soul

RIP, Teddy Pendergrass

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One of the truly great voices of soul.

Sam Cooke on American Bandstand

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I watched an American Masters special on Sam Cooke last night on PBS, and now I'm feeling Sam Cooke crazy. No one has ever sang like Cooke. I think he might be my favorite male singer of all time. There's something about the effortless grace of his singing that touches me even in the simplest songs (and many of his songs were very simple). It has the lightness of great pop music, but it also has the depth of great soul music. Very few can combine those two qualities - Al Green and Michael Jackson come to mind - and Sam can out-sing almost any of them.

As you can see from Cooke's conversation with Dick Clark above, he was also a businessman. He ran his own recording and publishing operations, and nurtured other talent as well.

If you're interested in learning more about Cooke, check out this hour-long show we did on him some years ago with Peter Guralnick. Guralnick's book about Cooke, "Dream Boogie," is wonderful as well.

If you want to dip your toes into his musical catalog, I love Live at the Harlem Square Club, a live album that showcases his more gospel-y performance style.

RIP to Willie Mitchell

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There's a secret list inside my head of folks I'd love to have on The Sound of Young America, and Willie Mitchell was near the top. He was the architect of Hi Records, the label that defined the career of Al Green, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson and others. He was peerless as a soul producer. The sound of those records is so beautiful, I simply can't describe it. Among other influences, it defined the sound of the Wu-Tang Clan and D'Angelo's Voodoo. The introduction to "Love and Happiness" is my favorite part of any song ever.

RIP to Willie Mitchell, dead at 81.

Betty Davis: Raw & Uncut

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A few years ago, I interviewed Betty Davis. In the 1970s, Davis was the wife of Miles Davis and a talented and accomplished musician in her own right. Her funk records were a bit short on vocal melody, but jam-packed with amazing grooves and raw themes. Her band featured the best funk players in the world. She was also spectacularly good looking and prone to wearing wild stage outfits.

In the late 70s, she disappeared from the music scene, and was very nearly never heard from again. At one point, a fan tracked her down so she could get the tens of thousands of dollars in royalties that she was owed by ASCAP/BMI, but she hadn't spoken publicly, much less recorded, in 20 years.

Her discography was re-released by Light in the Attic Records in 2007. She did an interview with our friend Oliver Wang for the liner notes, but that was about it. I'm a huge fan, and the people at Light in the Attic love public radio, so after weeks of concerted effort, we got her to agree to an interview with The Sound. The conditions: she wouldn't go to a studio and I wouldn't call her directly.

Our interview with Ms. Davis is one of our most popular - I think because Ms. Davis has so many fans desperate for a scrap of information about her life and career.The final interview, I think, came out pretty well. It has lots of her great music livening things up, and lots and lots of interview editing.

Since folks always ask me about this interview, I thought I'd share with you the raw audio of our conversation. Understand that the amount of editing that went into this show is very atypical - all TSOYA interviews don't sound like this in raw form. Just this one. Undoubtedly the most difficult interview of my life.

This raw interview runs 38 minutes. I won't even begin to estimate what portion of that is awkward silence.


Download MP3

Reppin the CT

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Colbert rips a guest verse with Alicia Keys.

Fela Kuti in Performance - 1971

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Wow!

Right now I am trying to imagine a world where I have $1000 to get my wife and myself to New York to see Fela!.

Shafiq Husayn - Lil' Girl

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Shafiq Husayn of Sa-Ra Creative Partners - Lil Girl

Gil Scott Heron "Where Did the Night Go"

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Long GSH history in my family. Used to run with my mom's crew sometimes back in DC in the 60s. Did some vets' events for my dad in the 70s and 80s. He's spent most of the past ten years or so struggling with addiction and in and out of court and jail. He's got a new record called "I'm New Here" scheduled for release in February. Here's hoping for the good, right?

Prince - Head (Live in 1981)

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Sometimes I think "Dirty Mind" might surpass "Sign O the Times" as my favorite Prince album. SO MANY POWER JAMS.

Jay Smooth on Michael Jackson

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Exceptionally insightful.

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