Teddy Pendergrass 1950-2010

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HAT TIP: By PATRICK WALTERS, The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — Teddy Pendergrass, who became R&B’s reigning sex symbol in the 1970s and ’80s with his forceful, masculine voice and passionate love ballads and later became an inspirational figure after suffering a devastating car accident that left him paralyzed, died Wednesday at age 59.

The singer’s son, Teddy Pendergrass II, said his father died at a hospital in suburban Philadelphia. The singer underwent colon cancer surgery eight months ago and had “a difficult recovery,” his son said.

“To all his fans who loved his music, thank you,” his son said. “He will live on through his music.”

Pendergrass suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the waist down in the 1982 car accident. He spent six months in a hospital but returned to recording the next year with the album “Love Language.”

Pendergrass later founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, an organization whose mission is to encourage and help people with spinal cord injuries.

Pendergrass, who was born in Philadelphia on March 26, 1950, gained popularity first as a member of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.

In 1971, the group signed a record deal with the legendary writer/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The group released its first single, “I Miss You,” in 1972 and then released “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Pendergrass quit the group in 1975 and embarked on a solo career in 1976. It was his solo hits that brought him his greatest fame. With songs such as “Love T.K.O.,” “Close the Door” and “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” he came to define a new era of black male singers with his powerful, aggressive vocals that spoke to virility, not vulnerability.

Pendergrass is survived by his son, two daughters, his wife, his mother and nine grandchildren.

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Haitian earthquake: Widespread destruction and suffering

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Hat Tip: NBC, msnbc.com and news services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Death was everywhere Wednesday in this devastated city of 2 million. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather. Bodies of men were covered with plastic tarps or cotton sheets.

Moreover, untold numbers were still trapped after a powerful earthquake Tuesday crushed thousands of structures — from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the local U.N. headquarters.

As nations around the world mobilized to send help, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told Reuters that he believed the casualties would be “in the range of thousands of dead.”

Soon after, however, Bellerive told CNN that “I believe we are well over 100,000” dead, while Haitian Sen. Youri Latortue said it could be 500,000.

…Aid workers reported widespread destruction and suffering.

“It’s the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen,” Bob Poff, a Salvation Army worker in Port-au-Prince, told MSNBC. “We have to get food and water” quickly, he said, in describing conditions that range from stifling heat to numerous aftershocks. “We’re trying to stay alive.”

…People pulled bodies from collapsed homes, covering them with sheets by the side of the road.

…Tens of thousands of people appear to have lost their homes and many perished in collapsed buildings that were flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions.

…U.N. peacekeepers were distracted from aid efforts by their own tragedy: Many spent the night hunting for survivors in the ruins of the local U.N. headquarters, where more than 100 people are missing.

To see how you can help, visit the website of the Center for International Disaster Information.

Fathers and Sons

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I first saw this photograph when rikyrah used it on Jack and Jill Politics and it disoriented me and I didn’t understand why until today.   I could appreciate the beauty of this photograph without being able to connect with the emotions the photo evokes.  The look on this little boy’s face is angelic and blissful.   The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t remember my father holding me, embracing me, touching me, or loving me.

My parents divorced over 30 years ago.  To put it succinctly, they were estranged.  My parents were typical high school sweethearts and after graduation, they found themselves expecting a little bundle of unexpected joy.  Married to the sound of a shotgun, their union quickly disintegrated.  The breakup occurred one day after Daddy came home from work and Momma had no food prepared.  It became physical and Daddy told his pregnant bride that she was stupid and that he had fallen out of love with her in the span of their three week-old marriage.  He put her out of the apartment and told her never to come back.

Momma wandered the streets in tears for two days before she swallowed her pride and called her parents.

I have only two memories of my father during my childhood because I only saw him twice.   When I was four, Daddy asked Momma to take him back.  He took us to the state fair and it was the only time that I remember feeling whole, complete, total.   We had a great time and the single photograph of me at the fair was lost in a fire over twenty years ago, but I remember it because I feel the same as the boy in this photo.

My father is the most intelligent man I know and his physical presence makes an impression.   His commanding voice and magnetic gaze are intimidating.   Momma withstood it all, thanked him for a wonderful evening and asked for a divorce.

The last time I saw Daddy was in the grocery store.  I was all dressed up for Easter in a suit that Momma made.  I strutted my stuff.  I couldn’t have been more than five.  It was the last time my parents spoke until I was 19 and I briefly went to live with him.

My grandfather picked me up daily from school until I was old enough to hoof it on my own.   I saw him everyday.  He was there for me providing a gentle and quiet example.  He wasn’t demonstrative though and I don’t recall hugs and kisses being his thing.  I know he loved me and after his death I wore his clothes and used his Old Spice so that I wouldn’t forget his smell.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with love.  I grew up with unconditional love.  The Father blessed me with a wonderful Momma and grandparents who nurtured and cared for me.   But being surrounded by the children of the white middle class, I felt damaged and incomplete.   Some of that is a function of race and class and some is because of Daddy’s estrangement.  It occurs to me as I write this how much I needed my father’s love and how the absence of his love played into my self esteem and insecurities as a grown ass man.  I am so blessed to have Daddy in my life now.

Barack Obama never got the chance to reconnect with his Daddy the way that I did.  He understands what I’m feeling and he decided that his children would never know what this feels like.  This photo speaks to me because it shows a Black man unafraid to embrace himself and Black men in all of their complexity and love them. Despite the skepticism I am always expressing about Senator Obama, and will invariably express again, I will push it aside and vote for him.

To my brothas who have sons:

embrace them,

hold them,

make them feel safe in your arms and comfortable in your presence,

and love them unconditionally.

 

I love you, Daddy

Issac Hayes 1942-2008

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I am just really undone. First, Bernie Mac and now Issac Hayes.

Legendary soul music performer Isaac Hayes died this afternoon after he was found unconscious in his Shelby County home. He was 65.

A family member found the entertainer next to a running treadmill at about 1 p.m. Sunday, said Steve Shular, spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Hayes, born Aug. 20, 1942, was rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m.

Hayes’ wife, their 2-year-old son and another family member had gone to the grocery store around noon, Shular said. When they returned, they found Hayes unresponsive.

Rescue workers responded to a 911 call, and they performed CPR at Hayes’ home at 9280 Riveredge in the eastern part of Shelby County, near Forest Hill Irene and Walnut Grove.

The Sheriff’s Office is conducting a routine investigation, said Shular, but “nothing leads us to believe this is foul play.”

Family members told authorities Hayes had been under the care of a physician for “medical conditions,” but no other information was available on what those conditions were.

A musical prodigy from childhood – Hayes began singing in church at age 5, and by his teen years had mastered several instruments. Hayes hustled on the local club scene in the early ’60s, leading a series of combos before gravitating to the fledgling Stax Records label in South Memphis as a session player.

There, along with his writing partner David Porter, Hayes would go on to compose some of the seminal songs in the soul music canon, penning hits for Carla Thomas (“B-A-B-Y”), Johnnie Taylor (“I Had A Dream”) and most notably, the duo Sam & Dave (“Soul Man”; “Hold On I’m Comin”).

An outsized character even among the colorful crew at Stax, Hayes was noted for his then novel shaved head and outlandish dress sense, elements that would become cornerstones of his distinctive persona later on.

As his songwriting and production achievements continued to grow, Hayes made a rather inauspicious debut as a solo artist for Stax, with 1967’s jazz-flavored Presenting Isaac Hayes. But it was his follow-up LP in 1969, Hot Buttered Soul, that would take him from behind-the-scenes player to front-and-center star. An adventurous and experimental LP, Hot Buttered Soul shattered traditional R&B conventions. Comprised of four lengthy songs — moody, languid and epic reinterpretations of pop hits like “Walk On By” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” — the tracks were transformed by Hayes’ complex arrangements and the sheer power of his rumbling baritone. Surprisingly, the album became both a critical and commercial success and catapulted Hayes into a fulltime performing career.

While Hot Buttered Soul would represent his commercial breakthrough — a streak he would keep alive with two more chart-topping efforts, 1970’s …To Be Continued and The Isaac Hayes Movement — it was his work on the soundtrack to Gordon Parks’ pioneering 1971 “blaxploitation” film “Shaft” that would forever cement Hayes’ place in history. The film’s title track – an irresistible mingling of wah-wah guitar, orchestral flourishes and Hayes’ proto-rapping – became a pop sensation topping the Billboard charts. The tune would go on to earn Hayes an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.”

By the early ‘70s Hayes had become both cottage industry and the lynchpin of Stax’s shift toward a kind of new black consciousness. He would continue to evolve his music with albums like the Grammy-winning “Black Moses” and another soundtrack for the film “Truck Turner” (in which he also starred in the title role) and was the headliner for the massive 1972 Wattstax concert in Los Angeles.

Despite his numerous successes, the rapid demise of Stax and personal management woes forced Hayes to declare bankruptcy in 1976. Hayes took an extended five-year break from music in the early-’80s — his career as an actor blossomed. He appeared on a number of television shows (“The Rockford Files,” “Miami Vice”) and films (“Escape From New York,” “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”) and became familiar to a whole new generation with his role as Chef in the popular animated series “South Park.”

As an artist and stylistic innovator Hayes exerted a major influence throughout the decades, his work anticipating and contributing heavily to the evolution of disco, rap, house music and modern R&B. That legacy was honored when Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Bernie Mac 1957-2008

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Hat Tip: Frazier Moore, Associated Press

Bernie Mac blended style, authority and a touch of self-aware bluster to make audiences laugh as well as connect with him. For Mac, who died Saturday at age 50, it was a winning mix, delivering him from a poor childhood to stardom as a standup comedian, in films including the casino heist caper “Ocean’s Eleven” and his acclaimed sitcom “The Bernie Mac Show.”

Though his comedy drew on tough experiences as a black man, he had mainstream appeal — befitting inspiration he found in a wide range of humorists: Harpo Marx as well as Moms Mabley; squeaky-clean Red Skelton, but also the raw Redd Foxx.

Mac died Saturday morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital, his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles. She said no other details were available.

“The world just got a little less funny,” said “Oceans” co-star George Clooney.

Don Cheadle, another member of the “Oceans” gang, concurred: “This is a very sad day for many of us who knew and loved Bernie. He brought so much joy to so many. He will be missed, but heaven just got funnier.”

“This is a very sad day for many of us who knew and loved Bernie,” said Don Cheadle, a member of the “Oceans” gang. “He brought so much joy to so many. He will be missed but heaven just got funnier.”

Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body’s organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.

Recently, Mac’s brand of comedy caught him flack when he was heckled during a surprise appearance at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama.

Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine, Mac joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language. Obama took the stage about 15 minutes later, implored Mac to “clean up your act next time,” then let him off the hook, adding: “By the way, I’m just messing with you, man.”

Even so, Obama’s campaign later issued a rebuke, saying the senator “doesn’t condone these statements and believes what was said was inappropriate.”

But despite controversy or difficulties, in his words, Mac was always a performer.

“Wherever I am, I have to play,” he said in 2002. “I have to put on a good show.”

Mac worked his way to Hollywood success from an impoverished upbringing on Chicago’s South Side. He began doing standup as a child, telling jokes for spare change on subways, and his film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans comedy “Mo’ Money” in 1992. In 1996, he appeared in the Spike Lee drama “Get on the Bus.”

He was one of “The Original Kings of Comedy” in the 2000 documentary of that title that brought a new generation of black standup comedy stars to a wider audience.

“The majority of his core fan base will remember that when they paid their money to see Bernie Mac … he gave them their money’s worth,” Steve Harvey, one of his co-stars in “Original Kings,” told CNN on Saturday.

Mac went on to star in the hugely popular “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, playing a gaming-table dealer who was in on the heist. Carl Reiner, who also appeared in the “Ocean’s” films, said Saturday he was “in utter shock” because he thought Mac’s health was improving.

“He was just so alive,” Reiner said. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Mac and Ashton Kutcher topped the box office in 2005’s “Guess Who,” a comedy remake of the classic Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn drama “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Mac played the dad who’s shocked that his daughter is marrying a white man.

Mac also had starring roles in “Bad Santa,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and “Transformers.”

But his career and comic identity were forged in television.

In the late 1990s, he had a recurring role in “Moesha,” the UPN network comedy starring pop star Brandy. The critical and popular acclaim came after he landed his own Fox television series “The Bernie Mac Show,” about a child-averse couple who suddenly are saddled with three children.

Mac mined laughs from the universal frustrations of parenting, often breaking the “fourth wall” to address the camera throughout the series that aired from 2001 to 2006. “C’mon, America,” implored Mac, in character as the put-upon dad. “When I say I wanna kill those kids, YOU know what I mean.”

The series won a Peabody Award in 2002, and Mac was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy. In real life, he was “the king of his household” — very much like his character on that series, his daughter, Je’niece Childress, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

“But television handcuffs you, man,” he said in a 2001 Associated Press interview before the show had premiered. “Now everyone telling me what I CAN’T do, what I CAN say, what I SHOULD do, and asking, `Are blacks gonna be mad at you? Are whites gonna accept you?'”

He also was nominated for a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2001 along with his “The Original Kings of Comedy” co-stars Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer.

Chicago music producer Carolyn Albritton said she was Bernie Mac’s first manager, having met him in 1991 at Chicago’s Cotton Club where she hosted an open-mike night. He was an immediate hit, Albritton said Saturday, and he asked her to help guide his career.

“From very early on I thought he was destined for success,” Albritton said. “He never lost track of where he came from, and he’d often use real life experiences, his family, his friends, in his routine. After he made it, he stayed a very humble man. His family was the most important thing in the world to him.”

In 2007, Mac told David Letterman on CBS’ “Late Show” that he planned to retire soon.

“I’m going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit,” Mac told Letterman. “I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977.”

Mac was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago. He grew up on the city’s South Side, living with his mother and grandparents. His grandfather was the deacon of a Baptist church.

In his 2004 memoir, “Maybe You Never Cry Again,” Mac wrote about having a poor childhood — eating bologna for dinner — and a strict, no-nonsense upbringing.

“I came from a place where there wasn’t a lot of joy,” Mac told the AP in 2001. “I decided to try to make other people laugh when there wasn’t a lot of things to laugh about.”

Mac’s mother died of cancer when he was 16. In his book, Mac said she was a support for him and told him he would surprise everyone when he grew up.

“Woman believed in me,” he wrote. “She believed in me long before I believed.”

Mac’s death Saturday coincided with the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, a major event in the predominantly black South Side that the comedian had previously attended.