Written By Braddon S. Williams

Stevie Wonder: Innervisions

Stevie Wonder was at the height of his creative powers when he created Innervisions (1973).

Innervisions was written, produced, and arranged by Stevie, and he played all the instruments on 7 of the 9 songs.

For me, the two songs that really grabbed my attention (then and now) were Living For The City and Higher Ground.

These songs were funky, hard hitting, and lyrically mesmerizing pieces of Stevie Wonder’s genius.

The rest of the album is great, too…lots of diversity in style and lyrical content throughout, but those two songs are always the ones I go back and explore.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Steely Dan: Aja

Music at its best can act as a time machine, transporting us to special moments and places in our past history. Music can link us to places, people and events with a vivid mix of nostalgia and reality.

Steely Dan’s Aja (1977) always delivers me to gatherings that one of my best friends in the world would have back in our high school years.

My friend (brother) would invariably choose music from “The Dan” (particularly Aja) as the soundtrack to his parties, and Aja was perfection for this purpose.

It is almost as if the music that Donald Fagan and Walter Becker created together simply demanded a civilized and elegant gathering of kindred spirits.

Class, elegance, beauty, and a pervasive cool permeated this entire album: every note was in the proper place, and every song was an instant classic.

All these years later, Aja, and indeed Steely Dan’s entire catalog, retains an aura of excellence. I’m not even going to single out any of the 7 glorious songs on this album.

It is a work that demands to be taken in as an entire unit, and whether on vinyl, cassette, compact disc, or streamed, Aja remains a modern masterpiece…a seamless blend of pop, rock, jazz, smooth soul, and dedication to a superior vision.

Aja is timeless, and it is a time machine that always takes me to lovely destinations.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

SLY and the Family STONE: FRESH

Funk music has rarely been better than the perfection of the lead-off single from Sly And The Family Stone’s 1973 album, Fresh.

The song in question is If You Want Me To Stay, featuring one of the best bass lines in recorded history.

Sly Stone knew how to orchestrate a groove as well as anyone this side of James Brown, and Fresh is chock full of infectious, soulful, deep pocket grooves, like In Time, Frisky, If It Were Left Up To Me, Qué Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be), Let Me Have It All, Skin I’m In, and Babies Makin’ Babies.

Miles Davis and George Clinton both loved this album, so if you don’t trust my judgment, maybe Miles & George will convince you to show Sly some love!


Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jeff Buckley: Grace

Jeff Buckley only made one album, Grace (1994), but what a record it was!

Initially it wasn’t a hit, but eventually Grace sold over 2 million copies.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one late to the party.

While the songs and the music are admittedly superb, the thing about Grace that is truly magical is Buckley’s voice.

He definitely had superhuman pipes, a voice for the ages. Perhaps his untimely death has enhanced that perception, but one only has to listen to songs like Hallelujah, Mojo Pin, Corpus Christi Carol, Lilac Wine, Last Goodbye, Grace, and Lover You Should’ve Come Over to experience that unearthly tone and wistful mystery that Buckley conjured throughout the album. Artists like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page all held him in high regard, and that sounds like some pretty reliable praise.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

James Brown: live at The Apollo

James Brown was rightfully known by the monikers “The Godfather Of Soul” and “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business.”

Brown released Live At The Apollo in 1963 and financed its recording the previous year with his own money.

His record company opposed its release at the time, but Brown believed in it and fought for it becoming a reality.

Brown’s instincts proved equal to his talent, as Live At The Apollo has attained legendary status over the years. It ranked 24th in a 2012 Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

It has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library Of Congress.

In 1998 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

Basically, what Live At The Apollo represents is a time capsule of when James Brown and his vocal backing group The Famous Flames, were an untouchable live act.

Of course, the band was insanely tight and the entire unit just drove audiences wild.

The whole album is only a half hour, but stands as a textbook example of how to play molten hot R & B and soul music at its absolute finest.

Hail James Brown!


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By: Kate Hogan Via People Magazine

Born in Memphis on March 25, 1942, Aretha Franklin got a taste for gospel music thanks to her father, Rev. C. L. Franklin. At age 5 she moved to Detroit, where her dad became pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and encouraged her talents. She eventually toured the country in her dad’s gospel caravan before landing a contract with Columbia Records, and later, Atlantic. It was then her career took off; her 1967 album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You went gold. The singer had two sisters and one brother, as well as a half-brother from her mother’s previous relationship. Her parents separated when she was young, though never divorced; her mom Barbara moved to Buffalo, New York, and would make trips back to Detroit to visit her children.

“She and my dad (pictured with Aretha and sister Carolyn) were very, very, very close,” the singer’s sister Erma told PEOPLE in 1985. “She depended on him and his advice, and when she was living in California, she’d call him three or four times a day.” Stunned by the botched robbery that left her father in an irreversible coma in 1979, Franklin began traveling between California and Detroit to visit her dad and ultimately bought a house in her adopted hometown. During her father’s five years of unconsciousness, “she spent over a half million dollars on him, $1,500 a week just for nurses,” Erma said. “But she still can’t talk about it, not even with her own family. You can’t even say the word ‘death’ around her. You have to say ‘passed away’ or find some other expression.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a friend of Franklin’s father; thus the singer joined the civil rights leader on tour, along with Harry Belafonte, Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson. “I don’t think anyone knew how significant he would be in history, but everyone knew what he was trying to do,” she later recalled to Ebony. “I always had a great admiration for him and his sense of decency and the justice that he wanted. He was a good man. Just a plain old good man, good person, and you can’t help but admire that. He had values and principles and very high standards.”

Franklin had her first child, a son named Clarence, as a pre-teen; two years later she welcomed a second child, Edward (pictured). She never publicly identified the boys’ fathers.

A 19-year-old Franklin married Ted White in 1961; not long after, he started managing her career. However, according to a 1968 TIME story, he “roughed her up” more than once, and the two ultimately divorced in 1969. Together, the two had one son, Ted “Teddy” White Jr., in 1964. After playing backup guitar for his mom for years, he broke out on his own as a singer/songwriter, going by the name Teddy Richards.

It was in the late 1960s when Franklin’s career really took off; her albums Lady Soul and Aretha Now dropped in 1968, and included the mega-hits “Chain of Fools,” “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

By 1970, she had five Grammys under her belt in categories including Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Female. She went on to earn 44 nominations and 18 total statues.

Her fourth and final son, Kecalf (here with his daughter, Victorie), was born in March of 1970; his father was Franklin’s road manager, Ken Cunningham. In an undated interview with BET, Franklin’s “baby,” as she called him, showed off his rapping skills with some friends — and even joined his mom on tour later in life.

Cissy Houston was working her way up in the music industry when she was hired to sing backup on some of Franklin’s songs. She went on to launch a solo career and win two Grammys of her own, and even re-joined Franklin for a 2014 performance on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Franklin formed a lifelong bond with the Houston family, thanks to her work with Cissy. “I met Whitney (right, with Franklin and producer Narada Michael Walden) when her mother, Cissy, who was singing with me, brought her to one of my recording sessions,” Franklin recalled to Rolling Stone after Houston’s death in 2012. “She was around 9 or 10, with little red pigtails and her hair parted in the middle. I think Cissy had instructed her to be very quiet, because she didn’t say too much after that. She was just very quiet and very attentive, a pretty little girl. “By the time she was a young lady, Luther Vandross and I were talking about her. She knew how to be glamorous and graceful. She had class. She knew where she was going. It was clear her and her mother both had a similar quality to their voices — the genetics were just unbelievable. Just like her mom, she was one of the great sopranos.”

In 1978, Franklin married actor Glynn Turman, in a ceremony officiated by her father at his New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. Three television networks covered the nuptials; according to PEOPLE, there were 12 bridesmaids and groomsmen, the Four Tops sang and the bride wore a dress covered in 7,000 pearls. “I’ve never seen Aretha in better spirits,” her brother Cecil told PEOPLE. “She’s as happy as she’s ever been. She’s not singing the blues.” His longtime friend, actor Lou Gossett, told PEOPLE, “Glynn and Aretha are two halves of a circle. She’s got guts and soul and he’s got a disciplined, artistic temperament. They’re very close buddies too, and that’s an indication of a long-term relationship.” They never had children together, though Franklin did become stepmother to Turman’s three children from a previous relationship. The couple divorced in 1984.

At a 1980 performance at the London Palladium to celebrate the Queen Mum’s 80th birthday, Franklin joked that Queen Elizabeth swayed so hard in the royal box that her crown slipped, according to a 1981 PEOPLE story.

Franklin showed off her acting chops in 1980’s Blues Brothers, and “knocked everyone out,” star John Belushi told PEOPLE. “She’s a fine, fine actress, and I’d work with her again anytime.” He wasn’t alone: Universal Pictures even ran a campaign to get Franklin a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod, though failed. Still, “I was very pleased with my performance,” she said.

In January of 1987, Franklin became the first woman ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was unable to attend the ceremony, but sent Clive Davis and brother Cecil Franklin to speak on her behalf. “We feel that tonight is the, the greatest night in the life of Miss Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” her brother said. “Tonight, Aretha has been written into history.”

In 1991, Franklin won the Grammy Legend Award, followed by the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. In 2011, the Recording Academy again honored the singer with a special tribute from Yolanda Adams, Martina McBride, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and Florence Welch. “I will never forget it,” she told PEOPLE.

President George W. Bush gave Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, recognizing her as one of “our nation’s greatest musical artists.” He also praised her for “her lifetime of achievement and for helping to shape our nation’s artistic and cultural heritage.”

Though Billboard called the 2006 Super Bowl national anthem performance one of the worst, Franklin made up for it 10 years later with a five-minute anthem before a 2016 Detroit Lions football game.

Her appearance at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration was incredible, but what really got people talking was her Swarovski-crystal-studded hat, which quickly took off as the day’s most major meme.

In January 2012, Franklin announced her engagement to “forever friend” William “Willie” Wilkerson, whom she’d been quietly dating since the 1980s. Weeks later, though, the pair called off the nuptials, saying they were “moving too fast.”

In 2014, Franklin was one of eight honorees at Harvard’s commencement ceremony; she received an honorary doctor of arts. She showed off her vocal chops and her piano skills, performing a rousing rendition of the national anthem.

Paying tribute to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, Franklin had the crowd on its feet (and tears in President Barack Obama’s eyes) as she belted “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Franklin herself was an honoree — the youngest ever — of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1994, during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Speaking to PEOPLE at her 74th birthday party in New York City in 2016, Franklin said she didn’t have plans to slow down. “I’m here!” she said with a smile. “I’m not going anywhere. This is what I do. I’m going to be around. I’ll be like Perry Como [was], somewhere on a couch laying down with a microphone, still singing.” The singer later added, “I’m a little tired, but I’m still enjoying all of it. Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.” Reports of declining health had been circulating for years, though the singer never confirmed any rumors of cancer or other such illnesses. Franklin died on Aug. 16, 2018. She was 76.

Remembering the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin’s Life in Photos

By: Tracy Cowen

Early Wednesday, without warning, Childish Gambino shared “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer.” Both songs will appear on the same full-length project that “This Is America” will call home, and “Summertime Magic” will be the first official single. For now, both summer-centric cuts are bundled together on streaming services as a two-song EP titled Summer Pack.

Interestingly, neither new song is the studio version of the one Gambino performed on Saturday Night Live back in May. Stream them above and below. It’s likely we will hear at least one of these new cuts when Gambino performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas Sept. 21.

Hear “Summertime Magic” above and “Feels Like Summer” below.

Gambino’s most recent full-length release, the Grammy-nominated “Awaken, My Love!,” also marked his final project under his Glassnote Records deal. Moving forward, Gambino will be dropping new music via a partnership between RCA and his own Wolf + Rothstein.

“This Is America,” featuring a collage of ad libs from 21 Savage and more, went platinum shortly after its surprise release and later inspired a wholly impressive recreation of the iconic music video using a really old Mac. In a discussion with Billboard about the Gambino sessions and his own new music, 21 described Donald Glover as “a cool dude” from his side of town. “Me and Childish just sat in the studio for like six hours and just talked the whole night, really,” he said. “We made a song and I did some ad libs on that song, but we were really just talking the whole time.”

Childish Gambino Shares New Songs “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer”