Thursday, April 30, 2009

Random wrongness

Pygmies on film

Documentary filmmakers have always been fascinated by the indigenous peoples of the Central African rainforest... the so-called “Pygmies.”

Here are three Pygmy travelogues, filmed from the late 1920s through the early ’50s.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A free Kermit Ruffins download

Trumpet player and showman Kermit Ruffins – who did a fine job of acting in the “Treme” pilot, by the way – has a brand new CD out. It’s called “Livin’ a Tremé Life.”

I got a FREE MP3 for you... some New Orleans groove music for that azz. Click here to hear “Hey Naa” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the title below.

"Hey Naa" (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store

Alex Jones is nutty as fuck.

Ever heard of Alex Jones? He’s a right-wing conspiracy nut who believes that “global elites” orchestrated 9/11.

He also produced a video called “The Obama Deception” (viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube), which argues that Barack Obama is a tool of the New World Order.

Well... on a nationwide radio talk show Monday night, Alex Jones said that the swine flu virus – the one kicking Mexico’s ass right now – might very well be a “race-specific designer bioweapon.”

Jones and another conspiracist, name of Steve Quayle, hit that “race-specific” speculation rather hard, in fact, on “Coast to Coast AM”... a show more often devoted to discussions of UFOs, Bigfoot and guardian angels.

This bothered me. You know people like to believe any ol’ bullshit. They don’t need to be encouraged by their radio boxes.

On my Vox blog, I’m streaming a 3½-minute excerpt of Alex Jones on “Coast to Coast.” Click here to listen.

The first 100 days

(From FreakingNews.com.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lifestyles of the Rich and Slaveowning

I’m not a big reader of books. I own books, I just don’t read them. I like having them around to thumb through.

One very cool historical document is titled “Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam.” It was written in 1790 by John Gabriel Stedman and has been called “one of the richest, most vivid accounts ever written of a flourishing slave society”... that society being the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America.

Stedman, half Scottish and half Dutch, was a soldier who volunteered to serve in Suriname, fighting bands of runaway slaves for the benefit of white landowners.

Stedman kept a diary. He also began having sex with slave women. His writings express sympathy for the cruelly abused slaves... and mocking scorn for the decadent slaveowners. Stedman’s “Narrative” was used in Europe to bolster the abolitionist cause.

Here are observations that Stedman wrote on June 20, 1775.
JOHN GABRIEL STEDMAN: Did ever I describe the dress and manner of living of these West India nabobs? If not, here it is.

A planter in Surinam... gets out of his hammock with the rising sun, about 6 o’clock in the morning.

He makes his appearance under the piazza of his house, where his coffee is ready waiting on him... and where he is attended by half a dozen of the finest young slaves (both male and female) of the plantation to serve him.

At this sanctum sanctorum he next is accoasted by his overseer, who regularly every morning attends at his levee. Having made his bows at several yards distance, with the deepest respect, he informs His Greatness what work was done the day before, what Negroes deserted, died, fell sick, recovered, were bought or born, and above all things which of them neglected their work, affected sickness, had been drunk or absent, etc.

These [slaves] are generally presented, being secured by the Negro drivers, and instantly tied up to the beams of the piazza, or a tree, without so much as being heard, when the flogging begins – men, women or children, without exception, on their naked bodies, by long hempen whips that cut round at every lash, and crack like a pistol. During which they alternately repeat Dankee, Massera – “Thank you, Master” – while he stalks up and down with his overseer, affecting not so much as to hear their cries.

When they are sufficiently mangled, they are immediately untied and ordered to return to their work without even a dressing. ...

A superannuated matron makes her appearance with all the young Negro children of the estate, over whom she is governess. Being clean washed in the river, they clap their hands and cheer in chorus when they are sent away to breakfast, and the levee ends with a low bow from the overseer.

Now His Worship saunters out in his morning dress, which consists of a pair of the finest holland trousers, white silk stockings, and red or yellow morocco slippers, the neck of his shirt open and nothing over it except a loose-flowing nightgown of the finest India chintz.

On his head is a cotton night cap, as thin as a cobweb, and over that an enormous beaver hat, to keep covered his meager visage from the sun... .

To give a better idea of this fine gentleman, I here represent him to the reader with a pipe in his check – which almost everywhere keeps him company – and receiving a glass of Madeira and water from a female quadroon slave to refresh him during his walk.

Having loitered about his estate, or sometimes rode on horseback to his fields to view his increasing stores, he returns about 8 o’clock when, if he goes abroad, he dresses. But if not, remains just as he is.

Should the first take place, having only exchanged his trousers for a pair of thin linen or silk breeches, he sits down. Holding out one foot after another, like a horse going to be shod, a Negro boy puts on his stockings and shoes, which he also buckles, while another dresses his hair, his wig, or shaves him; and a third is fanning him to keep off the gnats or mosquitoes. ...

Then, under the shade of an umbrella carried by a black boy, he is conducted to his barge, which is waiting him with six or eight oarsmen, well provided with fruit, wine and water, and tobacco... .

But should this nabob remain on his estate, in that case he remains as he is and goes to breakfast about 10 o’clock, for which a table is spread in the large hall, provided with a bacon ham, hung beef, fowls, or pigeons broiled hot from the gridiron; plantains and sweet cassavas, roasted; bread, butter, cheese, etc., to which he drinks strong-beer... and a glass of Madeira... while the cringing overseer sits at the further end, keeping his proper distance, both being served by the most beautiful slaves that could ever be picked out.

And this is called breaking the poor gentleman’s fast.

After this he takes a book, plays at chess or billards, entertains himself with music, etc., till the heat of the day forces him to return to his cotton hammock to enjoy his Meridian nap.... during which time he is fanned by a couple of his black attendants to keep him cool.

A new black cinema blog!

As I make my way to the exit, let me recommend a brand new culture blog that many of you might enjoy.

It’s called Shadow and Act (an Ellison reference there). It’s a collaborative effort led by the battle-tested blogger Tambay Obenson.

Team members include the inimitable Invisible Woman; KJ (known in the UBM comments section as “must love movies”); and Sergio Mims of EbonyJet.com.

Shadow and Act is updated all day with cool-as-shit information.

This morning, Tambay shined a light on a 2006 Brazilian film, “Antonia,” from the producers of “City of God.” It’s available on DVD from Amazon.com. Here’s the trailer (in Portuguese):

A free Nels Cline download

Here’s a bit of unfinished business. I’ve been meaning to point you to this FREE MP3 for nearly two years. Just kept slipping my mind.

Nels Cline is a gifted and versatile guitarist who plays the jazz, plays the rock, and plays the experimental music.

“Caved-In Heart Blues” has the slowest tempo of any tune I’ve ever heard... or it feels like that anyway. With a lot of open space. I think there’s something magical about it all.

This track is from Cline’s 2007 album “Draw Breath.” (He’s got a new CD out called “Coward.”)

Click here to hear “Caved-In Heart Blues” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the song title below.

“Caved-In Heart Blues” (MP3)
Album available at Amazon MP3

Monday, April 27, 2009

This is my 2,000th post...

... and one of my last. Shoot, I didn’t think I’d have the stamina to go this long. But the time has come to put this blog on indefinite hiatus. I want my life back.

I have posted pretty much daily since the summer of 2007... and I’m very pleased to have done so. For a while now, though, blogging has felt less like a happy hobby, more like an all-devouring compulsion.

It hasn’t been healthy. Blogging interferes with my sleep pattern. It distorts my food choices. It deprives me of adequate sunlight. (I think I have rickets.) And it has alienated me from people I love and like.

So it’s time to say good night to Napoli.

I thank all of you who’ve been reading Undercover Black Man. Treble thanks to those who leave comments. I will miss you. What joy there is in blogging comes totally from your feedback.

Having already invested time in a few more pieces, I will throw those up in the coming days. After that, I’m done.

The UBM archive of more than 2,000 posts (and 20,000 comments!) will stand in cyberspace like my own personal Stonehenge.

Plus there are nearly 1,400 sound files on my Vox blog. (We rocked some tunes up in here, didn’t we?) My Vox audio stash is Google- searchable:


Take it easy, y’all.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

James David Manning is nutty as fuck.

New cuts from Grace Jones, Wendy & Lisa

Time to catch up with a couple of old favorites with new albums out.

Actually, Grace Jones’s “Hurricane” CD hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet. (It came out last fall in Europe and Japan.)

The new Grace track that jumped into my lap and started licking my face is “Well Well Well,” written by Jones and guitarist Barry Reynolds. Reynolds was part of the awesome Compass Point studio band that backed Ms. Jones on her greatest LPs (“Warm Leatherette,” “Nightclubbing” and “Living My Life”).

“Well Well Well” has the island flavor of “Private Life,” her classic cover of the Chrissie Hynde tune. Click here to hear “Well Well Well” on my Vox blog.

As for Wendy & Lisa, their new album came out in February. It’s called “White Flags of Winter Chimneys.”

The only cut I’m feeling is “Niagra Falls.” Click here to listen.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Random hotness

Siskel & Ebert on ‘Hoop Dreams’

Remember the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams,” about two high- school basketball standouts from Chicago? A superb film.

The first time I heard about it was on “Siskel & Ebert.” They gave the movie unconditional raves.

Matter fact, Gene and Roger talked up “Hoop Dreams” before it had a distribution deal. Even before it screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Their support launched the three-hour doc to commercial success.

My path crossed in cyberspace with Steve James, the director of “Hoop Dreams,” a few years ago. So I reached out on Facebook to see if Steve had any thoughts to share about Mr. Siskel, Mr. Ebert and “Hoop Dreams.”

Turns out the publicity firm representing “Hoop Dreams” had a working relationship with Siskel & Ebert. “They talked Gene into seeing the film because he was a huge basketball fan with Bulls season tickets,” Steve James says.

“And they talked Roger into seeing it by talking about its social relevance and shrewdly asking him to bring along his lovely wife Chaz, who they were certain would respond to the film.”

The publicists set up a special showing. “Of course, being pros, [Gene and Roger] kept their game face on for the entire private screening and left without saying a word,” Steve recalls.

“It was only when the show called to tell us that it would be reviewed that coming week that we knew they must have liked it. We couldn’t have dreamed they would like it so much.

“We hadn’t even left for Sundance ourselves when the review ran on their show urging people to see it at the festival.”

Embedded below is that review... and more.

As Steve James relates, that early review was only the beginning. “They reviewed and promoted it again and again for its theatrical release, and on their Academy Awards show, and their end-of-the-year 10 Best lists.”

That’s what Siskel & Ebert could do when they got behind a picture. God bless ’em.

By the way, the full-length version of “Hoop Dreams” can be viewed right now, for free, on Hulu. Just follow this link.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nikki Giovanni interviews Miriam Makeba

From a 1972 episode of “Soul!,” a New York City public television show created after the riots. (Say what you want about the riots; they led to some cool TV artifacts.)

Alan Keyes is nutty as fuck.

I love watching Alan Keyes with a mic in his hand. Just in terms of voice and body, his mood-swinging performance style is very entertaining.

And content-wise, Keyes is my kind of sandwich: erudition and eloquence piled high between two slices of crazy.

During the Bush years, the ultraconservative Keyes was a man barely seen or heard... even when running for elected office. Occasionally he cut through on the subject of abortion, where his position is hardline Catholic.

Now, Alan Keyes has found a message that’s bound to get him more attention: Barack Obama is “destroying America.” Obama is planning to usurp the Constitution and install himself as dictator. Seriously.

“If we’re waiting for 2010, waiting for 2012... I believe it will be too late,” Keyes told a gathering of proud Americans in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last Friday. Embedded below is a 9-minute segment of that speech.

I bet there’ll be lots of Alan Keyes rants about President Obama on YouTube in the coming years. Lots and lots. (Hat-tip: Field Negro.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Irony

This morning in downtown Manhattan, I saw a Red Bull car with a flat tire. Heh.

Random hipness

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remembering Mingus

Jazz giant Charles Mingus was born on April 22, 1922. To honor the anniversary, WKCR – the Columbia University radio station – will play 24 straight hours of Mingus music. Starting now (midnight, Eastern Time).

Follow this link and find the live stream that suits you best, if you wanna check out some.

WKCR does this every year. Matter fact, the station honors a number of jazz legends in likewise fashion. Duke Ellington’s all-day tribute will be April 29.

Let me spread the Mingus love with a 10-minute chunk of “New Fables,” a 23-minute track off the 1964 album “Right Now: Live at the Jazz Workshop.” Click hear to listen. It swings hard.

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘I Feel Love’

Here is one of the most influential singles of the last 40 years... up there with “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Flashlight” and “Rapper’s Delight.”

This Donna Summer track – produced by Giorgio Moroder (pictured) – came out in 1977... long before the words “house” or “electronica” had any musical meaning.

I didn’t know until yesterday that “I Feel Love” was a bigger hit in England than in the United States.

None other than Brian Eno said these words to none other than David Bowie: “I have heard the sound of the future. ... This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” (Eno underestimated.)

Audio bonus: Click here and listen to Casey Kasem introducing “I Feel Love” during its first week on the “American Top 40.”

UPDATE (04/23/03): Follow this link to see a cool old 2½-minute promotional video of Giorgio Moroder throwing down in his space-age 1970s electronic studio!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why YouTube is better than television

Reason #2: Voodoo science. (Don’t watch this video while eating spaghetti.)

Random Japaneseness

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A free African Virtuoses download

Today’s FREE MP3 is a taste of African guitar virtuosity. Matter fact, the group is called African Virtuoses.

As per the Francophone spelling of “virtuosos,” the group is from Guinea. It features three brothers from the Diabaté family... traditional kora masters who decided to take up the guitar.

Click here to hear “Toubaka” on my Vox blog. This track is from a 1983 album that was re-released two years ago to international acclaim.

To download it, click the title below.

“Toubaka” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store
Album available at eMusic
Album available at Amazon MP3

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two free Los Fabulosos Cadillacs downloads

Got a pair of FREE MP3s for ya from the Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. The group has a new CD out called “La Luz del Ritmo.”

First, the funky track. Click here to hear “Malbicho” on my Vox blog. (Sounds like they got into a 1970s soundtrack bag for this one.) To download “Malbicho,” click the title below.

Amazon.com is offering a different track for free. Click hear to hear “La Luz del Ritmo.” To download it, follow this link.

“Malbicho” (MP3)
More on this album

Now playing: ‘American Violet’

Don’t know when I’ll get a chance to go to the movies, but “American Violet,” which opens today, looks interesting.

An L.A. Times article about the film is here. The trailer is below.

Siskel & Ebert on ‘Full Metal Jacket’

I can’t believe Roger Ebert ragged on “Full Metal Jacket.”

And I dare suppose that few people now believe “Platoon” was a better movie... even though “Platoon” won an Academy Award for Best Picture (while “Full Metal Jacket” got just one Oscar nomination... for writing).

“Full Metal Jacket” has a dream-like magic about it. Always did.

Anyways... enjoy Gene and Roger going hard at each other.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Sasha and Malia won’t be doing in 10 years

Republicans and race in 1908

Everybody knows that the Republican Party – the party of Abraham Lincoln – once enjoyed the loyal support of American Negroes.

This wasn’t just because Lincoln “freed the slaves.” It was because Republicans, for decades after emancipation, proclaimed in their party platform a devotion to racial progress and the defense of black people’s rights.

Listen for yourself.

I found a cool audio artifact via the University of California’s Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. It is a 1½-minute statement by William Howard Taft, recorded on an Edison cylinder in 1908 when Taft was the Republican nominee for president.

The recording is titled “Rights and progress of the negro.” Click here to hear it on my Vox blog. I think it’s rather remarkable. It is history speaking.

In his 1909 inaugural address, President Taft also spoke directly of the Negro:

“The negroes are now Americans. Their ancestors came here years ago against their will, and this is their only country and their only flag. They have shown themselves anxious to live for it and to die for it.

“Encountering the race feeling against them, subjected at times to cruel injustice growing out of it, they may well have our profound sympathy and aid in the struggle they are making. We are charged with the sacred duty of making their path as smooth and easy as we can.”

Impressive, right? Now comes the turn.

In 1908, the G.O.P. declared:

“The Republican party has been for more than fifty years the consistent friend of the American Negro. ... [W]e condemn all devices that have for their real aim his disfranchisement for reasons of color alone, as unfair, un-American and repugnant to the Supreme law of the land.”

(This referred, of course, to post-Reconstruction policies throughout the South which denied black citizens their right to vote.)

But the 1912 G.O.P. platform contained no mention of the Negro at all, let alone any defense of his voting rights.

And that’s because President Taft didn’t live up to his noblest words from 1908 and 1909... all that “sacred duty” stuff.

No surprise, really. Even in 1908, Taft became the first Republican presidential candidate to campaign for white votes in the South.

And Taft’s 1909 inauguration speech, while paying lip service to the Fifteenth Amendment, justified the voting restrictions in place in the South. He described them as a protection against “the domination of an ignorant, irresponsible element.”

“The colored men must base their hope on the results of their own industry, self-restraint, thrift, and business success,” said President Taft, “as well as upon the aid and comfort and sympathy which they may receive from their white neighbors of the South.”

William H. Taft, you see, had a “Southern strategy.” He wanted to attract white Southern voters to the Republican party.

“[I]t is not the disposition or within the province of the Federal Government to interfere with the regulation by Southern States of their domestic affairs,” Taft announced. (Wink. Nod.)

As long as the U.S. government stayed out of the way, he said, “a better feeling between the negroes and the whites in the South will continue to grow, and more and more of the white people will come to realize that the future of the South is to be much benefited by the industrial and intellectual progress of the negro.

“The exercise of political franchises by those of this race who are intelligent and well-to-do will be acquiesced in, and the right to vote will be withheld only from the ignorant and irresponsible of both races.”

Alas, this bullshit appeal to white southerners didn’t pay off for President Taft. In the 1912 election, he came in third behind Democrat Woodrow Wilson (a straight-up racist) and former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as a Progressive.

Random hipness

Photo by Tom Piazza. (Click the image for a detailed look.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New cuts from Janelle Monáe, Black Kids

Time to check in with a couple of my favorite mildly eccentric up-and- coming recording artists.

Cute-as-a-doll Janelle Monáe is featured on a new track by the pop duo Chester French. To hear “Nerd Girl” on my Vox blog, click here. Janelle does more than hit the notes; she pumps the whole thing up with her personality.

You can cop “Nerd Girl” for FREE, as part of a full-length Chester French mixtape called “Jacques Jams”... if you’re willing to provide your name and email address to the Chester French website.

FYI: Ms. Monáe will be gigging tonight through Friday in Brooklyn.

Moving on to Black Kids, the Florida alt-pop band that took England by storm last year. They have a new EP out called “Cemetery Lips.” It contains remixes of previous singles plus B-sides.

Click here to hear “You Only Call Me When You’re Crying.” Not as tasty as the cuts I wrote about last year, but still.

Black Kids will play in L.A. next Thursday... while I’m out of town. Oh well. The show is sold out anyway. (Go ’head, Black Kids!)

Give me 10 minutes of your life...

... and I will show you three very cool mini-documentaries, courtesy of Cinelan. The filmmakers are Steve James, Jessica Yu and Richard Guard.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Playlist: Life after ‘American Idol’

I haven’t got into “American Idol” this season. (From what I’ve seen, though, Adam Lambert is a monster of an entertainer.)

I did enjoy previous seasons, and I have a lingering affection for some of the old contestants. Which doesn’t mean I’ve wanted to buy any of their music.

Take Kelly Clarkson. She was the cat’s meow in Season 1. But that current hit single of hers? The title should be: “My Life Would Suck Without You, But This Song Would Suck Regardless.”

Anyway... I have forced myself to check out what some of my favorite “AI” contestants are up to lately. Click the song titles below if you are likewise curious.

1. “Band of Gold” – Kimberley Locke

Kimberley Locke’s performance of “Where the Boys Are,” in my opinion, was one of the great moments of Season 2. In her subsequent music career, she has cultivated a loyal gay fanbase. This cover of the Freda Payne classic was a dance-club hit in 2008.

2. “Dust My Broom” – Melinda Doolittle

Melinda Doolittle, the Season 6 bronze medalist, released her first solo album two months ago. This is her update of a Robert Johnson blues standard.

3. “I Live on a Battlefield” – Taylor Hicks

Even after Taylor Hicks won Season 5, I proclaimed that his destiny was to be the world’s hippest wedding singer. Indeed, Taylor hasn’t been raising hell on the sales charts. He is currently in the touring company of the musical “Grease.” This is a cut from Hicks’s latest album, which came out last month.

4. “This Christmas” – Elliott Yamin

Here’s my favorite cut on this list. You know Elliott Yamin loves Donny Hathaway, right? Well, on his 2008 Christmas album, Elliott covered Hathaway’s “This Christmas.” Sang the balls off it, too.

5. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – Chris Botti feat. Katharine McPhee

I predicted that Kat McPhee – a world-class beauty – would find her greatest success as a movie actress. That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, she’s a guest vocalist on the new live album by jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.

Whatever happened to Muzz Skillings?

Speaking of Living Colour (which I kinda was last week), you ever wonder what became of the band’s original bass player, Muzz Skillings?

In recent years, Muzz has been touring with indie-label soul-rocker Ellis Hooks, an Alabama boy who has a following in Europe.

Here’s clip from a 2005 Belgium gig:

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘You and I’

Anyone agree with me that Rick James’s first hit was his best hit?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Marilyn Chambers (1952-2009)

A defining pop-culture phenomenon of the 1970s was the rise of hardcore pornography as an avenue to mainstream fame.

Nowadays nobody bats an eye when Katie Morgan does an HBO special, or Heather Hunter makes a hip-hop album, or Jenna Jameson writes a bestselling book.

But before there was Traci Lords and Sasha Grey (who?)... there was Marilyn Chambers. Her 1972 X-rated debut, “Behind the Green Door,” launched the so-called “Golden Age of Porn.”

Ms. Chambers was found dead yesterday in her L.A. County home. She was 56. The cause of death is unknown, according to the Los Angeles Times.

By 1976, Marilyn Chambers had already made inroads into mainstream show business. She put out a disco record called “Benihana,” produced by Michael Zager (who later had a hit with “Let’s All Chant”).

Chambers also starred in the 1977 horror movie “Rabid,” written and directed by David Cronenberg.

Below are the trailer for “Rabid” and Chambers’ 1977 appearance on the adult-oriented cable show “Midnight Blue.”

Remember when Tracey Ullman was funny?

Like, 20 frickin’ years ago? Man, I used to think she was brilliant.

Well... the season premiere of Ms. Ullman’s Showtime show, “State of the Union,” is up on YouTube. It’s embedded below.

Weak satire. Real weak. And her blackface character, Chanel Monticello (at 6:39), would not’ve cut the mustard on MADtv.

There is one funny sketch, though, at 20:24. I can’t explain it without ruining it.

A free Estrellas de Chocolate download

I came across a tasty cut by the old-school Afro-Cuban band Estrellas de Chocolate. I pass along the FREE MP3, though I can’t tell you much about it.

All I know is that conga player Félix “Chocolate” Alfonso started the group 50 years ago. Before that, he played with Arsenio Rodríguez, a hugely influential Cuban bandleader.

Click here to hear “Ritmo de Mi Son” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the title below.

The album “Conjunto Estrellas de Chocolate” was just digitally reissued.

“Ritmo de Mi Son” (MP3)
More on this album

Random hotness

This one is for the ladies. Two tickets to the gun show!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Randy Cain (1945-2009)

Randy Cain – a founding member of the Delfonics, that glorious Philly-soul vocal trio – died on Thursday of undisclosed causes. He was 63 years old.

The Philadelphia Daily News obituary is here.

The Delfonics were defined by William Hart’s soaring falsetto. William sometimes shared lead vocals with his brother, Wilbert Hart. Randy Cain’s role was to fill out the group sound. (And to look good, I suppose. He was a good-looking guy.)

Mr. Cain left the Delfonics in 1971. (He was replaced by Major Harris.)

Randy Cain’s biggest impact on Philly soul took place behind the scenes. According to John A. Jackson, author of “A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul,” it was Cain who introduced producer Thom Bell to his future songwriting partner, Linda Creed.

Creed, a white Jewish girl who loved black music, “pestered Delfonic Randy Cain... to listen to her poetry,” Jackson writes. “Cain told Thom Bell about it. Bell had no interest in poetry, but, he said, ‘let me listen to her. Maybe I can turn her into a songwriter.’ ”

Creed and Bell went on to write huge hits for the Stylistics and the Spinners, including “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” “Break Up to Make Up” and “The Rubberband Man.”

In honor of Randy Cain, I’m streaming “When You Get Right Down To It” on my Vox blog. Click here to listen.

UPDATE (04/13/09): I should also note that Randy Cain played a behind-the-scenes role in the formation of Blue Magic... putting singer-songwriter Ted Mills together with an existing group called Shades of Love.

Easter preachers

Don’t think I mean to ridicule these pastors. They’re kicking a style that has influenced black politics, black literature, black music and black humor.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

‘This Week in Blackness’

Ladies and gentlemen, Elon James White:

sPamOETRY

(In honor of National Poetry Month, I’ve composed a free verse from actual spam email subject headers.)

Every single chick
will admire your stick.

Women won’t hide their excitement
when they see your
&emsp&emsp bulge
in the street.

Launch your love spaceship

Your will have such a biggie pride
it will be enough
&emsp&emsp&emsp&emsp even to divide.

Saturday morning cartoon

Friday, April 10, 2009

A free Melvin Gibbs download

Back in January, I gave you a sneak taste of the new CD from bassist and bandleader Melvin Gibbs. The group is Melvin Gibbs’ Elevated Entity. The album is “Ancients Speak.”

Now let me hit you with a FREE MP3. Click here to hear “Canto Por Odudua” on my Vox blog. This track showcases killer guitarist Pete Cosey plus Cuban-born Pedrito Martinez on vocals. To download it, click the title below.

“Canto Por Odudua” (MP3)
More on this album

Fabchannel is dead.

Nothing lasts forever, I suppose. Fabchannel.com, the Dutch music site, shut down last month.

Fabchannel streamed hundreds of full-length concerts in high-quality video... concerts recorded mainly in Amsterdam.

I posted 16 of those shows on this blog... by artists such as Living Colour, Ani DiFranco, Marcus Miller, the Brand New Heavies, Amp Fiddler and Michael Franti.

Evidently the Fabchannel folks couldn’t figure a way to make money providing all that superb free content. And most major record labels never embraced Fabchannel as a promotional platform.

Fabchannel can’t even afford to keep its archive online. So it’s all over.

Fabchannel still has some clips up on YouTube. Here’s one featuring Nona Hendryx, Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy, Lalah Hathaway, Sandra St. Victor, Indira Khan and Simone:

Siskel & Ebert on ‘Happiness’

Gene and Roger had good things to say about Todd Solondz’s “Happiness.”

I thought the movie was despicable... an act of contempt towards its characters as well as its audience.

“Happiness” didn’t tell the truth about human beings, and didn’t seem interested in doing so. I can’t name a movie that I dislike more.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

MBP of the Week: Los Angeles Times

Wow. Has it really been two months since my last Misidentified Black Person post?

I must say... now that the newspaper industry seems to be breathing its last breaths, I don’t find this concept to be so cute anymore. I’m willing to forgive a lot... if only papers would stop going out of business.

Anyway, as is often the case, I have Craig Silverman (at Regret the Error) to thank for this latest MBP. The Los Angeles Times posted the following correction online this week:

“In Sports on Monday, a photo accompanying articles about Sunday’s Lakers-Clippers game pictured Laker Lamar Odom trying to shoot over the Clippers’ Fred Jones. The caption misidentified Odom as Laker Kobe Bryant.”

Yes. The L.A. Times. Kobe frickin’ Bryant. Unbelievable.

But like I said... we have to forgive.

Richard Wright gets a stamp.

The U.S. Postal Service today introduced a 61-cent stamp in honor of the novelist Richard Wright.

Which reminds me that during 2008, I failed to blog about Wright on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.

Well, here’s a 7-minute clip of actor Gary Dourdan reading from “Native Son”:

Lawrence Auster and killer immigrants

Ever since that Korean student kirked out and committed mass murder at Virginia Tech, right-wing blogger Lawrence Auster seems obsessed with immigrants who kill.

Pardon me... with non-white immigrants who kill. Be they in the United States, Canada or England.

The recent shooting rampage by a Vietnamese immigrant in upstate New York has inspired Mr. Auster to dark cleverness. Today he rewrote the famous poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your head- cases, your screwy,
Your huddled mass murderers yearning to shoot free,
The angry misfits of your teeming shore.
Send these, the unassimilable, to me...”


Never mind the fallacy of Auster’s argument that a few mentally ill Asians reflect upon the “assimilability” of non-whites into white societies.

Forget the fact that whenever Auster chooses to write about a white murderer (which he does rarely), race is somehow never relevant.

There is a bigger irony here. Lawrence Auster has direct knowledge of a “killer immigrant” within his own family.

Auster’s grandmother – Anna Auster, an immigrant Polish Jew – shot and killed her husband (Lawrence’s grandfather) in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1919.

Indeed, one of Anna’s sons – 9-year-old Irving – was an eyewitness and had to testify at the murder trial. (Anna Auster was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.)

Young Irving would grow up to sire a son of his own: Lawrence Auster.

How do I know about this killing? Because Lawrence Auster’s cousin – the novelist and essayist Paul Auster – wrote all about it in a 1982 memoir called “The Invention of Solitude.”

I bring it up now for this reason: By Larry Auster’s logic, the fact that his immigrant grandmother became a killer justifies the anti- immigrationists of the early 20th Century who wanted to stop the flow of Eastern European Jews into America.

They said Jews couldn’t be assimilated. They said Jews were prone to mental illness.

I would love to see Mr. Auster address this irony.

A free Vanessa Daou download

Ever heard of Vanessa Daou? A native Virgin Islander, she sings with a distinctively airy sensuality. And she has a reputation for artistic seriousness in the electronica scene.

Vanessa Daou has a new album coming out next week. I can hit you with a FREE MP3 from it.

Click here to hear “Once In A While” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the title below.

“Once In A While” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store