Princely Legacy

By
Jason Nugent

 

Photographer Unk. Title Unk. http://www.kstptv.com. Mar. 30, 2017

In 2016 we lost another legendary performer. Country stars like Merle Haggard, rappers like Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, Glenn Frey of the rock band The Eagles, David Bowie, Natalie Cole, and most recently Prince. They have all passed on leaving behind musical legacies that will inspire current and future performers to achieve their musical ambitions. It’s tragic when we lose icons, but at some point we all must come to that moment in our lives. When musicians pass, we tend to feel sadness because no longer will we be able to enjoy new music from them. We can take solace knowing what they did leave behind will remain with us.

The most recent death of Prince was a tough one for many. Despite what you think about him, he came across as genuine. He may have been flamboyant and oozed a certain sexuality, but musicians across the spectrum recognized his talent and respected him for it. Prince is known for his sexually charged lyrics but is widely hailed as a spectacular guitar player. Most of his music could be classified as pop, but there are many bands and musicians that understood his amazing guitar playing.

Years ago the thrash metal band Sacred Reich paid homage to him. It was a time when heavy metal fans weren’t supposed to like rap or pop music just like those fans weren’t supposed to like heavy metal. In their song “31 Flavors” off their 1990 album “The American Way” one line reads:

Black Sabbath
Ozzy’s voice is sick as hell
Prince, Fishbone, NWA
these are the things that I like to play
Mr. Bungle
is so very cool
so don’t be
an ignorant fool
there’s so much music
for you to choose
so don’t just be
a metal dude
it’s cool fool

At a time when musical fans weren’t supposed to cross barriers, here was a band flaunting the diverse choices out there and Prince of all people being singled out was a stunning choice for young metalheads. Throughout the ‘90’s other bands followed this trend trying to break down unnecessary barriers. And Prince is a perfect example of a musician deserving this respect.

His talent crossed genres and earned respect from countless musicians. Prince’s song “Darling Nikki” from his seminal album “Purple Rain” was covered by the rock band the Foo Fighters as a b-side to a single and found success as a top twenty hit in 2003. In 2004 at a tribute for George Harrison of the Beatles, a collection of rock legends performed the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Prince on stage as part of the tribute. When it gets to the guitar solo, they give way to Prince as he shreds the solo and clearly shows off his amazing talent. Surrounded by legends of rock, they give Prince his respect proving he’s no normal “pop” star. He’s someone with true talent recognized by his peers.

It’s tough seeing people we admire pass on but it’s something we have to face. We can crawl in a hole and pretend it’s not true but that doesn’t help anyone. What we can do is appreciate the gifted individuals while they’re here with us and respect their talent after they’re gone. For stars like Prince, their legacy lives on in their music. Fortunately his talent was known and respected by his peers and fans long before he passed on. 

The Father Of Rock-N-Roll: Tribute To Chuck Berry

By
F. Kenneth Taylor

On Saturday, March 18th, 2017; the music industry lost the ‘Father of Rock-n-Roll,’ some would rightfully argue, and music legend and icon, Chuck Berry. The St. Louis, MO native and music pioneer died at his Wentzville, MO home from natural causes, and currently no autopsy has been planned.  Born, Charles Edward Anderson, on October 26th, 1926, music entered Berry’s life very early as he discovered inspiration from Gospel, Blues, and even Country.

Photographer Unk. Chuck Berry. http://www.chuckberry.com. Mar. 20, 2017

Chuck Berry stepped on stage for the first time at Sumner High School, a well-known landmark among St. Louis natives and residents.  Unfortunately, as a teen, Berry was mischievous and troublesome, and soon found himself spending three years in reform school for his actions. Upon his release in 1947, he settled into normal life, earning degrees in Hairdressing and Cosmotology, before landing employment as a Beautician and auto assembly worker.  In 1948 he married and began a life with Themetta Suggs, the mother of his kids; Ingrid, Aloha, Melody, and Chuck Berry Jr., she survives him today.

It wouldn’t be until the 50s while he was performing with The Johnnie Johnson Trio, that music would take center-stage in Berry’s life.  While in Chicago in 1955, he met Blues Icon, Muddy Waters, who referred him to seek a recording contract with Leonard Chess; Owner of Chess Records, which was featured in the 2008, blockbuster film, Cadillac Records.

“The greatest of the rock and rollers”
~ Robert Christgau

It was with Chess Records that Berry would record some of his first hits such as; “Maybellene,” “School Day,” “Rock and Roll Music,” and “Roll Over Beethoven.”  Chuck Berry, an amazingly gifted guitarist’s, whose skill was unrivaled, and immortalized for his insane riffs, birthed Rock-and-Roll by capturing the teenage audience.  Even in his late 20s and early 30s, Berry connected with the ‘Teenie-boppers’ of the day with upbeat, energetic, ‘off-your-rocker’, classics including; “Johnny B. Goode” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

The 1950s made Chuck Berry–Chuck Berry; a rising star, electrifying guitarist, and household name from touring the country and starring in several films.  His rise to fame allowed him to purchase land in St. Louis, as well as open an amusement park, Berry Park, a nightclub, The Club Bandstand, and finally, a restaurant, The Southern Air. Nonetheless, the close of the 50s produced new legal woes which spilled over into the new decade and resulted in a brief prison stint.  Despite several appeals, Berry would be imprisoned from Spring 1960 to October 1963.

Upon his release from prison, Chuck Berry left Chess Records, and signed with Mercury Records.  He was thrilled to learn that British super groups, The Beatles and Rolling Stone were major fans.  During his time with Mercury Records, Berry recorded his first live album, the hits, “Nadine,” “No Particular Place To Go,” and “You Never Can Tell,” as well as four additional albums.  He returned to Chess Records in 1970s, for five years, before moving to Atco Records and recording, “Rock It,” in 1979, which would his final studio album for nearly 40 years.

“If you tried to give Rock and Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”
~ John Lennon

“The Shakespeare of Rock and Roll”
~ Bob Dylan

Chuck Berry performed regularly for several more decades, including a 2008 European tour where he captivated audiences in; The U.K, Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland.  From the mid-90s to 2014, he performed every Wednesday at St. Louis’ historic, Blueberry Hill.  His first album since 1979, Chuck, was scheduled for a 2017 release.

Photographer Unk. Chuck Berry. http://www.chuckberry.com. Mar 20th, 2017

During his career and life, Chuck Berry received countless accolades and recognition such as; A White House invitation by Jimmy Carter, The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and Time Magazine’s 10 Best Electric Guitarist of All Time. Berry is also featured on several “Greatest Of All Time” lists by Rolling Stone Magazine, in 2002, he was hailed as one of the first, BMI Icons, and named Laureate of The Polar Music Prize in 2014. Chuck Berry was also one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock-And-Roll Hall of Fame during it’s 1986 opening.

Undoubtedly, Chuck Berry was truly special and a rare, unique, precious gift to music, and world. We’ll truly miss you. Rest easy.

“Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest, pure rock and roll writer that ever lived.”
~ Bruce Springsteen

 

Sources:

 

BREAKING NEWS: Latin America Mourns Juan Gabriel

By
F. Kenneth Taylor

Before he was Adán Luna, and before he became ‘The Latino Elvis’…  On January 7th, 1950, in Western Mexico, Juan Gabriel was born, Alberto Aguilera Valadez, the youngest of 10 offsprings parented by two farmers.  After spending eight years within a boarding school; he escaped at the age of 13, and was taken in by two sisters of a methodist church… soon afterwards, he joined the choir.

Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images. Juan Gabriel. www.theguardian.com. Aug. 29th, 2016
Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images. Juan Gabriel. http://www.theguardian.com. Aug. 29th, 2016

When he was only 15; Valadez got his first break, and appeared on the Noches Ranteras show on the Notivisia TV Network from 1965 to 1968, and Adán Luna was born.  Despite an early break, success did not come easily, overnight, or without turmoil for Alberto Aguilera Valadez.  He would spend forthcoming years scrapping by as an underpaid background vocalist, a solo act performing small-time bar gigs, and receive several rejections by record companies.  Before he would record smash hits such as; Hasta Que Te Conoci (Until I Met You) and Amor Eterno (Eternal Love), and soar to unprecedented heights in Latin Music, he would also survive a brief stint of homelessness, and 1.5 years in prison.

Ironically, it was his time in prison that would become the springboard to his music career and transform him into a Latin Music icon.  It was in prison where he wrote the songs, “No Tengo Dinero,” and “Me He Quedado Solo,” which would gain the warden’s attention, and who would ultimately introduced him to La Prieta Linda.  Linda not only helped get Valadez freed from prison, but also negotiated a contract with RCA Victor.

Upon signing his contract, Valadez then took on the Pseudonym, Juan Gabriel.  Valadez explained, ‘Juan’ was in honor of Juan Contreras and ‘Gabriel’ was in honor of his late father.  Juan Gabriel recorded his first album entitled, El Alma Joven, in 1971, and the song he wrote in prison, “No Tengo Dinero,” would become his very first hit record.

Juan Gabriel’s career would go on to span the course of 4.5 decades, earning him over 100 million record sales, and righteous comparisons as being the Latino equivalent of Michael Jackson, and again titles such as; ‘The Latino Elvis’.  Gabriel’s last concert was just this past Friday, August 26th, 2016 in Indglewood, CA… He passed away last night, Sunday, August 28th, 2016, at the age of 66, in his California home from a heart attack.  He will truly be missed.

 

Sources: