Monday, March 30, 2009

Jesse Jackson on "Sesame Street"

The Reverend, from a 1970 episode of "Sesame Street" that I fondly remember from my childhood. Dig the young Rev. Jackson. Looking at it now, two things come to mind: it's hard to deny the impact and beauty of this moment, and Will Smith, do I have a role for you, Brother.

And while we're here at Sesame Street, check out this clip featuring En Vogue. Back when there were four in the group, and I was crushin' on all of them. Especially Cindy Herron.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Warriors

A scene from Walter Hill's 1979 classic "The Warriors."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"House of Payne" vs "Amos n Andy."

Forgive me for allowing the 21st century to intrude a bit into the Soul Closet today. I did a mild rant on my Facebook page, expressing my disdain for "Tyler Perry's House of Payne." I think "House of Payne" is pandering, embarrassing, mediocre and unfunny.

A few of the folks who commented on my FB page compared "House of Payne" to "Amos n Andy," and I presume they meant the black-cast television show of the 1950s, rather than the radio show which featured white guys doing stereotypical black voices. The radio show had a long run, but the "Amos n Andy" tv show was run off the air--quick--by the NAACP and others for its depictions of scheming and shiftless Negroes.

I saw an episode of "A & A" on a bootlegged VHS when I was in college in the 1980s. I expected to be outraged, and--dare I say it--I laughed. I can see why it was banned though: Who wants to see Ralph Bunche holding court on NBC News, only to flip the dial and see Kingfish's scheming azz, talking in "dese" and "dos". So I present above a clip "Amos n Andy" and below, "House of Payne." Maybe the NAACP can do that thing one more time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kool & the Gang

Kool & the Gang's 1982 jam, "Big Fun."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stars & Stripes (and Plaid) Forever

I've been thinking about adding a new feature to the Soul Closet: class pictures. So I decided to prime the pump with my own. Here is Mrs. Hudson's 1st grade class, James Madison Elementary School, Chicago IL, 1971. See if you can pick me out.

School picture photography is lost art. My kids go to great schools, yet they bring home drab, washed-out looking photos printed on the cheapest of paper. But look at this picture bursting with color--befitting such a funky era.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Bill Cosby Show

For years, I'd been telling my kids Bill Cosby had a sitcom that predated the 1980s "Cosby Show." My recollection of it was sparse: Cosby's character was a high school teacher named Chet Kincaid; the show was funny, and there was an episode in which he drove his girlfriend to the dance in a garbage truck.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Cosby "sang" what has to be the funkiest theme song (written by Quincy Jones) in the history of television. When the first season of the series, which premiered in 1969 and ran for two seasons came to DVD in 2006, I snapped it up and screened it for the kids and we dug it. Especially the theme and opening title.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Melba Moore, Cleavon Little & Charles Gordone

Melba Moore, Cleavon Little and Charles Gordone

I got a friend request from Melba Moore today on Facebook. Turns out it was actually her. We've always had great love for Ms. Moore. As I accepted the request, I was reminded of this 1970 Ebony cover that I have featuring Moore, Cleavon Little and Charles Gordone. And Melba is wearing that dress, baby.

A talented trio. Moore and Little won Tonys in 1970 for their roles in Purlie; Gordone won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play No Place to be Somebody.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Funkin for Jamaica

All rise: Tom Browne's 1980 jam "Funkin for Jamaica." Among the personnel: Tom Browne on the horn, the great Marcus Miller gets funky on the bass, and Toni Smith (who co-wrote the tune) gives Chaka Khan a serious run for her money on vocals.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Whaddaya Know...the Revolution WAS Televised! else to explain this astounding find: James Brown singing "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" in a room full of white folks in 1968, and they're clapping and smiling and singing the chorus with him!

You were bad, Godfather. Superbad.

(The show was "Playboy After Dark" by the way.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baubles, Dangles & Beads?

Dangles and Beads

Sure, they look all funky and hip, but I wonder: Who wore these things, outside of that overly stern woman on the Mothers Board? See there, that girl on the left? Every Friday, she begged her mother and father to go to Kresge's and buy her a pair of these glasses. Then in March, 1970 the parents relented. The girl wore them to school Monday and was feeling pretty good. Then she saw her manless and lonely Home Ec teacher (the woman on the right, actually) wearing a pair just like these. And by Tuesday, the girl on the left had put them in the bottom of her jewelry box, where they were forgotten forever.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Janet Jackson

The Soul Closet opens this week with two videos from Janet Jackson. What strikes me most as I views these: How much modern pop divas still perform the moves Janet did 20 years ago.

Did I just say "20 years ago"? I feel old now. Gotta take a Geritol. Go head and watch the vids. I need to take my nap.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lola Falana on "The Muppet Show."

Frankly, I miss them both.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Great Biz Markie

Biz Markie turns 45 this year. Rap and hip-hop have been around long enough for its pioneers to reach middle age (Big Daddy Kane will hit 41 in 2009. Roxanne Shante? 40. Melle Mel will be 48. And Kurtis Blow turns the big 5-0.) But I digress...

Few voices in hip-hop over the past 20 years are as unique as that of the great Biz Markie. I still remember "The Vapors from his Goin' Off album back in '88, and do not sleep on Biz' live and fonky performance of "Schizo Jam" on jazzman Don Byron's superb and (underheralded) 1998 CD "Nu Blaxploitation."

But Biz' career is indelibly marked by this 1989 song, "Just a Friend" and the accompanying video, both of which are hilarious (check the Mozart get-up) and poignant at the same time. If mainstream rap would remove the manufactured scowl and get down like this just one time today...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

1988 Was a L-O-N-G Time Ago.

This was Hot (?) in 1988

This 1988 ad for Isoplus promised to help the Sisters keep their hair this way, but for the life of me, I've forgotten why. This was a hot style when I was in college and every other young woman came out of the Touch of Class beauty shop rockin this look and, in retrospect,looking rather poodleish about the head. But we brothers can't laugh too hard. Back then, every fifth male was cutting his hair like this dude.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cleopatra Jones

In the back of the Soul Closet are a pair of platform boots and a fur jacket belonging to one of the baddest sisters on film: Cleopatra Jones, played by the stunningly f-i-n-e, 6'2" Tamara Dobson, as a federal agent seeking to put the smackdown on an overacting Shelly Winters.

Dobson's plays the role with charisma, and given that the former fashion model had only one credited screen appearance before 1973's "Cleopatra Jones," she did a pretty good job as a female lead. Sadly, her career post- "Jones" career was all too brief. She was only in seven features between 1973 and 1984, including a sequel, "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold." By 1978, she was Samantha in the quite-decent Saturday morning sci-fi series "Jason of Star Command." Her last role was in the 1984 made-for-tv film---predictably titled---"Amazons."

Dobson was diagnosed with MS in 2000. She died in 2006.

And now back to the action. I saw "Cleopatra Jones" at the United Artists Theater in downtown Chicago about six years after its release. When she opened up the hidden trap door in the Corvette and broke out the machine gun in the scene below, everybody in the theater went "oooooooo!" Including me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pre-Shaft: In a Robert Hall Suit.

You Have it All..At Robert Hall

Some slogans are timeless. "For the man accustomed to paying $100 or more for his suits" is not one of them, I'm afraid. This was the latest offering in 1970 from Robert Hall, the now defunct clothier. And yep, once again, the model in the vaguely-priced Crown Juilliard line suit is Richard Roundtree, who would later become Shaft. John Shaft paid more than $75 for his clothes, I bet. Why, just look.