Following the recent passing of Manu Dibango and Bill Withers, another black music icon, Hamilton Bohannon, died last Friday aged 78 – the cause of death, at time of writing, still unknown.
We’ve lost another great. Virginia-born Soul singer / songwriter Bill Withers died in Los Angeles on March 30th as a result of heart complications. He was 81.
Norman Jay MBE is no less than a UK DJ icon. A first generation Black Briton born into a Notting Hill-based Caribbean family, Norman first came to wider attention via London’s mid-‘80s Rare Groove scene, underpinned by his ‘Original Rare Groove Show’ on the city’s then pirate dance music station Kiss FM, having initially set out his stall via annual appearances at the Notting Hill Carnival, where his brother, Joey, re-branded his Great Tribulation Reggae sound system to the Funk / Disco / Soul-geared Good Times Roadshow.
When I was over in Australia last November I was interviewed by Gilles Peterson for his series ‘The Psychology Of DJing’ as part of the Sydney Electronic Music Conference. It was an interview that covered many aspects of my career, much of which I’ve spoken about on numerous occasions previously. However, there was a different context to this – most of the time the interviewer is much younger than me, so they didn’t personally experience the times I’m talking about and the way things worked back then in the specialist areas of black music, whereas Gilles comes from the same roots as me, part of the next wave of DJs that followed-on from the Jazz-Funk era, when I first emerged on the specialist scene.
The recent Childish Gambino video to ‘This Is America’ provided a genuine cultural moment, reminding us of the long-standing tradition of the protest song, and how well-chosen words (combined with imagery in this case) can pierce us on a deeper level.
Otis Redding is my favourite singer of all. I became addicted to his records in the late ‘60s – my brother and sister had already brought a number of these into the house including ‘Mr Pitiful’, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’, ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)’, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘Shake’, ‘Tramp’ (with Carla Thomas), ‘Respect’, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’, ‘Hard To Handle’, ‘Amen’ and, of course, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’.
This weekend Colin Curtis celebrates his 50th anniversary as a DJ with a special event at The Exchange in his home city of Stoke-On-Trent. Colin started out in his mid-teens at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s Crystal Ballroom, before making his all-nighter debut at Stoke’s hallowed Golden Torch, one of Northern Soul’s foundation venues, eventually becoming one of the scene’s leading figures as a result of his legendary ‘70’s partnership with Ian Levine at the Blackpool Mecca. Info about the anniversary date here:
Rock & Roll rest in peace – Chuck Berry has died, aged 90.
Back in 1975 a single appeared on the United Artists label in the US by a new band called Banbarra, entitled ‘Shack Up’. It addressed one of the burning issues of the day, something that had been highlighted during the sexual revolution of the ’60s – co-habiting with a partner outside of wedlock, or what was more commonly referred to as ‘living in sin’.
Rewinding 40 years, a new double-album had just been issued that would provide the black music event of the year. 1976 marked the emergence of Punk, but my attention, as a 16 year old DJ working at local venues, the Chelsea Reach and the Penny Farthing in my hometown of New Brighton, was very much geared towards the Soul, Funk and Disco flavours of the time, and the release of a new Stevie Wonder album, let alone a double album (which also included a bonus 4 track EP), was greatly anticipated. It was the first UK release on the newly designed blue Motown label, which had replaced the classic Tamla Motown label that had issued all Motown output here since the mid-’60s, bringing the company’s various imprints (including Motown, Tamla, Gordy, Soul and V.I.P) under one inimitable umbrella.