased by something like this again (except if it were two men), people would go absolutely ape-shit. So many double standards, it’s the one of many annoyances we have in America. Listen to some of Vanessa’s Greatest Hits.

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From left to right: Keith Wilder, Mario Mantesse, Ernest Berger, Johnny Wilder, Rod Temperton and Eric Johns outside a place called the “Sands,” which if I remember correctly, it is a casino joint in Las Vegas. The band Heatwave was arguably one of the most popular bands of the 70s. These forgotten musicians have earned the right to be called legends! I feel what made Heatwave so successful, is each band member’s unique cultural and ethnic backgrounds, coming together to produce their unique sound. People don’t realize how important this group was, not just musically speaking. In a world where people still prefer to focus negatively on our differences, this ethnically diverse group came together because of their differences to create awesome music. Their signature song that put them on the map was a song called “Always And Forever,” and today is arguably the most played song at weddings and 70s parties.

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Let me start off by saying, I’ve always loved Donna Summer ever since I’ve heard her song “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It (1976).” I was about eight years old then. I remember one day in my grandparents house, sitting in one of the rooms with my little tape player, and singing all of side A and side B of Donna’s “On The Radio (1979)” cassette. After I finished, I would turn it over and do the whole tape again, as if I were performing a concert. As young as I was, her music really connected with me on so many levels. I naturally connected with her. As I got older I’ve discovered almost every gay person on the planet loved Donna Summer! LOL. You know, over the years I’ve always questioned her fashion choices 😀 I said to myself, Donna I love you, but what they hell are you wearing!?!?!? When I saw this album, I said to myself WTF??? If I didn’t love her so much, I don’t think I would have purchased this album.

This happened to be one of my many favorite albums from Donna. There aren’t many artists that we can say that spits out a lot of albums were we love almost ALL their songs. Donna has been pretty consistent, but then again, she’s re-released a lot of her same music too. Witch is quit interesting when you think about it. Why? There has been only one other artist I can think of, that can put out so many re-releases and still make money from them, and that’s Barbra Streisand. This speaks to the level of dedicated fans she had, now even more after death. I think my most favorites from this masterpiece is #1 “Loves About To Change My Heart,” it’s such a beautiful song, Donna’s voice made it so romantic, yet the danceable beats made it fun to listen to. #2 “Whatever Your Heart Desires,” another romantic and danceable tune. #3 “This Time I Know It’s For Real.” And lastly #4 a song called, “Another Place And Time,” which is a much more mellow song, and is one of those reflective songs (after the fact) I always speak of. Listen to her album on Spotify!!

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I would like to pay a little homage to little known about, Rebbie Jackson. Rebbie Jackson is the oldest sibling, born in 1950. In my opinion, out of all the Jacksons in the family, Rebbie is the most talented Jackson (vocally) than all the other Jacksons. Unfortunately, she only made about 4 albums before she decided to called it quits. I was so disappointed, because I know had she stuck to it, there is no doubt in my mind she would have been joining the ranks of her brother MJ. Her biggest hit she is remembered for is an 80s song called “Centipede (1984).” If I’m not mistaken, Michael actually written the song specially for her. The song starts off seductive and sexy, and by the end of the song, you get to hear a glimpse of the true power of her voice. I have to be honest, Centipede was the only song I ever liked. I was not impressed with the albums that came after.

I think that’s what pissed me off the most! the fact that she had the most powerful voice out of all the Jacksons, yet she could not seem to take her career to the next level. If I didn’t know any better, it was almost as though it was done on purpose, to make sure she didn’t outshine Michael. Well, it wouldn’t totally be a crazy idea, since Joe Jackson (very controlling and manipulative) was still managing them at the time (I think). Joe Jackson saw Michael as the cash cow (or more accurately “The Jackson 5” brand). Another clue as to the politics that went on in the family, was how Janet broke away from her father Joe. It was the theme of Janet’s 80s album “Control.” It was a big deal when the Jacksons started to fire their father one by one. Again, don’t interpret what I’m saying as no other Jackson can sing; I’m just saying dynamically, Rebbie had more range and power. I guess there’s also that possibility that she didn’t want to be in show business, and she was just doing it out of pressure. “She’s a Jackson, let’s see what she can do!” Listen to Rebbie’s Centipede, or listen to her “Reaction” album here.

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Today, I’d like to honor the dynamic husband and wife duo, the late Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson (living). Nick always reminded me of the lion from the wizard of oz. When I was a kid I actually thought he was the guy that played him for awhile. Woow, talk about a once  one of the greatest musical couple groups, and now no one plays their music anymore… Oh boy. Ashford and Simpson was so popular, it is amazing some of the many people I’ve talked to thought of husband and wife team Peaches and Herb before they thought of Ashford & Simpson. How does that happen? Nick and Valarie have been married for about 40+ years, and have continued to be the role model for married couples everywhere. They’ve been performing together since the late sixties and early seventies, up until Nick’s death in 2011. Valarie recently expressed that she is still having a very hard time with the loss of her longtime partner. However, she did manage to come out with a solo album, which sounds really good! I’m proud of her. Many people who have performed with someone for that many years, don’t usually come out solo for fear they no longer represent the “full package.” Good for her.

I don’t there is enough time in one day to calculate how many hits they have spit out. “Street Corner,” “Solid,” “Is It Still Good To Ya?” “Send It,” and “Love Don’t Make It Right” are just a few of their hits that I love. Listen to a rare interview of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson given by MetroTV Part 1, & Part 2. Also, Ashford & Simpson performing on David Letterman W/ interview on YouTube. They harmonized flawlessly! When they performed, you can see the pure love they’ve had for each other. Listen to more of their music on Napster here.

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I don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE me some Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The string of hits they produced back in the day was just astounding. The had a distinct sound (which in my opinion was more like a doo-wop and pop mix), and I can’t recall anyone at the moment that duplicated their distinct sound and harmony in that era. The only group that kind of came close were the “Beach Boys,” but they sang surfer music, and appealed to a specific kind of audience. The Four Seasons have been performing since the 60’s, and they have been so successful, that a Broadway play was produced about their life called “Jersey Boys.”  I really hope to see “Jersey Boys” live one day (big named tickets are so very expensive here in NYC (unless you’re going for off, off, Broadway)).

Throughout The Four Season’s career, it appears they have switched/replaced more members than the Spanish group Menudo. However, the most recent names have been, Frankie Valli (lead singer, and at age 82 I hear he still has a strong falsetto), Todd Fournier, Brian Brigham, Brandon Brigham, Landon Beard, Gary Melvin, Keith Hubacher, Robbie Robinson. Now that I think about it, it’s a testament to the magic of this group, to have so many hits despite member turnarounds. If you’re a 4 Seasons fan, I’m pretty sure that many of the songs I love you’re also familiar with. On the top of my list is “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Stay,” “Let’s Hang On,” “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore),” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “My Eyes Adore You,” “Swearin’ To God,” “Who Loves You,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” and lastly from the motion picture “Grease (1978),” “Grease.” Listen to this group legend on Spotify.

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You know, Eddie Murphy has had such a huge acting career, with movies like “48 Hours (1982),” “Coming To America (1988),” and so many others, it’s hard for me to see him a singer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he is a bad singer, but he’s not a great singer either LOL. In my opinion his voice was/is average; but unfortunately his singing voice didn’t wow me enough to want to actually buy his records. If I can be honest for a moment, a lot of his musical recordings sounded like he produced them in a karaoke bar. I really hate that style of recording because it comes off cheap.

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Now, I don’t mean to offend Eddie Murphy fans (but I am actually a fan of Eddie’s work as well) however, the only song that I really liked from Eddie is a song off the “How Could It Be” album called “Party All The Time.” That was the ONLY song I really liked, and that was more probably because it was a catchy tune. Then there was a song called “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” which sounds ok but he sings the song like he’s a long lost Jackson that no one knew about LOL. It appeared that Eddie really tried hard to make it as a solo artist, but his music really didn’t light my fire. I did make time to listen to his later album called “So Happy (1989),” but I was turned off because it was obvious he bit really hard off of Prince. Listen to his “Party All The Time” classic from Spotify.

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My absolute favorite from this album, is the song called “The Boss.” I know a lot of my young readers don’t have a clue about this song. You’ll probably hear different opinions about it, but as far as I’m concerned this was the biggest hit of her career! Well, at least in the gay world, “The Boss” was once the anthem of the SGL community back in the day. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge her other music, it’s just this album has a special place in the “unsaid history.” This album catapulted Diana in the club and disco scenes. If you knew absolutely nothing about Diana Ross’s music, chances are you’d recognize “The Boss” immediately; this is how popular the song was. It was written by the late Nick Ashford, and wife Valerie Simpson. The song was so huge, there wasn’t enough hands to count how many remixes and LPs that existed then.

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For some strange reason, I am having difficulty trying to pinpoint the exact stats to this album. I don’t know how accurate it is but, according to some sources I’ve read in 1979, it peaked #10 in the R&B charts, but I can’t find how long. I also had difficulty finding when it hit number one and it’s duration. Fans will enjoy this album, because it includes the extended version of “The Boss.” Unfortunately, the only other hit that came from this album was “My House.” Back from that, this album did not fancy me. Listen on Spotify.

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