“12 Days of Christmas: The Concert – Redux”

“12 Days of Christmas: The Concert – Redux”

Posted on December 25, 2013 by alphaheel


It’s time to Break It Down!

(Revised from Break It Down12/21/11 and 12/24/12)

Merry Christmas to you! I know some of you are caught up in the whole “We Are The (Secular) World” trip; thus you substitute Holiday for Christmas in seasonal greetings. Of course, those innately curious enough to conduct the requisite etymological research know that the root derivation of holiday is “Holy Day;” but I digress; that is fodder for another day.

By now, many of you should have already begun your well planned and no doubt, richly deserved hiatus from work. You have finished your shopping and taken care of all the major errands that accompany preparing for the Big Day. Perhaps all that remains is packing and/or traveling; maybe that throw-down cooking marathon that precedes the arrival of the family, friends, and guests whom you will host over the coming week.

As is my custom, I will not use this Christmas Season Post, if you will allow me to call it that, to challenge you to sort the facts, be they esoteric or mundane. No, this is your time to take advantage of the opportunity to hang out with your guests, or to be a guest, and enjoy the hospitality of friends and family.

In the true spirit of keeping it simple for both you and me, I am, as the Title suggests, reprising a previous post.  In fact, not just any previous post, not even just any prior Christmas Post.  I am, essentially re-posting my entry from last Christmas and the one that preceded it.

The English playwright and poet, William Congreve, in the opening line of his 1697 Play entitled The Mourning Bride,” asserted, “Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”  I think Congreve was on to something.  If indeed music is capable of enabling us to overcome our basest instincts, and in so doing, ennoble us to pursue our finer impulses, then indeed, we should take more opportunities to render ourselves captivated by its magical spell. (By the way, it really is breast…not beast; caught you thinking, didn’t I?)

So, I identified and pulled together an assortment of my favorite Christmas Standards.  This year, I am again offering the same artistic olio for your reading, viewing, and listening pleasure. Below, you will find bios for the 14 artists, the 13 YouTube video interpretations, and the 12 songs listed and included in the form of a Yuletide e-concert. The information and links below tell the essence of the story; but there are a few points I wish to amplify for your consideration.

The number in parenthesis after each artist’s name is his or her current age, or the age at which the artist died, in the cases of James Brown, Eartha Kitt, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, and Donny Hathaway. Each artist, song and interpretation is special in its own right.

The legendary Godfather of Soul, as James Brown became known, died on Christmas Day (2006, aged 73), as did Eartha Kitt (2008, aged 81), whom shall ever remain, to many of us, the incomparably personified Catwoman. There was both a surreal sadness and a resolute completeness associated with them ending their respective earthly journeys on Christmas Day, two years apart. Both artists were born in South Carolina; Brown in Barnwell, and Kitt, in North. Brown was renowned for his energetic performances, which earned him another of his many titles, “Hardest working man in show business.” His rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby” was a reminder that he had earned his chops the hard way, and that he was much more than flash and dash. Kitt’s “Santa Baby” is on my list, not only because it is a classic; it is, but also because like me, it was born in 1953. I’d like to think we both (the song and I) have held up well.

Donny Hathaway’sThis Christmas” quite simply personifies Christmas for many of us. Hathaway, an initiate of Howard University’s Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, was a brilliant musician, but a troubled man. He endured bouts of depression and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which ultimately led him to commit suicide (1979, aged 33). “This Christmas,” however, lives on, and along with it and many of his other classics, so does his melodious voice.

Chris Brown (age 24), has had his moments. He is known in most circles as either the Pied Piper to Generation Y (Millennials), or That Guy…you know, the one who beat down Robyn Fenty (age 25); Rihanna to you! This post will not attempt to moralize, or capitalize in any other way on the beef between these two. Rather, for the purposes of this commentary, I wanted to touch upon Chris’ cover of Hathaway’s classic tune This Christmas. I think he did a fine job, and is an example that, many voices to the contrary, Gen X’ers are not only capable, but do in fact, continue to perpetuate the tradition of making great music.

Nat King Cole (1965, age 45) and Natalie Cole (age 63), father and daughter, both stellar musicians, in their own right represent two successive generations of the “family business.” Though the elder Cole is probably better known for his interpretation of The Christmas Song,” I intentionally chose his rendition of another standard, “O Holy Night,” to highlight another of his great performances. I included Natalie’s rendering of “The First Noel,” solely because of my partiality to the reverse spelling of “Noel!”

Having eschewed Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song,” I could not omit it altogether. Mary J. Blige (age 42), delivers a virtuoso performance of this classic tune, The Christmas Song. She is one of my favorite contemporary artists, singing one of the Christmas songs I enjoy most. Ledisi (age 43, until her New Years’ Eve birthday) and Lauryn Hill (age 38) are two of contemporary R&B’s most accomplished female voices. Their versions of “Give Love On Christmas Day,” and “Little Drummer Boy,” respectively, are special treats, and integral components of this e-concert.

John Coltrane and Dianne Reeves (age 57) add an instrumental (“My Favorite Things”) and vocal (“Christmas Time Is Here”) jazz flavor to the mix, respectively. “Trane,” born in Hamlet, North Carolina, died of liver cancer (1967, aged 40), another life cut short, at far too young an age. He and the combo render a cool version of the tune, so much so that it could make it one of “your favorite things.” Ms. Reeves uses her powerful and well-trained instrument to construct a compelling version of “Christmas Time Is Here.”

Christina Aguilera (age 33) and Brian McKnight (age 44) unite in a superb collaboration on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” They revel in demonstrating multiple octave range and elasticity in framing their unique arrangement of this classic that makes it a song I enjoy listening to again and again. Last, but certainly not least, Will Downing (age 50), perhaps my favorite musical artist, delivers a silky smooth rendition of “White Christmas.”  What can I say?  Will…is Will!

That’s it, 14 artists, 13 videos (a Baker’s Dozen), and 12 songs. Add it all up and you get “12 Days Of Christmas: The Concert – Redux!” Enjoy it again, and by all means, remember the Reason for the Season!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

James Brown (73) – Merry Christmas Baby



Eartha Kitt (81) – Santa Baby



Donny Hathaway (33) – This Christmas



Chris Brown (21) – This Christmas




Nat King Cole (45) – O Holy Night



Natalie Cole (60) – The First Noel



Kem (41) – The Christmas Song



Ledisi (32) – Give Love On Christmas Day



Lauryn Hill (35) – Little Drummer Boy



John Coltrane (40) – My Favorite Things



Dianne Reeves (54) – Christmas Time Is Here



Christina Aguilera (30) & Brian McKnight (41) – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas




Will Downing (47) – White Christmas



Obamacare: The Worst Thing Ever?

Over the last five years, we have become accustomed to assertions from the GOP and the Tea Party Movement that President Obama and his policies are detrimental to our health, wealth, and anything else we treasure.  The current Exhibit A on the subject comes to us via social media.

This past Sunday morning (7:41 AM – 15 Dec 2013), North Carolina State Senator Robert Rucho, a former dentist who represents the state’s 39th Senate District, which includes Mecklenburg County, tweeted:

  • “Justice Robert’s pen & Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then (sic) the swords of the Nazis, Soviets & terrorists combined.”

There has been a fair amount of follow-up on this subject, including a campaign designed to promote shame, or otherwise persuade Senator Rucho to apologize.  Not surprisingly, he has resisted efforts to make him comply.  In fact, on Sunday afternoon (1:14 PM – 15 Dec 2013), Senator Rucho responded to his critics with a follow-up tweet making the following point”

“Those that tweeted, put your thinking caps back on: “The PEN is mightier than the SWORD.”  Edward Bulwar-Lytton (sic), 1839.  But surely you knew that.”

In the most basic parlance, the Senator framed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a way that likened it to the devastation promulgated by Hitler, Stalin, and al-Qaeda…except, in his assessment, it is worse.  Nazis and Stalinists perpetrated oppressive regimes and killed, or caused the death of millions of people across the Continent of Europe.  Closer to home, we learned that al-Qaeda was responsible for the atrocities of 9/11, when 2,996 died immediately during the attack, including citizens from more than 90 countries.  Authorities accounted for 6,294 people treated in area hospitals for injuries from the 9/11 attacks, just in New York City.

By contrast, the ACA, or Obamacare, as the law is known familiarly, would insure nearly 40 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance, extend pre-existing condition coverage, and lower premiums by as much as $2,500.  The relative power of Pens and swords notwithstanding, the Senator’s metaphor does not seem at all analogous in this instance.

Perhaps some of the most significant news associated with his pronouncement is that he expanded the list of culprits for this damaging scourge, to include not just the President, but also the acknowledged conservative Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts.

For a denizen of the Right to target this POTUS as the man responsible for desecration and disintegration of the fulcrum of the Free World is easy, almost axiomatic.  Painting the current Chief Justice with the same brush is more than a little surprising, but perhaps simply emblematic of the multitudinous desperate measures that Right Wing haters have taken to marginalize, defeat, and depose this president, since the day he took Office.

The recent attack on the ACA is neither the first, nor the only target upon which Senator Rucho has trained his sights.  He has also:

  • Sponsored a bill to restrict North Carolina from setting up Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges
  • Rejected Medicaid expansion, which blocked nearly 377,000 North Carolinians from Medicaid coverage
  • Referred to a bill to slash the State’s unemployment program a “re-employment bill”
  • Supported implementing a regressive sales tax
  • Opposed immigrants taking up slots in NC Community Colleges

Continuing to respond to negative feedback, Senator Rucho, on Monday, clarified that he was referring to the economic damage caused by the ACA, compared to the economic damage of other events.  By doing so, he narrowed the window of focus, but it is still a stretch to suggest that the combined deleterious economic impact of the Holocaust, Stalin’s purge, and 9/11, is less than that caused by Obamacare.  As we Southerners are fond of saying, “That dog don’t hunt.”

In the final analysis, there are many ways to look at this latest hyperbolic expression.  It may be par for the course, it may be the logical extension of previous outrageous partisan assertions, or it may be the most ridiculous statement you have heard lately.  I do not know what the Senator thinks, but it sounds as though he is suggesting Obamacare: The Worst Thing Ever?” 

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:











Farewell Madiba!

Break It Down!

Last Thursday, the venerable (Nelson) Rolihlahla Mandela, former, and first black, President of South Africa, died.  Yesterday, in the fifth day of a ten-day observance memorializing Ta Ta’s (referred to thusly because he is considered a Father figure by many South Africans, but also the Father of the South African nation) life and accomplishments, President Obama was among those chosen to speak at the service.  The following CNN link includes a video and transcript of President Obama’s remarks: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/10/politics/mandela-obama-remarks/

Most Americans know the story of President Obama and of the improbable nature of his rise to prominence.  While it is true, in 2004, few Americans would have been bold enough, or prescient enough, or even crazy enough to predict that a black man in the Illinois State Senate would by 2014 be in the second year of his second term as President of the United StatesTempest fugit…and things change.

Well, as unlikely as President Obama’s arc to the Presidency was, President Mandela’s rise to the ultimate seat of power in a country synonymous with Apartheid, and in which Nelson Mandela had spent 27 years in prison was even more unlikely.  The government of South Africa imprisoned Mr. Mandela from August 5, 1962 until February 2, 1990.  It is difficult to imagine that anyone could have predicted in 1989 that by 1999, Mr. Mandela, who was still in jail at the time (1989), would in ten years, voluntarily step down after having served a term as South Africa’s President.  The government in Pretoria might have placed an individual who did such a thing on a fast track to a cellblock next to Mandela.

However, that is precisely what happened.  So yesterday, America’s first black President, after a 19-hour flight, served as one of the celebrity eulogists for Ta Ta, South Africa’s first black President.

Mr. Mandela, who died at 95, reinvented himself, and was revered and beloved by many around the world.  President Obama, in his speech, talked about Madiba’s tribal (Xhosa/Thembu) roots, and at times compared him to Gandhi, King, and LincolnPresident Obama was clear in expressing his personal admiration for the South African, and noted specifically that his first political action came after learning about Nelson Mandela.  He protested Apartheid.

I noted earlier, the link above directs you to both a video and the transcript of President Obama’s remarks.  Principally, I am taking this opportunity to declare my own esteem and appreciation for the life that Madiba lived and for his fidelity to the principles of doing the right thing, and to his resolute commitment to forgive…even those who imprisoned him.

To wit I say, “Farewell Madiba!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:











Another Day, Another Presidential Death Threat!

It’s time to Break It Down!

There is a popular meme that if a person is President of the most powerful country in the world, he or she is about as close to invincible as possible.  However, the reality of the situation was re-enforced all too poignantly as we as a nation collectively commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the November 22, 1963 assassination of JFK.

Coincidentally, or not, during the same week as that Golden Anniversary observance of the death of President Kennedy, the U.S. Secret Service arrested Joshua Phillip Klimas, of Coventry, Connecticut, for communicating threats to kill President Obama and his family.  The agents arrested Mr. Klimas on November 20, 2013.  A judge then ordered him committed to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

According to the criminal complaint, On June 1st, Klimas wrote on whitehouse.gov:

  • “If you do not resign by the end of the year I will kill you!”

Klimas is an engineering student at the University of Connecticut (UConn).  According to Hartford TV Station WFSB 3, Klimas wrote at least two other statements threatening the President, including:

  • “Your days are numbered and it will bring me much pleasure to watch the blood pour from your treasonous body,”
  • “I will not rest until you are either behind bars or a pile of ashes.”

The agent who took Klimas’ statement said he admitted he wrote the post.  He added, it was his duty to protect the Constitution and that the post served as a wake-up warning for the President Obama.

The complaint noted that Klimas has threatened other people.  Klimas stated that he has had mental issues and has been committed to a hospital on two occasions as a result.  He also indicated he has taken medical marijuana for anxiety, and that medical professionals at UConn treated him.

Klimas’ actions are under investigation by the Secret Service, UConn, and the Coventry Police Department.  However, in many ways, it is probably unfair to highlight just the Klimas case.  After all, his is by no means the only instance this year (which is almost over), or in that month, or during the week in question, or even on that day.  In fact, the sheer volume may surprise you.  The number is so staggeringly massive the Secret Service does not even tell the President about them on an individual basis.  Through the year 2012, the number was around 40,000, which translates to more than 30 per day.  That extrapolates to more than 50,000 by now, and nearly 1,000 more by the end of the year.  To wit, “Another Day, Another (Thirty) Presidential Death Threat(s).”  I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: