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The Comic Genius of Little Richard

Little Richard

Time Magazine’s unpublished photos of Little Richard “The Wild Man of Rock”

 

Little Richard is a legend

Little Richard has been around forever and is a pioneer and a musical genius. He is also hilarious. I love to watch old interviews of him because before it is over he will have told the viewers how he is the real King of Rock and Roll and probably will have hollered “shut up” once or twice while batting his eyelashes. The man is a character. It takes a certain level of confidence to still rock Pancake #31 and a jehri curl after all these years, and Uncle Richard is still styling on everyone.

When Richard Met Jimi

I of course knew about his contributions to music, after all he is the one who brought us songs like “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Tutti Frutti” –  A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!  But I had no idea that he used to work with Jimi Hendrix. Apparently he and a young Jimi Hendrix worked together briefly during the 60’s and Richard was interviewed about the late rocker for a  documentary where he talks about the man as only he can.  

I found this clip  last year, and oh how I cackled about it for weeks. I  would repeat lines to other people who’d seen it telling friends about how something made my big toe shoot up in my boot. Or even announcing dramatically “I have something to tell you!” when I really didn’t. Uncle Richard is comic gold – those facial expressions and those mannerisms. Finding that video made my day.

The clip is less than 2 minutes long and Uncle Richard is serving up tea for your fever letting you know that he is the one who gave Jimi the confidence to not mind looking freaky because he did it first. You peons better recognize. He is resplendent in a a blue spangled jumpsuit with batwing sleeves and a headband that fails to keep that glorious mane out of his eyes so that he has to keep pushing his hair out of his face. He even manages to quote a little Scripture for you heathens.

I don’t know who it was that was keeping Little Richard away from Jimi Hendrix once he became a star, but shame on you. Just imagine the collaborations that could have come from them working  together as equals instead of Jimi just being in the band and having to stay in the background.

Get on Up

Uncle Richard is featured briefly in the new James Brown movie “Get on Up”  where he is played by Brandon Mychal Smith, and those scenes really do stand out because you see him schooling James Brown about the music business with his trademark spunk – and eyeliner. Little Richard is also the subject of a cult classic biopic from 2000 starring Leon that was just okay. It would be great though if someone made a major motion picture about his life while he is still here to have some input. Until then, do yourself a favor and enjoy the interviews and performances available online – you will not be disappointed.

Brandon Smith as Little Richard

Brandon M. Smith as Little Richard in “Get on Up”

 

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Dr. Maya Angelou Phenomenal Woman

Dr. Maya Angelou

 

“Lyrical Witness of the Jim Crow South”

The world lost a great treasure on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 with the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou who lived to be 86 years old. Earlier in the week her family said that she was not well, but I don’t think that anyone was prepared to hear that she had died. This wise woman was the kind of person who seemed to have been around forever and many of us thought that she would continue to be with us a while longer. Dr. Angelou was many things – a poet, an actress, a singer, a political activist, a professor and an all around phenomenal woman as proclaimed in her famous poem. The New York Times hailed her as a Lyrical Witness of the Jim Crow South. She rose up from terrible circumstances and became someone universally lauded as a great thinker and writer who performed for Presidents and inspired people from all walks of life with her very being. She was a tall, regal woman who spoke with the cadence and intonation of the sage that she was. When Queen Mother Maya told you that you were bright, beautiful and worthy of love and respect  – you believed it. Her words tended to our psychological wounds and fed our hungry souls. Just as Ossie Davis declared Malcolm X to be our living Black manhood and shining prince, Dr. Angelou was just that for Black women. A champion, a crusader and an example.

With the death of someone so prominent and revered, I should have known that those with ulterior motives would try to appropriate her story for their own agenda, but I did not expect that to happen this fast. Dr. Angelou passed on a Wednesday and by Friday there were already stories about the Westboro Baptist attention whores — I will not refer to them as a church because they are vile and hateful — planning to picket her funeral which had yet to be announced. I thought that the death of their founder Fred Phelps last year meant that we’d heard the last of these disrespectful idiots, but they are still at it. Oddly enough, they kept the details of Phelps’ funeral secret so that they would not have to deal with this sort of disruption.

Since these vipers have no decency, I hope that the security around the area of the funeral will be enough to keep them far away from the services what with all the dignitaries and famous folks who are likely to attend. And if all else fails maybe they will finally run into some folks who can show them the error of their ways.

Now as sickening as the thought of a protest of our beloved teacher’s funeral may be, in an even worse turn of events, a blog about sex workers is claiming that Dr. Angelou’s past as a sex worker is being hidden in the name of respectability politics. Dr. Angelou already discussed this part of her life in her 1974 autobiography “Gather Together in My Name” and has said that while she is not ashamed of what she did, she does not recommend it:

“I wouldn’t suggest it for anybody. I mean, if you happen to fall into that sort of experience, what you have to do is forgive yourself. If you’re in the very gutter, see where you are and admit it. As soon as you admit it, you can be like the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter. Get up and go home – wherever home is.”

 

maya-angelou-twitter

You cannot hide something that had been publicly documented, and while Dr. Angelou was not ashamed of her past, this is not exactly something to be celebrated. These people should not try to build their movement for social acceptance or whatever it is that they are seeking on Dr. Angelou’s name because she is not here to consent to it. And that was but a small portion of her life.

I understand that Dr. Angelou was many things to lots of different people but I had hoped that the opportunists might at least wait for her to be buried before they started trying to stake their claims on her biography. Let her family and friends grieve for a while before showing up like parasites trying to feed off someone else’s life.  Dr. Angelou was a dignified woman and she deserves to have a respectful homegoing free of foolishness and fabricated controversies.

 

Dr. Maya  Angelou

Iyanla Fix My Life

Iyanla Fix My Life

The New Season Began May 10

If you love “Iyanla Fix My Life” like I do, May 10 seems like a long time to wait for the new season. OWN has been running marathons, but I have seen most of those old shows several times already and am looking forward to seeing the new ones. I saw Iyanla during one of the seminars at the Essence Festival last year, and she was awesome. She only spoke for about 30 minutes and that packed auditorium was enthralled during the entire presentation. Her overriding message to the women there was that many of us are out of order which really cannot be denied about the collective. I read some criticism about that message later on, but please believe that the folks in attendance enjoyed every minute of her speech. Just because something does not apply to you that does not make it untrue. Furthermore, her comments were coming from a place of concern and not of condemnation – there is a difference.

The show is so popular because although Iyanla is a minister and a spiritual leader, she is very down to Earth and has no problem calling anyone out on their foolishness. Or as she puts it, “Calling a thing a thing.” On one of her first shows, she called notorious reality tv brawler Evelyn Lozada a thug among women, and Evelyn just accepted it. Heck, it was true. I can never understand why people get so upset when they come on the show and she confronts them about some glaring fault. Have they not watched previous episodes? I could definitely use her help, but there is no way that I would ever agree to air all my many personal issues on national tv. So my next best bet is to watch and learn from the show.

Celebrity Guests

In addition to Ms. Lozada, Iyanla has had other celebrities on her show like Terrell Owens, Syleena Johnson, Sheree Whitfield, the Pace sisters and DMX. That episode with DMX was a hot mess because he seemed like he was high and was so disrespectful to her that Iyanla told him that he could never speak to her again. He is an addict and in denial about what this has done to his family, yet he claimed that he thought he was there to discuss his womanizing and even threatened to sue OWN and Iyanla if they continued airing that show. Yeah, good luck with that Earl.

Iyanla & DMX

Calling DMX out on his filthy mouth

One of the most memorable moments on her show was when she was counseling a pastor’s wife about her relationship with her cheating husband and what that had done to her self image. The woman said that she did like herself even without the material trappings that came with that marriage and Iyanla asked  “So why would you sell her down the river for a hat and a parking space?” The woman could only respond that she didn’t know. She did ultimately leave the marriage which surprised the cheating husband who confessed to his bad behavior and said it was due to childhood sexual abuse.

Iyanla Counsels a first lady

Iyanla helping a first lady acknowledge her feelings

Here are the main reasons why I love Iyanla and her show:

She’s from Brooklyn. This is not as shallow as you might think because everyone knows Brooklynites are cool. Plus she calls people “boo.”

She is a sharp dresser. Iyanla does not shy away from color and patterns and her makeup game is on point.

Iyanla is a snazzy dresserIyanla is a snazzy dresser

 

Iyanla is dramatic. During an episode about 19 relatives living under the same roof, Mamma Iyanla was upset over how little empathy there is for the woman of the house whose husband has been moving various family members into the house (14 in total) without even discussing it with her first. Their children, his sister, a nephew, a niece and her small children are all there and they are anything but one big happy family. Surprisingly, the woman’s own son is one of the main critics and isn’t even defending his mother against the others who are acting like she is the worst person in the world. Having had enough, Iyanla stands up and announces that she is going to “weep in the bushes” for the lady of the house. Iyanla broke down in tears during the filming.

She comes up with her own words like craziment, and I admire folks who have their own vernacular.

She’s a hugger. You can come on the show acting like you are not going to be folded into her arms if you want to, but Iyanla is going to hold you to her bosom before it’s all said and done. Resistance is pointless.

Iyanla Hugging Evelyn Lozada

Iyanla gives good hugs

Her advice is accessible and real. It does no one any good to get lofty moral teachings that you have no idea of how to implement in your daily life. She may ask you to face hard truths and to do your work, but the concepts are pretty simple.