Friday, July 24, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Un Bouquet de Fleurs

I was watching an episode of Unsung on TV One when I was finally able to identify a song I hadn't heard in decades. Until this one hour biography, I was never able to figure out who was singing this Kate Bush-esque song. The biography was about Minnie Riperton and the song, Les Fleurs, was the first cut on her first solo album Come to My Garden, released in 1970.

Minnie is now most well-known for her 1975 hit Loving You and her daughter, Maya Rudolph. The songstress and mother died in 1979 at the age of 31. Check out this trippy, flower-ful video of this incredible tune - sung from the point of view of un fleur.

Will somebody wear me to the fair?
Will a lady pin me in her hair?
Will a child find me by a stream?
Kiss my petals and weave me through a dream.

For all of these simple things and much more a flower was born
It blooms to spread love and joy faith and hope to people forlorn

Inside every man lives the seed of a flower
If he looks within he finds beauty and power

Ring all the bells sing and tell the people that be everywhere that the flower has come
Light up the sky with your prayers of gladness and rejoice for the darkness is gone
Throw off your fears let your heart beat freely at the sign that a new time is born

Friday, July 17, 2009

2241 Bailey Remixed and Repainted

The redecoration of the inside of our home is complete.

That, of course, implies that I did not forget the linen closet which was always filled, and that I had thought about it in the six months prior when I had thought about every other wall and floor in the house, and that I had asked Francisco, the contractor, to use some of the leftover black and white kitchen linoleum on the closet floor and paint it's walls with the can of unused peach in the carriage house.

I need some air.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Surprisingly Moved by Viola Wills

When I first got in my new car I turned on the stereo to find that I had Sirius satellite radio stations. I perused the manual and found that Sirius would be provided for the first year of the vehicle's operation. Since the car was actually used, I have four months of Sirius left. I'm serious.

I was listening to channel 81 Cinemagic Jazz Standards on my way home from Safeway. This station, strangely enough, played classic dance and disco before the Studio 54 channel. I was minding my own business when the familiar strains of the 1980 recording If You Could Read My Mind came wafting through the six (count 'em, six) speakers. Viola Wills. I opened the car windows and belted that tune out with the lady. It's a beautiful, uplifting production of a song whose subject matter is not quite beautiful and uplifting. In fact, a controversy surrounding the rearrangement of this Gordon Lightfoot paean to dance was brewing around the same time as the Disco Sucks movement hit a full head of steam. I didn't care then or now because Disco Don't Suck. I got home, opened my laptop, and searched Viola and If You Could Read My Mind.

The first link that came up was a news story reporting that Viola Wills had died on May 9, 2009, two months prior. I was surprised at the news and SHOCKED that I hadn't heard it before as I pride myself on my knowledge of the minutiae of pop culture. Many links later I accepted her death to be true.

I was surprisingly moved by Viola's death. Surprisingly because I didn't feel that way when Vicki Sue Robinson died. But Viola and I had a number of tunes, and a meet and greet, in common. I remember bopping to Stormy Weather, Up on the Roof, and Gonna Get Along With You Now as I came out of the closet and onto the dance floor. Viola Wills was the disco cover queen.

Viola was discovered in the late 1960s by Barry White but it wasn't until a decade later that she hit it big with her cover of Gonna Get Along Without You Now which reached the top 10 in 1979. (The 1959 original was sung by Patience & Prudence.) The hit started a string of dance covers including Both Sides Now, (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me, Stormy Weather, Up On The Roof, Secret Love, Love Pains, Climb Every Mountain, Midnight Blue, If You Leave Me Now and the aforementioned If You Could Read My Mind. Stormy Weather topped out at #4 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart in 1982. She continued to release records into the late 1980s although there were not many hits among them. These were mostly released on the RVA record label which she formed with her husband Robert Ashmun in 1983.

Wills was extremely popular among the nation's gay community with her singles always spun in gay dance clubs. IN fact, that's where I met Viola. I hired her to perform at Torpedo, a gay dance club in South Beach, Florida in 1991. She was, as the nightclub business deemed her, a track act; she brought instrumental tracks with her to which she performed live vocals. Viola packed the floor on one of our biggest dance nights and was very sweet and unassuming. That's about all I remember. It was a night club, for Christ's sake.

In reading about Viola I found out that she was 53 when we met seventeen years ago. (She was born December 30, 1939.) I was 35. She looked great. So did I. And now I learn she recorded singles as early as 1966! I hadn't heard any of her non-dance oriented work so I decided to look for some of this stuff. Unfortunately, there was nothing but the aforementioned tunes in disparate disco compilations.

Since I found no audio files I searched YouTube for video and hit gold. But I wanted an audio collection - you know to blast in the car with the windows open. So I downloaded high-quality videos from YouTube, extracted the audio and converted it to 192 bkps using SWITCH. Not sure what that makes it technologically but it's still music. Below is a list of the songs I compressed into a ZIP file. Email me if you'd like the URL to download the ZIP.

Rest with peace, Viola.

I Got Love (1966) - excellent
Lost Without the Love (1966) - nice
You're Out of My Mind (1967) - excellent but not good quality
I Believe in Miracles (1975) - beautiful
Let's Love Now (Disco Version) (1977) - not a highlight
Gonna Get Along Without You Now (1979) - reminds me of Bette Midler's You're Moving Out Today
(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me from If You Could Read My Mind LP (1980)
If You Could Read My Mind from If You Could Read My Mind LP (1980)
Let Me Be Your Rock from If You Could Read My Mind LP (1980)
Midnight Blue from If You Could Read My Mind LP (1980)
Secret Love from If You Could Read My Mind LP (1980)
Up On The Roof from If You Could Read My Mind LP (1980)
If You Leave Me Now (1981) - very nice version of the treacly Chicago hit
The More I See You (1982) - nice take on the classic
Stormy Weather (1982) - ahhhhh
Climb Every Mountain (1983) - another remix version is on YouTube
Both Sides Now (1989) - surprisingly acceptable
Dare to Dream (1989) - excellent and written by Vi
Love Pains (1989) - was another version really necessary?
Gonna Get Along Without You Now (Single Version) (1980)
If You Could Read My Mind (extended) (1980)
Bonus Track - Gonna Get Along Without You Now (Patience & Prudence) (1959)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Vietnamese Lady Barber Hears With An Accent

Haircuts are getting less expensive. Thirty years ago I was paying $40; today I just paid $7 with a generous $5 tip. For a while I was paying nothing.

I had never been to this particular lady barber but figured whatever she does will grow out within a month anyway. Tina is very friendly and we were chatting away as she cut. I told her about Locks of Love and how I had donated my hair when I cut the length ten years before. She told me where she lived and about her dog Mimi. As she finishes the cut, Tina says:

I wuv shie cuwu. Sash un papa.

Huh? You what?

I wuv shie cuwu. Sash un papa.

You wu..? love!

Yes, she cawa.

Oh, the color. Yes. Salt and pepper. It looks good. I guess it could have been more salt than pepper which would be too much.

Huh? Tina asked.

More salt than pepper. Which could be too much. I replied.

More...huh? and Tina scrunched her face into the universal WTF? signifier. Then I had an epiphany.

More sash then papa would be too much.

Oh, yes. More sash too much. And she laughs.

My Vietnamese lady barber hears with an accent.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebrating Canada and the United States

When I looked at the calendar this week I thought, how interesting that both Canada and the United States have birthdays together. Did Canada try to emulate the United States when deciding to make their day in the first week of July? Not that I have any idea what Canada Day is. So I decided to investigate to see if the fact that these two days occupy the same week in the calendar is interesting at all. I know that July 4th is the day a declaration of independence from the British government was signed in the United States. According to Wikipedia, July 1 is popularly referred to as Canada's Birthday.

The occasion marks the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on 1 July 1867. Although Canada is regarded as having become a kingdom in its own right on that date, the British Parliament kept limited rights of political control over the new country that were shed by stages over the years until the last vestiges were surrendered in 1982 when the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution.

So July 1 is a declaration of federation with a declaration of independence chaser and a 100 year mortgage. What I find interesting is the long arm of the British Parliament. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

To all who celebrate this weekend, enjoy your hot dogs (vegetarian in this household), cherry pie, nanaimo bars, and Henry Gibson (yes, that one) performing 200 Years from the Nashville soundtrack.