Bettye LaVette...gettin' it. (Image courtesy of www.bettyelavette.com)
Well, I've got to get my 10 cents in before Black Music Month 2010 is history. So here's a hodge podge of what's been on my mind musically:
Exactly one week from today, I'll be attending what I believe to be the first Janet Jackson concert since Michael passed away a year ago today. I had no idea the dates were so close.
This time last year, I was driving home from work, holding my breath, waiting for Michael Baisden to give the update. When the news came, so did the tears. If you missed my post, check out "The King Has Left the Building."
The decision to go see Janet this year at the Essence Music Festival was spontaneous. I never really thought about going to see her perform. I've never owned a Janet Jackson album. I've never had a JJ cut blasting in my car with the windows down. A couple of her songs were hot, "Again,""Come Back to Me," and the one she did with Busta Rhymes. But other than that, the whispery, unintelligible lyrics of her songs don't speak to me.
Yet, she's a member of the most famous musical family in the world and in her own right, has spent decades building a sexy, mysterious, brazen, and often imitated persona. It's the stuff of legend, which is reason enough for me to check out her show.
On the Relevance of Tupac
"June 1-6-7-1, the day mama pushed me out her womb, told me n***a get paid..."
Just a couple weeks ago on June 16, a friend inquired on my Facebook wall, about my lack of Happy Birthday Tupac shout out. I remembered his birthday was coming up for days, so it wasn't negligence. The shout out just wasn't something I was going to go out of my way to do, as I have done in the past.
I fell in love with hip hop in the 90s when "Dear Mama" came out. I had it on cassette tape single, back when singles used to come in little cardboard sleeves and cost 99 cents. For the next ten years or so, I repped Tupac and everybody knew it. I remember where I was when he died, and I was one of those people that connected the dots between songs and album covers to prove that maybe, just maybe, he was chillin' on an island in the Pacific. I loved that he was a poet. I loved that he was sensitive. It made him different from other rappers.
In high school, I bought a black light responsive poster made out of felt that said, "2Pac Forever." It displayed one of Pac's darkest poems, "In the Event of My Demise." That poster has been displayed everywhere I've lived since I was 18. Last weekend, I rolled it up so I could use the frame for something else.
I don't want to say it's because I've matured, because listening to Pac, or hip hop in general, does not make one immature. There's a lot of talent in the rap game. I still nod my head and sing the lyrics to "How Do You Want It," "I Get Around," and "Keep Your Head Up" when those songs bump through the speakers. And on rough days at work, I sometimes put on my headphones, block out the world, and blast "Krazy" from the Makaveli album.
For me, I've simply diversified my portfolio, altered my diet. More instruments, less ignorance. More poetry, less profanity. More beauty, less booty.
More Music Miscellany...
Concerts Attended in the Last 6 Months
I've made it my business to see the senior set of performers whenever I can. After all, we just don't know how long these folks are gonna be around. But listen, there's nothing about Ms. Franklin that says she's got one foot in the grave. At 68 years old, girlfriend had her long weave blowing in the breeze and cracked jokes about watching Maxwell perform and playfully regretting that she wasn't wearing any panties to toss onstage during his show.
And of course, she's still got the voice.
I first learned of Bettye LaVette at least 5 or 6 years ago while watching an HBO program filmed at Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero blues club in Mississippi. Freeman interviewed various blues musicians and each musician performed a set. I remembered how Ms. LaVette said as a teenager, she just couldn't sit down and accept a formal education. She wanted to sing. There's something about that whole blues scene--that smoky little hole in the wall club, slow draggin' patrons, the raspy notes, the emotion, the "my baby left me's," the smooth talkers--that I find intriguing. And at 64, Ms. LaVette was swinging her hips and showing us all that you can still be 60 and sexy.
CDs Bought in the Last 6 Months
Robin Thicke "Sex Therapy"
Stanley Turrentine "Look Out"
Grant Green "Green Street"
I would drive 500 miles to see...
I would drive 10 miles to see...
Erykah Badu (again)
Lionel Richie (again)
"For the Love of Music"