Category: 1950s

Throwback: Happy 94th Birthday John Coltrane

JOVM celebrates John Coltrane’s 94th birthday.

On the evening of September 11, 2005, I returned home from a day job working as an Editorial Assistant at a small, Midtown Manhattan-based, family-owned book publisher of bilingual dictionaries and phrasebooks and international cuisine cookbook to my father cooking and playing John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme.

My father was a very troubled man with whom I had a uneasy and difficult relationship for a significant portion of my life. But for some reason, playing Coltrane’s gorgeous and meditative opus on a day of such horror and terror seems like a fitting response. And it’s quickly become an annual tradition for me.

As always cherish life — especially today.

Throwback: Happy 81st Birthday Mavis Staples!

Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for  2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”

She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy CenterHonoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

Today is the legendary vocalist’s 81st birthday and I personally wanted to wish the national treasure a very Happy Birthday. May there be at least another 80 more!

 

Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day,  Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, June 19, 2020 commemorates the 155th anniversary of Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, TX with his troops and announcing federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. In reality, those held as slaves in Texas were technically freed two and a half years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery across Confederate territories.

Although Juneteenth is commonly thought as celebrating the end of slavery in the US. it  was still legal and practiced in Union border states until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished non-penal, chattel slavery across the country.

Officially celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, initially involving church-centered community gathering across Texas. It spread rapidly across the South becoming much more commercialized, centering around food. Regardless of how you celebrate it, today should be America’s real independence day —  the day in which all Americans were made free. There’s still a lot of work to be done by all of us for all of us to truly be free from fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy and other oppressive human systems. Let’s keep pushing on.

In the meantime, I wanted to spend today celebrating Black people and Black art. Being Black has truly been the best thing to ever have happened to me. Black is multifaceted. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful and righteous. Black is brotherhood and sisterhood. Black is swagger and flavor. Black is joy in the face of terror, horror and injustice. Black is survival and pride. Black is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

If you’re Black and gay. I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and trans, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black woman, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black man, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and non-binary, I love you, you matter to me.

Because of the occasion, I had been thinking of Syl Johnson‘s 1969 full-length album Is It Because I’m Black? Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS, Johnson and his family relocated to Chicago in 1950. Acclaimed bluesman Magic Sam was his next-door neighbor — and Johnson quickly developed a reputation as a go-to guitarist and vocalist, playing with Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf throughout the 50s. He recorded with Jimmy Reed in 1959 and made his solo debut with Federal Records, a subsidiary of legendary Cincinnati blues label King Records that year.

Personally, I find Johnson to be interesting because he’s part of that last wave of the Great Migration — and because his work comfortably sits in between blues, R&B and soul.  As for Is It Because I’m Black? It’s a great album that deserves more love and greater attention for its observations and thoughts on being Black in America, Black unity and more — plus it features a Southern fried cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together” that’s worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

Throwback: RIP Jimmy Cobb

Growing up, jazz was a formative part of my childhood. John Coltrane was God and Miles Davis was Jesus. Hallowed be thy names! Hallelujah and amen, forever and ever!  

Copious amounts of ink — both real and virtual — have been spilled writing about Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, the recording sessions that birthed it and the musicians, who recorded it, which included John Coltrane (tenor sax), Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Bill Evans (piano), Wynton Kelly(piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums) and of course, Miles Davis (trumpet). Personally, Kind of Blue is a quintessential New York album: if you ever get a chance, play the album while walking down a lengthy stretch of Fifth Avenue on a drizzly Spring afternoon. Trust me, it works. 

I was heartbroken to hear that Jimmy Cobb, the last living link to Kind of Blue died yesterday and I wanted to pay a tribute to Cobb and the rest of the legendary musicians, who recorded such a gorgeous and meaningful album. I stumbled across this rare bit of live footage of Miles and the crew performing Kind of Blue album track “So What?” live. Check it out.  And if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the album, go to Spotify and spend an afternoon with it.