Archive for the A Remembarance to Aretha With Love Category

Blood on His Hands!

Posted in A Remembarance to Aretha With Love with tags , , on January 15, 2021 by playthell

The Sedition FullofshitticusI

A Menace to the World

A Rottening in America…The Danger Zone is Everywhere

Langston Hughes, the late great Poet Laureate of Harlem and one of the most important American literary voices of the 20th century,  penned a powerful poem that posed the question: “What happens to a dream deferred?  Does it dry up like a raison in the sun?  Does it cake over like a syrupy sweet and then run?   Does it sag like a heavy load?  Or does it explode!”  What we witnessed in the deadly assault on the US Capitol by an enraged, racist and untutored white mob, was the result of Don tha Con, a flat footed New York flim flam man, selling them a bogus dream of turning the clock back to a time in which white supremacy reigned supreme.  It is a dream totally at odds with political reality.  And when the election results, much of which was fueled by black political activism, deferred that dream…they exploded in the nation’s capital!

White trash with money, Devious Dirty Donald beguiled, emboldened, and mobilized white trash  across the country, the bamboozled boobs in the boonies, the clueless Trumpanzees to whom he is patron saint , to realize this grand delusion.  And the whole world witnessed the US president exhort this mad motley mob to assault the peoples house, drive Congress into hiding fleeing for their lives, and killing five people, including a capitol police officer.  The question now facing the American people is: Where do we go from here?

At the conclusion of the Civil War, the world’s first modern war and by far the most destructive, Abraham Lincoln pronounced “With malice toward none, and charity for all, we shall bind up the wounds of the nation,”  It was a message that signaled to the southern traitors who had tried their damdest to destroy our constitutional republic, that he intended no retribution.  It proved a mistake, for there had been no change of heart among the southern traitors as they rose from the ashes of defeat to create a system that while not chattel slavery, was far from the “Freedom” promised Afro-Americans in the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th 14th and 15th Amendment to the Constitution, buttressed by the seven Civil Rights Bills passed by Congress between 1866 and 1875.

And judging from the parade of confederate battle flags – the ultimate symbol of the treasonous fight to preserve black enslavement in America, which has also become the adopted flag of the neo-Nazi movement in Germany because it is illegal to display any Nazi insignia –  inside and outside of the supreme parliament of Republic, many of the descendants of that treasonous southern scum remain unrepentant 175 years after the defeat of the Confederacy on the battlefield.  Hence, contrary to the swelling chorus of timid, misguided, and conciliatory voices employing decorous language pregnant with sappy sentimentalism and Christian reconciliation, we cannot simply move on from this tragic episode in our history without a reckoning with the fascist, racist, rebels who wreaked destruction and bloody murder in the great House of the People.

To begin with, before we can seek higher ground, we must face the facts of our history and stop lying about who and what America is!  Those who profess shock at the fact that millions of Americans were willing to believe and act upon the transparent lies of Dirty Donald, a man whom professional fact checkers at the Toronto Star and the Washington Post had catalogued thousands of lies emanating from his lips, are exemplars of self-deception.  For Americans have been prepared to believe colossal lies about who we are, and what American is, all of their lives.  Too much of what has passed for history in  our public schools are blatant lies that would shame a nation that values truth.  Alas, when truth contradicts the Master Narrative of American civilization lies are revered, propaganda is privileged over history, amoral bullshit artist are afforded center stage while wise and moral men languish in the wings.  And this makes certain that we as a people will fulfil the prophetic warning of the Harvard Philosopher George Santayana: ”Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it’s mistakes.”

The almost total ignorance of two critical cautions offered by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to succeeding generations of the new nation they had founded, lay at the very heart of our present crisis.  In his farewell address to the nation in 1796, George Washington, the nation’s first President, told some timeless truths and warned us about the dangers of the factionalism created by political parties.

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests. However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government…”

I strongly implore the curious reader in search of a fuller enlightenment on our present tragedy, when the foundations of our constitutional democracy are being challenged, to read President Washington’s words carefully, then consider its relevance to this moment of national crisis.

As the first man in world history to willingly give up power, Washington’s expressed views on why he would not stand for office again are especially propitious.  For our nation is plagued with a president who is a criminal amoral buffoon, a coward in war and corrupt in economic and political life, who is willing, like Adolph Hitler, to wreck his country if he cannot remain in power.  Although Washington, a shameless hypocrite who, like all of the founding fathers save John Adams, kept or defended the keeping of African slaves as chattel – a horrendous crime against humanity – nevertheless concluded that serving for eight years – from two years after the Constitutional Conference in 1789 to 1897 – was enough.   None had led Americans in war and peace as he had, yet he told an admiring and grateful nation:

“Friends and Fellow Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.  I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.”

Dirty Donald Dimwit shall not compare favorably to this example.  The thoughtfulness of President Washington’s Farewell Address, the eloquence of language, and the deeply felt love of the nation all serves to highlight the lowlife, amoral, treasonous, cowardly, inarticulate, treacherous, Nature of Dirty Donald Dimwit!

This is also a propitious occasion to remind the nation of the prescient warning of Thomas Jefferson, author of the American Declaration of Independence, who is widely considered the wisest of the Founding Fathers.  A leader of the American version of the 18th century Enlightenment, which privileged reason over religion and physics over metaphysics, in their quest to understand how the world worked, Jefferson was an impassioned advocate of public education and the free press.

He succinctly summed up these sacred passions in two statements: “If I had a choice between a government and no free press, or a free press and no government: I would take the free press and no government.”  And “A popular democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate, because an ignorant electorate will elect and return the worst people to power…There never was a people who were ignorant and free, there never was and there never shall be.” 

The profound prudence of these statements, and their self-evident relevance for our times, should be all to obvious to those who are not intellectually handicapped by excess air in their heads, and holes in their souls.  Alas, the 74 million Trumpanzees who voted for Dangerous Devious Donald in the past election, even after all his evil deeds have come to light, offers unimpeachable evidence that widespread ignorance and spiritual corruption pose a greater danger to the health, and wealth, and domestic tranquility of Americans than the Covid plague!

Trumpanzees Commit Murder and Mayhem in our House!

 See ABC TV Chronological Narrative

A visual timeline on how the attack on Capitol Hill unfolded – ABC News (go.com)

 

Enraged Trumpanzees Storm the Barricades!

************************

Crazed Trumpanzees Storm the Halls of Congress!

 

***********************

Terrorists Invade and Trash Speaker Pelosi’s Office

Defiling the Highest Level of the US Government

This Treason Must and Will be Punished!

 

Playthell G, Benjamin
Harlem, New York
1/15/2021

To Queen Aretha with Love!

Posted in A Remembarance to Aretha With Love with tags , on September 19, 2018 by playthell

The Greatest Bows to the Queen

Another Cultural Icon has Slipped Away

Today, Friday October 31, Detroit held a going home ceremony for their illustrious daughter Arethea Franklin, the legendary “Queen of Soul,” and what a celebration it was! As was to be expected, many luminaries from the music world were there, and through the alchemy of television and the internet the whole world bore witness as her memory was praised in soaring song and magnificent oratory….. as few have ever been praised.

Testimonies came from preachers and politicians, community leaders, fellow artists, engaged scholars, iconic Civil rights leaders, family and friends. There has seldom been as many heavenly voices and marvelous musicians gathered in a single performance, and the music was heavily based in the gospel tradition of the black church; the sacred smithy from whence Aretha’s artistry was born, forged and continued to be inspired.

There were so many magnificent performances it could inspire admiration and even provoke envy from a choir of angels, and thus is beyond the scope of this remembrance to adequately cover no matter how erudite and able the writer. Hence I recognize that to chose any one performance for special attention would be arbitrary, and thus appear to do injustice to all the others that were equally as worthy.

That said, as I write my spirit is dancing to the powerful singing of Ms. Adurey DuBois Harris, and the amazing Chaka Khan. Thus I feel compelled bear witness. Beyond this I will urge all who loved Aretha to witness the celebration themselves on You Tube. Unless you got a hole in your soul you will experience a baptism by sonic fire, sweet tones that touch the soul. Music with a message crafted in grand poetic phrases, delivered by God’s Trombones in the intoxicating cadences of the black protestant church; gushing forth like waterfalls that bathe you in the word. Mind that you don’t find…..your spirit dancing too.

As my Grandfather Deacon George Benjamin would declare: They had church at the Greater Grace Temple in Motown today. The grandeur of the Afro-American church was on full display. It was an Amazing Grace of such power it could even touch the soul of an un-churched heathen like me.  I was moved to tears by Ron Isley’s rendition of “His Eyes Were On the Sparrow,” a song I heard my Grandmother Claudia – as righteous a Christian woman as ever lived – sing many times when I was a boy, while accompanying herself on the piano.

When I heard that Aretha Franklin had finally danced and joined the ancestors it didn’t come as a shock. Having witnessed several of my friends go through this ordeal, once I heard she was in hospice care I knew this was the final step before death. Yet, despite the fact that I was expecting it, I am having a hard time finding words adequate to express what I am feeling just now. And I never have problems finding the right words for any occasion; writers block is a alien phenomenon to me. Whenever I wish to write something about anything I just sit down and do it.

I have been told by my fellow scribes that this is a gift, perhaps so, but it is a gift that for the moment has stopped giving. As I sit staring at the blank page through the tracks of my tears, I wonder if there are any words that can capture the magnificence of the Grand Diva whose soulful voice provided the background sound for so many magic moments in my life…in and out of bed. For years I would tell people that Aretha had permission to sing in my head, my heart, or my house whenever she felt like it!

****************

Despite the fact that I knew many of the Afro-American icons in my life and time, I met Aretha only once, and only briefly. It was at the beginning of her career, before she became a big star. She was playing the Showboat, a small Jazz club on Lombard Street in Philadelphia. The Showboat was legendary as a venue for straight ahead Jazz virtuosi like John Coltrane and Art Blakey, who were known for their artistry rather than commercial success.

The Showboat attracted an audience of “purist” for whom “going commercial”- which is to say becoming too popular and making money – was the kiss of death for a “serious” musician. This, of course, was a distinction that was born with the Be-bop revolution ushered in by musicians of genius such as Charlie Yardbird” Parker, John Berks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Kenny “Klook” Clarke, Theolonius Monk, Oscar Pettiford, et al. These master musicians were obsessed with being considered “serious artists” rather than mere “Negro entertainers.”

The masters of big band Jazz such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Andy Kirk were not burdened by this artistic angst for they were unconcerne with such matters. Like William Shakespeare, a theater owner, they understood that performers could be great artists and be popular i.e. commercially successful too! Aretha was cut from that cloth.

At the Showboat gig she played piano with her trio and sang magnificently. I attended the last set of a Saturday night show. And as the witching hour approached she played Theolonious Monk’s Jazz standard Round bout Midnight, and as Sunday morning came in Aretha turned to the audience and began to speak while playing softly on the piano.

Aretha told us that she was a child of the church and learned to sing in the church choir. She explained that her daddy was a great preacher, the Reverend  C.L. Franklin of Detroit – who was one of the first preachers to make his sermons available on commercial recordings – and that if she were home her daddy would expect her to sing at the morning service. Then she said: “So I’m gonna take yhall to church this morning. Open the doors and let everybody seeking fellowship in.” 

Accompanying herself on piano, she gave a marvelous solo performance of Precious Lord Take My Hand.” This song, which introduced the modern Gospel sound into black church music, was composed by Thomas Dorsey and first recorded by the incomparable Gospel Diva Mahalia Jackson; it is a healing hymn, a balm for the wounded spirit. The character of this song was shaped by it’s raison d’etre.

Professor” Dorsey, as he was popularly known, was a bluesman; the pianist and arranger with blues Diva Ma Raney’s band. He was travelling with her on tour when he got word that his wife was in the hospital and was having difficulty giving birth. He left the road immediately and hastened to her bedside…. but she and the baby died before he reached her.

It was in the depth of this pain and dispair that Dorsey composed “Precuous” Lord.” Hence the poignant poetry of pain and pathos bordering on dispair, rescued by appealing to the grace of God. It is a perfect marriage of words and music that produced an artistic edifice powerful enough to shelter the battered soul. Aretha’s rendition of this healing hymn was so deeply moving she invoked the spirit of God in “the house of the Devil.” She would evoke this same soul power when she sang it for Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral. Aretha’s soul stirring rendition of this song concluded her set to rousing applause.

I made my way over to her and expressed my admiration for her musical gifts, and predicted that she was going to be big! History has proved me prescient in this instance; for she became very big indeed! Not only is there no singer in 20th century American music more important than Aretha Franklin, but the amazing line of Afro-American Divas in the Rhythm&Blues / Pop music genres are her artistic progeny.   Natalie Cole, Whitney, Mariah, Mary J. Blidge, Byonce, etc On her first hit record “This Will Be,” Natalie Cole come perilously close to outright imitating Aretha’s style. Whitney was taught the art of singing by her mother, Cissy Houston, a fabulous singer who sang back up for Aretha.

When I was hired to write the official CBS biography for Mariah Cary by Marylin Laverty, Director of Publicity for Columbia Records Group, before the release of her first album, Mariah told me that although her mother was an opera singer and she had been around classical singers growing up, Aretha Franklin was the major inspiration for her. And if one has discerning ears, you can hear Aretha’s influence on Mary J, whether she says so or not.

White singers and musicians were also influenced by Aretha. Ten time Grammy Award winner Bonnie Rait says he got both her concept of how to be a singer and a woman from listening to Aretha’s records. Elton John says she is his favorite piano player, and Paul Mccartney has been effusive in his praise of her artistry and generously confesses her effect on the Beatles. The tragic British Pop Diva Amy Winehouse was so influenced by Aretha that some misguided British toblid wags had begin to call her “The Queen of Soul!” I wrote a brutal critique of that bogus claim in my essay, “ Fallen Angel.”

It is enough to declare that as a vocal artist, in the realm Gospel/Rhythm and Blues, Aretha reigned without a rival! Her 18 Grammy’s, numerous gold and platnum albums, myriad other honors and acolades, plus the love of millions of faithful fans around the world for over half a century, provide unimpeachable evidence for this claim.  The power of her artistry so moved the great Leontyne Price, Prima Donna Absoluta of the Grand Opera, she testified that when she wanted to listen to a singer for pure pleasure in private moments…she always chose Aretha. Now let every head bow and every tongue confess the Queen’s majesty.

*****************

But beyond the extended praise for Aretha’s mastery of song – the apotheosis of which was 91 year old actress Cicily Tyson’s rendition of Paul Laurance Dunbar “When M’Lindy Sings,” there were many remembrances of Aretha’s contributions to the liberation struggles of her people. Since that struggle has always been based in the black church from the movement to abolish slavery in the 19th century, to the great Civil Rights struggle that abolished the legal racial caste system that arose to arrest the progress of Afro-Americans after Civil War and Reconstruction destroyed the system of chattel slavery, many of the Civil rights leaders that paid tribute to Aretha’s activism were ministers. Since I can command no superlatives to adequately convey the full granduer of their testimonies, a mere description of their panegyrics will have to suffice.

They arose, Gods Trombones, and offered their fanfares one after the other: the Reverends Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Bishop William Barber and Aretha’s homeboy the Reverend Doctor Michael Eric Dyson – erudite philosopher and preacher – among others. In the rolling cadences of the Afro-American sermon, an art which the literary masters Zora Neal Hurston and James Weldon Johnson called “epic poetry,” they called upon great thinkers from Dr. WEB Dubois to William Shakespeare, to modern prophets like Dr. Martin Luther King, to the prophets of the Old and New Testiments.

They told how Aretha went on a nationwide tour with the great actor/singer/activist Harry Belafonte to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when Dr. King didn’t know how he was going to pay the organizations bills, thus keeping the most important organization in the Civil Rights Movement alive. And we learned that she defied her conservative Christian father when she bailed Angela Davis, a Communist radical activists, out of jail. This is a side of Aretha that many of her fans do not know.

Alas, when the Reverend Jasper Williams Jr., pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Georgia, took the podium we were reminded that the black American church has it’s progressive and backwards tradition. Rev. Williams belongs to the conservative fundamentalist wing. I had never heard of him before, but based on his sermon he would be right at home with the reactionary white southern Evangelicals.

In a discourse on the meaning of “soul,” which began with some interesting insights on the subject inspired by a a passage in one of Rev. C.L. Fanklin’s sermonsJasper’s presentation quickly degenerated into a gaggle of fundamentalists fiddle faddle that posited false dichotomies between the need to have “good housing” vs. having “good homes,” when the plain truth is we desperately need both!

Then he rattled off some figures on black lives lost as a result of racist attacks vs. black lives snuffed out by the predatory black criminals that plague our neighborhoods. While this is a touchy subject that should be honestly confronted, Jasper’s speech lacked the proper context and nuance; hence it sounded like the victims and perpetrators are in it together. To the naive or malicious this provides a rationale for the argument that victims share the blame for their victimization.

This is a well worn tactic of the racist reactionary right, and this speech might well give them new ammunition to attack us with racist propaganda. It’s much like a sheriff who rids into t town ravaged by bandits…and shoot the wounded!  Before Jasper spoke, Dr. Dyson had pointed him out as an exemplar of a style of black preaching called “Whooping,” a style common to old style down home black preachers. celebrated by James Weldon  He proved to be a master of the style, but the gravitas of his sermon did not rise to the artistry of his oratory: He was preaching pious prattle!

Yet a few moments folly could not seriously injure the magnificent veneration ritual that served as the last rites for the Queen of Soul. This celebration of a life well lived will be much noted and long remembered, which is fitting and proper for a great performer, whose profound artistry touched millions of souls around the world repeatedly.

The universality of Aretha’s appeal was dramatically on display when she appeared at a Kennedy Center Honors ceremony where the prolific songwriter Carol King was being honored, apparently unbeknownst to Ms. King.  Decked out in a fabulous gown accented by a full length fur coat, her ever present pocket purse marking her an elegant black church lady til the end, Aretha strolled onstage and sat down at the piano. To the astonished delight of Carol King, and everyone else in attendance,  Aretha began to sing “Natural Woman” in a way that only she could do it.

The power of her performance mesmerized the multi-racial cross-generational audience and moved President Obama to tears. As her performance brought back poignant memories of ladies I have loved before, the great loves of my life, I found myself silently weeping too. That’s when I realized how my adult life has been continually enriched by the power of Aretha’s songs; she inspired many bright moments in my life.  Hence in profound gratitude for the Queen’s prolific benefactions, I felt compelled to pen this remembrance to Aretha with love….

*****************

The Videos Below Show Scenes from the Funeral

And a couple of Aretha’s great performances.

Smokey Robinson’s Eulogy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pE3cu0pfNc

President Bill Clinton’s Tribute to Aretha

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5nvihg6Yw8

The Reverend Al Sharpton’s Eulogy and Reading of a Letter from the Obamas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLts9vLmS4A

Watch Jennifer Hudson’s Electrifying Performance of “Amazing Grace”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNHGWwzrKUk

The Reverend Jesse Jackson Eulogizes His Friend

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNHGWwzrKUk

The Extraordinary Tribute to Aretha by HomeboyDr. M.E. Dyson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3Os2dc6bFY

Another Detroit Soul Icon Ron Isley Eulogies Aretha and stirs our Souls with Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFoEnT85UdE

Chaka Khan Gets the Mourners on their Feet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYEkgnBIyJ8

Cicly Tyson Reads Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s poem “When m’lindy Sings”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nB71IdcsNc

A Natural Woman

Aretha’s Magnificent Performance at the Kennedy Center

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHsnZT7Z2yQ

Aretha Sings “Precious Lord” at Dr. King’s Funeral