Lyrical philosopher Paul Simon once sang, “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” This essay is mostly about three such heroes (and maybe four.)

Stevie Wonder is a genius. So was Ray Charles and Prince. All three musical masters who, at some point, couldn’t sell big numbers records…


A 1977 piece takes me back to an avant-garde jazz moment

In 1977 I was a college student interning as a reporter at the Harlem-based black weekly, the Amsterdam News.

My goal was to learn as much as possible about reporting and figure out how to get my byline in the paper. In the pursuit of both, I pitched entertainment editor…


The maverick writer, director, singer and cigar smoker died at age 89 in NYC.

I first met Melvin Van Peebles in the summer of 1978. I was attending college in New York and hustling internships/free-lance writing gigs for experience and money. I talked a now long defunct black entertainment magazine…


The most celebrated liberated, muse/lover/artists of the late ’60s is Betty Davis, the funk goddess who hung with Jimi Hendrix, briefly married Miles Davis and made a couple of hard core funk LPs before dropping out of sight due to mental health issues.

Not as well known, but equally bold…


#BEFOREHIPHOPA A PROMOTER WHO TIME LEFT BEHIND

New York’s Beacon Theater

Concert goers either entered the upper west side’s Beacon Theater or milled on the Broadway sidewalk waiting on friends or dates. People smoked. Perfume and cologne wafted. Taxis and town cars dropped off well dressed folks. The crowd was overwhelmingly black and in…


Well, if all William ‘Bootsy’ Collins did was anchor the James Brown “new breed” band for eleven months starting March 1970 and then play on and co-produce the bulk of the mid-70s Parliament-Funkadelic classics, he’d be one of the most important musicians of the ’70s.

With his brother Phelps ‘Catfish’…


Previously unpublished excerpts from my interview with legendary background vocalist taken from the doc Finding the Funk (available for rent or purchase on Amazon.)

Few people have a funk pedigree that matches Dawn Silva. She made her recording debut with Sly & the Family Stone, toured with Parliament-Funkadelic, and was the longest-serving member of the Brides of Funkenstein before singing with the Gap Band during their early ’80s run of superb albums.

But Dawn…


On what would have been his 63rd birthday an appreciation of his vocal mastery and influence

Michael Jackson would have been sixty-three years old today. He died in 2009. Even before his death, his reputation had been damaged by a child molestation trial and, since his passing, a documentary featuring two dancers who accused him of sexual abuse when they were young. Yet his music lives…


Birdel’s in Bed-Stuy was one of the now long lost neighborhood records stores

The corner of Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street is buzzing with shoppers, cars, city buses, children being scolded by their mothers, brothers in dark suits and now ties hawking Muhammad Speaks, and music soul music coming from…


Motown, Soul Train and Right ON! magazine sparked theblack Hollywood dream #beforehiphop

Ask any Detroit resident of a certain age and they’d bemoan the exit of Berry Gordy’s Motown Records from the Motor City in the early ’70s. Ask any of the remaining Funk Brothers, the fantastic session players who…

Nelson George

Author and filmmaker. Current books: a novel, The Darkest Hearts (Akashic); music collection The Nelson George Mixtape (Pacific) www.pacificpacific.pub.

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