Goodnight everyone, and have a great weekend, just as long as it’s groovy!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy. 

Black History Month is a federally recognized celebration of the contributions African Americans have made to this country.

Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” developed Black History Month. Woodson, whose parents were enslaved, was an author, historian and the second African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University.

He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 1926, Woodson proposed a national “Negro History Week,” which was intended to showcase everything students learned about Black history throughout the school year.

It wasn’t until 1976, during the height of the civil rights movement, that President Gerald  Ford expanded the week into Black History Month.

LaGarrett J. King, an associate professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri, a strong proponent of the celebration still questions why there’s a focus on biographies of a handful of figures who are “palatable to white audiences.”

Not so this week on our Friday night mega music blog with noted black artists you may never have heard about.

Let’s get started with one of the greatest soul vocal groups of the 1970’s. The O’Jays epitomized the Philly soul sound: smooth, rich harmonies backed by elaborate arrangements, lush strings, and a touch of contemporary funk, like “I Love Music.”

I love music
Any kind of music
I love music
Just as long as it’s groovy

I love music
Sweet sweet music
Long as it’s swinging
All the joy that’s it’s bringing

Music is the healing force of the world
It’s understood by every man
Woman boy and girl
And that’s why
That’s why I say

I love music
Any kind of music
I love music
Just as long as it’s groovy, groovy

From the same 1975 album that gave us “I Love Music,” a perfect intro this week….

What a run the group had in the 1970’s: Nearly 30 chart singles and three Grammy nominations, plus a series of best-selling albums and several number one hits on the R&B chart.

Even if you’re not a jazz buff you might have heard this bit of a classic from that genre.

Oliver Nelson was a significant big band composer and arranger of the 1960s. During that decade Nelson became one of the most strongly identifiable writing voices in jazz.

Besides composing music for television and films, he was producing and arranging for pop stars such as Nancy Wilson, James Brown, the Temptations, and Diana Ross.

Though Nelson continued to write for jazz record dates and play his saxophone, the demands of writing commercial music increased. On October 28, 1975, he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 43.

From just a few years ago, Alba Armengou on trumpet and Rita Payés on trombone, accompanied by Josep Traver on guitar, Ignasi Terraza on piano, and Abril Saurí on drums, remembering Oliver Nelson.

“Some people say that jazz is America’s only true art form. That’s because it began here, hundreds of years ago, in the fields where black people worked as slaves and made up songs to pass time, to express themselves and to keep alive the culture and traditions of their African homelands.”
—The Washington Post

There have been plenty of one-hit wonders in the record business inlcusing the Spiral Starecase. Their 1969 single “More Today Than Yesterday” was covered by lots of artists.

Charles Earland was one of the greatest practitioners of the Hammond B-3 organ.

“To me,” Earland said “the B-3 was the first synthesizer that came along. It was an electric instrument and you could create so many things with it manually.”

Musicologist Bob Porter said  no one can “kick the 3” quite like Earland does.

“An analysis of the Earland organ style,” Porter has written, “reveals perhaps the best walking-bass line among organists and a unique second type of bass line that creates a rolling, long-meter feeling on rock tunes.

Organ, however, was not his first instrument. “My dad had an alto saxophone and I used to sneak it off to school,” he recalls. “I was taking free lessons at school. My dad didn’t know I was using his horn.”

After high school graduation, Earland went on the road as tenor saxophonist with organ grinder Jimmy McGriff. It was during his tenure with the McGriff trio that his infatuation with the B-3 began.

“He just looked like he was having more fun than I was having,” Earland says of McGriff. “After I would play my solo, I’d be standing up there watching, but he and the drummer played from the beginning to the end of tunes. He had so many more things to do. I could only play one note at a time and he could play as many as he wanted to.”

Here’s an edited portion of his album cut of “More Today Than Yesterday.”

Earland died in 1999 at the age of 58.

R&B guitarist Eric Gale was a good friend of singer Roberta Flack who asked him to work on her “Killing Me Softly” album. Gale was in Jamaica spending time away from music after Martin Luther King and Robert Kenendy had been assassinated. When Flack tried hard to persuade Gale to return to New York to assist on the album he said no. So Flack flew the band members to Jamaica and finally convinced Gale to fly back to New York. The album was a smash.

The 70’s sound comes through in this Gale track from 1977.

Gale was 55 when he died in 1994.

That’s it for this week.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

Our closing piece originally debuted in the late 1930’s and was a popular choice for vocalists.

We have two versions. First, Natalie Cole in 1993…

And an instrumental by internationally renowned flutist Hubert Laws in 1976.

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