Bill Cosby: American Dad…and Rapist?

“So you see, what happened was…”

Bill Cosby’s PR firm had an idea. They put out a request across the Internet to create memes about the 77-year old comedian, actor and philanthropist.

The Internet responded. Oh, did it ever.

On Monday, the comedian — or whomever was in charge of his social media — put out a challenge with a jovial picture of Cosby in a cap: “Go ahead. Meme me! #cosbymeme.”

The Internet immediately reacted, but probably not in the way Cosby expected.

“Claire, have you seen my … nevermind, found my raping hat!” tweeted Trill Withers over the cap picture.

“My two favorite things (–) Jell-O pudding & rape,” tweeted E.J. Coughlin over a photo of Cosby smiling.

“Look at this wacky shirt I’m wearing (–) also I am a serial rapist,” tweeted Jason Steele over a picture of a thumbs-up Cosby in a patterned shirt.

Now comes the social media fiasco.

For years, Cosby has denied the rape allegations. In February, after Newsweek ran an interview with one of the purported victims, Tamara Green, Cosby’s representative said, “This is a 10-year-old, discredited accusation that proved to be nothing at the time, and is still nothing.”

Nine years ago, when Green was interviewed by Matt Lauer on the “Today” show, his lawyer issued a statement: “Miss Green’s allegations are absolutely false. Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or (maiden name) Tamara Lucier and the incident she describes did not happen. The fact that she may have repeated this story to others is not corroboration.”

In the case of Andrea Constand, who sued Cosby in 2005 over an incident the year before, Cosby says the sex was consensual.

At the time of Constand’s lawsuit, Cosby had been in the news for a sexual affair once before. In 1997, a woman named Autumn Jackson claimed to be Cosby’s love child. Cosby admitted to a relationship with Jackson’s mother but denied paternity. Jackson was later convicted of extortion.

Cosby has been accused by 13 women of rape. Vulture published a timeline of incidents since 2002. The story took on new life when comedian Hannibal Buress called out The Cos during a performance.

At Mic.com, Maureen Shaw wondered, “Why do celebrities seem to get away with sexual assault? Cosby isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, mainstream celebrity to be accused of sexual abuse. This past February, Dylan Farrow accused Woody Allen of sexually assaulting her. Then there’s CeeLo Green, Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, R. Kelly — the list goes on and on. And yet, these men’s careers rebounded and their accomplishments somehow overshadowed any wrongdoings.

As one of Cosby’s victims, Barbara Bowman, explains, “The media creates this idealized image of celebrities: that they are untouchable, that they’re not one of us. … I don’t think people want to believe it; to believe would shatter the illusion.” Specifically in the case of Cosby, Gawker nailed it: “Basically nobody wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a sexual predator.”

Correction:  Accused sexual predator.   The predomination of accusations does not equate to a preponderance of evidence.

Bill’s got less friends now than when he wore that shirt.

Reading the CNN and Vulture articles is unsettling to say the least and deeply troubling even for someone like myself who has a great deal of respect for Cosby. It’s difficult to shrug off the multiple incidents as ambitious gold diggers scheming for a payday. There may not yet be a fire burning, but Cosby’s good name and reputation has certainly suffered serious smoke damage.

If it is unfair to brand the women whom have accused Bill Cosby of rape as being schemers or liars, it is equally unfair to convict Bill Cosby as a rapist without further proof–any proof.

It’s important to note that for all the troubling allegations and damning information that has gone from a slow drip to a raging torrent, Cosby has never been indicted, arrested, prosecuted, convicted or sentenced for rape. He’s been accused and the accusations were enough for him to settle the cases for money in exchange for silence. Silence is golden and buying silence has allowed Cosby to keep his golden halo from being tarnished as a sexual predator.

I am not objective about Cosby. I’ve laughed at his stand-up, watched his television shows and films and generally agreed with his sometimes harsh critiques of Black Americans. I won’t call him a role model or a hero but I will call him a man I respect.

I’m not yet convinced of Cosby’s guilt merely because The Internet and a hostile lynch mob of bloggers have found him guilty. The Internet rushes to judgment and get things wrong often.  It might be wrong again.

If it is proven Bill Cosby has put his pudding pop in somebody’s Jell-O against their will I will never respect him again.

But I won’t be happy about it.

Plausible is not the same thing as proven and preponderance is not the same thing as evidence.   Being found guilty in the court of public opinion in not the same thing as being found guilty in a court of law and thank goodness for that.    When death comes by a thousand cuts of ugly innuendo and unproven allegations, that’s not justice, that’s wrong.

Maybe Cosby doesn’t deserve to be considered innocent until proven guilty any more than any other suspected sexual predator, but he doesn’t deserve it any less.

 

Mugging and acting cute isn’t going to make this go away, Bill.

 

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The Sick Skin Game of Orville L. Douglas

Orville Douglas thinks they’d be cuter if they were White.

There was a lot of buzz this week (and most of it negative) over a column in the Washington Post by Richard Cohen that snarked negatively over the interracial family of the newly elected mayor of New York, Bill DiBlasio.

But along came one by The Guardian’s Orville Lloyd Douglas that was far worse.

A lot of black men don’t want to acknowledge the feelings of disgust we have for ourselves. It is considered emasculating to even admit the existence of such thoughts. I think my own self-hated manifests from the exterior, from the outside world. It is born out of the despair and the unhappiness I see within a lot of young black men.

I can honestly say I hate being a black male. Although black people like to wax poetic about loving their label I hate “being black”. I just don’t fit into a neat category of the stereotypical views people have of black men. In popular culture black men are recognized in three areas: sports, crime, and entertainment. I hate rap music, I hate most sports, and I like listening to rock music such as PJ Harvey, Morrissey, and Tracy Chapman. I have nothing in common with the archetypes about the black male.

Honestly, who would want to be black? Who would want people to be terrified of you and not want to sit next to you on public transportation?

Who would want to have this dark skin, broad nose, large thick lips, and wake up in the morning being despised by the rest of the world?

Many people have their dark times when they utterly loathe the image staring back at them in the mirror, but to hate your own skin is more than doubt, that’s sick.   Mr. Douglas doesn’t need to be a newspaper columnist. He needs to be the patient of an excellent psychiatrist.

Orville Douglas: A man trapped in a prison he can never escape.

It’s one thing to be distressed and disheartened by the bad behavior of Blacks.  Even now, I still get a slight twinge when there is a violent, senseless crime and there’s a Black male associated with it, but I don’t wear the guilt of a criminal on my shoulders.   I’d be walking around stooped over all the time.

In terms of stereotyping it has been observed that Whites commit crime, but Blacks are criminals.   This is not an accident.   The promotion of fear is big business and it serves that industry well to keep the actions of a violent minority within a minority pushed to the forefront of our consciousness.

Orville Lloyd Douglas has bought into the hype.

Douglas is not a handsome man.  He is a large, bald, overweight man who wears glasses.  His nose is broad.  His lips are thick.   Orville is not a romantic fantasy.

Orville hates his appearance.  He shouldn’t.  There are things he can do to improve it.  He can work out, eat better, watch his diet and lose weight though you’d think a man who spends so much time running away from his Blackness would be in better shape.

If he can afford it, he can opt for lap-band surgery.   He can wear a wig or get hair plugs.   Regarding his distinctly Negroid features, he can go the plastic surgery route and get fixed up with a nice pert little nose and have his lips redone.

If Orville wants to be a handsome man there are options available for him to pursue to enhance his looks.   What isn’t available for him is a total replacement for the skin he hates so much.   Orville was born Black, he looks Black and he’s going to die Black, no matter how much he wishes to be blonde, blue-eyed, pretty and White.  No matter what Orville does he is not going to see Brad Pitt staring back in the mirror.

Orville should check out Malcolm X when he said, “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other? You know. Before you come asking Mr. [Elijah] Muhammad does he teach hate, you should ask yourself who taught you to hate being what God made you.”

Malcolm’s kind of Black pride would scare the hell out of a coward like Douglas.

I find it interesting that Orville is cool with the stereotyping and social stigmas that come with being a homosexual. Apparently, gay really is the new black.

Orville can hate being Black all he wants, but that won’t change the reality Black is what he is and always will be.  There isn’t enough Clorox in the world to bleach away his Blackness.

The first surge of anger I felt for this wretched fellow has mellowed a pity I’m certain Douglas would want no part of it.   No matter.   Michael Jackson claimed a skin disease caused his slow fade to paleness but even his wealth and resources couldn’t make the King of Pop a White man.

Orville will fare no better.   He is trapped in a prison of flesh with no lock, no key, and no escape from the Black flesh he so despises.  That’s a far worse hell than any I could ever cast him into.

George Duke: The Master of the Game

I never caught George Duke in concert.   I never met the man in person.  However, he did give me two hours of his extremely busy time to talk to me for a career-spanning interview.   What came of it was the longest interview I had ever done before, after or since and after I finished it, I never wanted to put so much work into something I got so little compensation from.  Like zero dollars and cents.

But I think George liked it too because he put a link to it on the front page of his web site and that’s an honor.

I gained a whole new appreciation of the man they called “Big Daddy.”  If you love jazz fusion (and I do because I ain’t no jazz snob) you love George Duke, who was one of the top five keyboard players of the genre along with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Jeff Lorber.  Where Duke ranks in that group is subject to debate.   I place him in second place behind Hancock and ahead of Corea, Zawinul and Lorber.   Others may see it differently, but hey, it’s my list and I’ll order it how I want.

I published an excerpt of the interview which can be found in full on All About Jazz, but it’s way too long to publish the entire thing on this blog.   However, I couldn’t let an opportunity pass to ask Duke what it was like playing with the notoriously short-tempered Miles Davis.

All About Jazz: Regarding “Ripple In Time,” the trumpet playing by Oscar Brashear is a shout-out to Miles Davis. You played with Miles in his final years, and nobody comes away from working with Miles without some impression: good, bad or otherwise.

George Duke: He could be extremely intimidating. Matter of fact, I was playing with Cannonball Adderley at the Beacon Theater in New York. We had finished our show and I was out front listening to John McLaughlin, and Miles came to the show.

Two fusion masters: Jean Luc-Ponty and George Duke.

He said [slips into gravelly Miles Davis voice], “Hey man, what you doin’ in this band?”

I was, like, “Damn, did I just get dissed?” I didn’t know if he was saying I wasn’t good enough to be in Cannonball’s band. I didn’t know how to take that comment.

Years later, Miles would come to my shows in New York but he wouldn’t say anything to me. A murmur would go through the audience: “Miles is in the room!”

As time went by, he’d call me on the phone and tell me he wanted me to write a tune for him. He actually asked me to join his band at one point. We were never close friends and I wasn’t in his band, but we had this weird kind of relationship especially when he was with Cicely Tyson. I’d see him all the time. He said, “George, I want you to write me a tune.”

I wrote “Backyard Ritual” and sent it over to him as a demo thinking he’d go in and re-record it live with his guys. But he said, “I like it because it sounds funny.”

I said, “Miles, that’s a demo. We’re going to come in and re-cut it.”

Miles said, “Naw, man. I like it the way it is.”

And that’s the way it came out. “Backyard Ritual” is a demo Miles played over. I never saw him in the studio.

The original song I wrote for Miles had a French-Cuban atmosphere to it. Dianne Reeves came in the studio and heard me working on it. She said, “What’s that?”

I said, “This is for Miles.”

She said, ‘Wait a minute. We’re family. I want that tune for my record.”

GeorgeDuke

I told her, “Well, you can’t have it.”

Dianne said, “We’re family. You got to tell Miles he can’t have it. Write him something else.”

I said, “He’s already heard it. You call Miles and tell him he can’t have it!” She said she was already writing a lyric for it. I told her, “You gotta stop!” Well, Dianne is my cousin so I had to call Miles tell him. I said, “Hey Miles?”

“Yeah.”

“You know that I tune I wrote for you?”

“Yeah.”

“You know my cousin, Dianne Reeves?”

“Yeah.”

“Uh, can I write you another tune? She wants it for her album.”

Miles cussed me up and down. It took him about 15 minutes of swearing at me and her. “Tell that blankety-blank to get her own song!”

The song that came out of it for Dianne’s album was “Fumilayo,” and it was nominated for a Grammy. It didn’t win, but it started out as a song for Miles Davis.

AAJ: You hear these amazing stories about how intimidating Miles was and you think no way could it be true, but maybe it is.

GD: Miles was quite a character and much funnier than most people realize, especially if you were with him one-on-one—very interesting dude.

Going down the list of who Duke played with or produced includes Michael Jackson, Stanley Clarke, Sheila E., Frank Zappa, Jeffrey Osbourne, Deniece Williams,  Jean-Luc Ponty, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderly, Billy Cobham,  Barry Manilow, Anita Baker,  A Taste of Honey, and on and on.   Duke liked to work as much as he liked to play and when his career cooled as a musician, he slipped effortlessly into the producer’s chair and kept pumpin’ out the hits.

I struggled with Duke’s last album, Dreamweaver.   It was dedicated to his wife, Corrine,  who passed away last year.   The album has its peaks and valleys and I struggled with writing the review.  I didn’t feel it was a great record, but I couldn’t knock the sincerity behind it.

The promotional video for the album shows a somewhat diminished Duke.  I see a man who has lost weight and wearing a hat instead of his usual Afro (possibly to cover hair loss from chemotherapy?).   Don’t know and it’s not my business anyway.   Duke cared about the music, not the trapping of stardom.  He played with giants, made hits for giants and became a giant without ever losing his humility, humanity or humor.  There’s the music he made and the many millions he reached for and turned on with the Dukey Stick.

There’s also the respect and love George Duke’s peers felt for him.

When I was growing up and learning to play guitar in Hawaii, George Duke was one of my heroes. It was a dream come true to play in his band, and I’ll always be grateful to him for his supportive attitude — and the way he pushed us all to play the best we could .

~ Charles “Icarus” Johnson, writer and blogger, Little Green Footballs and former guitarist in the George Duke Band
I can’t believe that I’m writing these words. George Duke has passed. This one is extra tough. He’d just lost his wife a year ago. George was one of those special human beings who changed the feeling of whatever room he occupied. When you were around him everything just seemed better. , lighter, more positive. Tremendous musician, incredible human being… No one who knew him will be quite the same now that he’s moved on.

~ Marcus Miller

George Duke’s talent was universal. He could adapt to all forms of jazz, pop, and rock – from Frank Zappa to Miles Davis and everything in between. He died not only of an illness but I think also of a broken heart. His wife Corrine left us last year and they were deeply in love.

~  Ramsey Lewis

Words cannot express the lost of my mentor and friend George Duke. I tried to come see you yesterday. You are now home. I love you.

~ Sheila E.

Go easy, Big Daddy.

Esperanza Spalding Can’t Save Jazz (and shouldn’t be expected to).

If Spalding is supposed to save jazz, then jazz is in a lot of trouble.

When you’ve been invited to perform for the President of the United States, turned heads as the bass-playing beauty in the Academy Awards house band, toured with Prince and beat out teen dream Justin Bieber for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, you’re having a very good run in the spotlight—and it could turn your head.

From time-to-time an artist gets dubbed as the new savior of jazz. Usually this title is handed out by publications with only a cursory interest in jazz. It’s possible Spalding neither sought nor seeks the responsibility, but with success comes expectation and the expectation is that Radio Music Society, Spalding’s fourth album and her first since her Grammy upset, will be popular in a way few jazz albums have, at least since since guitarist George Benson and saxophonist Kenny G were at their commercial peaks.

The problem with Radio Music Society is it’s only okay as jazz and is tentative as pop music. Spalding is a musician, songwriter, lyricist, arranger and producer and while she does all of this adequately, she does none of it spectacularly.

Everything that has ever been wrong with Spalding is still wrong on Radio Music Society. She’s competent on bass without being exceptional. Her voice is thin and her range limited. The earnestness of her lyrics is overcome by the lumpiness in the delivery. For an album polished and created with maximum airplay in mind, Radio Music Society is noticeably missing a key component of successful pop music: a killer hook. There are multiple vocalists, a choir, a huge horn section, strings, drummers and rappers all over this sprawling record, yet Spalding’s arrangements are sparse and lacking in energy.

“I Can’t Help It,” a Stevie Wonder composition that was performed by Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones for Jackson’s Off the Wall (Epic, 1979,) was then a sweet and soulful little slice of pop heaven livened by Jackson’s energy and affinity for the material. By contrast, Spalding just plows through with an indifferent interpretation that squanders a tenor saxophone solo by Joe Lovano.

Much more successful is “Black Gold,” the stand-out which is an ode to black youth remaining positive in the face of criticism and skepticism. It features an effective duet between Spalding and Algebra Blessett’s stronger vocal abilities. Despite a meandering conclusion, it’s a pretty lead-off single that will doubtlessly play well with younger listeners attuned to Spalding’s neo-soul stylings. “Cinnamon Tree” benefits from Olivia DePrato and Jody Rednage on violin and cello respectively and a soaring guitar solo from Jef Lee Johnson.

Those that bother reading liner notes will notice the familiar names of veterans such as Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, Billy Hart and Jack De Johnette as well as vocal contributions from Lalah Hathaway and Leni Stern and assume there will be enough serious jazz to offset the pop aspirations. They may be taken aback once they hear the clunky and heavy-handed environmental message in the lyrics Spalding penned for Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species.”

Radio Music Society is Spalding’s first all vocals/no instrumentals record and was conceived with maximum airplay in mind as the first track, “Radio Song,” practically declares. For those digging on Spalding’s girlish but limited range, they know exactly what to expect; but clocking in at over six minutes in length, wafer-thin vocals, knotty shifts in tone, and lacking a chorus to sing along with, “Radio Song” isn’t likely to give Adele anything to worry about when it comes to airplay supremacy.

Two years after its release, Chamber Music Society (Telarc, 2010) was still riding high as the sixth best-selling album on Billboard’s 2011 jazz chart and there is no reason to think the more overtly commercial Radio Music Society won’t perform even better. Despite the fact that it’s unfocused, messy and seems to go on longer than its nearly hour long playing time, this will easily be the biggest jazz album of 2012 (which is absolutely not the same as saying it is the best jazz album of 2012).

The deluxe edition includes a DVD with 11 videos (only “Endangered Species” doesn’t receive one). It’s a mixed bag because the songs that don’t really work on the CD, like “Vague Suspicions,” don’t work any better because there’s a visual to go along with the audio. Spalding is pretty, but she’s not a convincing actress and some of the story ideas are corny, embarrassing or both. The DVD includes bonus material including a 16-minute “making of” the videos.

Radio Music Society aims high and when it succeeds it achieves its ambitious, audacious agenda. A lot of this hinges on Spalding’s big goals, big talent and big hair. She is till a work in progress and even when her ambitions exceed her accomplishments Spalding is still one of the most interesting artists working today. It remains to be seen if she’s really “the One” or the latest in a long list of would-be jazz “saviors.”

Not that jazz necessarily needs one.   All the genre needs is exposure, airplay and some respect.  Jazz has had supposed saviors before.  Kenny G.’s snooze saxophone and Wynton Marsalis’ straight ahead approach taking jazz back to the roots were both hailed as “gateway artists” whose success would surely draw new listeners to jazz.  Has it really worked out that way?  It’s possible, but it doesn’t seem like its worked out that way. 

This review originally appeared at All About Jazz.com

“Unsung,” Ugly Egos and a Superstar That Wasn’t.

"Unsung? Who me?"

I watch very little television anymore.  I’ve been getting smarter every day.  A lot of pro football, throw in some news and DVR Frontline, and I’m pretty much good.  I don’t do reality shoes, competition shows, talent search shoes and any kind of Real Basketball Skanks from Jersey Whores crap.

Television doesn’t entertain me much these days so I’ll settle for being educated.

Which is why I enjoy TV One’s Unsung.   I learn stuff.  If you’ve got a favorite R n’ B act you’ve been jonesing to find out what they’ve been up to after they fell off the charts and have been relegated to night clubs and state fairs, this is your show.   It’s about as good a Behind the Music clone can be since VH-1 killed that show off and resurrected it as an zombiefied version of the original.  .

For those whom aren’t familiar with the show, the Wikipedia synopsis will fill in the blanks.

Each episode usually begins with the upbringing of the artist within his family, painting a picture of the issues driving the artist in his adult music career. Themes of “escaping the hard-life of the streets” and “experiencing physical abuse”, as well as “signs of musical genius”, can be found in many of the lives of the subjects of Unsung. Those interviewed in this segment of the show typically are family and friends, although some are famous if the subject of the episode is an R&B group. The story then progresses into the trials and triumphs of the artist’s early days in the music business, as the artist chases his “big break” which propels him into the limelight on the way to stardom. Fellow artists / music producers / managers of that time pepper this section of the show with anecdotes of the artist’s musical prowess and potential, and also possible hints to what may have lead to the subject’s downfall. The next stage highlights the pinnacle of the artist’s fame with the perks and perils that come with it. The final part of the show details the “turning point”, in which a major incident, mainly of a tragic, health-related nature, occurred that caused the artist to put his music career on hold for an indefinite period, if not permanently.

Unsung has tailored this formula, depending on the show’s subject, to portray artists whose “turning point” occurred for more business or personal reasons, and who may have recovered from it to continue a far-less famous, but rewarding, career.

A wizard, a true star, and a total egotist

The three stories I wish they would tell are the rise and fall of Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone and I doubt they ever will because nobody else has.   Remember a few years ago there were not one, but two Marvin Gaye bio-flicks in production, one that was supposed to star Jesse L.Martin from Law and Order?   Not ringing any bells?  Probably because they’ve been in development hell for so long we’re no closer to seeing a Marvin Gaye movie today than we were in 2008.

There are other acts I’d like to see get the Unsung treatment including Tevin Campbell, Ray Parker Jr., Angela Bofill, Mtume, Stephanie Mills, Starpoint, Karyn White, The Brothers Johnson, Stevie Woods, Atlantic Starr, and Terence Trent D’Arby,  Especially Terence Trent D’Arby.   As far as “the Next Big Thing” goes, it doesn’t get bigger than D’arby.

Ah, TTD.  Before Kanye West grabbed the crown of the world’s most arrogant pop star, the American-born, British transplanted singer was the undisputed champion of the Ugly Ego.

D’arby was good.  Real good.  His 1987 debut album Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby (pompous album titles was a running theme with TTD) sold 12 million copies including a million copies within the first three days it went on sale.

At the time, TTD was being mentioned in the same breath as other superstars like Prince and Michael Jackson. It seemed like he could do everything they could and then some.  He was also something of an egotistical prick.  He was nasty to interviewers, uncharitable to his competitors and hostile to his record label.   He had a Master’s Degree in boastful braggadocio.

“I had a job writing in a weekly newspaper but after a while that got boring because I realized the people I was interviewing were far less interesting than me and I didn’t see why I should be talking to them.”

“I am a true soul genius and, unlike certain other singers, 100 per cent man.”

“I may say a lot of strange and incomprehensible things as far as other people are concerned, but that is the way of all brilliance.”

These are not the words of a man suffering from a surplus of humility.   Long before Kanye West declared himself a genius and the rest of the world had better come to accept it, Terrence Trent D’arby was letting Prince and Michael Jackson, that there was a new neo-soul sensation on the scene and he wasn’t settling for running third behind them.

Hadn’t he already proclaimed his first album was better than Thriller and The Beatles ‘ Sgt. Pepper?  TTD was here to kick pop star ass, take names and without naming Jackson and Prince, serve notice there was only one “100 percent man” on the scene and it was him, not them.

What did D’arby in was the failure to follow-up The Hardline with a sophomore effort that could approach the debut’s brilliance.   The follow-up Neither Fish Nor Flesh: A Soundtrack of Love, Faith, Hope & Destruction was a pompous, sprawling, eccentric mess that tanked without fielding even one hit song. Nobody who sings as well as D’arby and has as many ideas can be a total failure, but by into indulging his excesses, D’arby confused his audience, turned off the critics and missed his chance to solidify his status.

You can be a smug little goof and an indulgent flake, but you have to deliver when it comes time to feed the fans.  A wounded D’arby chose retreat after Neither Fish flopped and wouldn’t release another record for four years until Symphony or Damn which while not as good as The Hardline,  it’s not as terrible as Neither Flesh Nor Fish.

Instead of showing he was 100 percent man, all D’arby’s bluster, hype and b.s. proved  was the difference between a shooting star and an enduring superstar.   A star does it once and flames out.   A superstar does it over and over and even when they fall off, they have built a legacy that extends beyond one lucky hit.

D’arby came, saw and he didn’t conquer.   He didn’t even have enough successes to be a failure.  He did it once and anybody can do it once.

That’s pretty much where the story ended for Terence Trent D’arby.  Literally.  He changed record labels, cut his dreads, dyed his hair blonde and legally changed his name to Sananda Maitreya.    He still makes music on his own label and like most other Unsung subjects, claims he’s never been happier.

Riiiiiiight.  Who wants to sell millions of records and make millions of more dollars?.  Going back to bars and nighclubs to sing for your supper is so much more rewarding.

Look, I get it that it’s better to be true to yourself and have no audience than play to the audience and have no self.   I’ve been known to put the intangible of art before the commerce of being a salesman, but one of the most played, tired and unbelievable clichés is the Musician Who Has It All, Loses It All and Couldn’t Be Happier That It’s Gone.   I’m not saying it’s impossible.  I am saying not everybody is happy about it and they need to stop lying that they are.

I am not expecting Sananda to be the first.  Okay Unsung, I’ve practically written the episode for you.  Go to work.

"Man, I'm boring myself."

Black History Month: Week Four

I’m a black American, I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity.

~ Michael Jackson

February 22 – Julius Winfield( “Dr.J”) Erving, former basketball player, born Roosevelt, NY, Feb 22, 1950. Also on this day DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win the first rap Grammy for the hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

February 23 – Baseball catcher Elston Gene Howard was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1965, Howard signed a $70,000 contract with the NY Yankees and became the highest paid player in the history of baseball at the time in 1929.

February 24 – Former world heavyweight boxing champion Jimmy Ellis was born James Albert Ellis in Louisville, Kentucky in 1940. Ellis won the World Boxing Association title after beating Jerry Quarry in April 1968.

February 25 – Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston for world heavyweight boxing championship in 1964. Boxer Mike Tyson becomes the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World by defeating challenger Frank Bruno of England in 1989.

February 26 – Theodore “Georgia Deacon” Flowers wins middleweight boxing title in 1926. On this day in 1964., the Kentucky boxer known to all as Cassius Clay, changed his name to Cassius X as he accepted Islam and rejected Christianity. “I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and in peace…I’m not a Christian anymore.” According to two biographies, Muhammad Ali by Anthony O. Edmonds and My View from the Corner by Angelo Dundee, Cassius Clay changed his name to Cassius X on the 26th. Elijah Muhammed, a black Muslim leader, announced Cassius X’s name was being changed to Muhammad Ali.

February 27 – Figure skater Debi Thomas becomes the first African American to win a medal (bronze) at the winter Olympic Games in 1988.

February 28 – In 1932, Richard Spikes invents the automatic gear shift. Also Musician and entertainer Michael Jackson wins eight Grammy Awards. His album, Thriller, broke all sales records to-date, and remains one of the top-grossing albums of all time.

Source:  http://www.floridablackhistory.com/facts.cfm

Dr. J. makes a house call.

Quincy Jones says Michael “Didn’t Want to be Black.”

The artist and the producer at their peak.

These are my last words on Michael Jackson.  Honest. 

At least for a week or two.

Some people have told me  in no uncertain terms  I’ve been hating on Jackson.   Someone even told me I need to apologize for all the mean things I’ve written about Jackson over the  years.

Please.   I don’t owe anyone any apologies.   Truth hurts and there were a lot of unpleasant truths about the way Michael Jackson lived his life.   To the sensitive individuals who have taken offense about what I’ve said or written about Jackson allow me to explain something for you .  It’s  unfortunate if pointing out Mr. Jackson was a imperfect human being hurts your feelings, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Everybody I’ve ever admired from Martin Luther King to Richard Pryor to Muhammad Ali had their shortcomings.  Everybody comes up short somewhere.  My heroes were fallible.  So are yours.   That doesn’t make them any less of a genius or an artist.  It  just makes them human and humans fail.  

Sometimes spectacularly.  Like Michael Jackson. 

My suggestion is if you’re looking for nothing but sugar-coating sweet nothings whispered about Michael Jackson,   look elsewhere because you’re not going to find it here.

The truth is spoken here and the truth about Michael Jackson is he spent a good part of his life trying to erase his Blackness.   The man was so uncomfortable in his skin he tried his best to crawl out of it.

That’s not what I think.   That’s what someone who knew Jackson and could only stand by and watch as a handsome young Black man gave way to a racially neutrual cartoon.    Jackson warned he wasn’t going to live his life being a color and he wasn’t kidding around.

Among all the wills, pills and b.s., here’s a “no shit, Sherlock” moment from somebody who knows how MJ slowly deconstructed himself,  Quincy Jones:
 

Art brought them together. Perfection broke them apart.

Q: You were there to witness the strange evolution in Michael’s appearance. Did you ever step in and saying anything about it?

A: Oh, we talked about it all the time. But he’d come up with, “Man, I promise you I have this disease,” and so forth, and “I have a blister on my lungs,” and all that kind of b.s. It’s hard, because Michael’s a Virgo, man—he’s very set in his ways. You can’t talk him out of it. Chemical peels and all that stuff.

Q:  Did you believe him about the disease?

A: I don’t believe in any of that bullshit, no. No. Never. I’ve been around junkies and stuff all my life. I’ve heard every excuse. It’s like smokers—”I only smoke when I drink” and all that stuff. But it’s bullshit. You’re justifying something that’s destructive to your existence. It’s crazy. I mean, I came up with Ray Charles, man. You know, nobody gonna pull no wool over my eyes. He did heroin 20 years! Come on. And black coffee and gin for 40 years. But when he called me to come over to see him when he was in the hospital on his way out, man, he had emphysema, hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, and five malignant tumors. Please, man! I’ve been around this all my life. So it’s hard for somebody to pull the wool over my eyes. But when somebody’s hell-bent on it, you can’t stop ’em.

Q: But it must’ve been so disturbing to see Michael’s face turn into what it turned into.

A: It’s ridiculous, man! Chemical peels and all of it. And I don’t understand it. But he obviously didn’t want to be black.

Q: Is that what it was?

A: Well, what do you think? You see his kids?

Q: Did you ever discuss it? Did you ever ask, “Michael, don’t you want to be a black man?”

A: No, no, no, please. That’s not the way you do it.

Q: But he was beautiful before?

A: Man, he was the most gorgeous guy.

Q: But he seemed to have some deep-seated issue with how he looked?

A: Well, that comes about a certain way. I’m not sure how it happens. I’m just a musician and a record producer. I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t understand all that stuff. We all got problems. But there’s a great book out called Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. Did you see that? That book says the statute of limitations has expired on all childhood traumas. Get your stuff together and get on with your life, man. Stop whinin’ about what’s wrong, because everybody’s had a rough time, in one way or another.

Another friend gone too soon for Q.

Another friend gone too soon for "Q".

Jones told Details magazine he was not attending Jackson’s funeral. 
“My condolences and love I’ve already sent to the family. But being there with 10 million people is not my idea of a tribute to somebody you were so close to—who’s got a part of your soul. Our souls were joined, you know. And a piece of it goes with him.”

They Don’t Really Care About Him (but it’s great television).

The many faces of the man in the mirror.

The many faces of the man in the mirror.

It’s funny to see on the music channels (MTV, VH1-Classic, BET) it’s all Michael Jackson videos all the time. You see so many of the same riffs repeated endlessly.

1. Michael dancing solo? Check.
2. Michael “gang-dancing?” Check.
3. Celebrity guest stars? Check.
4. Crotch-grab? Check.
5. MJ as a gang-member/gangster/bad boy? Check, check and check
.

By the time you get to his last music video, the atrocious “You Rock My World” guest-starring Chris Tucker, Michael Madsen and a massive Marlon Brando, even a lethargic Jackson seems to be just going through some tired motions.

What does it say when he was alive Michael Jackson forced MTV to start playing videos by Black artists and now that he’s dead he’s forcing them to play music videos again?

Not this one so much. 

[Meanwhile on Fox, MSNBC, CNN and Headline News, it’s round the clock saturation coverage with experts, musicians, celebrities, acquaintances crawling over Jackson’s corpse with their meaningless platitudes, remembrances and theories of what happened while some clueless reporter does a live stand-up outside of a building in Los Angeles or Neverland ranch.

This is going to be a ratings windfall for the cable channels proving yet again it’s a ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good.

For some reason I’m hearing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” in my head.

Which begs the question, how should the press cover Michael Jackson’s death?

In proportion to it’s true news value.  Not that that’s going to happen anytime soon.

If some facts emerge instead of idle rumors and baseless speculation, that’s news. Meanwhile there is stuff going on in the rest of the world that’s being drowned out by the din of All Michael Jackson, All the Time coverage.

The desire not to miss out on a breaking newsflash should be tempered with the ability to discern when the press is basically addicting the viewer with junk news and then constantly feeding the habit.

This is starting to look and feel a lot like the “Anna Nicole Smith is dead and Paris Hilton goes to jail” dog and pony show all over again and that was nobody’s idea of good journalism.  

But the 24-hour news cycle doesn’t care about standards of journalism and the consumer’s need for endless, and empty entertainment must be met.

It’s just ugly that it’s being done over Michael Jackson’s corpse..

Jackson was imprisoned by his fame and notoriety.