Reflections: Gratitude called for Black music


In the summer of 1976, during the glory days of disco, the Bee Gees had an exciting, fast-paced, strongly black influenced hit, “You Should be Dancing.”

It frequently crosses my mind how grateful white America should be for the presence of African Americans. Our contributions, though frequently uncredited, have been and continue to be monumental in almost every field — fashion, education, language, inventions, attitude so many more.

Nowhere is the black influence more evident than in music. Rhythm and blues, gospel, jazz, blues, hip-hop…it’s a long story. Without black people, the American musical landscape would be dry. Indeed, rock and roll simply would not exist were it not for the music made by African Americans.

It’s a “black thing,” but now, more than ever, in one sense it is “everybody’s thing.” There are plenty of very good white “soul” singers out there — Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Robin Thicke, Joss Stone and Adele, to name a few — whose burgeoning careers are built on a black foundation.

Without Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson and hundreds of others, they would not be doing what they do, and would certainly not be in such lofty positions.

The cultural sharing or adopting is only a problem when the white artists get more “play” and “props” than the African Americans who influenced them.

If every white person made a list of “blessings,” somewhere on the list — in the upper region —should be the fact that “we” are here.

EVERYONE, it seems, wants to get in on a good thing, have at least a connection to what’s “hot,” especially if there is money to be made. The Fox Broadcasting Company and Saks Fifth Avenue have entered into a business relationship to introduce a line of clothing based on one of the hottest TV shows.

The “Empire” Collection will be introduced to the public very soon, enabling fans to dress like the complex Lyon family — Lucious, Cookie, Jamal, Hakeem and Andre.

While a TV show with a clothing line is a rarity, many television shows have influenced fashion. That would include “Dynasty,” “Miami Vice,” “Sex and the City” and, of course, “Soul Train.”

Speaking of “Empire,” there are conflicting stories as to why Wesley Snipes, the original choice to play Lucious Lyon is not on the show. He says it was due to “a combination of things and the time demands.” But co-creator Lee Daniels said a new casting decision was made because of the strong urging of Taraji P. Henson, who portrays Cookie.

CIARA (full name: Ciara Princess Harris) wishes people would mind their own business. There is all kinds of talk about the singer with regard to her former boyfriend, rapper Future (real name: Nayvadius Wilburn), their son, Future Zahir Wilburn, and current boyfriend, NFL player Russell Wilson.

Among other things, people believe Ciara should not bring another man around Future’s son, and Future strongly dislikes the situation as well.

Ciara says she has just been living her life and will continue to do so.

Remember SWV? They had a lot of hits in the ’90s. Well, the ladies are back together and have new product on the market.

Smokey Robinson recently taped a concert at the Apollo Theater as part of the “Legends: OWN” series. It will air on OWN (Oprah Winfrey’s Network) in October.

Because he looks so good and is so active, it is hard to believe that Robinson is 75 years old. And just think of all the classic hits he wrote, produced and recorded with the Miracles and as a solo act, including “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Ooo Baby Baby” (Donnie Simpson’s all-time favorite song), “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Shop Around,” “Who’s Lovin’ You,” “Cruisin’” and “Being With You” to name a few.

Plus all the hits for others, such as “Get Ready,” “My Guy,” “The Way You do the Things You Do,” “I’ll be Doggone,” “My Girl,” “Floy Joy,” etc.

BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW…that the Spinners were originally known as the Domingoes, and in the early days of the Spinners recorded a song titled “Itching for My Baby But I Don’t Know Where to Scratch.”

MEMORIES: “Door to Your Heart” (the Dramatics), “Just the Way You Are” (Billy Joel), “Here and Now” (Luther Vandross), “The Glamorous Life” (Sheila E.), “When She Was My Girl” (the Four Tops), “Every Little Bit” (Millie Scott), “Groovy Situation” (Gene Chandler), “Foolish Little Girl” (the Shirelles), “Hey, Girl” (Freddie Scott), “Again” (Faith Evans).

BLESSINGS to Joe Spencer, Rian Barnhill, Stephanie Washington, Tamela Jones, Keith Washington, Hansen Clarke, Willie D. Williams, Aretha Watkins, Linsey Porter and Carol Prince.

WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Alan Cohen: “The universe will reward you profusely for being what you are.”

Let the music play!

Steve Holsey can be reached at and PO Box 02843, Detroit, MI 48202.

From the Web