Charles Wright is one of the ORIGINATORS of the music that we celebrate here on Soul-Patrol. He is also one of the pioneers of the Black Internet. Back in 1997 Charles Wright became one of the first artists period to participate in a then brand new concept called a "chat session". You can read the transcript where Charles Wright gave us a comprehensive look at his career in our chat room at the following link: http://www.soul-patrol.com/funk/chas_cht.htm
One of the things that FUNK represents is the idea that for the first time young Black people had the chance to do something quite simple as "Expressing Yourself". Back in the late 1960's and early 1970's these young "funkateers" expressed themselves in their music, politics, culture and lifestyle. Charles Wright was one of the leading voices from a musical perspective, urging these young "funkateers" to 'express themselves'.
Today in many respects we have grown to take that level of expression for granted. However we are indeed fourtunate to have with us Mr. Charles Wright to remind us that indeed it may be even more important today to EXPRESS YOURSELF as a first step torwards making the world we live in a much better place. .
Album Review - Charles Wright "That Funky Thang" ("Old Soul and New Soul")
I just did something that I haven't done in a while. I just posted the following two reviews of Charles Wright "That Funky Thang" on my Twitter feed (@kozmicfunk) at about 9:30 am est.
REVIEW 1 - @kozmicfunk ChasWright "That Funky Thang" FUNKBANGER http://www.expressyourself.net #houseparty #invitefriends #BrownLiquor #JAM #4am #BlackPeople #RNB #FUNK RT
REVIEW 2 - @kozmicfunk ChasWright "That Funky Thang" GROOVE http://www.expressyourself.net #bestthingtoday #RachelMaddow #retrosoul #DapKings #bqemusic #fitz&tantrums RT
If you go visit my page on Twitter @kozmicunk you can view these two reviews if you like. According to Twitter I have 769 "followers." Despite that I doubt if many of those followers will "retweet," either of the two reviews for two reasons.
1. It's been 3-4 months since I posted anything on Twitter, so I doubt if any of those 769 "followers" are paying attention to anything that I have to say.
2. Very few of those 769 "followers" are even awake at 9:30 am est on a Sunday morning.
Of course I knew all of this in advance, but I still wanted to post these two very different reviews, targeted at two completely different demographic groups that I feel strongly would fall in love with the album Charles Wright "That Funky Thang", for a reason.
If you look closely at the #hashtags" contained in the two reviews, the two different demographic groups are easily apparent, given the 140 character limitations of Twitter.
REVIEW 1 - I am targeting Black folks who are not only Funk music fans, but I am also telling them that if they are 'party people,' that they can throw this album on the box on a friday/saturday night and use it (and nothing else) as the soundtrack for a slammin all night house party. All they need do is roll back the rug, invite their friends and family, make sure they have enough "brown likka" and food around to last till 4am and jam all night long with their crew. I am also telling them to go and check out the music at Charles Wright's website http://www.expressyourself.net and to "retweet" the review.
REVIEW 2 - I am targeting the crowd of younger folks who are huge fans of artists like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Fitz and the Tantrums and other similar artists. These people are fans of music that they call "Retro Soul." Retro Soul is music that to my ears sounds like it is a near perfect "reproduction" of Classic Funk music that existed on the AM radio stations, located on the far right hand side of the dial when I was a kid during the mid to late 1960's. I am also telling them to go and check out the music at Charles Wright's website http://www.expressyourself.net and to "retweet" the review.
The term "Retro Soul" is somewhat problematic for me. Last year at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference, I was a part of a panel entitled "Old Soul vs. New Soul." Along with the other panelists, we developed a definition of 'Soul Music," and concluded that there was no fundamental difference between 'old Soul and New Soul." As it turned out there was a reporter in attendance from the Austin-American Statesman newspaper. This reporter proceeded to take the panel to task and me in particular, in his newspaper column for ignoring of "retro soul," in the discussion. I replied back telling him that the term "retro soul" was irrelevant, that the only thing that matters is the music and the quality of it. I pointed out the NuSoul @ RadioIO channel (which incidentally this newspaper reporter is a regular listener of, in addition to being a reader of Soul-Patrol.com) plays the music of the artists that he labels with the term 'retro soul." I suppose that since the reporter was aware of this, he was disappointed that I never used the term "retro soul," in any of the comments that I made on the panel, instead I said "same as it ever was."
The reality is that in 2011 is the music of Charles Wright, that is probably the most popular and most heard of exactly what the vibe surrounding the term 'retro soul," is getting at. Charles Wright's signature song is the late 1960's hit song "Express Yourself." The song is even bigger today than it was during it's days on the Billboard charts 40+ years ago, simply because it has been used as the soundtrack for many national TV commercials over the past 10 years. These TV commercials are always the same, featuring an unseen/unnamed Charles Wright singing/playing and visual images of 'twentysomething" (usually white people) bouncing down the street, dancing around the house or workplace; enjoying whatever the product being advertised all "expressing themselves" to the unmistakable/monster groove of the song "Express Yourself." As such if the "Retro Soul Movement" was to ever have an identifiable mainstream anthem, it would be "Express Yourself" by Charles Wright. My point is that if there was ever an artist/album that the 'Retro Soul Crowd" should be supporting in 2011, it should be Charles Wright "That Funky Thang." However they probably won't, simply because despite the massive amount of airplay that Charles Wright gets on American Television and the popularity of his music there, few TV viewers know his name.
I did a search on Google this morning and discovered that the song 'Express Yourself" has appeared in national TV commercials fro major companies such as; Coffee Mate, Samsung, AirTel, Botox, LG Electronics, and many others. You can check that same search at the following link, if you like; http://www.google.com/#q=what+TV+commercials+use+%27Express+Yourself%27&hl=en&prmd=imvns&ei=MbSRTv7sM8L40gG8qMwZ&start=10&sa=N&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=1083cc5305162393&biw=1366&bih=628
As a person who is an "integrationist," at heart, I see these two groups as actually liking the same exact music, but because they live in what seems to be parallel universes, they don't ever really come together and truly support their common musical interestts. It's kind of like a Venn Diagram, where the overlap between the two circles (one representing "Old Soul" and the other representing "New Soul") is relatively small. I would like to see the two circles have a much larger overlap with each other (if not completely merge.) Of course I realize that the music business doesn't actually work this way, in fact their objective is to actually create as many separate "marketplaces" as possible in order to maximize profits. However despite this economic fact, this is still America and my feeling is that we gain more by bringing people together.
The album Charles Wright "That Funky Thang" is fantastic, featuring that
H-A-R-D-C-O-R-E A-L-L A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N V-I-B-E
that resonates equally from Africa to Harlem, from Watts to Scarsdale, from Alabama to Alaska and all points in between, play it at a house party, a wedding, a retirement party, an occupy wall street rally, a kids birthday party or a TV commercial, and people of all ages/races will soon be on their feet dancing. Of course some of you reading this will want me to provide some type of a name for this 'vibe,' but I am not going to do that Instead what I am going to do is provide you with a link (http://www.expressyourself.net) where you can take a listen to it for yourself. After you take a listen, just email me back (or tweet me @kozmicfunk) and tell me the name that you would like to give this "vibe?" http://www.expressyourself.net
Blues, Hip Hop and Soul Music Director www.radioio.com
COMMENTARY - In The Absence of "The Real Thing, Almost Anything Will Do (by Charles Wright)
(Charles Wright & Chuck D @ 2007 South By Southwest Music Festival )
This is an open letter from our own Charles Wright. I am sending this out at his request. For any of you who may have wondered why he was selected to be on our Black Music/Culture panel at the 2007 Philadelphia Black Heritage Festival/Soul-Patrol Convention, after you read this open letter, you will know EXACTLY why Mr. Wright was selected. He actually GIVES A DAMN ABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR MUSIC/CULTURE. Mr. Wright will be coming all of the way from the West Coast to give it to you REAL and give it to you STRAIGHT.
Read on....and feel free to circulate this one to anyone that you know who cares...
April, 2, 2007
"In The Absence of "The Real Thing," Almost Anything Will Do"
I recently attended and performed at an annual Music Industry Conference, which left me wondering about the state of we, the African American people's role in the future of the music industry? So, I wrote a letter to the conference's founders because, the conference left me wondering if anyone there, truly understood the significance of the African American's contribution to the modern music world.
Thank you for my recent involvement in your annual conference after which, I feel a personal obligation to compose the following letter in the name of posterity. Some of this letter might hurt but, regardless to how it sounds, I urge you not to take it too personally. Please bear with me and try to understand that, I honestly and truly have our collective interest at heart.
First, I'd like to say that I know for sure that, I have put more time in and, have gained more experience in the music industry than practically, anyone who attended your last event. Yet, I was not offered a single seat on any of your panels so, may I venture to say that, were we members of any, other any other race on the planet, I would have without a doubt, been at the head of your list for panelist.
I have been recording professionally since some, fifteen years after, some radio personality asked, Mr. Louis Jordon; "what do you call this wonderful music that you've created?" "Oh! Just a little Rock and a little Roll," replied Mr. Jordon, hence the birth of the term Rock & Roll Music.
I performed on the first Rock & Roll show ever in Reno Nevada, starring Little Richard in the late '50s. I also remember when musicians of other races used to, approach us and ask us to teach them how to play Rock & Roll music. I remember a time before guitar and bass amplifiers became loud and, bold contrivances, contrivances invented for the sole purse of overpowering us and drowning us completely out of the industry but that was only the beginning.
I don't know how many of you have visited one of those places where, they sell musical instruments lately, where the first thing you are likely hear is, a novice loudly, using distortion to cover up the fact that, he has yet to, master his instrument. In most cases, he or she is nowhere near actually learning how to play professionally.
Yet, even before he or she learns, the first inclination is, to destroy the most beautiful intangible in all existence, our original Rock & Roll music.
I say this to say that we the African American people created a multi-trillion dollar industry, which we brought here and, are shamefully allowing it, our legacy and, our collective entry into the financial marketplace to slip almost completely away.
I remember when as soon as Rock & Roll became popular, its name was confiscated. Then with the aid of conceited bank accounts and industry moguls, the name was co-opted. But since, due mostly to their innate racism, other races of people rarely if ever understand the spiritual aspect of the music so instead, they insist on covering up that fact with loudness.
All one has to do is to listen to the genuine Rock & Roll music of the '40's '50's and '60's. You may be surprised to find that most drummers played, softly with brushes and with lots of human emotions. The original dance music of the '40's '50's and '60' was pure. Pure soulful music does not require loudness to be heard or felt. People more often than not, played that music on mere four by six inch speakers yet, it could be heard and felt throughout the immediate neighborhood.
If we are to retain our legacy, the legacy of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Jordon, Little
2. Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and the likes, our children must also become a part of that legacy and, they too must be thinking in terms of, preservation. Trust me; as soon as we have had enough rope to hang ourselves with, calling our women bitches and hoe's and, each other niggers, only the trash-cans of musical history will be available to us.
One more thing; the name and genre of our music has been shifted periodically just as, the name of our race has in order to keep us confused.
The first new name they crowned our music with in order, to steer us away from our Rock & Roll roots was, Rhythm & Blues. After that, the name Rock & Roll became almost, totally synonymous with artists of another race and, has remained so till this day. Our music remained much the same up until the drum machine era yet, due to the name changes, it suffers setback after setback, i.e. Soul Music, Black Music, Hip Hop and Rap or whatever. Each time this happens, it put us at yet another disadvantage because each change creates yet, another state of (watered down) confusion.
After the first name change, Rhythm & Blues and Blues Music became, synonymous on black radio station until, the power's that be decided to completely, take the Blues out of the equation by 1963. At that time when most, music industry people hung out at Revel's restaurant on Selma Boulevard in Hollywood, I was LA's youngest A&R director. It was there that I overheard a conversation between two black promotion men.
I distinctly remember hearing one of them say, "My boss told me not to promote no more Blues records because he said, "The Blues is dead." The other fellow said, "my boss told me not to promote no more Blues either so, I guess the Blues must really be dead huh?" Hence the death of the Blues on black radio.
At the very same time in history B. B. King, Lightening Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and other great Blues musicians whom, until then had rarely earned over $400 to $500 per night were taken off the chitterling circuit and, introduced on the college circuit. Where white colleges paid them what was then, a whooping $3,500 per night each, to display their skills.
This was a two edge sword because prior to that, I can not remember a single musician of another race with the nerve to challenge the Blues on any instrument. At the same time however, the youth in our neck of the woods completely, lost their connection with The Blues. So, today should I challenge a black musician to play the Blues, he or she may play the notes but, rarely is there a slight of Blues in their recitations. That is, unless one of our elders cautioned them, to remain true to the craft. I hope you gentlemen can appreciate where I'm headed with this.
Blues festivals today generate a multi-million dollar industry and, to our misfortune practically everyone can make a decent living playing these festivals, except for less than a hand full of blacks.
In fact just as it is in the Jazz world today, many great black musicians have given in to, playing in the shadows of some mediocre musician of another race, who actually can afford to pay them ten times, what a black bandleader is able to pay. Still, it is my contention that even this is due mostly, to our own shortsightedness.
In 1986 a fine bass player named Scott Edwards came to visit and, informed me that what he had to say came down the pike from, the big wheels in the record industry. "If you," he told me, "are black and you intend to continue to participate in the record industry, you must purchase yourself an electric keyboard and, an electric drum machine for that," he said, "is the only type of music black radio will be playing from now on." Hence; the death of Rhythm & Blues.
3. I could not believe anything so blatantly racist would still, be uttered during the mid-eighties so, I cussed my friend out and told him, "black people would never, ever stand for no such none sense."
I hadn't actually thought about how children will, buy practically anything you sell them and, especially when it's on the radio and, though I was actually right when, I said black people in general wouldn't buy into the ruse, the children who knew no better embraced the contrivances with glee.
I was eventually forced to try it myself though I knew better, I knew it was just a machine so, I won't even mention the health ramification except to say an explanation here would take too much space. However, I did end up in the hospital, which I deserved for my involvement with something that had a brain yet, has neither a heart nor a soul!
I was falsely trying to create a music which thus far had been the ultimate contribution to western culture and, which was unfortunately, being diminished to, talking through a computer and, which I was helping to turn into, an imitation of a loud reverse "Rock & Roll," hypocrisy.
I understand some of the young people at your concert last Friday thought, I was talking down to them when I mentioned this but, the truth is, this is such an intricate and an important matter, much too important and much too serious to speak on without, truly giving it the time and care it deserves. Were this letter a complete editorial it would probably not entirely, cover the most important aspects of our dilemma.
Gentlemen: what I am attempting to portray here and what I was attempting to, portray to your audience last Friday night would probably require an entire conference of its own yet, I am condensing it here to the best of my ability.
In my opinion, we are struggling to survive the in marketplace today, because of the lack of the single, most important ingredient of all and that is, the lack of pure musical content it's as simple as that. Yet, we can not seem to see it objectively because it is so easy, to make cheap computerized recordings with, one man band drum machines
First and foremost; the most important musical instrument in the entire world is and, has always been the drum, the very first instrument we were deprived of upon our arrival on these shores because, the drum was and still is and, always will be the world's greatest communicator!
Today our youth has been tricked into believing the proper thing to do is, to play with one's self while making music. Oh! You can come up with all sorts of parallels and, by-products playing with yourself but, even a monkey has the common sense to know when it is masturbating. Playing music, which is what practically all other races of musicians are doing today, is paramount to, playing on a football or a basketball team. Where the entire team practice on, playing off of each other.
This is what gives the game or whatever you are playing, a spirit but, once you take the spirit out of anything it dies and it eventually fades away. I don't know why this is so difficult for us, the most spiritual people on the planet to comprehend! Yet, I have approached some of the greatest black musicians about this and guess what; practically none of them want to agree. We must be watching something subliminal on our television sets, designed to blind us or something!
Why can't we plainly see that we have strayed away from, the only ace in the hole we have for some, twenty six or seven years now and that, practically everything we are presently doing is taking us deeper, and deeper into depression and self destruction?
4. Isn't there something clearly wrong when, grown men by the hundreds converge upon a hotel lobby in New Port Beach, calling each other niggers, Hoes and, Mother fuckers without even the slightest indignation? Or am I stupid? So, how did we slip from first class acts like Louis Jordon in 1945 to this in 2007?
The very week before I attended the conference in question, I attended the SXSW Conference in Austin Texas. Gentlemen; there were over 800 live bands playing in Austin that week, all of them except for three (3) were white. Most of which must've been making good money playing our music because, it cost anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000 to get there and maintain, depending on where you came from. To show you how much we have lost I challenge you, to find ten successful (non-hit recording) black groups in the whole of the United States who, could spend that kind of money in order to attend a conference!
Our thinking is currently so twisted until one would suggest that, we the elders can not relate to the youth when, in fact, without the guidance of elders the youth will never be able to relate to reality. Oh! A few of them may be able to make a lot of money for a little while but, in the long term we will all lose everything because, lessons from the elders to the youth is, a natural progression and, this my friends
will never change.
So, isn't it time we face ourselves with these most important questions and, at least begin to deal with them in a realistic manner or, should we continue sliding on down the ramp? By the way, have any of you been to these schools lately as I have or, to a young person's function or, am I the only person in the industry whose noticed that, our children have lost their sense of rhythm? Have we become so greedy and lopsided until we can not see or not care what, we are doing to our children?
I talked to some of the young people who attended and performed at your conference last week and, trust me they are lost. But, not only that; they are also truly yearning to be found but, due to short sightedness and greedy leadership, they are becoming more and, more lost in race.
I could go on and on but, in my effort to spare you let me remind you of this most import factor; Muhammad Ali would have never won a single fight without his superior sense of RHYTHM. God bless our children because, thanks to us without a future, they are going to need much than more blessings at the rate we're going just, to survive the next half century.
Respect is something you can not demand until you've earned it so why not, earn the respect of the entire world by focusing on this, the one industry that we have always excelled in. I mean really focus with the intent of winning back our legacy.
Together we can amass the necessary revenue in this field, to recapture the marketplace singing and rapping out positive messages, layered over pure, funky live music. And instead, of these "Me, Me, Me," recordings why not pick and choose our quest and, speak on subjects that will lift everyone up and, write lyric we can all relate to and take pride in? The only reason an artist has, to be play loud and use ultra vile language or, expose themselves at half time of a football game is, because their music is suffering from a lack of genuine substance.
We should be focusing on taking care of the people of Katrina and, the children of Darfur, all on our very own; plus just as, we should be doing anyway. We have inspired the entire world to sing and to dance but, somehow we've lost our souls along the way however, once we find ourselves and actually, re-learn how to love ourselves and, to believe in ourselves, there is no limit as to what we can do or, how far we can go.
Sincerely, Charles W. Wright
BIOGRAPHY - Charles Wright
Charles Wright was born in 1940 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to a family of six boys and six girls. They were sharecroppers.
Shortly before he turned 12, the family moved to Los Angeles where he entered Manual Arts High School at a time when members of groups like The Youngsters, Chimes and Flames were rehearsing doo-wop behind schoolyard bungalows.
After hearing Jesse Belvin's "One Little Blessing" on the radio, Wright looked the singer up in the phone book and called him.
Belvin, the cornerstone of the L.A. vocal-group scene, started using the youth on various projects (including the Sheilds' classic "You Cheated").
When Wright began forming vocal groups of his own, he had to learn guitar because he couldn't find anyone who played the way he liked. His biggest influence was Adolph Jacobs, who contributed to most of the Coasters' late-50's gems. James Brown, Otis Redding and Antonio Carlos Jobim were also musical influences.
In the early 60's, he launched his own band, Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds....
While working clubs around South-Central L.A. and in Hollywood, the consistent live performing helped hone the band's skills and built their reputation as formidable funkateers.
The Band played steadily in a place called the Haunted House, a Hollywood night spot where they performed for two-and-a-half years with lines around the block every weekend.
By 1967, Wright was also playing guitar in studio groups, becoming one of the most sought-after studio musicians of the era as he played with an astonishing line-up of music greats!
Bill Cosby helped get the band off the ground by giving them appearances at his gigs. They then began recording for Keyman Records in 1967, then moved to Warner Bros. in 1969. While "Do Your Thing" and "Till You Get Enough" were Top 20 R&B hits, their finest selection was "Express Yourself," a song that "expressed the urge for freedom as adroitly as the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" had in the '60s. It has also been among the most sampled
funk tracks for hip-hop and rap groups."
- Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
"It seems truly fitting the initial batch of releases from Warner Brothers archives should include the music Of Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd street Rhythm band since Wright and his pioneering group can in retrospect be considered Warner Bros. Records' first successful R&B act."
- Warner Brothers Press Release
Today Charles and his band's version of "Express Yourself," sell Nike shoes, Rhodes Furniture, Burger King Whoppers, Red Lobster dinners, Gatorade and Hanes underwear throughout the United States. In addition, they sell Bailey's Irish Cream, Bitburger Beer and Algida Ice Cream across the European continent. Express Yourself was also played at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Charles and the band's music enjoy an unusual measure of motion picture soundtracks credits as well: Addams Family Values, Cops & Robberson, Cotton Comes to Harlem, The Boogie Nights, The People vs. Larry Flint, Panther, Never Die Alone, Stander, The Dinner Party and others. Yet, Charles continues his never ending quest for creative excellence.
The 1970's hit "Express Yourself" has taken on a life of its own, being revived in the 1990's by a wide variety of creative people who are excited by that joyful Wright style: "I can hardly believe this," Wright says, "it's been twenty six years since we first released it, yet the song adds more meaning to my life on a daily basis. This could only happen under the watchful eyes of God himself."