It’s time to Break It Down!
(Revised from Break It Down – 12/24/08, 12/22/10, 12/21/11, 12/26/12, 12/25/13, and 12/23/15)
Last night was a long night. But it was worth every minute. I kicked off the evening by attending a meeting of the local Board of County Commissioners. There, the Commissioners feted my friend and former boss, Harry L. Jones, Sr. for his many years of public service, and a life spent working to ensure that the communities in which he lived were better places for all citizens, but especially for “the least of these.” He spent 13 years (2000-2013) as Mecklenburg County’s Manager. I humbly salute him, and posit the award was well-earned. GO Heels, my friend!
The second leg of my evening was spent watching the visiting Los Angeles Lakers (my lifelong favorite professional basketball team) take on my home team, Charlotte Hornets. Most folks who know me well are aware when there Lakers and Hornets play, I pull for the Hornets. I do live in CLT, after all. But I’m a happy camper regardless of which team wins. Tonight, the Hornets prevailed, and I was “In da House!” It was all good. I extend a special thanks to my good friend Carlos for providing me tickets in the Wells Fargo Suite. It’s a great place to view a game at Spectrum Arena.
Finally, it was Tuesday night, so despite having a full evening, it was Blog Night; I had work to do. So, now that it’s Wednesday, here, as scheduled, is the blog. It’s Christmas Time in the City. I hope you enjoy the blog/e-concert.
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. But that really shouldn’t be a problem since Donald Trump has brought Christmas back. However, a quick check back over the Obama years reveals…Christmas never went anywhere, anyway (http://www.msnbc.com/am-joy/watch/-merry-christmas-never-left-the-white-house-824078915806). 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 have already begun your well planned and no doubt, richly deserved hiatus from work. Perhaps you have finished your shopping and taken care of all the major errands that accompany preparing for the Big Day. Maybe all that remains is packing and/or traveling; or that throw-down cooking marathon that precedes the arrival of 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 through the facts, be they esoteric or mundane. Not the election, or the economy, no wars, and absolutely no (further) references to Donald Trump’s tweets, Hillary’s emails, or the current geopolitical climate. 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, or in this case, posts. In fact, not just any previous posts…not even just any prior Christmas Posts. I am, essentially re-posting my entry from several Christmas’ past, with a notable caveat. In my eight preceding Christmas Season posts, I have now presented an e-Christmas Concert on six occasions. This year, I am pressing the reset button on the Concert. Instead of providing 12 standards, am I am providing 24, 12 by female artists, and 12 by male artists. Bonus: Most are different songs/artists than those I presented last year. Today anyway, more is better.
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, and 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 by several of my favorite artists. This year, I am offering a new variation of the artistic olio I pulled together for your reading, viewing, and listening pleasure a number of years ago. Below, you will find a hot link to a YouTube video interpretation and two songs for each of the 12 Days of Christmas listed and included in today’s Yuletide e-concert.
- Eartha Kitt is known for having had many talents skills, and abilities, among them acting and singing. Last year I substituted her most popular Christmas song for “Nothing for Christmas.” After a 1-year hiatus, I’m bringing back Santa Baby. As I’ve noted before, the song was born in 1953, just like me. She slays (or if you’re really in the Christmas spirit — sleighs) it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFMyF9fDKzE
- Dianne Reeves is a Grammy-winning jazz artist who sings in the vein of Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae; a skilled lyricist and scat singer. She presents “Christmas Time is Here” as if it’s her own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hInJstw1cGE
- Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America. She had a short and tumultuous reign. But cream rises to the top, and her talent ensured that losing her title was but a mere speed bump in a star-studded road. Her rendition of “Do You See What I See” provides a glimpse of her musical flexibility and skill. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duiBDjMg1xA
- Lena Horne was a jazz musician whose career spanned over 70 years. She was also an actress, dancer, and civil rights activist. She demonstrates her vocal caliber in this version of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Bco7U7SNCJY
- Cassandra Wilson was born December 4, 1955. Her birthdate alone ensured that I included her on this list; ’06! But that’s not the only reason she made the cut. Her range includes blues, country, and folk music, as well as jazz. Moreover, she stuck the proverbial landing in her rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctWLMGajOLs
- Toni Braxton is a lot of things: a talented songwriter, singer, pianist, record producer, actress, television personality, and philanthropist. She is known to be sexy, sultry, and an unpredictable reality show star. She’s still best known for her music though, and her version of “Santa Please” will do absolutely nothing to change that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nFWiF_E_VQ
- The Emotions are one of those classic Old School Girl Groups born in the 70’s. Influenced greatly by Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire Fame, they continue to perform today. One of my favorite tunes by them is their version of “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=172MUncGhj8
- Anita Baker released her first solo album in 1983. In 1986, she released “Rapture” and it was the dawn of her stardom. She is known for her trademark “husky” voice, and she is at her Christmas best in this version of “The Christmas Song.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHze40h13mc
- Diana Ross and the Supremes were the “It” Group of Motown when Motown was the “It’ place of Soul Music. The Supremes are America’s most successful vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Here they are with their 1965 rendition of “Silver Bells.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGTkxPmJicc
- Ella Fitzgerald is jazz royalty. Frequently referred to as the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella, she was widely acclaimed for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, and intonation, as well as a horn-like improvisational ability. Virtually all scat singing is measured against her. Check out her version of “Sleigh Ride.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0Fd-MZHrdo
- Whitney Houston had a voice known worldwide. Her recordings accounted for nearly 200 million records sold. Her’s was a clarion voice of our times. This version of “Joy To The World,” taken from the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife,” is special, as was she. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYPpyTyPf6I
- Ledisi (Anibade Young) is an R&B and jazz recording artist. Her first name means “to bring forth” or “to come here” in Yoruba. She was aptly named. Enjoy her rendering of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xMz5oGc8s1Q
- James 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” is not so uptempo, but still a reminder that he had earned his chops the hard way, and that he was much more than just flash and dash. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xg6FcaYHf4
- Donny Hathaway was a multifaceted soulful crooner and a product of Howard University who excelled in jazz, blues, soul and gospel music; an Alpha Man. He suffered from depression and died of suicide January 13, 1979 at 33 years old. He rendered this marvelous recording of “This Christmas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkqjjYP53vQ
- The O’Jays were formed in 1965, and have been a staple in Soul and R&B music ever since. They knock it out of the park with this version of “Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas Anymore.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc4g1wsIA9g
- The Temptations were a significant part of what made Motown, Motown, in the 60’s and 70’s. Their rendition of Silent Night lives on as a classic among classics as far as Christmas music goes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFc7STuQF0U
- Al Green, soul singer, turned minister, soul singer-minister was at his most popular during the 70’s. He puts his considerable talents to good use in this version of “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cFyRwlR5YXk
- El DeBarge was the central figure in the group known as DeBarge, which reached it’s zenith in the 80’s. El was one of several members of the group who went on to fashion solo careers. He nails this version of “Christmas Without You.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_xB6VD7fS8
- Will Downing has been recording albums since 1988. Ive seen him in concerts twice, including a couple of weeks ago, and I own most of his recorded music. He simply does not disappoint. This recording of The First Noel is no exception. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOQWKBIuk-I
- Joe (Lewis Thomas) released his debut album in 1993. He has maintained a presence on the music scene ever since. His nuanced presentation of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is just another fine example of his limitless talent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vbpsVILCvU
- Jerry Butler, popularly known as the Ice Man, fitting for an Alpha, is a singer, songwriter, and musician (guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums) who was the lead singer for the Impressions before going on to a solo career. He recored this classic version of O Holy Night. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0dR1Dk7Bu0
- Luther Vandross was a musical icon. Period. End of story. He is one of my favorite musicians, and his treatment of “My Favorite Things” is certainly among my favorite Christmas songs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6TRlV6MOOU
- The Whispers hail from LA, and have been around since the 60’s. They became members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003…for good reason. They got it like that. And they prove it with this version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbJ95aWUc_A
- Kem (Owens) is an R&B/Soul singer who has made his uniquely fashioned mark on the music scene since 1999. He enlists Ledisi (Anibade Young), another single named musical star to create a fabulous rendition of “Be Mine For Christmas.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_8rVJ_ENaY
That’s it, 24 artists and videos and/or songs. Add it all up and you get “12 Days Of Christmas: The e-Concert – 2016!” Enjoy it throughout the Season, and by all means, remember the Reason for the Season!
I’m done; holla back!
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