Angela Tomasa Bofill was part of a group of singers and musicians whom I refer to as as the original Brooklyn funk essentials. Coming from a Hispanic back round,she studied classical music as a child-all the while absorbing the Latin and soul/funk music scene happening right around her. Jazz flutist and bassist Dave Valentin is the one who introduced her to Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen. Her first album Angie was released in late 1978. With it’s critical and commercial success, Bofill was set up for a decades worth of soulful success.
One of the earliest artists at GRP Records along with Tom Browne,Bofill is turning 61 today. About a decade ago,she suffered two strokes a year or so apart. The second of which sadly robbed her of the ability to sing. Luckily her manager Rich Engel and the NYC radio stations Kiss FM and CD 101.9 held a benefit concert to help defray her mounting medical expenses. Being a native New Yorker,Bofill seemed to have a pretty keen understanding of the dramatic ups and downs life could offer. That’s why one song off her’s that really moves me personally is one from that 1978 debut entitled “Rough Times”.
A stinging Afro-Latin percussion begins the song,written by Ashford & Simpson, accompanying the Valentin’s thick slap bass. This forms the basic refrains of the song that supports Bofill’s vocals. As the chorus rolls in,an extra snare drum along with call and response horn charts enter into the groove as her vocal sustains push this chorus forward. The opening refrain is also the source of the songs instrumental bridge,where session icon Eric Gale played a crying,bluesy rhythm guitar around the main melody. The chorus of the song repeats itself afterwards until the song’s fade-out.
Ashford & Simpson seemed to really strike musical gold twice in 1978. First with Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and than this. Though it’s an album cut,”Rough Times” shows the GRP instrumentalists at their very funkiest-with it’s composers writing very much in awareness of Bofill’s Latina heritage. While blending the Latin jazz and disco-funk styles expertly,the lyrics to the song stand as something of a warning to people that violence and fear were reaching a fevered pitch in urban America by the late 70’s. And it expressed the power of funky “people music” to perhaps inspire an alternative.