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Morning Song – Now!

With all the youthful energy propelling social movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and #MarchForOurLives, Lena Horne’s “Now!” seems, in some ways, as urgent and powerful and relevant as it was 55 years ago.

“Enough with the quoting;
Put those words into action,
And we mean action now

Now is the moment;
Now is the moment;
Come on, we’ve put it off long enough!”


Morning Song – Who Is He & What Is He To You

Back in 1996 Me’shell Ndegeocello took Bill Withers’ soul classic “Who Is He & What Is He To You” and made it her own—soulful, funky, dreamy, fiery, queer…and thoroughly entrancing.


Morning Song – Cast ‘Em Out

Finding out that Rebecca and Megan Lovell are distant relatives of Edgar Allan Poe explains a lot.

Like how a couple of classically trained, nice young women from Atlanta can write, play and sing a song like “Cast ‘Em Out”, that draws from the tortured and twisted depths of the work that made this country what it is today.

Lay the track, build the train,
Count the long cross ties;
Bend your back, bare the pain,
Don’t you waste no time….

Morning Song – Messie Bessie

Queen of the Hammond B-3 organ, Shirley Scott, with her tribute to the Empress of the Blues.

Morning Song – A Little More Jesus

If you hear an echo of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” in Erica Campbell’s 2013 solo hit, “A Little More Jesus”, don’t be surprised. After all, Burke’s song had its origins in his childhood church where “it was a march for the offering.

And just as that original riff was aimed at helping people dig a little deeper in their pockets, “A Little More Jesus” is an unabashed prayer for help on those days when the world is too much, and you need some help to overcome your circumstance.

Got an ache right here, pain right there,
Not enough power, need way more prayer;

I need just a little more Jesus, to help me along the way.

Morning Song – Drop That Sack

There are many reasons for Louis Armstrong’s success. One is that he married up.

When Armstrong arrived in Chicago in 1922, Lil Hardin already had what he wanted: a chair in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Hardin was a talented pianist, composer and arranger who quickly recognized Armstrong’s brilliance and not only encouraged it, but cultivated it.

It was Hardin who had graduated from Fisk University (and would later earn an advanced degree from the New York College of Music). It was Hardin who worked to “take the country out of” Armstrong, teaching him how to shop and dress for city life, and getting him a stylish hair cut. It was Hardin (already once divorced herself) who helped Armstrong navigate the complex early 20th century legal waters of getting a divorce from his first wife.

More importantly, it was Hardin who encouraged Armstrong to go to New York and join Fletcher Henderson’s band. When Armstrong returned to Chicago, she was leading her own band and had a sign made advertising him as “The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player”. Not only is she the pianist on Armstrong’s earliest Hot Five recordings, but she wrote and arranged several of the charts (not to mention anchoring the rhythm section in the absence of a drummer).

In fact, some cuts—like “Drop That Sack”—now commonly remembered as being performed by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five were actually released by Lil’s Hot Shots, the same band but with Hardin as leader and on her own recording contract.


Morning Song – Good Times

Everyone—e.g., the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Dan Seals—who covers “Good Times” covers Sam Cooke’s version.

It makes sense. Sam wrote the song. He’s one of the great singers of the 20th century. It was his last single (and went to #1).

More importantly, if you cover Sam’s version you don’t have to try to cover Aretha’s… which is probably just as well because, well, you can’t.

Not unlike what she did to Otis Redding’s “Respect”, Aretha took “Good Times”, stripped out the non-essentials, reworked the lyrics, changed the tempo and made it her own. (Plus she arranged the music, played piano and led the band.)

P. S. In case you’re wondering how Aretha’s “Good Times” did on the charts, it didn’t. Atlantic Records never released it as a single. In fact, the collective wisdom of the executives at Atlantic and Columbia Records was that Aretha produced 9 songs in 1967 (and 10 in 1968) that were better than “Good Times”. The scary thing, when you look at the list, is they might have been right.