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But who would try to fake a master? Certainly not me, especially after he told me about writing

the lyrics for “Young, Gifted and Black.” I knew he had been a musical director for Nina,

and I kind of assumed that he had done the music and she had done the lyrics

 

 

Books by Kalamu ya Salaam

 

The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)

 

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Young, Gifted, and Black

The Genius of Weldon Irvine

Music Commentary by Kalamu ya Salaam

 

The state of hip hop is confused and desperate like black people; solutions must come from us. So-called artists need to be artists and not whores for music executives.Weldon Irvine

 

Weldon Irvine. Master Weldon. Of course, there is a story behind my opening with his quote. Weldon committed suicide. A few years back.

I met him once, in Madison, Wisconsin. We were both at a hip hop conference. Both of us over fifty. Hanging out with the young folk. After one of the sessions we were walking leisurely back to where we were staying. As we passed through the lobby there was a piano. Weldon sat at it, just to try out the keyboard action. He pushed over. I sat next to him.

Weldon played mostly post-bop tunes. I think a Horace Silver number, maybe “Nica’s Dream.” A Monk tune. Some standards, and I was humming along when I knew the tune, when I didn’t, I fell silent. Weldom looked over towards me at one point, smiled, and said how he liked it that I didn’t try to fake it. But who would try to fake a master? Certainly not me, especially after he told me about writing the lyrics for “Young, Gifted and Black.”

I knew he had been a musical director for Nina, and I kind of assumed that he had done the music and she had done the lyrics, but that’s not the way it was. Weldon was seriously gifted.

And very sensitive. A quiet man. Not given to bragging or boasting, or even claiming all the accolades he deserved. when I heard about his death, I could feel the possibility that he was not able to deal with where we are at today, especially after coming through the Sixties working with Nina.

This song is seen as the anthem of its era, but there is something more. The song overtly focuses on young people. Weldon’s last recording included collaborations with a number of young artists.

I’m sure the way commercial rap dominated the music scene did not bring joy to Weldon.

Here he had written a song which was successfully covered first by Aretha and second by Donny Hathaway, plus international covers, and the original performed by Nina Simone. That alone is enough to insure greatness for the average musical career.

Both Aretha and Donny approached the song with a church treatment. Aretha’s version is strongly reflective of her gospel roots in the way she uses a rubato, lining out the verses approach. The organ/piano duo accompaniment. The worrying of the notes, that quiver in the back of the mouth. The full throated shouting. And of course that rock steady bass in the out choruses with Aretha rising above.

Donny was a bit more stately, not just a minister, a full fledged bishop. Where Aretha had shouts, Donny has moans and hums. And though the church influences are unmistakable, there is also a strong jazz element in the way he voices the changes, plus a strong helping of the blues undergirding his vocal inflections and the drama of the musical arrangements. Listen to how far forward the drum kit is in the mix. And when the chorus comes in, it’s a wall of sound. While Aretha is the stronger singer, Donny has a stronger arrangement and a better production mix.

The Bob & Marcia duo is Bob Andy and Marcia Griffins (later of I-Threes fame). Their version was the first of what would be numerous hits both in Jamaica and internationally. This is a pre-roots-reggae, heavily ska-influenced 1961 version. And though the song undeniably sounds dated, there is an optimism bursting forth in their interpretation, which is much lighter and far more bubbly than either Aretha, Donny or Nina’s version.

Nina’s version with horns and overdubbed voices is very, very subtle, surprisingly subtle for a song that is so forward in its lyrical meaning. The staccato attack of the voices contrasts with the lushness of the brass voiced in the lower register.

 Just compare the way the word “black” is enunciated on Nina’s version to the way it is sung on the other versions. Put on ear phones and hear Nina’s overdub shadowing her lead voice. The way she controls her vibrato, strong enough to be felt, but light enough that it does not call attention to itself. It’s truly masterful.

Nina’s version was recorded when we were young. We felt confident that we would change the world, and if not the world, at the very least, we would change America. And that even if we were not successful in creating all the change we desired, we would certainly give them a run for the money, we would challenge them and they would know they had had a hell of a fight on their hands. We were confident of that. Why? Well, because: we were young, gifted and black.

You can hear that in all of these versions. Today, it’s over forty years later. The hard truth is that although there are many, many young black people building careers in commerce and entertainment, there is nevertheless a serious question whether most of today’s youth feel truly young, gifted and black. Blinging, tossing up diamonds, making benjamins seems to be the prevailing ethos, hence, the caustic quote that opens this section

Donny is gone. Nina is gone. Master Weldon is gone. Aretha, damn near silent. We are no longer young. And it’s a hard time to be elderly, gifted and black. But we play these songs and, for a few minutes at least, we revisit a time when we rejoiced in the spiritual celebration of our hip, young, black selves. A time when this song was our song.

Source: Breath of Life

Note: Simone asked Irvine to contribute the lyrics. 'It was the only time in my life that I wrestled with creating," he recalled. When the words finally came, Irvine was in his car. "I tied up traffic at that red light for 15 minutes as I scribbled on three napkins and a matchbook cover'" (Robert Webb, "Double Take")

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Donny Edward Hathaway (October 1, 1945 – January 13, 1979) was an American soul musician. He contracted with Atlantic Records in 1969 and with his first single for the Atco label, "The Ghetto, Part I" in early 1970, Rolling Stone magazine "marked him as a major new force in soul music." His collaborations with Roberta Flack scored high on the charts and won him the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the duet, "Where Is The Love" in 1973. Six years later, his body was found outside the luxury hotel Essex House in New York City; his death was ruled a suicide. . . .

Sessions for a second album of duets were underway in 1979. On January 13 of that year, Hathaway began a recording session at which Eric Mercury and James Mtume were present. Mercury and Mtume each reported that although Hathaway's voice sounded good, he began behaving irrationally, seeming to be paranoid and delusional. According to Mtume, Hathaway said that "white people" were trying to kill him and had connected his brain to a machine, for the purpose of stealing his music. Given Hathaway's behavior, Mercury said that he decided the recording session could not continue, so he aborted it and all of the musicians went home.

Hours later, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York's Essex House hotel.

The glass had been neatly removed from the window and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule Hathaway's death a suicide.His friends were mystified, considering that his career had just started to pick up again, and Flack was devastated. Spurred by his death, she included the few duet tracks they had finished on her next album. Hathaway's funeral was conducted by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Wikipedia

posted 7 June 2010

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Nina Simone at a Harlem Festival (1969) Donny Hathaway. Young, Gifted, and Black (Live)

Bob Andy & Marcia, Young, Gifted & Black

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To Be Young, Gifted and Black

                        Lyrics by Weldon Irvine

 

To be young, gifted and black,
Oh what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black,
Open your heart to what I mean

In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that's a fact!

You are young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
There's a world waiting for you
This is a quest that's just begun

When you feel really low
Yeah, there's a great truth you should know
When you're young, gifted and black
Your soul's intact

Young, gifted and black
How I long to know the truth
There are times when I look back
And I am haunted by my youth

Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it's at

Credits: Irvine, Weldon (Songwriter); Simone, Nina (Songwriter); EMI GROVE PARK MUSIC INC (Publisher); NINANDY MUSIC CO (Publisher)

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music website > http://www.kalamu.com/bol/
writing website > http://wordup.posterous.com/
daily blog > http://kalamu.posterous.com
twitter > http://twitter.com/neogriot
facebook > http://www.facebook.com/kalamu.salaam

Guarding the Flame of Life

New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin James / They danced atop his casket Jaran 'Julio' Green

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Track List
1.  Congo Square (9:01)
2.  My Story, My Song (20:50)
3.  Danny Banjo (4:32)
4.  Miles Davis (10:26)
5.  Hard News For Hip Harry (5:03)
6.  Unfinished Blues (4:13)
7.  Rainbows Come After The Rain (2:21)/Negroidal Noise (15:53)
8.  Intro (3:59)
9.  The Whole History (3:14)
10.  Negroidal Noise (5:39)
11.  Waving At Ra (1:40)
12.  Landing (1:21)
13.  Good Luck (:04)

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro

By Barbara Foley

Foley's book is a lucid and useful one... A heavyweight intervention, it prompts significant rethinking of the ideological and representational strategies structuring the era.—Journal of American Studies  

Foley does a masterful job of analyzing the racial and political theories of a wide range of black and white figures, from the radical Left to the racist Right... Students of African American political and cultural history in the early twentieth century cannot ignore this book. Essential.—Choice

In our current time of crisis, when ruling classes busily promote nationalism and racism to conceal the class nature of their inter-imperialist rivalries, one can only hope that readers will not be daunted by Foley's dedication to analyzing the ideological milieu of the 1920s that contributed to the eclipse of New Negro radicalism by New Negro nationalism.—Science & Society

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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Ancient, Ancient: Short Fiction

By Kiini Ibura Salaam

Ancient, Ancient collects the short fiction by Kiini Ibura Salaam, of which acclaimed author and critic Nalo Hopkinson writes, ''Salaam treats words like the seductive weapons they are. She wields them to weave fierce, gorgeous stories that stroke your sensibilities, challenge your preconceptions, and leave you breathless with their beauty.'' Indeed, Ms. Salaam's stories are so permeated with sensuality that in her introduction to Ancient, Ancient, Nisi Shawl, author of the award-winning Filter House, writes, ''Sexuality-cum-sensuality is the experiential link between mind and matter, the vivid and eternal refutation of the alleged dichotomy between them. This understanding is the foundation of my 2004 pronouncement on the burgeoning sexuality implicit in sf's Afro-diasporization. It is the core of many African-based philosophies. And it is the throbbing, glistening heart of Kiini's body of work. This book is alive. Be not afraid.''

*   *   *   *   *

Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

*   *   *   *   *

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life

By Charles J. Shields

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011—A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011—The first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a writer who changed the conversation of American literature. In 2006, Charles Shields reached out to Kurt Vonnegut in a letter, asking for his endorsement for a planned biography. The first response was no ("A most respectful demurring by me for the excellent writer Charles J. Shields, who offered to be my biographer"). Unwilling to take no for an answer, propelled by a passion for his subject, and already deep into his research, Shields wrote again and this time, to his delight, the answer came back: "O.K." For the next year—a year that ended up being Vonnegut's last—Shields had access to Vonnegut and his letters. And So It Goes is the culmination of five years of research and writing—the first-ever biography of the life of Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut resonates with readers of all generations from the baby boomers who grew up with him to high-school and college students who are discovering his work for the first time.

Vonnegut's concise collection of personal essays, Man Without a Country, published in 2006, spent fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. The twenty-first century has seen interest in and scholarship about Vonnegut's works grow even stronger, and this is the first book to examine in full the life of one of the most influential iconoclasts of his time.  Slaughterhouse Five

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Karma’s Footsteps

By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Somebody has to tell the truth sometime, whatever that truth may be. In this, her début full collection, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie offers up a body of work that bears its scars proudly, firm in the knowledge that each is evidence of a wound survived. These are songs of life in all its violent difficulty and beauty; songs of fury, songs of love. 'Karma's Footsteps' brims with things that must be said and turns the volume up, loud, giving silence its last rites. "Ekere Tallie's new work 'Karma's Footsteps' is as fierce with fight songs as it is with love songs. Searing with truths from the modern day world she is unafraid of the twelve foot waves that such honesties always manifest. A poet who "refuses to tiptoe" she enters and exits the page sometimes with short concise imagery, sometimes in the arms of delicate memoir. Her words pull the forgotten among us back into the lightning of our eyes.—Nikky Finney /  Ekere Tallie Table

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 19 August 2012

 

 

 

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Related files:   Weldon Irvine   Weldon Irvine Documentary