Banter on Tulips and a Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z and John Coltrane, Outkast and Othello.


My Favorite Things, Take II

*Note to reader: This original post has been amended. Yes, there is some truth to the idea that women can't make up their minds. So...sue me*

Now playing: "My Favorite Things", John Coltrane.

On the ride into work today, inspired by the lovely melody of Mr. Coltrane on the horn and the unflappable Mr. Tyner on the keys, I thought about some of things I love in music. *singing* "These are a few of my favorite things..."

Twenty-five songs I couldn't live without:
1. "Keep Your Head to the Sky" Earth Wind and Fire: If I had an iPod with one song on it, this would be it. Philip's heavenly falsetto, the precise guitar, and the skyward message just makes me think. Whatever the challenge, whatever the task, looking upwards from whence your help comes just motivates us to work harder, be stronger, understand our place in this infinite universe. To endure. And Mr. Bailey sings, "Master told me one day, I'd find peace in every way/ But in search for the clue, wrong things I was bound to do/ Keep my head to the sky for the clouds to tell me why/ As I grew and with strength, master kept me as I repent/ And he said keep your head to the sky."

2. "Another Star" Stevie Wonder
3. "My Favorite Things" Coltrane

4. "Kiss of Life" Sade: Maybe it's the soft opening key strokes, the velvet sax or something about how the Nigerian-English chanteuse sings "There must have been an angel by my side/ Something heavenly led me to you/ Look at the sky, it's the color of love." I grew up on mixtapes that my dad would make featuring Ms. Adu. I mimicked the woodwind in her voice, trying to lend my best childlike imitation to "Is It a Crime?". When this song came out, I realized that this was as pure as music could get. *singing* "Look the sky is full of love."

5. "The Glow of Love" Luther Vandross
6. "Stay This Way" Brand New Heavies
7. "Fantasy" (Live) Earth Wind and Fire

8. "Dream Merchant" The New Birth: I think New Birth, which I discovered in high school, is quite possibly the most underrated R&B band of all time. From the opening swells -- when the preacher-like Leslie Wilson sings "Hey, hey mista dream merchant, bring her back to me/ Make my dreams come true" -- to the rising of the drums and the "woooo woooo" of the able background singers, to the anguished rap that polishes things off ["Mista dream merchant, would you please do me a favor. If you happen to see my baby somewhere, tell her I'm waiting with open arms. Would you please make my dreams come true?"], this song spells c-l-a-s-s-i-c.

9. "Best of Your Heart" Rufus feat. Chaka Khan

10. "Ain't No Stoppin Us Now" McFadden and Whitehead: Ask anyone from Philly what the city anthem is and whether they're eight or eighty, they'll tell you it's Ain't No Stoppin Us Now. Maybe it's cause it's the personification of the Sound of Philadelphia. The driving bass and drums, the silky soul voice of the duo dressed in white seventies suits... the fact that you play this and I guarantee you one thing: you will start a massive electric slide of strangers, and people will get to partying like fan bangs and medallions are still in. *singing* "Don't chu let nothin' nothin' stand in your way/ I want y'all to listen, listen to every word I say. Ain't no ntoppin us now. We're on the move." Can I get a soul clap for the getdown good people?!

11. "You Remind Me" Patrice Rushen

12. "No One Can Love You More" Phyllis Hyman: Probably my favorite songstress. Ever. Her voice is rich, flute-like and ebbs and flows like the swelling of the ocean. Okay that was decidedly wack...LOL...but it's the only description that really fits her sound. It's like she doesn't hit one note at time, she hits a flood of them -- effortlessly, powerfully. So when she sings "Questions people ask of me for loving you/ Why should I say the reasons of my own?" you really believe her. Though we know she wasn't lucky enough to live to see that lasting love, she breathes it easily in this song. RIP Ms. Hyman.

13. "Just The Two of Us" Grover Washington Jr. feat. Bill Withers

14. "Exodus" Eddie Harris: The coolest jazz cut on earth. Period. Though it's shy of just three minutes, it exudes social poise and graciousness (those clad in apple and salmon will know what I mean), the upward mobility of the DuBois talented tenth, the cool of Joe Louis and Billie Holiday in their prime and the boogie black people from one of the those Escalade commercials *smile*. Honestly, I love it.

15. "Everlasting Love" Chaka Khan
16. "Running Away" Roy Ayers
17. "It's Your World" Common

18. "What They Do" Roots: Okay, I'm putting it out there now for all the chickens that might be reading. I'm marrying Quest Love. So... step off. Lol. I love the 'fro, yes, but what I really love about Quest and the Illadelph boys is their laid-back cool. If we had to take it back to high school, me thinketh these were not the cats who were getting wild to the gangsta stuff. They seemed to have been the folks you would have do your AP English homework... a class of people I like to call the cool nerds. (I still have my membership card, I think. Lol). From the nice drum kicks to the lovely guitar, "What They Do" is what Black Thought would call "Official hip hop consumption/ The fifth thumpin'/ Keeping your party thumping with an original something." Yeah. Nice.

19. "I Love Music" O' Jays

20. "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" Temptations and the Supremes: Mr. Kendricks was lovely ("I'm gonna do all things for you a girl wants her man to do/ Oh baby...Every minute, every hour, I'm gonna shower you with love and affection/ Look out it's coming in your direction.") And Miss Diana held her own too. ("And I'm gonna use every trick in the book/ I'll try my best to get you hooked/ Hey babyyy"). Yeah, that line spoke for itself. Lol. The song is golden.

21. "Sunshine" Enchantment

22. "That's the Way I Feel About You" Bobby Womack: Let us pause a minute and have church in preparation for the opening lines. "You know, I'm a true believer that if you get anything out of life, you've gotta to put up with the toils and strife." Don't think I need to say anything more. Okay, one thing -- love this guy. I do. And Mr. Womack sings. "So if I'm weak for you, I don't minnnd." Man, if we had cullud men who would sing stuff like this today... Okay, I digress. Lol.

23. "Golden Lady" Stevie Wonder
24. "Be Thankful" William DeVaughn

25. "Home" The Wiz Soundtrack feat. Stephanie Mills: You cannot go to a black talent show or pageant without hearing this song, "You're Gonna Love Me" from Dreamgirls (btw, can't wait for Jennifer Hudson's take), and Whitney's "Greatest Love of All." As the subtitle to Nikki Giovanni's "Ego Trippin" goes, "There must be a reason why." Ms. Mills, in her Broadway debut, brings the house down, singing of living triumphantly in the world of Oz. "We must look inside ourselves to find/ A world full of love. Like yours, like mine. Like home." I've heard it so many times, but still gives me chills. Sing it girl!!


Another one

You Are Apple Green

You are almost super-humanly upbeat. You have a very positive energy that surrounds you.
And while you are happy go lucky, you're also charmingly assertive.
You get what you want, even if you have to persuade those against you to see things your way.
Reflective and thoughtful, you know yourself well - and you know that you want out of life.


A quiz...cause I'm bored at work

You Are 40% Open Minded

You aren't exactly open minded, but you have been known to occasionally change your mind.
You're tolerant enough to get along with others who are very different...
But you may be quietly judgmental of things or people you think are wrong.
You take your own values pretty seriously, and it would take a lot to change them.

(Wo)Man's Search for Meaning

Now playing: "Makeda", Les Nubians/ "Copacabana" Barry Manilow

[This is the height of randomnosity. You've been warned. *smile*] So, I haven't been to church in a month of Sundays and haven't felt a burning desire to go. Now, I'm not one of those "Is there really a God?" type of people. I know that there is God, that if there is nothing else that is real in this universe, there is God. But, sometimes I don't feel the need to get up early on Sunday, dress up, listen to a sermon just so I can say that I was doing my robot Christian duty. Take this past Sunday for instance. I woke up, but instead went back to bed and then later decided that it was appropriate to attend the Church of Good Shoes (Steve Madden). Snagged some snazzy bejeweled espadrilles. Then decided to make a Tower Records run...just for one teeny CD, I told myself. Anyone who knows me knows that this is like a crackhead saying he wants a smidgen of the stuff.... Ruben Studdard saying that he wants a spoonful of grits... Patti Labelle saying she's only gonna sing one note. Well, you get it.

I walked in, determined to find the greatest hits of Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. (For those of you who haven't heard "Mais Que Nada", it's lovely). I had to backorder it, and since I'm an impatient breed, had to get some others to feed the fix. Settled on the duo of the soulful, earnest India.Arie and a stretch for me, the greatest hits of Shaolin's own -- Wu Tang. Lol. I left, my car radio playing "Wu Tang Clan ain't nuthin to F--- With", me half-giggling/ half-aghast (grown as I am, still haven't gotten used to hearing a rowdy bunch of brothas cuss up a storm...And yes, I looked for the edited version, but no haps. I guess there isn't a market for a family-friendly ODB). When the piano chords signaled that C.R.E.A.M. was about to start, I turned up the radio. Sure this wasn't proper Sunday sermonizing. There was no golden plate being passed around. But sometimes the cool of silence (or a RZA-induced bass) is the only thing you need for reflection. And so, it was that on the 7th day that there was Wu. Let the church of Mahogany say amen.


We As a People...

Besides all those speeches about being the "architects of civilization", "originators of language and culture" and most importantly-- if you judge by BET videos, "the Beyonce booty bounce"-- I have come to realize that we as a people are indeed a treasured, rare breed. We can beat box and pop rock, give a sermon on the mount to music and pop a collar all while making bucks upon bucks in corporate America (Sir Jigga). We can resemble a Brooklyn bred cricket, but lend such artistic prowess to the genre of film that it would be hard to imagine black america without our art (Spike Lee). Or we can dazzle on the court (Allen Iverson), in the studio (Mariah Carey) or in our pursuit of political power (Barack Obama). Or, like Common, we can just be...

...Completely nuts
So, unlike the greater New York City population, I didn't curse at the screen as last week's initial installment of "House of Payne" pre-empted the long-awaited Girlfriends finale. At home in Jersey, I actually got to see Joan act a fool in all of her horrible circa '91 green dress & Muppet-eyed glory. But, I got a peak at Tyler Perry's new show the following day and shook my head in horror about our future as a people. Thought #1: Black people, as I am aware, do not habitually go around their house shouting and gesturing with their necks. Why then do we have this representation on this chitlin-circuit church play passing for a sitcom? Thought #2: Why must the mother in said shows always be 400 lbs? I'm just saying... Now big-bonededness runs in a lot of black families, but not to that extent. Why must mammy waddle down the stairs and threaten her hubby with bulging eyes and a pointing finger? But through it all, Tyler still has his fans. I guess it's like anything else, eat the meat, leave the bones... I still say the likelihood of us as a people ever being free is intrinsically dependent on the eradication of all Tyler Perry TV shows. Period. Lol.

... And sometimes wonderful
So, I attended my brother's graduation from the one and only Morehouse College this past weekend and reveled in the pride of their tradition (and an appearance by a coffee sipping Denzzzzel *smile* whose son was also graduating) and was sooo proud of us as a people. Linked arm over arm, amid a slight drizzle that came and went from the early morning hours and on (magically, for the first time ever, I saw no black folks running from the rain!), stood the largest graduating class that the school had ever had in its 139 year history. Heads reverently bowed, the brothers of the House, swayed like a gigantic fraternity as bass voices lent themselves to their time-worn school song, "Dear Old Morehouse." They sung as the words reflected the sacrifice, struggle and hopes of our forebearers. And as they put on their hoods, cloaking themselves for the first time not as men of Morehouse but official Morehouse Men, I nearly teared. For the last four years, they had had the unique honor of attending and excelling in a school environment that taught them that to be black is not to be inferior, is not to be shiftless or lazy, is not to be materialistic and selfish, but it is to be proud, to be strong, to be articulate, to be mindful of elders, to be smart, to be humble. For their experience, they were grateful. And, as a newly minted sister of a Morehouse Man, so was I.


Sometimes I actually think we as people will overcome after all...


Of Mice and Motown

Now playing: "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" The Temptations & the Supremes

I grew up on this stuff, but have only recently appreciated the vast depth of this Motown supergroup. Because of the close similarity of The Temptations movie and my all-time fave, The Five Heartbeats, I refused to watch the former until recently. Two weeks ago, I finally watched it. My thoughts were that the story was good, and kindled my interest in songs like "Aint Too Proud to Beg", "Beauty's Only Skin Deep" and "Don't Look Back". But, of course it was vastly skewed as Otis Williams, whose only real musical claim to fame is being the original group's sole survivor was the teller (he who lives until the end gets to write the story). Watching the movie set me on a path on intrigue, to rediscover this music, these people who made up this group.

Being the daughter of a Hittsville aficionado had it's benefits growing up. In the past, I've read Motown memoirs, like Diana's "Secrets of a Sparrow" and Mary Wilson's "Dreamgirl," her "scratch your eyes out" account of being cast in Duchess Diana's shadow as she pulled no punches (and many nights on Berry Gordy's "director's couch") to ascend to stardom. But, as much as people love to hate Miss Ross, I just couldn't imagine anyone else singing that fitting mice-squeak lead to "Reflections" or "Someday We'll Be Together."

And it's the same way with the Temps. Who would they have been without David Ruffin "With a Tuffin", his effortless timing, soulful delivery and stage presence, even if the man did succumb too early (hopefully not like Whitney) to the perils of drugs and alochol? I searched for their story and found an account by David's "common law" wife. I plan to read soon, to get more on the story of this troubled man, and group, that was by all accounts, uber-talented, but ill-fated. Like many other black superstars--Phyllis Hyman, Donny Hathaway, Paul Williams--gone too soon.