Celebrating black Chicago style music legends

By Caryl Clem:

Rhythmic music vibrates as Earth, Wind & Fire starts a song and you feel yourself jumping onto the dance floor.   Since the band first played in 1971 under the direction of Maurice White until today currently playing in Las Vegas, their unique blend of funky disco soul creates a sound you never tire of hearing.  Love experiences were featured in popular chart hits such as “Reasons”, “After the Love Has Gone”, and “Got to Get You into My Life.”  EWF music is often positive and inspiring thus giving you a feel good vibe as you is listening.  EWF has won 6 Grammys.

Love songs that last for decades were born in Chicago.  Lou Rawls rich baritone voice croons, “You’ll Never Find another Love like Mine”   a romantic favorite holding couples together on countless dance floors.  A perfect song for gentlemen wishing to win any lady’s heart was Lou Rawls performing, “Lady Love”.  Lou was born on the South Side of Chicago on December 1, 1933. His paternal grandmother was in charge of his upbringing introducing him to church and singing in the choir by the age of seven. Connections made through his church activities led to meeting influential black musicians Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield.  Over 40 million records during 40 years of performances testify to Rawls legendary status.

Curtis Mayfield, a singer born in Cabrini-Green Housing Projects of Chicago born June 3, 1942.   Curtis taught himself to play guitar that he found in a closet when he was about 8 years old and piano at his church. His golden tenor voice was discovered while he sang in his church choir by the founder of the group, The Impressions, Jerry Butler.   He became a song-writer producer with his record label Curtom while performing with this group.

During the 1960’s Curtis advocated civil rights in songs like,” Keep On Pushing”,  and  “ Get Ready”.  By the 1970’s Curtis became a voice to express what black culture felt, personal struggles and successes. He wrote the soundtrack to the 1972 album  “Superfly”. He produced songs with divas Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips. “In the 1990s, the musician inspired two different tribute albums (including 1994’s All Men are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, featuring Whitney Houston, Elton John, the Isley Brothers and Aretha Franklin)

Over the past several years, his songs have been sampled or covered by a host of performers, from rappers like Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Coolio and Dr. Dre to singers like Herbie Hancock, Deneice Williams, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.” https://www.biography.com/people/curtis-mayfield-9542244

A featured line dance during the 1950’s was The Stroll.  By the 1970’s “ getting the groove on” transformed into lively adaptions titled, The Hustle, The Bump, YMCA, The Funky Chicken, Disco Finger, The Bus Stop, The Robot, The Lawnmower, The Sprinkler, and The Electric Slide.

The absolute star of the 1970’s was produced by Chicago radio star, Don Cornelius. Showcasing 1970’s era style and flair featuring the rock star groups from coast to coast with spectacular dancers appearing on stage, “Soul Train “aired on WCIU-TV. The dancers became a HOOK for developing loyal followers.  As important as the dancers were, they performed without pay in the beginning.

From 1971 until 2006, youth discovered the latest music sensation from home. Five days a week for an hour, professional and amateurs paraded and sang the latest hits. Barry White with his 42 piece Orchestra, The Jackson Five or James Brown could be watched from the comfort of your living room. The excitement of a theatre showing could be enjoyed without tickets or parking worries. Several books describe the various acts and social impact this show made on America, Questlove culled personal memories and full-color photographs in Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of Generation (HarperDesign).

While Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments (Backbeat Books) Ericka Blount Danois is more of a commentary about what happened on this show.   Reliving this time period is easy with pulling up YouTube on your computer while you travel through time.

As February ends, I am thankful for the contributions from our Chicago born black musicians.

Grand Power

By Caryl Clem:

As indispensable as a backup flashlight battery

When life darkens, ahead difficult navigation

Love and wisdom shine in body form

Action centered supporting family

A search light offering a brighter platform.

Transportation to school

Bedtime requests, tuck in stories

Searching birthday gift “cool”.

Spend a 24/7 hour weekend monitoring children

Claiming their company, part of your vacation.

Flip any traumatic tragedy

Reversed by smiles and humor

Into a laughable comedy.

Events spun inside out

Removing personal doubt.

 

Grandparents, living source of family history

Legendary, bridging time

Discover what is mine

Building links to our ancestry

Linking past, future into a living story

Depending on your reliability.

Not important if one’s memories blur

You will always be honored for who you are.

Happy Grandparents Day

Reflections song

POETRY BY CARYL CLEM:

Just a note unlocks a memory

A mix of love and mystery

Holding on, then letting go

Loves continual ebb and flow

In just a note, magic returns

Remembering passions burn

Time heals, the music plays on

Finding desire embraced in a song.

Trying to preserve love?

For over twenty years, a wall of family photos compliment the staircase to our family home. And one photo scares me as I watch it changing….as I watch three people in the photo keep fading away. My father, Mother and myself taken over 50 +years ago.

Dad passed away two years after the picture was taken and Mother passed away 16 years ago.  Me at 10 years old, was ready to party in one of my best dresses.  Today, I don’t run as fast up and down the stairs. I spend more time staring at pictures from the past.

I remember the moment well when the picture was taken. It was a celebration for a new gift. We were all going out to dinner on Easter. My fathers closest friend just got his first color Polaroid  camera and he couldn’t wait to take a family photo of us. We didn’t have many stills since my father had a movie camera and somebody was usually left out.

Yesterday, I walked down the stairs and noticed how much color had drained and even our facial features had faded…strange, how mine were probably the most prominent. I was the only one still alive? And I had less years in front of me than behind. Does this picture define our earthly existence? How creepy, sad….should I take it down or restore the colors of that evening that I still remembered so perfectly?

Even the picture I took with my cell phone for this article is fuzzy. Is that a coincidence as I think and write of faded photographs, a bad photographer with a poor camera, or a  spiritual answer to my questions.

Later that day, I heard one of my Mother’s favorite songs by the Vogues, Turn Around Look at Me, and if you listen to the words, there is someone who will stand beside you. There is someone who will love and guide you and most importantly, waiting forever for you .

And suddenly, it hit me. For some, a message from God or the spirit of a loved one. The past is the past and memory, pictures, scrapbooks will deteriorate with time but the love expressed in a painting or photo will live on now in this world and the next. In this case, a family that loved each other and a reminder from heaven that true love never dies. I will see them again in new color, image and light. And maybe, just maybe I should be more concerned about right now.

As I gazed at the wall again, I thought that maybe I would create a new element to the staircase. Maybe some of my primitive paintings I am trying to master today would be a creative addition or my daughter and significant other’s current sketches. I will check my computer pictures and cell phone gallery for the latest in family, friends, birthdays, and holidays.

And I am going to leave the first color Polaroid just as it is.

Hate, hate and more hate

A child asked me why there was so much hate in America…..a child!!!!

So I looked up hate in America on the Internet where a child could easily access the information.  After the Charlottesville incident, the latest news articles listed what states had the most hate groups and the type of prejudice that they evoked. In fact, Florida was exemplified as one of the worst states for Americans….Americans.. I will state again…not to get along.

You have got to be kidding me!

I went to school in the 1960’s and grew up in a Jewish neighborhood with some of my best friends being Jewish and Black. And thank God in heaven the access to the virtual Internet, social networks and the media that is completely out of control didn’t exist for people to spew their dangerous name calling and insanity. These are virtual friends, for the most part, we may be talking to though I have known real intimate relationships deteriorate because of what that child called….what is it again???….hate. That is what it has become.

Back in the old days…better not say…automatically more grounds for discrimination and maybe hatred, we did not have to constantly verify what was fake news and the truth. And if we did not like someone…or hate someone which will always exist, we didn’t have social networks running with the highly exaggerated opinion or article so that writers could get a viral count in views for their work. Because that is what they want in the long run…they love to see us jump on ourselves, maim and murder others. They are right there to assist in anything that we need.

Hate articles bring in money. Because we read, we think, we have a bad day, think back to someone who we did not get along with in the past, watch more violent videos, suddenly, we too, are on our personal road to destruction. And you know what….hate, emotional pain, depression, animosity brings on the same in our own lives.

We begin to see our jobs suffer, our relationships weaken, our children struggle and illness take on new meaning;  becoming a part of our community, family and friends. All we have to do is read and think anti semetism, white supremacy, racism, KKK and we are creating lives for ourselves that will lack opportunity, happiness and ultimate peace. Wayne Dwyer constantly said what you think about, you create!

We are not Jewish Americans, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Irish Americans or German Americans, the latter many will call me. I don’t want to be known as a German American. I want to be known as an American that supports her fellow countryman…..that’s a line I haven’t heard in awhile. I want to be someone I can help to improve the lives of others. I want others to feel safe in my community and be understood for there differences. I want to be able to focus on the positive….because guess what, greater gifts are given to me when I can bring a smile to someone that may be living a life much worse than my own.

And I never want to be asked by children why there is so much hate in America. Because I can’t answer that question…nor do I  ever want to!

Unemployment can be a blessing

Since the early beginnings of the millennium, I had been in more than one job followed by doing time on unemployment. Being a single mother at the time and sole provider, I had always taken the first job offer to put food on the table.

For most, becoming unemployed is a serious professional crisis that depletes energy, reputation, self-esteem, health and, of course, money but unemployment can be a gift.

Unemployment offers quality time to be there for others in our life who may be suffering from crisis that is much worse than our own. Our purpose is not what we do but what we can do for others.

Maybe it is in the divine plan that we are forced to take a break and focus on what is important. If not a coincidence, then how do you explain the repeated stories of individuals losing jobs only to find themselves taking care of aging and ill parents during their unplanned sabbatical?

One friend admitted about being able to spend time with Mom located in another state, planning and celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday and experience her passing shortly after.

Three months after her mother’s death, she was offered a job better than the one before her unemployment.

One of my own unemployment stints allowed me to travel daily and take care of my son who was hospitalized and my Mother, who was in a nursing home, all at the same time. My mother passed away in the month of August and I was offered a position a month later.

Maybe we are rewarded with our return to the workplace because we utilized our vacation time without pay to extend our hearts; a gift of love that keeps on giving love to others.

Ultimately, being unemployed offered me exploration; time to become aware of my own passions and realize that we are meant to utilize our talents with the sole purpose of sincerely guiding others to a better day rather than spend time off strategically figuring out how to win the lottery. Not knocking those that do. If you have the answer to that one, feel free to share.

What talents of my own could I use to reach those goals? For me, it was by being able to write about my struggles in life and career that could express hope in volatile times.

Unemployment allowed me to develop my writing talent and consistent belief about the price of gold in a positive attitude and becoming a true survivor. It was time for me to write about being a true friend. As a result, I have contributed to several publications but my message remains the same; for my readers to believe in their own greatness.

Maybe we are in transition in our career with a job that is not paying the bills and though we keep applying, interviewing, we just never receive the results we expect. Maybe we are suppose to be in that position, not for ourselves, but for the sake of our co-workers who really need us. Another divine purpose we may not recognize.

Small gestures, smiles, words of encouragement, and determination can define the blessings of unemployment. Helping others will find a place of life-time achievement in own our hearts; more important than any other type of awards we could add to our resumes.

It has been said that most in their final days never seem to reminisce or talk about their career, financial accomplishments and wishing for that bigger house….only the love we have shared with others .

What successful people do

They fail…..more than once.  Because the more they put their effort into a task or project, mistakes will always be made but successful people try to learn from their mistakes. They don’t cling to the error, remain in the past or spend a lot of time focusing on what does not work. They continue to try again with a new approach and positive attitude for moving on.

Successful people have a purpose, a vision and that vision regardless of its highs and lows will keep you productive and producing the effects you want to receive. Although there are no guaranteed route to financial success, many continue to pursue their purpose and find that reward is not the number of dollars you make but in the number of relationships you establish or how you have helped family, friends  and ones you have never expected.

Successful people keep pushing to the next level always challenging themselves to be better. Many set high, almost impossible standards, but tend to come in somewhere in the middle and we respect them for never giving up and moving beyond past achievements.

Successful people truly feel that living a righteous life is key because dishonesty, cruelty and immorality will follow you and far more difficult to erase than any mistake in your business. Never do anything in your life you would be ashamed of seeing in print. Build a legacy of trust, respect and a caring example to others.

Successful people cannot succeed by themselves.  They need to network and open doors for mentors to help them progress if it is nothing more than words of encouragement. Sometimes we surround ourselves with others that are not devoted to our growth and successful people really watch for those who can tear them down. They don’t play games but choose and highlight those that are trustworthy.

Successful people always know how to redefine if necessary since they can’t control everything.  Sometimes they may  have to eliminate distractions but they continue to run their race not comparing themselves to others either. Life happens, but they stay the course and never give up.

Successful people practice a strong consistent routine even concerning their personal activities that include eating, exercise and relaxation. Because they work by the minute, not hour.

Successful people have a unique perception and awareness to help others be successful and find the answers to problems not easily understood. When solving issues or building toward a solution, they focus on the small steps they eventually climb to reach their goals

Successful people take time for mediation , prayer and gratitude.

And most of all, they know how to love.