Tag Archives: funk bands

Sparkling In The Sand: A Tribute To The Late Rick Stevens

TOP album cover with Rick

Rick Stevens the man in the center of this album cover. Why he wasn’t seen on the cover has to do with the fact he’d left the band before Tower Of Power’s eponymously titled third album of 1973 came out. Warner Bros released 1,000 copies of this album with the wrong cover by mistake before withdrawing it. Steven’s was a lead singer for the band from 1969 up to 73. Sadly he passed away on September 5th at age 77 of cancer. Thought about doing one of the songs Stevens sang lead on in Tower Of Power. But his own story, first discovered by me in Wax Poetic magazine, is a far grander one to tell.

Stevens was born in Port Arthur,Texas. But grew up in Reno, Nevada where he began singing in church during childhood. His maternal uncle was the iconic R&B/soul singer Ivory Joe Hunter, for whom young Stevens held much admiration for and who came to visit him between touring. Stevens moved to the Bay Area in 1966. And recorded with a number of bands and, after an aborted time with one such band in Seattle, he moved back to San Francisco and joined Tower Of Power in 1969. He was a strong vocal presence on their first two albums,especially in terms of ballads.

Songs such as “Your Still A Young Man” remained Stevens signature songs throughout his time with the band. After leaving the TOP, he became part of another local horn oriented band in the Bay called Brass Horizon in 1975. Sadly a year later, he was arrested for his involvement in a failed and fatal drug deal. He spent over 30 years in prison, where he converted to Christianity and swore off drugs. He spent his touring Northern California with his new band Love Power. He released a CD with them entitled Rick Stevens Back On The Streets Again Vol. 1 in 2014.

The news of Stevens death came to me through by a writer and Facebook friend A. Scott Galloway. He’d found out about the singers passing via fellow TOP member Lenny Williams online post,after Williams had received the call from Stevens son. Later in the day after finding this out, my friend Henrique and I got to talking about how he framed some TOP album covers on his wall- in tribute to his local Oakland funk heroes. Though Stevens presence in TOP was comparatively brief, his story ended up being an abbreviated career that did end in a redemptive journey of sorts. RIP Rick Stevens!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Rick Stevens, Tower Of Power

Sharon Jones: 1956-2016- We Thank You For Your Funky Service!

DSCN3217

Sharon Fafaye Jones,born in August Georgia,has passed away at the age of 60. This after struggling with pancreatic cancer for four years. She died with family and her band The Dap Kings with her. This was such a moving event for me,this 2016’s seemingly endless parade of dying music icons,for a couple reasons. First and foremost,she was a throaty and big voiced soul singer-full of that Tina Turner type of performance fire,that was operating with a live band in the rather anti black band 21st century with the fine funk/soul band The Dap Kings.

The second reason this event has moved me is more personal. My paternal grandfather passed away of the exact same type of cancer on my 21st birthday. It was barely five months ago that I saw Sharon & The Dap Kings perform live in my hometown of Bangor,Maine. They were the second warm up act for Hall & Oates at the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion. There’s a vivid memory of Jones,dressed in gold and yellow as you see in the photo above that I took there,running ultra fast in place shouting in fine soul preacher style “I’VE GOT CANCER,CANCER DOESN’T HAVE ME!!!”.

Sharon Jones lived the life of a soul survivor if there is indeed such a thing. She moved from her hometown due to spousal abuse from her father to her mom,wound up in Brooklyn and went from the church to the clubs singing with a number of funk bands in 70’s. For years she struggled to gain notoriety,with one producer referring to her as “too short and too black” during the 90’s. She then became a guard at Riker’s Island prison for a time,where she adopted her tough stage persona. After getting her first official gig as a leader,she soon recorded her first album with the Dap Kings before the decade was out.

My friend and blogging consultant Henrique were just talking as this was being written on Facebook about what made Sharon Jones so important. Both of us agreed that her musical importance comes out of a stronger appreciation for strong,well produced live funk/soul in the 2010’s. And that after her years of struggling in the prime of her life,that period allowed her to break through in a huge way during middle age. And that’s a legacy that is too important to ignore in a time when,on the pop music front,vocalists are still far more publicized than musicians and bands.

Jones was a vocalist of course. But she never let her eyes off the fact that her big voice was part of a band with guitars,basses,drums and a horn section. And that represents the funkiest attitude of the vocalist. Even today,there are probably plenty of young brothers and sisters being told by reality TV minded producers they are “too black”,”too short” or even “too ugly” to be popular. But since Sharon Jones has been such a huge presence in the last couple of decades,her strongest legacy might be that the newer generation won’t have to endure the hardships she did.

Sharon Jones,I thank you for your service to music. And you will be missed by all of us funky people!

If you are able,please give what little you can to the Conquer Cancer Foundation in honor of Miss Sharon Jones!

https://secure2.convio.net/asco/site/Donation2?df_id=3292&3292.donation=form1

 

1 Comment

Filed under 2016, cancer, funk bands, Nu Funk, Sharon Jones, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings