DONALD BYRD: RIP

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I decided, in late 2012, I really didn’t want to write RIP pieces anymore. I meant, absolutely, no disrespect to the likes of Marva Whitney or Inez Andrews or Fontella Bass or Ravi Shankar, et. al. But it is depressing when your site begins to resemble a roll call of the dead and as I’ve said in the past, for people like me, in love with music of the 1960s and ’70s, we are definitely entering into a time when a lot of our heroes and heroines will be passing away. […]

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PEACEFUL JOURNEY, MATTHEW

It seems wrong to say I had a “great time” at a memorial but I will say: if the goal of this Sunday’s public memorial for Matthew Africa was to partake in the kind of joyous socializing and good cheer that accompanied his gigs and parties, then it did everything you could want and more. At the end, a second line band lead people through the streets of Oakland, giving Matthew a proper musician’s send-off.

FOR MATTHEW AFRICA

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Matthew Africa is gone. I’m having trouble accepting this.

I probably first met him around ’91 or ’92, when I started volunteering at KALX FM in Berkeley. I admit: Matthew intimidated the hell out of me at first. He wasn’t unfriendly but he carried himself with a certain, serious countenance. He didn’t seem like the type to suffer fools lightly and I guess I thought myself a fool, or close enough to one. What trips me out to realize is that, for the longest time, I just thought of […]

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FOR HAL (AND BURT)

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I originally meant to write this as a dedication to Burt Bacharach, having recently prepped a mix for the Burt Bacharach Tribute night at Devil’s Pie. I was running behind (as I often do these days) but today, Hal David died.

I’m sure someone far more learned in the great American songbook can explain why, between the two partners, Burt Bacharach has seemed to draw more praise than David. It’s extraordinarily difficult to find a song that one man worked on that the other did not as well; as far as […]

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…THEN SOFTLY LEAVE

Maurice Gibb passed away before I had really begun Soul Sides so I never paid due respect to the Bee Gees. As a ’70s baby, some of my earliest memories of music revolved around hearing The Bee Gees – who were inescapable in the late ’70s – on the radio, at malls, etc. A bit milquetoast and cheesy? Sure. But I still love listening to this ballad in particular.

Robin Gibb, who passed away today, is that high falsetto you hear. Thanks for all the music.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

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Letters from my betters:

All Things Considered on Chuck Brown.

Ernest Hardy on Donna Summer.

HE HAD A LICENSE TO ILL

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Along with Run DMC, the Beastie Boys were the first rap artists I ever listened to obsessively. I never thought of them as a trio of individual MCs; they always sounded to me like a group package so I can’t say MCA was “my favorite” of three. But if Ad Rock had the most elliptical voice with its droops and slurs, MCA was the hardcore anchor: rough and rugged.

It saddens me to realize how both Run DMC and the Beasties, each lost a core member far before their time. At least, […]

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REMEMBERING JIMMY SABATER

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Sad news: Jimmy Sabater, the “velvet sound” of Latin soul, just passed away. To me, Sabater is one of the most undersung of the boogaloo giants, the literal voice to many of the style’s great hits. I had a chance to interview him a couple of years back for the liner notes to the Joe Cuba Sextet’s We Must Be Doing Something Right and am grateful to have had that opportunity.

Sabater and Cuba were, for the most part, inseparable from one another. It’s impossible to consider the accomplishments of one without […]

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HONORING THE DON

RIP, Don Cornelius.

Read.

Listen.

Watch.

ETTA JAMES: AN APPRECIATION

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Etta James was a singer who I always enjoyed on the periphery…in other words, I never made a concerted effort to really get that deep into her catalog but I understand, on a very basic level, that this was a Very Important Artist and not just because she sang one of the very best ballads ever sung in the history of people singing ballads. 1

So for this appreciation, I’m not going to try to pull off some “Etta James’s most important songs” post because I simply can’t claim to know this. […]

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