It’s Beyonce’s World. Stop It, I Want to Get Off.

“You just hate me because you ain’t me.”

Living in a celebrity-obsessed culture means you will be exposed to saturation coverage with around the clock updates of every move our best and brightest stars make and every breath they take.     Whether or not we are interested or care about the celebrity is not the point.   We are supposed to care.   We are supposed to crave fresh results to process, constant communication and breathless bulletins of what our stars are up to.   God isn’t dead.   He just needs a better publicist and a Twitter feed.

Which brings me to my point.   This is Beyonce’s World and could someone slow it down?  I’d like to get off.

I can’t be the only person in North America who is sick and tired of All Things Beyonce.

When I say “I don’t like Beyonce”  I’m not saying I don’t like her music.  She’s a perfectly capable vocalist.   When she doesn’t bleach her hair too blonde, she’s quite attractive.   She’s a reasonably good dancer, she has a rockin’ body, and even though Jay-Z isn’t much to look at, I give her a lot of respect for being married to a Black man.

But can a brother get a break from the Beyonce News Network?   Everything this woman does is not newsworthy.   Yes, I know that’s blasphemy.   Come get some if you don’t like it.

Beyonce and Jay-Z Go to Cuba.  Conservatives Lose Their Minds.    Sun rises the next day.  World keeps turning.

Beyonce releases diss track telling her haters to “Bow Down Bitches.”    You don’t say?

Beyonce sings at Obama’s inauguration and gets busted for lip synching.    Surprised?

Beyonce’s new song for The Great Gatsby is a duet with Andre3000 is an homage to Amy Winehouse.   It kind of sucks, but who cares?   It’s Beyonce!   Are you not entertained?

Beyonce reunites with Destiny’s Child at The Super Bowl and makes Kelly and Michelle sing one of her songs!

Beyonce named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world.   Because she’s a diva.  And that makes her influential.  So there!

Beyonce bans photographers from her tour.   Because they took photographs of her that were unflattering.  We only want flattering photos of Bey out there.

I’m not one of those old men who spending his 50’s dumping on  entertainment that was never designed with me in mind.   Justin Bieber, Scandal,  Lena Dunham,   Nikki Minaj, reality TV,  Mad Men, Game of ThronesLady Gaga and most of the good people who have won a Grammy,  Oscar, Golden Globe or People’s Choice Award for the last decade.   I am blissful in my ignorance of whatever the current hot hip happening thing is feeling pretty content about it, thank you very much.   This is a father who forgives them for their ways are not mine.

There have always been man-made media monsters stomping across the land and filling our empty lives with all the juicy details of theirs, but nothing like Beyonce.    Maybe Madonna at her peak or Lady Gaga when wearing dresses made of meat mattered more than the music she made, but even Madonna backed off as she aged out from Material Girl to Material Mommy.    Lady Gaga certainly seems to have retreated a bit from the glare of the spotlight allowing it to swing back to pitiful train wrecks like Lindsay Lohan and talentless freaks like the entire Kardashian Klown show.

Beyonce has a social conscience.  Beyonce does not seem to carry herself like Diana Ross ghetto royalty.  Beyonce has indisputable talent as a singer and dancer  (the less said about her attempts at acting the better unless you think she her cringe-inducing “performances in Obsessed and Austin Powers in Goldmember were Oscar-worthy).     Beyonce is gorgeous.   

I still don’t need Beyonce all up in my face ALL the time.    Even beauty can be boring as hell.

I think Bey deserves a vacation.  She deserves one.   She’s earned it.   She should take it.   She should take pity on the world and allow it to  focus on acts of terrorism,  wars, economic calamity, natural disasters,  political machinations, and other mundane stuff for a while.   Every fascinating detail of her fabulous life can go unshared and almost no one will care.    Well, except Bossip, Media Take-Out, Perez Hilton and a million other Internet web sites that feed on these tidbits of trivial b.s. like a newborn calf suckling on its mama’s teat, but who gives a crap about them?

Beyonce is the 8th Wonder of the World.    It will do us all good if  she would go away for a week or two or 26 and allow the world to wonder about her.

How do I do it? Lots of talent, make-up and Photoshop.

Donny Hathaway: If Not the Best, He’s In the Conversation.

A brilliant artist waiting for his renaissance.

Have you ever woke up in a mood where you knew before the day was done you had to hear a particular singer and no substitutes would do?

I woke up today wanting to hear some Donny Hathaway.

Donny Hathaway is perhaps one of the greatest singers most people know nothing about. He ranks right up there with his contemporaries of the time, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and even Stevie Wonder, but due to his short recording career and tragic death, he has been largely ignored and undiscovered by the public.

If they’re cruising down the radio dial, maybe they’ll stumble past “The Closer I Get To You” or “Where Is the Love,” two of his duets with Roberta Flack. During the holidays they may even be strolling through one of the hipper malls and Hathaway’s classic, “This Christmas” is being piped through the sound system.   They may even know Donny’s daughter, Lalah Hathaway has enjoyed some success as a vocalist.    Unfortunately,  for far too many that’s where their knowledge of Hathaway ends.

When my father brought Everything Is Everything home and started playing it, Hathaway’s voice grabbed me first and then how brilliantly a song like “The Ghetto” took me along with him on a trip through some pretty mean streets.   “The Ghetto” should be the flip side of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”  Both capture the frustrations and to a lesser extent, the pleasures of life on the edges of polite society.

Hathaway was both blessed and cursed. Blessed with a rich and expressive voice that poured out deep, heartfelt, soulful sentiments that could deliver soul, blues or gospel. Hathaway was a gifted songwriter and pianist as well. The curse was he suffered from depression and debilitating mental illness that required hospitalization. This is in part why Hathaway’s discography is limited to three studio albums and a pair of live recordings. The best starting point for anyone curious about this immensely talented, but troubled artist is the 1990 compilation, A Donny Hathaway Collection from Atlantic Records.

I have serious problems with this compilation, but it’s a good enough starting point before diving into Hathaway’s solo recordings. I agree with All Music Guide that Everything Is Everything and Extensions of A Man are his best work. The go-to place for his duets with Roberta Flack is The Very Best of Roberta Flack,  but  after 22 years, Hathaway is long overdue for a better anthology of his music.   There is a four-disc import from France, Someday We’ll Be Free, that is pretty exhaustive, but is still missing the music from his collaboration with Quincy Jones for the movie soundtrack, Come Back, Charleston Blue.    It’s probably as good as it gets for the committed collector like me, but it’s far too much for the casual listener.    Time for someone at Atlantic to step up their game and put together a better introduction to the greatness of Donny Hathaway.

Where is the love? Right here with Roberta and Donny.

In 1979, Hathaway either fell or jumped to his death from a hotel room in New York. He was in the process of recording a new album with Flack. The two completed songs ended up on her 1980 record, Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway. He was 33 years old.   That’s a lot of potential lost far too early.

Mental illness has destroyed its share of troubled souls in music.  Hathaway and the late Phyllis Hyman, who ended her life at 45 with a drug overdose.   Talent and acclaim were not enough to pull them out of their downward spiral.   The same could be said for the late Amy Winehouse, who gave Hathaway a shout out in her breakthrough hit, “Rehab.”

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no
Yes I’ve been black and when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time
And if my daddy thinks I’m fine
Just try to make me go to rehab I won’t go, go, go

I’d rather be at home with Ray
I ain’t got seventy days
Cos there’s nothing,there’s nothing you can teach me
That I can’t learn from Mr Hathaway

All lists are by nature, purely subjective and subject to be rejected by the reader, but Rolling Stone ranked Hathaway at #49 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers.   I can’t argue too strenosuly when I’m glad Hathaway was remembered at all.   The rock n’ roll magazine said of Hathaway,  Donny Hathaway died in 1979, but his warm, suave soul has never been more influential. He’s been name-checked in songs by Amy Winehouse, Nas, Common and Fall Out Boy (the new “What a Catch, Donnie”), and Justin Timberlake calls “(Another Song) All Over Again,” from FutureSex/LoveSounds, “my homage to Donny Hathaway.” It’s easy to hear why Hathaway still appeals to modern-pop and neo-soul singers alike. He was equally comfortable with smooth ballads (“The Closer I Get to You”) and rolling funk (“The Ghetto”). He was a master of melisma (while never overdoing it), and his smoky voice wrapped superbly around his female duet partners, most notably Roberta Flack. No wonder Timberlake calls him “the best singer of all time.”

I won’t go as far as Justin Timberlake and declare Donny Hathaway the best singer of all time, but he’s certainly in the conversation of who the best singer is.

Amy Winehouse Cheats Herself

Live fast, die young.

A few words about singer Amy Winehouse being found dead today in London of a possible drug overdose at age 27

Is it a surprise that this comes as no surprise at all?  I’m sure somebody had Amy Winehouse ranked high in their dead pool and not without good reason.   She had been hurtling headlong down a path of drug and alcohol fueled self-destruction since “Rehab” had made her a global superstar six years ago.

What this proves is some people should never be famous.  Particularly not if you have an addictive personality and some rather nasty habits.

My daughter liked Back To Black more than I did.  I bought it at a used CD store, gave it a couple of listens and returned it within the three-day window.   There were a couple of songs I thought weren’t half-bad, but there was nothing I felt like I needed to hear again.  The Brits have carved out an impressive list of neo-soul singers with Winehouse being the most celebrated if not the best of the bunch., But Back To Black dropped in 2006 and Winehouse’s follow-up never materialized admidst all the tabloid turmult her life had become. 

Her drunken performance in Belgrade in June where she was a wreck on two legs and the crowd booed her off the stage was such a hot mess of epic fail proportions her record company quickly scrubbed the Internet of videos of it.   Winehouse’s ongoing series of public meltdowns was like driving down a country road at midnight with no lights on;  the crash was inevitable.   It was only a matter of how brutal the impact would be.

Like Kurt Cobain, Winehouse was extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily messed up.  A lot of people admired them both but it seems very few actually loved them.   Then again junkies aren’t the most loveable people in the world.  They’re kind of sad and pathetic, but you can’t really feel all that sorry for them.

This isn’t a tragedy.  91 people, mostly teenagers,  being shot and blown up by a neo-Nazi, anti-Islam nut job in Norway is a tragedy.   This was a case of slow motion suicide.   You see ’em come.  You see ’em go.  Life in the fast lane, I guess.  You rarely see someone go straight to hell as fast as she did when she finally hit the big time.

Amy Winehouse is finally at rest, but it’s doubtful she’s found peace.

She called the shot herself:

I cheated myself
Like I knew I would
I told you, I was trouble
You know that I’m no good

Good night, Amy.  All your pain has gone away.

Every picture tells a story.