May 13: Happy birthday Stevie Wonder (born 1950)

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Do you know, it’s funny, but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage.
~Stevie Wonder

“If anybody can be called a genius, he can be. I think it has something to do with his ear, not being able to see or whatever. I go back with him to about the early ‘60s, when he was playing at the Apollo with all that Motown stuff. If nothing else, he played the harmonica incredible, I mean truly incredible. Never knew what to think of him really until he cut Blowin’ In The Wind. That really blew my mind, and I figured I’d better pay attention. I was glad when he did that Rolling Stones tour, cuz it opened up his scene to a whole new crowd of people, which I’m sure has stuck with him over the years. I love everything he does. It’s hard not to. He can do gut-bucket funky stuff really country and then turn around and do modern-progressive whatever you call it. In fact, he might have invented that. he is a great mimic, can imitate everybody, doesn’t take himself seriously and is a true roadhouse musician all the way, with classical overtones, and he does it all with drama and style. I’d like to hear him play with an orchestra. He should probably have his own orchestra.”
~Bob Dylan (Feb 1989, Rolling Stone Mag. – featurette on Stevie Wonder)

Superstition (1974)

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May 3: The Late Soul Legend James Brown Birthday

When I’m on stage, I’m trying to do one thing: bring people joy. Just like church does. People don’t go to church to find trouble, they go there to lose it.
~James Brown

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.
~James Brown

“Soul Brother Number One,” “the Godfather of Soul,” “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “Mr. Dynamite” — those are mighty titles, but no one can question that James Brown earned them more than any other performer. Other singers were more popular, others were equally skilled, but few other African-American musicians were so influential over the course of popular music. And no other musician, pop or otherwise, put on a more exciting, exhilarating stage show: Brown’s performances were marvels of athletic stamina and split-second timing.
~Richie Unterberger (allmusic.com)

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – from TV program Shindig:

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April 13: Happy Birthday Al Green

I’m thankful for every moment.
~Al Green

The music is the message, the message is the music. So that’s my little ministry that the Big Man upstairs gave to me – a little ministry called love and happiness.
~Al Green

“Green plays the boyish Sam Cooke supplicant–or maybe a smooth Otis Redding, or an assertive Smokey Robinson–with the startling is-that-a-synthesizer? high note…”
~Robert Christgau (in 1970 – review of “Gets next to you” album)

Let’s Stay Together (Live 1972):

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January 22: Aretha Franklin released Lady Soul in 1968

…1968’s Lady Soul proved Aretha Franklin, the pop sensation, was no fluke. Her performances were more impassioned than on her debut, and the material just as strong, an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music.
~John Bush (allmusic.com)

Chain of Fools – Live 1968:

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January 17: Aretha Franklin released Soul ’69 in 1969

One of her most overlooked ’60s albums, on which she presented some of her jazziest material, despite the title. None of these cuts were significant hits, and none were Aretha originals; she displayed her characteristically eclectic taste in the choice of cover material, handling compositions by Percy Mayfield, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, and, at the most pop-oriented end of her spectrum, John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” and Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly.”

Her vocals are consistently passionate and first-rate, though, as is the musicianship; besides contributions from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, session players include respected jazzmen Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Grady Tate, David Newman, and Joe Zawinul.
– Richie Unterberger (allmusic) Continue reading “January 17: Aretha Franklin released Soul ’69 in 1969”