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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Patti Labelle: Miami Vice Siren

On Friday, July 28th, Miami Vice drops into movie theaters across the USA.

Based on the legendary television series, detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs rise again, like the phoenix, in this 2006 update.

Jamie Foxx stretches out in the role of Tubbs, originally played by Phillip Michael Thomas.  Colin Farrell jumps into the Crockett role, made famous by Don Johnson.

Although Patti Labelle, Nina Simone, and India Arie add some pizzazz to the new soundtrack, overall the complete collection as a body of work fails to live up to the 1985 Miami Vice CD.

The original 1985 release featured Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Melle Mel, Tina Turner, Glenn Frey, and Jan Hammer.  Musically, these artists were a snapshot of the best of the 80’s.

As I listened to the 2006 soundtrack, I was struck by how uneven it is.

Moby and Patti Labelle collaborate for a pleasing song, “One of These Mornings.” “Sinnerman” by the late Nina Simone is remixed by ‘Felix Da Housecat’ for a robotic techno ride.  India Arie offers a charming and melodic ballad, “Ready For Love."

The rest of the tracks lack the star power commanded by today’s most successful music artists, who are conspicuous by their absence.

Additional songs run the gamut from salsa to modern rock, and include other non-descript offerings...guaranteed not to distract while munching popcorn to the pyrotechnic beat of the cop cavalcade on the silver screen.

I suppose this soundtrack will play well in trendy South Beach, the section of Miami known for it’s expensive restaurants, nightclubs, and upscale fashion.

We’ll know soon enough if the music in the 2006 Miami Vice soundtrack is trendy, or has staying power, like it’s 1985 soul mate.

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Posted by King on 07/27 at 07:55 AM
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Classic Soul in the Bermuda Sun

You may have noticed in our previous article that India Arie is scheduled to appear in Bermuda in early October.

Bermuda is always a hot vacation destination.  The string of islands, linked by causeways and bridges, offers plenty of fun in the sun.

October 4 – 7, the 2006 Bermuda Music Festival kicks into high gear, offering a strong line-up of sensational classic soul and classic R&B.

Gladys Knight, Teena Marie, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, and The Manhattans featuring Blue Lovett and Gerald Alston are just a few of the artists scheduled to perform.

Island hop till you drop, soak in some sunshine, and tune into the soulful music.

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Posted by King on 07/26 at 08:53 AM
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

India Arie makes Positive Contact

Here I am, visiting with India Arie, right after her live nationwide NPR studio concert, in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 20.

She’s currently on tour to support her number one CD, “Testimony: vol. 1, Life & Relationship."

This release is India’s best to date.  The standout tracks are:

  • Good Morning
  • There’s Hope
  • India’s Song
  • Summer
  • Better People
  • I Am Not My Hair featuring Akon

Here’s India’s remaining 2006 tour schedule...

  • July 29, Chastain Park - Atlanta, GA
  • July 30, Orpheum Theater - Memphis, TN
  • August 5, Aronoff Center - Cincinnati, OH
  • August 6, Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN
  • August 10 Tampa Performing Arts Center - Tampa, FL
  • August 11, Orange County Convention Center - Orlando, FL
  • August 12, BJCC Arena - Birmingham, AL
  • September 16, Cascade Theater - Redding, CA
  • September 17, Black Oak Ranch - Laytonville, CA
  • October 6, Royal Naval Dockyard - Bermuda

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Posted by King on 07/25 at 07:54 AM
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part three

The escapades of Rick James are legendary.  His daughter Ty is the co-producer of a new movie about Rick’s life.

See the Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part one, in addition to the Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part two.

When four limousines rolled into the old JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA USA in the early 1980’s, Rick James, one of the stars of the show, stepped out of a maroon stretch ride along side of three black limos that held his band.

I remembered this show pretty well, because it was a fast one.  Rick was, let’s say, in party overdrive mode.

When his quick set ended, he, his band, and entourage slipped back into their waiting limousines, to be whisked away out of the huge stadium, making a b-line to the land of punk funk superstars.

Are you ready for the final chapter in the history of Rick James? Let’s continue with the official Rick James story...

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"Swaggering decadence had been the essence of his image for so long that he wondered whether the public would be ready—or, more important, willing—to accept a Rick James whose concept of touchy-feely no longer had anything to do with an orgy.

Ultimately, James decided not to ask them to. “I said, ‘Fuck this, let’s get back to the roots,’ “ he recalls, “and I wrote some new songs."

instead of looking ahead, Urban Rapsody takes a long look back. James has attempted a concept album, an audio movie of his life; he compares the recording process to “recreating Frankenstein.” And the record is something of a monster—a sprawling, 70-minute, 15-track catharsis.

If the CD has a problem, it is the obviousness of its intent, which is to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

James enlisted a wide assortment of stars, from hip-hoppers (Snoop Doggy Dogg, Neb Love, Rappin’ 4-Tay) to rhythm and blues legends (Bobby Womack, Charlie Wilson) to another of his proteges (Joanne “JoJo” McDuffie, of the Mary Jane Girls) to help out.

Occasionally, the music sounds as though James has traveled to his collaborators’ ground instead of staking out his own. The sly spelling of the album’s title, Urban Rapsody, also carries the scent of concession, given the vehemence with which James used to rail against rappers.

"That was just me going through an artistic ego trip,” he says now. “I didn’t want rappers touching my shit, but a lot of us older musicians felt that way then. I wanted to sue them.

But then I saw what kind of money I was making from Hammer and LL Cool J and Will Smith and on and on with the people sampling Rick James music. And I said, ‘Never mind.’ “

But if James’s rap-and-funk approach now sometimes seems derivative, it’s worth remembering that he’s one of the innovators from whom it was derived.

Certainly there is no doubting his technical mastery of the various styles he showcases on Urban Rapsody. His singing has acquired a honeyed richness, and his sincerity here can be downright disarming.

Snoop Doggy Dogg and Charlie Wilson contribute star quality to “Players Way,” the single that was released to radio, but the CD has moments with far more magic.

The title track, an ode to the inner city, plays Rappin’ 4-Tay’s smooth staccato against James’s bruising crooning, both vocals folding seamlessly into a tangy backing of warm horns and funky bass.

Neb Love, of the struggling rap duo Da Five Footaz, may get her big break with her hauntingly seductive performances on “It’s Time” and “Favorite Flava."

There’s also no denying the earnestness of “Mama’s Eyes,” a painful recollection of James’s mother, who died of cancer while he was in prison.

Throughout, the underlying tone of Urban Rapsody is one of uncertainty, both musically and lyrically, and that is its most personal and poignant statement: This is Rick James, circa 1997, vulnerable and bravely struggling for direction and meaning.

"I have to establish myself again, but I have to be careful. I don’t want to lose the fans I had, and I want to attract new fans, but I don’t want to lose my musical integrity either,” he says.

"I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made before, but I don’t want to blow people away with something foreign or alien to what they expect. I have to find a happy medium. The album is out, yeah, but I’m still in search of that happy medium."

A nightmare of hassles behind him, he’s both relieved and relaxed, a bright and quick-witted student of American popular music, the history of which he has helped shape."


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Rick James Forever was released in 2005, a year after the king of punk funk died of a heart attack.

Always the innovator, Rick was one of the first artists to jump on board the online radio craze back in 2000 and 2001.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his music stream, “Rick James Radio,” on live365, featuring non-stop back-to-back Rick James tracks.

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Posted by King on 07/20 at 07:59 AM
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part two

Rick James is the subject of a new biography movie co-produced by his daughter Ty.  See part one of our three part series, the “Rick James Movie is Super Freaky."

We pick up where we left off in the saga of Rick James.  It’s 1979. Let’s continue with the official Rick James story...


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"Bustin’ Out Of L Seven was his next album and sent him out on his first US tour.

Other artists that accompanied him on his “Fire It Up” tour were the Mary Jane Girls (a group that he created), and a young singer named Prince.

It was a big break for Prince and the two artists continued to be compared for a long time (something that both got sick of rapidly).

Partly due to Rick James’ wildly extroverted style of performance, the tour was a great success and drew not only large enthusiastic audiences, but also wide media attention.

Following Garden Of Love, an uncharacteristic ballad album, Rick James released his fifth album, Street Songs.

Probably Rick James’ definitive album, Street Songs achieved double-platinum status, stayed in the Top 100 Album chart for 54 weeks, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Rick James also received a Grammy nomination for the song “Super Freak.” When asked about “Super Freak,” Rick James explained, “‘Super Freak’ came about after Street Songs was complete.

I was listening to the tracks, just riffing on my bass, when I hit on this punky-funky sounding line. Reminded me of how punkers look funny when they try to dance. I heard it as a goof and never dreamed it’d take off.

The lyrics were silly. The line about ‘she’s the kind of girl you don’t take home to mother’ was jive. I could take any girl home to mother. Anyway, the song came together, I had the Temps singing behind me, and next thing I know it’s a smash."

Although Rick James released seven more albums (six of which were released by Motown) and had several more hits on the charts, none have equaled the popularity that Street Songs received.

In 1983 “Cold Blooded” hit #1 on the US R&B charts, and later that year Rick James collaborated with Smokey Robinson on a song: “Ebony Eyes."

The Rick James’ legacy doesn’t only live on through his songs. He created and nurtured young artists and bands including the Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie, and Eddie Murphy.

Rick James broke many cultural taboos by flaunting his extravagant lifestyle. As an icon of drug use and eroticism, Rick James went further than anyone had gone before.  But before long, his lifestyle started to catch up with him.

"During the Throwin’ Down tour I went to see Dizzy Gillespie at the Blue Note in New York. Man, I loved Dizzy. He was a guru, a beautiful man filled with the spirit of compassion, the father I never had.

Diz was never judgmental. He used to say I was too serious and warned me not to look at life so black and white. He saw I was wild. ‘Rick,’ he said, ‘you remind me of Bird. Boy, you better slow down.’ But even Dizzy, for all his wisdom, couldn’t change my reckless ways."

James’s flamboyant lifestyle took its toll on his health and he was hospitalized several times between 1979 and 1984. He had major hits in 1984 and 1985 with the more relaxed ‘17’ and ‘The Glow’.

The latter also provided the title for a highly acclaimed album, which reflected James’s decision to abandon drugs. He cancelled plans to star in an autobiographical film called The Spice Of Life in the wake of the overwhelming commercial impact of Prince’s Purple Rain.

After releasing The Flag in 1986, James ran into serious conflict with Motown. James left the label, signing to Reprise Records, where he immediately achieved a soul number 1 with ‘Loosey’s Rap’, a collaboration with Roxanne Shante.

Now “clean and loving it,” James returned to the music scene with Urban Rapsody, his first new album since 1988’s Wonderful.

"I thought about doing an acoustic album, to pour out my heart, to get all self-indulgent,” he says. “But that would have been too soul-searching. It might have been a downer."

After bedding by his count “thousands” of women, James, 50, settled down with dancer Tanya Hijazi, 27 (whom he married in December 1997 after an 11-year relationship), and their 5-year-old son, Tazman.

"I’m too old to do crazy things anymore,” says James. “Before, I’d just smoke dope and have sex. I never knew if it was day or night. Now I go to bed at 11 and get up at 7. I don’t have aluminum foil on my windows anymore."


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To be continued in the final segment, Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part three, coming next time.

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Posted by King on 07/19 at 07:44 AM
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part one

Is “party all the time” the main theme of a new biographical movie about the late funk master Rick James?

Rick’s daughter Ty is the co-producer of the project.  Hollywood insiders are buzzing that the Rick James story reveals all about wild all-night parties with Linda Blair, Elisabeth Shue, Tatum O’Neal, and Eddie Murphy.

We lost Rick James in August, 2004 when he passed away of natural causes.

The biopic won’t hit the silver screen for some time, so let’s revisit “punk funk,” and look at the official Rick James story...

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”Rick James entered the world as James Ambrose Johnson Jr. on February 1, 1948 in Buffalo, N.Y., the third oldest child in a family of eight. “It was my mother who raised us,” he said.

"She was a small elegant woman of great dignity and strength. She always had two jobs. Sometimes she worked as a maid, but her main income came from running numbers for the Italian mob. She raised us as strict Catholics."

An early 80s icon rebelling against the establishment, Rick James started early by joining the navy at age fifteen and going AWOL soon after.

He fled to Canada, and it was there, in Toronto, that he founded his first group, the Mynah Birds with future Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, and Goldie McJohn (who later joined Steppenwolf).

It was at this point that he became known as Rick James.

As the nephew of the TemptationsMelvin Franklin, Rick James was no stranger to Motown, and he and his band were signed to the label in the mid-sixties.

Although the group recorded a couple of tracks, nothing was ever released. Probably because Rick James (who had now relocated to Detroit) was in trouble with the military, and because the rest of the band moved to Los Angeles.

Not easily deterred, Rick went to London where he formed the blues band “The Main Line.” He commuted between London and North America (where he was a staff songwriter for Motown in the late sixties) for the next seven years.

In 1977 he finally returned to the US completely, forming a band (the Stone City Band) with which he experimented at mixing rock and funk - creating “funk ‘n’ roll."

"I’m into rock,” Rick James said. “I’m trying to change the root of funk, trying to make it more progressive, more melodic, and more lyrically structured...”

”More honest, as opposed to putting riffs together, saying, ‘Get up and get down. I feel alright. Oomph! Good God! Get up and boogie’ and all that redundant bull."

When he approached Berry Gordy in 1978, he had an entire record in hand. Impressed by his tapes, Berry Gordy once again signed Rick James to Motown - this time to the Gordy subsidiary.

The album was released later that year as Come Get It and two of its songs immediately hit the charts.

"You and I” went gold in September and “Mary Jane,” a barely-disguised hymn to marijuana hit US R&B #3 in October."


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To be continued in Rick James Movie is Super Freaky part two, coming next time.

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Posted by King on 07/18 at 08:54 AM
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks Live Aid

On July 13, 1985, the American half of the concert to benefit African famine relief known as Live Aid took place at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA.

Teddy Pendergrass performed for the first time since a paralyzing automobile accident curtailed his career in 1982.

Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, B.B. King, Patti Labelle, and The Four Tops also performed from the classic soul, blues, and pop world.

The memorable Live Aid moment for me on that hot afternoon in the JFK Stadium stands was the performance by ex-Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, along with Philly guys Daryl Hall & John Oates.

Motown was the focus of their set, featuring soulful guitar edged versions of several Temptations hits.

The foursome also recorded an excellent live album at the world famous Apollo Theater in New York City.

Unique artist collaborations are sometimes hit or miss.  Ruffin, Kendricks, Hall, and Oates were right in the pocket.

These two Motown greats, no longer with us, through Live Aid on a hot Summer day in July put the cause of world hunger in front of millions, and yes, presented their musical legacy to a brand new generation of fans.

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Posted by King on 07/13 at 09:01 AM
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bobby Brown's Peppy Prerogative

According to the Associated Press, Bobby Brown’s recent Essence Music Festival reunion with New Edition in Houston, Texas was an eye opener.

It’s hard out there being Bobby Brown.  Singing solo since leaving New Edition in the 1980’s, Mr. Brown has made more news off the musical stage than on it.

The 2006 Essence Music Festival New Edition set also featured original members Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, plus Johnny Gill, (who replaced Brown).

Not content to stick with slick New Edition choreography, Brown moved around the stage throwing down some wild and raunchy dance moves.

By the time Bobby moved into his own solo set, “Don’t Be Cruel” morphed into some provocative chatter about his sex life with wife Whitney Houston.

Many folks in the Essence Music Festival crowd were getting restless as Brown finished up with “My Prerogative,” pretty much screaming for Bobby Brown to get off the stage.

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Posted by King on 07/12 at 07:48 AM
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Brunswick Records Releases Classic Soul Legends

On Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Brunswick Records is scheduled to release a remastered double CD collection of their 1966-1975 classic soul hits.

"Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles” features Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis, Young-Holt Trio, Barbara Acklin, The Chi-Lites, The Lost Generation, Gene Chandler, The Artistics, and several other artists.

I was excited to see that The Lost Generation’s “Sly, Slick, & The Wicked,” a song I recently listened to that I have on 45 rpm vinyl, is included on the 2nd CD.  This track is an underground R&B classic.

Many of the Chi-Lites big hits are featured, including “Are You My Woman,” the song Beyonce’ sampled and turned into the smash “Crazy in Love."

You may also recognize other vintage Brunswick melodies here as a few more have been recently sampled by Joss Stone and Paul Wall.

The strength of “Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966 - 1975” is the showcase of “The Chicago Sound,” a classic soul R&B signature style from the windy city.

Worth its weight in gold are several of the lesser-known tunes sure to thrill many collectors.  Check out the complete track listings of Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966 - 1975.

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Posted by King on 07/11 at 07:35 AM
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers

Just released, Atlantic Unearthed presents rare and unreleased tracks from the label’s biggest classic soul and classic R&B male stars from 1967 - 1973.

  1. Can’t Stop A Man In Love - Wilson Pickett (previously unreleased)
  2. How Does It Feel - Bobby Womack
  3. You Left The Water Running - Sam & Dave
  4. Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day - Arthur Conley (previously unreleased)
  5. Book Of Memories - Percy Wiggins
  6. That’s How It Feels - The Soul Clan
  7. I Love You More Than Words Can Say - Otis Redding
  8. Baby, Baby, Baby - Percy Sledge (previously unreleased)
  9. Hold On - James Carr
  10. Pouring Water On A Drowning Man - Otis Clay
  11. Lovebones - Mighty Sam
  12. Love Of My Woman, The - Darrell Banks
  13. Coldest Days Of My Life - Walter Jackson
  14. Whiter Shade Of Pale - R.B. Greaves
  15. Change With The Seasons - Carl Hall
  16. What A Woman Really Means - Donny Hathaway (previously unreleased)

Compared to Atlantic’s Unearthed Soul Sisters, Unearthed: Soul Brothers contains even more rare tracks.

R.B Greaves, Percy Wiggins, and Darrell Banks gain deserved exposure next to well known legends Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, and Donny Hathaway.

There are two ways of looking at “previously unreleased” tracks.  Were they lost in the music vaults, or did they not make the cut when originally recorded?

As a historic reflection of the classic soul era almost forty years later, I suspect Unearthed: Soul Brothers is a little bit of both.  However, these artists were so good at their craft, that these adventurous tracks hold their own in 2006 with the best of the genre.

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Posted by King on 07/06 at 07:55 AM
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters

Just released, Atlantic Unearthed presents rare and unreleased tracks from the label’s biggest classic soul and classic R&B lady stars from 1964 - 1972.

Exceptional tracks from some women who are not household names are included as a big bonus.

Soul Sisters offers these wonderful gems:

  1. My Way - Aretha Franklin
  2. It’s Growing - Margie Joseph
  3. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 Count The Days - Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles
  4. Please Little Angel - Doris Troy
  5. Hands Off My Baby - Mary Wells
  6. My Best Friend’s Man - Dee Dee Sharp
  7. Rescue Me - Dee Dee Warwick
  8. What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - Baby Washington
  9. Full Time Woman - Irma Thomas
  10. I Got To Love Somebody’s Baby - Judy Clay
  11. Cheater Man - Esther Phillips
  12. What A Man - Laura Lee
  13. Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me - The Sweet Inspirations
  14. It Ain’t Who You Know - Jackie Moore
  15. I Ain’t That Easy To Lose - Bettye Swann
  16. Thankful For What I Got - Barbara Lewis

Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne’s younger sister, never received big time promotion from any of her record labels.  It’s great to see her cover of the Fontella Bass hit included in this great collection.

Another interesting track is the Temptations “It’s Growing,” stylized here by Margie Joseph.

Aretha’s version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” showcases the song in a completely different light.

Atlantic did their homework when they put these songs together. Unearthed Soul Sisters is highly recommended.  Released on Rhino Records.

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Posted by King on 07/05 at 01:42 AM
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Living in America - James Brown Style

James Brown’s “Living in America,” was his second biggest pop hit, peaking at number 4 in March, 1986 on Billboard.  This classic R&B jam marked the 98th time The Godfather of Soul appeared on the pop charts.

It’s a baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet tribute to the USA’s red, white, and blue.  With topics ranging from super highways to all night diners, Soul Brother number one slam-dunks the tune and dishes out the funk.

Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight wrote the anthem, which Brown performs in the movie Rocky IV, serving as background for boxer Apollo Creed, also known as actor Carl Weathers, to strut his stuff.

"Living in America” won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance, male, in 1986.

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Posted by King on 07/04 at 07:43 AM
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