Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Godfather In Action

Nothing like watching Soul Brother Number One in action on the Mothership of soul music; Soul Train. James Brown visits the "train" during the 1970s and brings the Mighty J.B's to the stage. It's all live music...and this special performance is one not to miss. It's a powerful seven-minute powerhouse medley of James' influential prototype disco signatures: "Get On The Good Feet", "Soul Power" and "Make It Funky". And yes...we seriously had to post this. Because you hear modern gospel music all up in the funky grooves, blazing horn blasts and zesty chord action. All we need now is Tye Tribbett to master that split on stage.

Make sure you have Macromedia Flash downloaded on your computer and have a high-speed connection for best results.

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown (1933-2006)

James Brown, better known as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business and referred by many as the Godfather of Soul, leaped upon the musical scene in the mid-1950s with his cool, romantic R&B ballads such as "Try Me" and "Please, Please, Please". But he did something highly unique during his generation that would shake the foundations and frontiers of American music. He would become one of the forerunners of soul music and would also become a pioneer of fresher, unique and zesty musical styles such as funk and disco during the late 1960s and 70s. Songs like "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", "Say It Loud", "Sex Machine" and "I Feel Good" shook the music world completely. That same rumble heard decades ago is still being heard and felt now even in the pop and hip-hop music world as many of artists pay homage and tribute to the Godfather using sampling - an remixing artform using beats and melodies of original songs.

James Brown blessed us all, whether we knew it or not. His musical style and signature moves has influenced generations of musical giants from most genres. Even in gospel music, artists ranging from the more contemporary (Israel Houghton, Hezekiah Walker, John P. Kee, Ricky Dillard) to the familiar traditional (Dorothy Norwood, Keith Wonderboy Johnson, Rev. Milton Biggham, James Bignon, Angela Spivey) have formed their own styles and sets of music around the funky good sounds of the Godfather. And while he never made a career singing gospel music, he drew from its heavy rhythms and the spirited excitement from gospel music and incorporated it into his now-trademark vocal attributes. He literally placed soul music, one of the early descendants of gospel, into the fibers of American music and culture.

James Brown passed away on Christmas Day 2006 (December 25) at the age of 73. He was hospitalized with severe pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died of heart failure around 1:45 a.m. He won a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (best R&B recording) and for "Living In America" in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.

Remembering The Godfather (
Godfather Of Soul (Offical Website)
James Brown Dies At 73 - New York Times Obituary
PRAYZEHYMN Article: Funky Sensations

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dear City Stages

Dear City Stages,

I wanted to write this letter, after I noticed during the last couple of weeks, that you began to reach out to the community like never before asking for support to help pull your world-class festival out of the red. I have been following your annual event from day one and recall the days of old as being promising and hopeful. The early stages showed signs of great expectations and we have witnessed many festivals hosted here in our great city of Birmingham emerge from the ashes and fall back into shameful crypts. Yet, your music and arts festival still lives on. And for that achievement, you should be commended.

But I am really puzzled in how on your recent string of commercials to save City Stages with the public friendly campaign you are using the faces of the faith communities to help bring in dollars to your collapsing institution. It's not as if I have a problem with seeing Pastor Stephen Green, of More Than Conquerors Faith Church, on television...even though he seems to be a very popular guy on local television. It's just that I've seen how each year the festival seems to neglect, abandon and disappoint many music forms. Particularly with gospel music.

I've heard many excuses over the years for this problem. You feel it's better to focus on local acts because, in the opinion of your staff, you feel there's a lot of great talent and music here in our area alone. That's a great and positive statement to make. But I tend to look at it using an industry perspective. You invest in bringing big acts to City Stages on rock and pop stages, and sometimes in R&B/hip-hop, but the failure of focusing on big drawing cards to the former gospel stage is a sign that it's not about there being great talent here. Instead it's about putting the money where you feel it needs to be. And gospel music is one of those areas that you fail to fully endorse.

In previous years, your agency has booked great artists like Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Helen Baylor, Wanda Nero Butler, Rodney Posey and LaShun Pace for the former Gospel Stage. But I was always bothered by the lack of well-respected artists you drew in each year. You only could afford ONE artist to highlight the entire three-day festival in the field of gospel music. Some years your festival decided to only feature the gospel stage for two days and most years you closed the gospel stage very early, while the other stages went on; leaving the saints confused on where to go. And some years, you confused everybody by putting gospel artists on stages that is highly surrounded by patrons drunk on site. I still can remember at 1:15 a.m. when the Georgia Mass Choir finally appeared on the Coca-Cola stage a few years ago and still having to deal with drunkards and confused hecklers. That same idea was used when you booked Kurt Carr & the Kurt Carr Singers two weeks before last year's festival....and then you put them on the Coca-Cola the first act. Everyone knows you put the better acts towards the end, yet you put one of our great sensations in today's gospel music at the very beginning of your festival's lineup on that Sunday.

Then I was extremely bothered by how the Gospel Stage dissolved and was renamed as the Music Oasis stage - a stage focusing on eclectic forms of world music ranging from Celtic chimebell ensembles to other religious musical styles. And in the midst of it, you decided to put a few local gospel choirs up. On paper, your record makes it look like you care about gospel music; a historic American musical genre established from the blues during the 1920s and has blossomed into one of the fastest growing genres of music today. But may the truth be told: City Stages is no greater and no better than most industry professionals. It's a game of politics...and because you know we reside in the Bible belt, faith is an essential part of our lifestyles. So you use faith in the end to spearhead a fundraising organism to help City Stages rise from its current sickness.

But this is a sickness that you created, I believe. You killed the presence of real gospel music and replaced it with a very disappointing presentation of local acts that need the same intensity that your bigger stages receive year after year. They want to see Mary Mary, they want to see the Canton Spirituals, they want to see Shirley Caesar, they want to see Yolanda Adams, they want to see Richard Smallwood and Timothy Wright and Youthful Praise and Lisa McClendon. Sadly, you still have not heard their cry.

I look at music festivals across the country and notice that most of them have done the same thing you are doing and are facing. But you can still go to Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta...they have gospel stages and festivals loaded with the best in gospel music. That's something City Stages fails to live up to.

I refuse to support CityStages now...and I really hope that the Greater Birmingham community, particularly those who really love and support gospel music, will stand with me. We hope you will get the message and learn from your current consequences.

A Disappointed Customer,

J. Matthew Cobb
PRAYZEHYMN Entertainment

Mother Bowman Passes

Mother Mattie A. Bowman, 82, mother of renowned gospel artist Vickie
Winans, slipped away from this side on December, 12 2006. She suffered a massive heart attack on Labor Day this year and had been hospitalized since. The family
hour and viewing of the body will take place on this Sunday,
December 17, 2006 from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. at:

Perfecting Church
7616 E. Nevada
Detroit, MI 48234

The homegoing service will follow directly after at 4:00 p.m.

Please Send All Flowers to:
Mattie A. Bowman
Stinson Funeral Home
16540 Meyers
Detroit, MI 48235

Or to:
Perfecting Church
7616 E. Nevada
Detroit, MI 48234

Please Send All Cards, Condolences, Etc. to:
Vickie Winans
6689 Orchard Lake Rd. #256
West Bloomfield, MI 48322

A Note From Vickie:
Those of you who have my personal cell phone number, please feel
free to call or text me! I need all the strength I can get! Myself
and my entire family wish to thank all of you in advance for your
love, support, prayers, flowers, gifts, emails, words of
encouragement, smiles, hugs, and whatever else you have given and
will give us! WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH! My Mother will suffer no more!
She is finally with Jesus! And in her own words she would say, "HEY

Florist Information:
Bellasario Florist
Ralph Bellasario
23420 Gratiot
East Point, MI 48021

Wesley Berry Florist, Inc.
6677 Orchard Lake Rd.
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
(248) 851-3404

Pretty Bouquet
326 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 416-8607
(313) 963-0775


Monday, December 04, 2006

Gospel Radio Extinction?

"I feel seasons in the air, I feel seasons everywhere..." - Donald Lawrence on

There's a little bit of paranoia resting in the air and it's because the seasons are beginning to change regarding the future of gospel music. While it continues to grow as a genre in terms of popularity and sales, certain regions are being hit hard with the big changes of style and progression of artists - which is releasing uncomfortability and tension on some individuals.

In Birmingham, Ala. alone, the only FM 24/7 gospel radio station, Hallelujah 105.5 FM, quickly faded into darkness as a new sound and signal was released on the same dial this past weekend. The new Vulcan is being hailed as Birmingham's new rock station. Sadly, this also comes as bad news to the black community since WENN-FM (105.5 FM) had a strong historical significance in being the first black FM station in the city of Birmingham. WENN made changes to play gospel music two years ago and has sold its power to playing rock music.

In a city like Birmingham, located in the Bible belt, where gospel music is a serious religious experience to many of the citizens here, it should come as a surprise to hear the present changes on gospel radio. But this trend is probably a national issue.

Part of it has to deal with what gospel radio plays and knowing their limitations. After interning for a gospel radio station, in hopes of reviving its listening audience with fresh music, I realized that gospel radio really doesn't want to live. Instead doing what is traditional and regular, without stretching its potential, is the trend today. The TOP 10 songs are played over and over, half of the DJs barely know the artists or know how to pronounce them...and there is a bit of bias that comes with DJs in terms of what they play. Most of the time if they are unfamiliar with the artist, the favor on their music is usually very limited. Then there's the Gospel Music Workshop's Gospel Announcers Guild, a group that controls most of what gospel radio plays...this group conducts themselves like the record pools conducted back in the Atlantic Records' days and during the height of the disco era. While it's cool to have an association with other DJs and playing what other places like, it's not good to be controlled by other sources. Usually this blocks the DJ's creativity and spark.

Then let us consider that anyone nowadays can push a button to play a song. That's usually what the DJs do now...and they speak a little bit and give us the weather. Instead of directing the music in an amazing flow...the DJs of today have become radio evangelists instead of music directors. While mainstream music rejoices over DJs that remixes songs and mixes on the 1's and 2's on Saturday night while playing endless medleys of the hot songs of today, our DJs just choose a track and have not welcomed new ideas to help strengthen their programs. Because of this, gospel radio sounds outdated. Which is what leads us to the big issue. Gospel radio is now falling into its early stages of extinction.

Without serious changes for growth and maturity, gospel radio will remain an AM pastime. With new ideas and fresh vision, there is room for hope. But as the popularity of satellite radio increases and drivers choosing to play their CDs and mp3s on the road, gospel radio may need to take a seat in the back of the bus. At least for now.

For Birmingham citizens, express your opinions regarding Clear Channel Communications' decision to close HALLELUJAH FM and venture into rock by commenting on the blog. We want to hear from you!