Posts Tagged ‘soul’
“Disco is the best floor show in town. It’s very democratic, boys with boys, girls with girls, girls with boys, blacks and whites, capitalists and Marxists, Chinese and everything else, all in one big mix.”*…
Yolanda Baker has been making disco balls every week of her life for nearly 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
Baker, known as Yo Yo to her colleagues, works for Louisville’s Omega National Products – America’s leading disco ball manufacturer – and has over the years filed orders for Beyoncé, Madonna, Studio 54 and even the Saturday Night Fever film set.
During the height of disco fever, Omega had 25 workers crafting 25 balls a day – more than 160,000 disco balls annually – with Baker steering the ship. But as China began flooding the market with cheaper options, the team at Omega began to shrink – Baker has been the company’s only disco ball maker since 2008…
All that glitters at: “Meet Yolanda ‘Yo Yo’ Baker, America’s last disco ball maker.”
* Truman Capote
As we boogey on down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that the famous Apollo theatre in New York City’s Harlem district (re-)opened as a showcase for black artists. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, it had been built in 1913-14 as Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, and designed by George Keister in the neo-Classical style. The Apollo fell on hard times in the 20s and limped along until, under new management, it became (starting on this date in 1934) a mecca of the Swing Era. It featured musical acts including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Webb, and Count Basie, dance acts such as Bill Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers. And though the theater concentrated on showcasing African-American acts, it also presented such white performers as Harry James, Woody Herman and Charlie Barnet during the swing era, and, later, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz and Buddy Rich, who was a particular favorite of the Apollo crowd.
The Apollo’s “Amateur Night,” a Monday-night talent contest launched many storied careers, from Ella Fitzgerald and Thelma Carpenter to Jimi Hendrix (who won in 1964). Others whose careers were hatched or given an early boost at the Apollo include Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown & The Famous Flames, King Curtis, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Parliament-Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, The Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Rush Brown, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Short, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, Sarah Vaughan, Jazmine Sullivan, Ne-Yo, and Machine Gun Kelly.
Restored 11 years ago, the venue draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors a year.
One can use the interactive chart above (which is based on income tax data, and is adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars) to see how average incomes in the U.S. have grown as between any two years from 1917 to 2008, and how that change was divided as between the richest 10% of the population and the remaining 90%.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that
A newly resilient U.S. economy is poised to expand this year at its fastest pace since 2003, thanks in part to brisk spending by consumers and businesses.
In a new Wall Street Journal survey, many economists ratcheted up their growth forecasts because of recent reports suggesting a greater willingness to spend.
One wonders how… indeed, one wonders how long the dynamic that’s defined the last two decades is sustainable in what is fundamentally a consumer-driven economy.
[TotH to @cshirky for the lead to the tool]
As we ponder the different kinds of heart we might celebrate on Valentine’s Day, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that Aretha Franklin recorded “Respect” (with her sisters Carolyn and Erma singing backup). The tune had been written and recorded by Otis Redding two years earlier, and had done well on the R&B charts. But Atlantic Records exec and producer Jerry Wexler thought that the song was especially suited to showcase Aretha’s vocal gifts, and had the potential to be a cross-over hit. He was, of course, right on both counts.
He was “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “the Godfather of Soul”– James Brown. Immensely popular with audiences from the mid-Fifties (when “Please, Please, Please,” above, was a hit), he was a tremendous influence on popular music, with admirers who included jazz greats like Miles Davis, and emulators like Sly and the Family Stone, Booker T & the MGs and “soul shouters” like King Curtis, Edwin Starr, and David Ruffin (of The Temptations). He was a famously-tough task master as a band leader; but it served his musicians well, as their education at his hands laid the foundation for several successful solo careers (e.g., Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Hank Ballard, Bootsy Collins, and Carlos Alomar). And he was the ur-source of Funk (e.g., admirer George Clinton cast Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Bootsy Collins centrally in the seminal Parliament-Funkadelic).
But Brown made what was arguably his most influential contribution with his feet: he was, as anyone who saw him perform can attest, an astonishing dancer. As a child, he’d earned pocket money buck dancing to entertain troops headed to Europe at the outset of WWII. Over the years he made that traditional form uniquely his own– inspiring performers like Michael Jackson and Prince, who modeled their moves on his, and prefiguring the current vogue of dance-centric pop performances.
James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006. But happily, he left behind a guide to the moves that made him famous. The holiday party season, with its fraught occasions to dance, looms; but there’s no reason to fear, Dear Readers– just watch and learn. Michael Jackson did…
As we trip the light fantastic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 (when James Brown was 13 years old) that Walt Disney released Song of the South, a feature film based on the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris, in which live actors frame animated enactments of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit– like the story of “The Tar Baby.” The film won the Best Song Oscar for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”; but, while the film was re-released theatrically in 1972, 1981, and 1986, and has been released to home video in Europe and Asia, it has never been released to home video in the U.S.— perhaps because Disney executives feel that it might be construed as racist.
James Baskett, who played Uncle Remus, was the first black actor hired by Disney to play a live role. He was unable to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta, the event hotels there would not have him. (source)