|volume 4 * issue 3 * January 2000|
"MOVE ON UP": THE WORLD LOSES CURTIS MAYFIELD- As 1999 drew to a close, three more musical legends passed away, drawing to an end a year filled with many heartfelt losses. Most recently, on December 26th, the world lost one of its greatest musicians/composers/producers/activists/heroes - Curtis Mayfield. Curtis Mayfield was born on June 3, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois and at a very early age he taught himself how to play guitar. At the age of only 16, he joined a group called The Impressions, featuring Jerry Butler on lead vocals. In 1958, The Impressions released "For Your Precious Love" and shortly after this, Jerry Butler left the group to persue a solo career. The Impressions disbanded until 1961 when Curtis reformed them and released "Gypsy Woman," which became a hit. At this time, The Impressions featured five members, but in 1963, they were reduced a trio, consisting of Sam Gooden, Fred Cash and Curtis Mayfield.
This trio would revolutionize modern music with singles such as "It's All Right," "We're A Winner," "Keep On Pushing," "People Get Ready," "Can't Satisfy," among countless others. Curtis Mayfield penned nearly all of the group's songs and also branched out into producing and writing for other acts, such as Major Lance and Gene Chandler. Civil rights, black empowerment and unity were common themes in Curtis' music and seemed to put to music what many involved in these causes believed. In 1968, Curtis created his own label, Curtom, and The Impressions released even more classic material including "A Choice Of Colors" and "This is My Country." Curtis Mayfield left The Impressions in 1970 to focus more attention on Curtom Records and its many acts. As a solo artist, Curtis continued releasing hit after hit with "Move On Up," "(Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Going To Go" and in 1972, Curtis released his soundtrack to the movie "Superfly." On this album, he combined not only soul but the burgeoning funk sound as well. From this album songs like "Pusherman," "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly" became extremely popular and stand out as classics in their own right. He continued through the 1970s and '80s with more solid work, both solo, more movie soundtracks, and also working with other artists. In 1990, a freak stage accident left Curtis Mayfield physically paralyzed, but far from mentally as he was still able to write songs and record up until his death.
Curtis Mayfield is one of the only people ever to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, both with The Impressions in 1991 and for his solo work in 1999. Curtis' influence on countless musicians range from the rock world with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Rod Stewart, among others; to rap with Chuck D and Ice T; to R&B with Gladys Knight, The Isley Brothers, and Stevie Wonder; to Jamaican music. Ska, rocksteady and reggae draw heavily on The Impressions/Curtis Mayfield's singing style, the use of trios, and the repertoire of music he left behind. His influence on The Wailers especially is incalculatable.
The Wailers not only covered numerous Impressions songs, such as "Just Another Dance," "Amen," and "Keep On Moving," but they also modeled their harmonies and some of their mannerisms after The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. Certainly The Wailers and a lot of Jamaican music owe a great deal to Curtis.
If you are new to Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, some essential releases you should check out which will certainly get you started in the indelible career of Curtis Mayfield:
+ Curtis Mayfield - People Get Ready (3 discs) (Rhino)
Here are some further links to gain a greater sense of just what Curtis Mayfield meant not only to music but also the world in general: Chicago Tribune's article on Curtis Mayfield and the Curtis Mayfield fansite.
"COME ON HOME": JOE HIGGS PASSES ON- The man credited as the father of reggae also passed away last month. Joe Higgs died on December 18th in Los Angeles, California, after battling cancer. Higgs started his career in 1958 as part of the singing duo known as Higgs and Wilson, and recorded such songs as "Oh Manny Oh," and "Love Not For Me." After his singing partner, Roy Wilson, departed for the United States, Higgs persued his own solo career, and after releasing many singles, he finally released his own solo album in the early 1970s with "Life Of Contradiction."
Higgs was not only a talented singer and composer, but he also was a mentor and teacher to The Wailers, Wailing Souls, Derrick Harriott, and many others. It was in fact Higgs who molded The Wailers in their harmony stylings, and years later in 1973 when Bunny Wailer refused to tour in the United States, The Wailers called upon Higgs to take Bunny's place. Higgs continued to record and perform wordwide, and remained a mentor to other musicians, in Los Angeles, California, until his passing.
We have created, with the help of several people very close to Joe Higgs, an official tribute site for Joe, entitled "The Official Joe Higgs Memorial Pages." On the site, you can read Roger Steffens' richly detailed Joe Higgs' biography, a discography, sound clips, articles, updated information, and you can also leave your own remembrances/condolences regarding Joe Higgs. Please give the site a visit and keep Joe Higgs' memory alive!
There is also a celebration planned for Joe Higgs that will be held on January 8th in Los Angeles. Here are the full details:
"The Celebration of the Life of the Legendary Joe Higgs" When: Saturday, January 8, 2000 Time: 2pm - 7pm Where: McCarty Memorial Christian Church Rev. Don E. Peavy, Sr. 4101 W. Adams Blvd. (1 Block S of the I-10) Los Angeles, CA 90018
"CALL ON I": THE PASSING OF I-ROY- On November 27th, Jamcaican deejay I-Roy, lost his life as a result of a longtime illness. I-Roy, born Roy Samuel Reid in 1944, may have not been the father of the toasting style, but he was certainly an innovator and greatly influential nonetheless. He began recording in the early 1970s and eventually became a producer for Channel One as well a top-notch deejay. Throughout his career he worked for such producers as Prince Tony, Gussie Clark, Harry Mudie, and many others. It has been said that he was the most in demand deejay during his prime and is often considered to be the most learned and witty of all deejays.
Writer Carl Gayle expressed just these sentiments about I-Roy in the Reggae International book, "I-Roy de most skillful jive imporviser until this day. Rhymes dat say suppm, with a easy pace, ready with vocal tricks to match the drummer." It was I-Roy's vocal tricks that made him stand above most others. On singles like "The Drifter," "Black Man Time," "Musical Pleasure," and the bawdy "Welding" from 1975; albums like "Presenting I.Roy," "Hell & Sorrow," and the 1997 collection on Blood & Fire entitled "Don't Check Me With No Lightweight Stuff 1972-1975," it is no wonder why I-Roy held such esteem by both fans and his peers. In the late 1970s, I-Roy also released "Ten Commandments," an album consisting of ten great toasts over Bob Marley & The Wailers songs, played by the band Chalawa. Yet another set of classic material by I-Roy!
Sadly, it is also reported that he died both penniless and homeless, which do not seem like words that would describe someone with as much diverse talent as I-Roy had. It is important that fans of reggae should recognize I-Roy for his many reggae contributions to reggae music. You can read more about I-Roy, including a lengthy discography, at the Reggae Vibes' I-Roy tribute site.
We hope that the three above remembrances of Curtis Mayfield, Joe Higgs, and I-Roy will give you a better sense of the great talents that were lost. We also hope that by reading these remembrances, they will inspire you to go out and purchase music from all three, so that their musics and spirits will live on forever. Rest in peace Curtis, Joe, and Roy!
"TELL THE CHILDREN THE TRUTH"- If you ask the question of whether or not anyone cares about accurately telling the history of Bob Marley, it really depends on who you ask. Take for example Roger Steffens, whose tireless quest to spread the music and message of The Wailers and espouse the truths behind the legends is at one side of the dichotomy. At the opposite end are those like Rita Marley, Island Records (now owned by Universal), and others, who it seems do not feel the need to accurately tell the story of Bob Marley.
In 1992, when the then Island Records released the four-disc "Songs Of Freedom" Bob Marley box set, Roger Steffens published a list of essential emendations for the set in The Beat magazine, so that fans would be able to not only hear the music but also read the accurate stories, as opposed to those printed in the liner notes. Seven years later in 1999, before the box set was slated to be rereleased, Roger again sent the corrections to Universal's officials and others, but to no avail. The set was again released with what Roger calls, "wrong dates, false claims and misspelled names."
This is why Roger has again put forth the corrections for the public to read, so that the truth will be set right. You can read the emendations Roger compiled with the help of such people as the late Joe Higgs, and others who all played pivotal roles in Bob Marley's life, by visiting the "I'm Still Waiting: Songs of Freedom Booklet Corrections Ignored By Its Producers" page.
We are very pleased to put these corrections on our site, so that those involved in the misinformation campaign will not have the final say but instead fans will gain the truth! It is crucial that everyone, not only those who own the box set, reads and educates themselves about the accurate history of The Wailers and Bob Marley.
ALBUM OF THE CENTURY- Have you ever thought of what would be considered the best album of the past century? Well, Time magazine has and they voted Bob Marley & The Wailers' 1977 album "Exodus" as the album of the century. Here's what Time magazine had to say about the "Exodus" album:
"Every song is a classic, from the messages of love to the anthems of revolution. But more than that, the album is a political and cultural nexus, drawing inspiration from the Third World and then giving voice to it the world over."
This is an amazing accomplishment if one thinks about all of the albums released in the 20th century and "Exodus" was chosen to stand above all of them. Thanks to Roger Steffens for passing along this tidbit of information.
JUNIOR MARVIN UPDATE- Speaking of "Exodus," Junior Marvin, who was the lead guitarist on the album and an essential member of Bob Marley & The Wailers, is now pursuing his own solo career. If you visit his official web site, you can see the cover of his new album "Burnin' Love" and also listen to sound clips, including four full-length songs from the album.
You can view pictures of Junior from around the world as well as concert advertisements. Give the site a visit and find out when Junior Marvin's Roots, Rock, Blues & Dance will head into a town near you! There will also be online ordering of "Burnin' Love" very soon, so keep watching the Junior Marvin page to find out all of the details!
AN HONEST LOOK AT THE ONE LOVE TRIBUTE- The TNT "One Love: The Bob Marley All-Star Tribute" has aired and the show did not live up to the hype that surrounded it. The tribute was riddled with sloppy covers of Bob Marley songs by such acts as Eve, Erykah Badu, Darius Rucker, Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes, Chrissie Hynde, and even the entire Marley family lacked any real luster. Artists struggling through their songs, singing wrong lyrics, and the lack of any real emotion that Bob originally put into all of his music, made this show an unfitting tribute to Bob Marley.
Some of the few bright spots of the show included The Wailers Band's presence, featuring Aston "Familyman" Barrett, Tyrone Downie, Al Anderson, and Earl "Chinna" Smith, adding some credibility that this show surely lacked. The performance of Toots Hibbert on "Lively Up Yourself" was just that, lively and featured Toots doing a James Brown-esque split in the end.
The producers of the show missed the most essential ingredient in making an appropriate tribute to Bob Marley: the living original Wailers, Bunny Wailer and also Constantine "Vision" Walker. Neither was invited to participate, showing the lack of any care on the producers' part to pay the proper tribute to Bob Marley. All-in-all the show managed to commercialize even further the Bob Marley name. Since the show was held in Jamaica, but why then was there not more Jamaican artists? Reggae fans can probably name numerous worthy Jamaican acts who would have loved to pay tribute to Bob Marley in this fashion.
As someone commented to us, at least the show did not feature acts like Ricky Martin, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Will Smith, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey, but then again, there is always next year. Afterall though, this show seems to come from the same mentality of people, like Rita Marley, who failed to portray the truth and respect to Bob Marley in the "Songs Of Freedom" box set that he most certainly deserves. What a waste of a great opportunity, to not only give a rightful tribute to Bob Marley, but to showcase reggae artists to the rest of the world. If you missed the show, there are plans to release the show on DVD with extra footage added.
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HIT ME WITH MUSIC - NEW RELEASES- Sony Music has released a compilation album entitled "2000 Today" which features a newly recorded version of Bob Marley & The Wailers' "One Love" done by Ziggy Marley, the Boys Choir of Harlem, Tsidii Le Loka, and the Gipsy Kings. The album corresponded with ABC/PBS' worldwide New Year's Eve millenium broadcast.
You can hear a sound clip of the song on CDnow's website by following this link. This version of "One Love" is exclusively found on this collection and nowhere else.
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Wailers Shorts- The Wailers Band are embarking on more tour dates in the New Year and their line-up has taken on all-star proportions. The band now includes not only Aston "Familyman" Barrett but also I-Three Marcia Griffiths, legendary trombonist Vin Gordon, saxman Glen DaCosta, keyboardist Earl Wya Lindo, and lead vocals by Gary Nesta Pine. This show should not be missed, if not just to see these legends live in concert. Click on the "2000 tour" link at the left to see the latest dates on The Wailers Band's upcoming tour.
The 19th Annual Bob Marley Day Festival held on February 21st in San Diego will feature Barrington Levy, Luciano, Anthony B, and Linton Kwesi Johnson and others. Visit the 19th Annual Bob Marley Day Festival site to stay up on the latest information regarding both of these events.
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WailersNet- Glen Adams, former Wailers organist and member of the Hippy Boys, is featured on Throttlebox.com in a special section called "Ask Glen." He is asked a question about why no reggae acts were on the bill for Woodstock '99. You can see and hear his reponse by using their free Throttlebox player, available for download on the site. Adams also talks about Bob Marley's link to Woodstock '69. To go to the "Ask Glen" section, follow this link.
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WAILERS SURVEY- The people have spoken (well, at least some of them) and the results from December's Wailers Survey are in. The results to the question "Which period of The Wailers' career do you like better?" show that, fans love both The Wailers as a group just as much as they love Bob, Bunny and Peter's solo material. 45% of you said that you can't decide which is the best, because there was brilliant music all around, which we also agree with. Here are the rest of the results:
You read our feelings about the TNT Bob Marley Tribute show, so this month's question asks "What were YOUR feelings on the TNT 'One Love Bob Marley All-Star Tribute'?" If you have a Java capable browser you can respond to the question. We will have these results next month as well as an all new question!
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GOT THE NEWS FROM A WHISPERING TREE- Have you joined The Wailers Reporter yet? If not, you've already missed 37 e-mailings, packed full with reggae news, new reggae web pages, tour dates, and much more! But it's never too late to join, so fill in your name and e-mail address below to become one of an irie list of people! It's 100% free, and we won't give/sell/trade your name to anyone else!
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