Missing Lady T

This week I was saddened to learn, as the world was, that Teena Marie, a.k.a “Lady T,” had passed away of natural causes in California. Although she came out of that last great class of great female vocalists such as Angela Bofill, Chaka Khan, Patti Austin, and Phyllis Hyman; The four-time Grammy nominee was a different breed and caliber of a performer. The music world as well as her fans respected her not because she could sing, but as a well accomplished producer/songwriter and her stance of illegal and unfair recording and contractual issues that eventually helped all recording artists.

Born Mary Christine Brockert on March 5th, 1956 in Santa Monica, California in the all black section of Oakwood, California. She was one of five brothers and sisters that grew up in a middle class area where she was addicted and love the soulful rhythms of the Motown Sound. As a child, Marie appeared on the hit television show “The Beverly Hillbillies” under what later become her stage name, Tina Marie Brockert.

The late Philadelphia WDAS radio personality Georgie Woods coined the term “blue-eyed” soul when white artists and groups during the mid-sixties like Len Berry, The Righteous Brothers, Dusty Springfield, and the Classic IV were huge crossover successes on both the R & B and pop charts. Throughout the 1970’s and even today those same kinds of performers ranging from the Average White Band to Michael McDonald to Steve Winwood were influenced by great soul music during their musical upbringing and is prevalent in their music.

Teena Marie was considered a triple threat to the record industry because during the beginning of her career at Motown, Barry Gordy didn’t know how to both market nor record her. Marie had the whole “blue-eyed” soul thing down pact, but she wasn’t just pretty face and singer. She was a dynamic pianist, vocalist, and producer. When she was signed to Motown in 1976 it was the legendary producer  Hal Davis (The Jackson 5 and The Supremes) tried to pair her with many producers to no avail. Funkster Rick James was given a demo of her vocal and then requested more tapes. James had written songs written for Diana Ross for her upcoming project. She declined to record the tunes and Teena stepped up to the plate. “I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love” debuted on the R & B charts at number # 8. Ironically, when Motown released her debut album “Wild and Peaceful” in the spring of 1979 urban radio and the dance clubs supported her music in droves. Motown Records were so afraid that she wasn’t going to be accepted by the black audiences that the album cover was a painting, not of Teena. It wasn’t until her debut on highly popular Soul Train where she was exposed on television to millions of young African-American record buyers.

The irony is that white radio programmers wouldn’t touch her music but urban formats embraced her with open arms. Teena didn’t play the race card musically, but it would be many years later that pop stations would eventually play her music. She commented on how the industry took her as a musician in a 1980 interview for the Los Angeles Times: “I tell them I’m white, but they think I’m black and I’m trying to pass for white……This is white skin. I’m not trying to fool anybody.” “Blue-eyed” Soul has and continues to be prevalent with current artists like Robin Thicke, Amy Whinehouse, and Canadian crooner Remy Shand. What Teena did was take the soulful stylings of songwriter/producer Rick James and ride the Motown hit express.

By her second album “Lady T” released in early 1980, she enlisted the producing efforts of Richard Rudolph, the then producer and husband of the late Minnie Riperton. Due to Rick James’ heavy touring schedule, he couldn’t work on “Lady T” but began to start producing and playing on all of recordings afterwards. James’s classic album “Street Songs” was an anthem on black radio and in the clubs. But both James and Marie would record what would be a staple on their live shows as well as on the “quiet storm” formats all over the world. “Fire and Desire” was a romantic and passionate love song about two individuals that canned their love for each other over time and developed into a budding romance. The two were both romantically linked but their music and working relationship were always professional. Both Rick and Teena reunited at the 2004 BET Awards and sang the duet to a standing ovation. James died two months after their performance.

One of Teena’s major musical contributions was the legal case entitled “The Brockert Initiative,” named after her birth name. The California law now limits and entitles a artist from the record company to keep them under contract. It made if virtually impossible for the labels to allow the artists signed without paying royalties to them. Teena wanted to be released from her contract with Motown. At the time, the royalties paid were a contractually arranged standard agreement for most artists made decades earlier. By then, she felt the rate she was receiving wasn’t adequate during the 1980’s. She won the case, was released from her contract from Motown, and then signed with Epic Records.

In 1984 Teena recorded her first crossover record “Lover Girl” which hit number # 6 on the Pop charts. She continued to record but during the 1990’s she scaled back on recording due to the fact she didn’t like where the industry was going musically. Also, she wanted to become a hands on parent and be there for daughter Alia Rose, who’s now an up-and-coming R & B singer.

The last decade proved to the biggest resurgence of Teena’s career. Her last two recordings “La Dona” and “Congo Square” were well received and fans earning her three Grammy-Award nominations.

What I really admire about Lady T is that she didn’t try to be black nor emulate our music. Teena was so far apart from her contemporaries. Where vocalist Anita Baker would and continues to have great songwriters and producers to help enhance her talent, Teena was an excellent vocalist, producer, songwriter, and performer. She learned and played with the best in the game early on in her career, so it destined to continue those same perfectionistic production values like Rick James, Richard Rudolph, and Hal Davis. What’s interesting is that now that she’s no longer with us, she was different and went against the grain.

She’s been hailed as the “Ivory Queen of Soul,” but me being a Soul Train baby I’ll always remember her as “Lady T”

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

www.thepacereport.com

thepacereport@yahoo.com

"Lady T"

 

James Moody: “On Moody’s Legacy”

Saxophonist and flutist James Moody has been an icon in jazz for well over 60 years. He’s spread love for the music by gracing his fans around the world with his wit and dynamic skills as both a musician and educator. Moody, as he affectionately loved to be called, made his transition on December 9th, 2010 at a hospice near San Diego. Early last month, his wife Linda disclosed he battled pancreatic cancer and didn’t want to receive radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

He was born on March 25th, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia but was raised in Newark, New Jersey. His uncle gave him an alto as a teen, yet he fell in love with tenor saxophonists like Buddy Tate and Don Bias of the famous Count Basie Orchestra, as well as Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. Upon graduating from high school, Moody enlisted in the Air Force where he played in a all segregated unit while he stationed in North Carolina. It was there he met a musical trailblazer, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. After being discharged, Moody would audition for his dear friend, who’d later make a dent in jazz with a new style called bebop. Moody failed the audition but he eventually tried out again and made the band. Moody began to make waves when he blew on Gillespie’s “Emanon” in 1947.

It was during the late 1940’s where Moody decided to move to Stockholm where he came up with what would become his signature record and a standard etched in stone in the musical diaspora. Taken from the song “I’m In The Mood for Love,” Moody was tinkering with the harmonic structure and melody and came up with landmark “Moody’s Mood for Love.” It was a hit for him during the summer of 1951. But it was vocalist King Pleasure’s version with lyrics written by vocalese pioneer Eddie Jefferson, that gave way to this new art of vocal improvisation in jazz music. “Moody’s Mood” was just recently re-recorded by vocalist Amy Whinehouse on producer Quincy Jones latest disc “Bossa Nostra.” The song has also been recorded by Van Morrison, George Benson, and the legendary Aretha Franklin. In 2001, the song was elected into the Grammy Awards’ Hall of Fame.

In a statement issued by friend and collaborator Quincy Jones last Thursday adds: “James Moody had a sound, an imagination and heart as big as the moon. He was the quintessential saxophone player, and his “Moody’s Mood for Love” will forever be remembered in jazz history side by side with Coleman Hawkins’ classic “Body and Soul.” He later states “Today we’ve lost not only one of the best sax players to ever finger the instrument, but a true national treasure.”

Throughout his career he battled and overcame alcoholism twice. Once, while he lived in Paris  in 1948 and during the late 1950’s. His signature “Last Train From Overbrook” was written based on his stay at Overbrook Hospital in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.

Moody would go back and play with his buddy Dizzy Gillespie during the 1960’s until he moved to Las Vegas. For four years he left jazz and became a musician for the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra for seven years. Playing with and for such musical and comedic luminaries such as Ann Margaret, Elvis, Bill Cosby, Ike and Tina Turner, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls and Frank Sinatra.  Because he was on the road so much and he wasn’t there for his kids from his previous marriage, he decided to stay at home and play during the evenings to be with his family.

After the end of his  second marriage, Moody moved back to New York City where he enjoyed the last 30 years playing to music fans all over the world. Even rejoining his buddy Dizzy Gillespie in his United Nations Orchestra.

Last year, Moody just released his highly anticipated disc “4 B” featuring pianist Kenny Barron, Louis Nash on drums, and Todd Coolman on bass. The disc, on the IPO label, is nominated for a Grammy-Award for this year’s 2010 best jazz instrumental album.

Every year, both he and his wife Linda, hold the annual James Moody Scholarship Concert. The Scholarship was set-up at Drs. Bill and Camille Cosby and Quincy Jones are the honorary Co-Chairs of the scholarship fund. Linda Moody created the scholarship fund as a way to continue James’s legacy via education to a deserving student.

"Moody's Mood for Love"

Remembering a musical icon

For more information and contribute to the James Moody Scholarship Fund, go to www.jamesmoodyscholarship.com or his website www.jamesmoody.com. Moody is survived by his wife Linda of 21 years; brother, Lou Watters; his daughter Michelle Baganove; three sons Patrick, Regan and Danny McGowan; four grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

 

The Scottsboro Boys: The New “Amos & Andy” of Broadway

On March 25th, 1931 nine young African-American men were riding a freight train from Chattanooga, Tennessee in route to Memphis. These young men: Roy Wright, Eugene Williams, Andrew Wright, Haywood Patterson, Olin Montgomery, William Roberson, Ozzie Powell, Charles Weems, and Clarence Norris, happened to be on the same train with a couple of white men. All the men, both black and white, were hobos. As soon as the train passed the Alabama border, a altercation broke out between some of the men. Later, the white men were put off the train for disorderly conduct and illegally riding the train. Once the train arrived in Paint Rock, Alabama, the nine men were stopped by an angry mob and were eventually arrested for assault. Later, two white women from Huntsville, Alabama, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, came off the same train claiming the men had raped them. Price, who was a prostitute, alleged that she was raped by six of the men and Bates claimed three men had raped her as well. The men were then taken to Jackson County Jail in Scottsboro, Alabama. During the evening, the National Guard was called by Governor Benjamin Miller to prevent what would become a “mob-style” lynching.

The Scottsboro Boys was and still is a controversial piece in that it was based and loosely inspired by Harper Lee’s literary classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and also the Broadway play written by the late Fred Ebb and John Kander, the duo that produced the classics “Chicago” and “Cabaret.” The successful Broadway play is a travesty and a slap in the face to African-Americans in the fight for civil rights and what these men had to endure for a crime that they didn’t commit. But I’ll get back to this point in just a second.

This case is extremely important in how blacks have and still are treated in the post “Jim-Crow” ear of the civil rights movement. During their first trial, the Scottsboro Boys were unfairly tried and within two weeks, eight of the nine defendants were convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to death. It wasn’t until the judge stated that the case against Roy Wright was charged illegally. Many civil rights and justice special interest groups came out to support, help, and provide funding and legal services to the men.The International Labor Defense and the NAACP were two of major groups that helped the families of these innocent victims.

Ruby Bates, one of the alleged rape victims, had written a letter vindicating the men’s innocence. Once the case made it to the Alabama Supreme Court by June of 1931, the NAACP had withdrawn from the case and Bates’s letter written to her then boyfriend would be released indicating she was never raped or seen the men. The Alabama Supreme Court voted to uphold the convictions of seven of the defendants. Only one of the defendants, Eugene Williams, was granted a retrial because he was a minor during his arrest. A year later the United States Supreme Court decided to try the case because the Scottsboro Boys had been denied their right to fair counsel, which violated their right to due process protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. The cases were then handed back to the lower courts. During the second trial of Haywood Patterson, Ruby Bates again testified and claimed the men’s innocence. Bates told the court that she lied because she feared that she’s be arrested on charges of vagrancy. Despite her testimony, doctors took to the stand and told the court that Bates showed the signs of forced rape by multiple men. Patterson was still convicted and sentenced to death. Judge Horton then added that he postpone the sentencing and grant a new trial because a “just and impartial” verdict couldn’t be reached. Further detailing that the “Jim Crow” era and injustice brought by these men in the courts reflect the racist and prejudices the Scottsboro Boys had to endure, despite their innocence.

Since blacks had been kept off the jury rolls in the state of Alabama, blacks weren’t protected under the Fourteen Amendment, which granted equal protection under the Law. In the case Norris vs. Alabama, attorney Samuel Leibowitz went before the United States Supreme Court and presented evidence that African-Americans in the State of Alabama were deliberately not adhering to the civil rights under this amendment. The Supreme Court again overturned the case and sent it back to the lower court. It was Clarence Norris’s case that also allowed the lower courts to review the other defendants cases to align themselves with the rule of equal protection.

Haywood Patterson would be tried again during the winter of 1936, this time the court found him guilty of rape and was sentenced to 75 years in prison. The following year Clarence Norris was tried for a third time and was convicted and sentenced to death. Charley Weems was also sentenced to 105 years in prison. Ozie Powell while being transported to prison, was attacked by two officers and eventually cut and hurt the officers. One of the officers shot Powell in the face where he suffered permanent brain damage. The courts dropped the rape charge in exchange for a plea deal where Powell would serve 20 years for assaulting the deputy. He later was released due to good behavior in 1946. The State of Alabama dropped all charges against Roy Wright, Eugene Williams, Olin Montgomery, and Willie Roberson.

The sick and sadistic part of this case is how Broadway decided to take one of the most important civil rights cases in history and make it a “Stepin Fetchit” and “Amos and Andy” spectacle. These nine men never really lived a normal life due to them either going into hiding or them not dealing with the emotional burden of this travesty was left in the annals of history. The Scottsboro Boys is now being commemorated as one of the most racist and degrading musicals on Broadway. On opening night many luminaries such as Congressman Charlie Rangel, Whoopi Goldberg, and Denzil Washington came and paid their respects. The songs make light of the corrupt and political nature of the 1930’s south and use black actors as caricatures of a period when African-Americans had no other choices to play negative and damaging stereotypical roles like the ones portrayed in the musical. John Kander and the late Fred Ebb and director Susan Stroman gave the public caricatures of white actors in blackface makeup while the main characters, The Scottsboro Boys, are dancing their way to the hearts of audiences of buffoonery and racial tolerance. I’m sorry, but this is sick and demented. Stroman can go around and make fun of Hitler in her critical success The Producers, but fails miserably here with The Scottsboro Boys. Due to the insensitivity of the nature of the content and historical connotation to these men’s place in civil rights history, this is no laughing matter. Plus, the story’s facts in the musical are incorrect . During the entire musical, reference to the Fourteenth Amendment was only brought up or acknowledged three times that I counted. This was the amendment that The Scottsboro Boys suffered the most strife in trying to prove their innocence.

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

www.thepacereport.com

thepacereport@yahoo.com