I’m writing this as I fly across the country on my way to the 2009 BET awards. Closing out the month of June, and subsequently Black Music Month, I always look forward to this awards show. It’s just as former host, comedian/actress Monique said, “this is like family reunion.” We are celebrating and recognizing individuals who have and who are shaping our culture, setting trends and new movements for other cultural groups and the rest of the world to enjoy. But right now, I want to highlight a particular trend and a particular set of individuals in our colorful “Black Music” culture that I have just recently joined the likes of: Isn’t that “so and so” from that group?
My mother called me after listening to the Michael Basin show on the radio to give me her version of pop culture gossip, which I love and think is soooo cute, it’s how she relates with her two daughters fully submerged in the world of entertainment. So after telling me about Chris Brown’s community service sentence and the official filing for divorce between Usher and Tamika, my mother changes tone because Jody Whatley was on speaking about her new album and experience in the group Shalamar. Yes, all of you remember Shalamar, “Gonna Make This A Night To Remember!”
My mother drew a comparison with me and Ms. Whatley’s feelings of being stifled and unhappy in a group that from the outside perspective was largely successful. Being vilified and crucified for speaking up when business matters weren’t right or creative vision wasn’t respected were all things she touched on in this interview and she also made a plea with all listening going through similar situations, to be brave enough to believe in themselves to make their vision come to light. WOW! Jody Whately…I feel like you were talking directly to me. Now had she not done everything she did with Shalamar, Jody wouldn’t be the person she is today- lets put that out there-, her or James Ingram. But had she not stepped out on faith we wouldn’t have experienced the great things she brought us in the 80’s and early 90’s. Shoot… Diana Ross launched herself from the platform the Supremes set yet we all know she is our supreme diva, Patti La Belle had two groups with hit songs but we love her “on her own”. The Jackson Five was HUGE, but look what Michael inspired in generations following him. Matter of fact, lets run down a list of wonderful groups and the wonderful individuals who expanded our musical horizons over the years.
The Ike and Tina Turner Review—Tina Turner
Gladys Knight and the Pips—Gladys Knight
Herald Melvin and the Blue Notes—Teddy Pendagrass
New Edition—Bobby Brown
Public Announcement—R. Kelly
Tony Toni Tone—Raphael