I remember way back when…
Reminisce with me.
Life was less complicated for a youngster. My Huffy Bike was valet’d in the driveway, Saturday morning cartoons were in heavy rotation, Puma wasn’t just an animal at the zoo, and donning the asymmetrical haircut didn’t mean you were preparing for a trip to outer space. Even things like clocks with hour hands and tennis shoes with shoe laces, were apart of Mom and Dad’s speech called, “Back In My Day,” upon the introduction of digital swatches and Velcro instead of laces.
But don’t forget…
There was nothing strange about wearing your clothes backwards, inside out, and rocking safety pins didn’t classify you as an EMO kid or a KISS fan. If you couldn’t go back to Africa to celebrate your roots, you wore a Medallion across your chest of Nefertiti or the continent, which was a perfect accessory to compliment your 4 Finger Name Plate Ring.
Matter of fact, the only thing that stirred my emotions back then, was every faithful Saturday, Kitchenside-the night before Sunday service, when thoughts of Vincent Van Gogh casually danced in my head like a sugar plum — minus the fairies. There I was, tense, frozen, locked in concentration, every time my Momma warned me to hold my ear during those moments when I felt the heat coming close to my skin back in the Hot Comb era. That was a time when the sizzle you thought you heard coming from the back of the stove, was actually the grease popping heavily above your neckline when moms grazed a comb through your head trying to straighten up that curly “kitchen” of yours.
But even as I reminisce on the latter day norms that make my nowadays seem so complex, the one thing that always reprises in my storage box of fond memories, are the soft spins of The Other Women That Raised Me. Those R&B songstresses who never failed to impress, those women who precede by definition, and owned their own platform in an era not long ago. Stephanie Mills, Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, and so many others swept me away with a melody, and kept me with the promise of smooth lyricism. Here’s a few of the women who made my yesterday today, by creeping apart from the Vinyl to add their soundtrack to my life’s fondest memories.
“The Little Girl With the Big Voice,” that gave Dorothy an ebony twist, by bringing it Home for African American’s during the 70’s upon the introduction of the Wiz and at the start of her promising music career. Mills was discovered by Jermaine Jackson, but it was his brother Michael that swept her off her ruby red slippers. One would like to think- or rather dream longingly, that maybe her brief relationship with the King Of Pop, may have inspired some of those ballads she spun, that we all hold so dear. Art imitates life and her songs were laced with love and designed to inspire. It wasn’t long before we all knew Stephanie and some time after we learned to share our hearts when we too found our first love.
The voice, the strength, the haircut -the presence of an Angel. Anita Baker held a major chord in my early days of listening. Her albums sang me to sleep every evening, and in the morn I woke up with an imprint of her Rapture. The Ohio Native was a major staple in music during the 80’s upon the release of every album, and her talent still touches a faithful audience and continues to capture new hearts in the present. From Grammy’s to American Music Awards, she was both honored and adored for her musical achievements and is one of the most distinguishable female musicians around, by finding comfort in a sound all her own and warming it with her recognizable voice.
All Time Favorite Song: Been So Long.
Favorite Songs: Caught in the Rapture, Sweet Love, Angel, Giving You the Best That I Got.
She is the perfect example of a Winter storm moving in, when our hearts are spun around the beauty of Autumn. She was 45 years young when she passed, but apart from the petals that fell from her rose in 1995, she still blooms through my speakers on a regular basis, when I remember the bouquet of music she brought into my garden of memories. She splashed on the scene in the 70’s, kicked out an array of albums, and put in an appearance in the film School Daze. Yet it wasn’t until the song Don’t Wanna Change the World in 1990 that gave her a first #1 hit single on the US Billboard Charts. Some say her music was both a gift and a curse to her happiness, when one considers the ups and downs of the ever changing industry. I say her music was a gift to the world, and the curse is negated by a continual love her fans will always have for her. Even a dim candle is still lit in the darkness.
All Time Favorite Song: You Know How To Love Me
Favorite Songs: Betcha By Golly Wow, Somewhere In My Lifetime, Living in Confusion, Living All Alone
Although she was the .5-0, the split personality -the other half of the amazing duo Rene & Angela and former wife of Ronald Isley, this woman could hold her own independently. The former architectural major at Howard University, helped inspire my dream to go after the option of a film degree instead of aiming for the safety of a focus in law or business. Following her passion, and transitioning her educational focus from a guaranteed career after graduation, to a major that suited her love for music, led her to go out on a limb with her voice in pursuit of a life in the industry. She’s inspired a world of other songstresses who were just coming into their skin in an era when songs like I’ll Be Good owned the airwaves and when singles like Angel made us all wish for wings.
All Time Favorite Song: Angel
Favorite Songs: I’ll Be Good, Your Smile, Save Your Love For #1, Treat U Rite
Some women need no introduction when their legacy has spawned its own tree of life. Houston roots stretch far across the colorful landscape. And long ago they shot up like a red wood, rather than being a single branch swinging from the same tree of musical history that all artists in the industry are born from. Beautiful in both the light of day and past her darkest hours, the woman who promised to Always Love You, could never be summed up in a paragraph or understood in a few short sentences. She was a child born from many generations of musical influence; the niece of Dionne Warwick and the God Child of Aretha Franklin. Indeed music was in her genes, but her talent, voice, and stage presence, was a natural gift that won the world over upon the introduction of her self titled debut, Whitney Houston. She is one of the most loved and influential artists, and her music is spread out amongst many generations of fans and the numbers continue to grow by the season.
All Time Favorite Song: Exhale (Shoop Shoop)
Favorite Songs: Every song in her catalog.