Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LaToya & Rebbie

Ok, I promise this will be the last Jackson-related item. But while doing the previous posts, I ran across these two videos. Above is sister Rebbie Jackson singing that stone jam "Centipede" on the old "Solid Gold" TV show in 1984.

But my favorite is this 1980 clip of LaToya singing "If You Feel The Funk."

Bonus Track, y'all. Jermaine Jackson performing "Let's Get Serious."

Monday, June 29, 2009

The King of Pop Culture, Too (part 2)

We posted a few examples last week of Michael Jackson's influence/stamp on pop culture. Scroll down a bit if you missed it. There is everything there from a clip of the "Jamie Foxx Show" to the forgotten soul singer Alfonso's eerily MJ-like cut, "Girl, You Are the One" from 1982.

So today, we continue the theme a bit. The above cut is 1973's "Misdemeanor" by Foster Sylvers--who sang lead for another family band, The Sylvers--sounding for all the world like Michael Jackson.

The cloying Celine Dion--I swear--performing "Bad", while dressed and "sounding" like MJ. She has a straight face. But you won't:

From India, y'all. Inspired by the "Thriller" video:

Denise Pearson, lead singer of British Bubblegum Soul group Five Star is kinda MJish--in their 1985 song "All Fall Down":

And to say nothing of The Osmonds--a group that is all but forgotten now--but were running neck-and-neck with the J5 for a while there. In this 1971 clip from the "Flip Wilson Show," Donny Osmond is clearly--clearly--ripping the hell..ur, I mean, "paying homage", to Michael Jackson's vocals:

[the above clip reminds me of what Carver said to Kima in an episode in Season Two of "The Wire" while watching white corner boys acting/talking black: "Thieving [motherlovers] take everything, don't they?"]

A take on the "Smooth Criminal" video. From China:

And we close out the day with Kim Fields' cute "Dear Michael" from 1983:

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King of Pop Culture, Too

The security guard at the Aon Building--she of bright brown eyes and a pretty smile--sat behind the guard's desk yesterday, bummed. The light was gone.

"Michael, man," she told me. "That hurt my heart to hear that." She said she was a kid when "Thriller" came out in late 1982. She pestered her mother to get her a Michael Jackson jacket and a "Thriller" T-shirt to wear with it. And when she got it, she was the envy of her school.

You can't overstate the pop culture force Michael Jackson was during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He reshaped music, yes. But also fashion, dance, hair styles and--with the then-ground breaking 1984 Pepsi commercial above--advertising. No musical artist since has been able to that. In fact, the nearest example I can think of is not an entertainer, but an athlete: Michael Jordan

Listen to "You Are The One," a pretty decent, but now-forgotten 1982 Old School track from Alfonzo:

Weird Al's demented parody of MJ's "Beat It" video (and song):

MJ turned this otherwise mediocre song into a pop classic (and, now, an insurance company jingle) by simply singing the seven-word hook:

Alfonso Ribeiro makes fun of his "Pepsi Kid" origins in this episode of the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air":

We close the Closet with this inspired bit from the late 1990s "Jaime Foxx Show." Look what happens at 1:35. I include this because by then, in the public eye, the Wacko Jacko persona had almost eclipsed the pop superstar Jackson. But Jamie and the terribly underrated Christopher B. Duncan--and the reaction from the audience--give MJ his due:

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I rented "Claudine" on Netflix a few months ago. Three thoughts occurred to me. More on that later.

"Claudine" was released in 1974 and starred Diahann Carroll in the title role as a Harlem mother with six kids. James Earl Jones co-starred as Rupe, her love interest. The movie is a love story, but it's also a tart commentary on racism, poverty, sexuality and parental responsibility. And it's funny with a great score by Curtis Mayfield.

The role earned Carroll an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1975, but she lost to Ellen Burstyn, who grabbed the statuette for "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Carroll was recommended for the role by Diana Sands, who was originally cast as Claudine, but was dying of cancer.

And now to my three thoughts about "Claudine."

(a) "Claudine" is good piece of filmmaking with crisp writing punctuated by Carroll's performance. Her Oscar nomination wasn't 1970s tokenism; she really was that good.

(b) Today, the movie would be made differently. The plot of the struggling single mother with a houseful of boisterous kids who finds love would pass muster now, but the scene where Claudine beats her daughter? I wonder. Or the subplot with the oldest son being a frustrated revolutionary: today they'd make him a snarling gang member. And somebody would have to die. And what of Claudine herself? She is smart, vulnerable and sexy. Today she'd be a wounded figure who would find herself through the course of the movie, probably in some confessional melodramatic scene.

And that led to my third thought: Lord have mercy, "Claudine" has "Tyler Perry Remake" written all over it.

(c)And with that, I was going to make a smarty-assed comment about my fear of Perry doing some slack-plotted, simplistically-written remake complete with face-slappings, neck-rolling "she told him" scenes, and--of course---set in Atlanta.

But as I think about it, maybe him remaking "Claudine" isn't a bad idea. A new movie could shine if Perry is properly inspired by the original's tight well-done script. Taraji P. Henson as Claudine...Boris Kudjoe/Morris Chestnut/Jeffrey Wright as Rupe..and nobody--and I mean nobody even remotely connected with the writing or acting in "Meet the Browns" or "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," who knows? It might be good?

Until then, the original is worth checking out. And here's an excellent and very pointed interview with Carroll discussing the role:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ola Hudson Dies

Ola Hudson

Ola Hudson--fashion designer, mother of guitarist Slash, and the subject of this stunning 1970 print ad for Dewar's White Label--died of lung cancer on June 5. She was 62.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Moms Mabley

It's Monday. Nobody wants to go to work. We need a laugh. Let's let Moms Mabley--the funniest comedian of the late 20th century, I swear--provide some.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Fifth Dimension

Founded in 1966, the singing group The Fifth Dimension was a fixture on the late 1960s/early 1970s pop culture scene. The five-member vocal group--Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr., Florence LaRue, Lamonte McLemore (Davis' cousin) and Ron Townson--sang deeply-harmonized pop with just enough soul to keep things interesting.

The group gets down with Laura Nyro's "Stone Soul Picnic" in the clip above. The vid below is a medley of their hits.

The Fifth Dimension stayed intact until 1975, when McCoo and Davis (who were married) left the group and became pop stars as a husband-and-wife duo a few years later. Townson died in 2001. According to a Wikipedia entry, the group has had 25 personnel changes since 1975. The group now tours as Florence LaRue and the 5th Dimension, with LaRue as the only original member.

Monday, June 1, 2009


That's a 1980 jam by R&B group, Breakwater. Sounds good, doesn't it? You can listen again. I'll wait.

Now check this one out from 1978. Same group.

One more and I'm done: