Welcome To The Soul-Patrol Newsletter
This issue of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter will focus on the passing of the legendary lead singer, songwriter, guitarist and musical visonary, Clarence Burke Jr of the Five Stairstep & the Invisible Man's Band + artists such as Billy Preston, George Harrison, Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, Larry Graham and others.
Clarence was also a gopod friend of mine and the Soul-Patrol site, so I have written 3 brand new article about him, because I want yall to understand what a loss this is for our music/culture.
However in some late breaking news, I would also like to inform you of the passing of the man who is (perhaps?) the GREATEST R&B SINGER OF ALL TIME. MR. MARVIN JUNIOR OF THE DELLS.
Marvin was also a friend of mine, as are all of the Dells. We got a whole lot of history. And of course over the next few days the Soul-Patrol Newsletter will have a special edition in his honor.
But for the moment, I would like all of you to scroll down and read a few things about Clarence Burke Jr. And if you learn something about him that you didn't know before, please feel free to pass it along to someone else here on the internet who needs to know....
RIP: Clarence Burke Jr on the Soul-Patrol.com Website
I hate writing these, especially when it is someone that I know and care about. It's always difficult to write on a computer, when you have tears in your eyes. It's difficult to see what is on the screen.
(5/26/2013) - Our friend Clarence Burke Jr. passed away at 2am earlier this morning. His family has just authorized me to make a posting about it.
I realize that there have been rumors floating around the internet for a few weeks now. Yall shouldn't be so quick to bury someone before they actually die!!! ( think that a few of yall out there have waaaayyy too much fee time on your hands)
Clarence himself I would imagine is having a pretty good laugh right about now.
However I wanted everyone here, especially those of you who met and broke bread with one of the last true musical geniuses of the thing that we call Black music @ the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention in Philadelphia (which is where that picture comes from), to know that this brotha has left this earth.
"Genius" you say?
Well in my book, he is right there with many of the great ones. He just never got the props :(
I'll have lots more to say about Clarence Burke Jr and his musical contributions. But for the moment, I just want you all to know that he was a really good brotha and most importantly a friend. For example, Clarence Burke Jr. was one of the first people to contact me when my mother passed away a few years ago.
There weren't many months since the time I first met him, that were weren't in contact, till recently.
For now I would refer you to his website: http://www.clarenceburkejr.com where you can leave him a message or contact his family....
Clarence Burke Jr on the Soul-Patrol.com Website
When I first met Clarence Burke Jr, he knew almost nothing about the Internet.
In fact, he didn't even have an email address. Nothing could have made me happier after meeting him that we became friends, and that he became a major presence on the Soul-Patrol.com website.
--Concert Review: Newark, NJ: Clarence Burke Jr @ the Key Club (March 12 2010) + Danger She's a Stranger (Memorial Day Memories)
--Black History Month Special: Whatever Happened to the Five Stairsteps? (the story of how I first met Clarence Burke Jr.)
--1 Hour Five Stairsteps Internet Radio Special: Gary Tyson presents us the complete history of the Five Stairsteps as it evolved from the 'First Family of Soul' and it's classic and rich Blue Light In The Basement Slow Jams of the late 1960's to the surprising DISCO FUNK of The Invisible Man's Band, to the solo career of JAZZ/SOUL/FUNK of singer/bassist/producer Keni Burke into the 1980's.
NOTES ON: "Danger She's a Stranger"
NOTE #1: Clarence first became aware of Soul-Patrol as a result of listening to the 1 Hour Five Stairsteps Internet Radio Special. If you listen to it, I completely disrupt Gary Tyson's broadcast, by "bogarting" my way in and insisting on playing the song "Danger She's a Stranger." Clarence heard this and later told me that when he heard it, he thought to himself; "I gotta meet this Bob Davis dude, he is totally off the wall serious about the Five Stairsteps. This brotha must truly be "sick." I gotta find out what's wrong with him for myself, up close & personal..."
NOTE #2: It's no secret that "Danger She's a Stranger," is my very favorite Five Stairsteps song. How ironic that I wrote the essay entitled "Danger She's a Stranger (Memorial Day Memories)," on a Memorial Day Weekend and Clarence passed away on Memorial Day Weekend. "Danger She's a Stranger" made it to #16 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1966. However to me it is the "National Anthem of Basement Blue Light Parties." LOL. It's pure lyrical & vocal genius, from a 10 year old, Clarence Burke Jr. And don't forget the WICKED bassline from 8 year old, Keni Burke either on this song :)
NOTE #3: When Clarence performed at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention, he opened with "World of Fantasy" and then he announced; "This next song is just for Bob Davis. I don't usually perform it live, but he might not let me get out of this place alive, if I don't perform it tonight..." And with that he fired up the classic "Danger She's a Stranger..."
RIP - Clarence Burke Jr
A Selective Song Analysis: Clarence Burke Jr
I want to talk for just a moment about just a few of the many songs that I personally dug by Clarence. Please note, "OOH CHILD" doesn't appear on the list, get over it :)
Invisible Man's Band - All Night Thing
This MONSTER FUNK jam is today, probably the most famous song ever recorded by Clarence Burke Jr. Youp, today this song is probably even more famous than "OOH CHILD."Yet most people who are fans of the song have no clue that it is him. Clarence, is of course the "Invisible Man," with his family the Burke's (Five Stairsteps).
--This song is an absolute FUNK BOMB and even today in 2013 it will still pack the floor at a dance club.
--Go to a wedding in 2013, in just about any community (white, black, hispanic, asian, gay, straight, etc.) and you are likely to hear the song played at the reception.
--Talk to any self respecting "crate diggin hip hop dj," and they have this song on 12 inch vinyl in their DJ bag.
--And of course it's a staple of the "club mix/dance party" radio shows broadcast every Saturday night in cities across the USA on terrestrial radio.
I always loved the iconic/ironic lyric; "OOH CHILD! It's a party now."
He performed this song for us at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention and had everyone there shakin their be-hinds...
One, two, three...
Waiting on the dance, To get started.
Hollywood stands, it's jammed down
It's a party now.
I wanna dance, I wanna dance, Everybody wanna dance, Move those bodies round
While the music spins, Get down, get down, get down. Get...
It's gonna be an all night thing. It's gonna be an all night thing. Baby, it's an all night thing. It's gonna be an all night thing.
Freaks on the floor. Freaks on the floor. All the freaks on the floor,
On a saturday night. Disco is explode. Strange freaky vibes
Flashing lights of red, Blue, yellow and green. It's a funky scene.
Ready for the hit Get on your knees.
Yeah, yes it is. Uh huh. Baby... [skat]
Beat feet, stamp, jam, Move it on in. It's a sheet freak.
Come on in. 'cause, I can't go,
On such a hot date. Suga booga,
Would ya, could ya.
Move a little close, For you to hear
Don't ya know? You got me shifting in fifth gear.
You look so fine. I want your number, In my book.
Gonna take you home with me, And get it on, All night long.
Stairsteps - Pasado
This is an absolutely gorgeous song.
--If you have ever heard it, you can never forget it.
--It sounds vaguely latin.
--It sounds vaguely jazzy.
--However the song is really neither.
It's got the unmistakable vocal harmonies of the Five Stairsteps. There are flutes playing and they sound like angels :)
It's from the "underground" album, never released on CD called "Second Resurrection."
--The song is legendary among hardcore Five Stairsteps fans.
--I have gotten hundreds of requests over the years from Soul-Patrol readers to send them a copy of this song.
It is totally unlike any other song I have ever heard. Maybe a similar vibe to something like "Black Gold of the Sun?" (not "sound" but "vibe")
To my knowledge it has only ever been performed live a few times. And I am quite proud to say that one of those times was at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention in Philadelphia. That was Clarence's "special surprise" for us. People, who knew the story of Pasado, thought they had died and gone to heaven, when Clarence fired up "Pasado."
The concert he put on for us @ the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. By anybody. Ever...
--Do I have it on video? (of course I do)
--Will I ever put the hour long concert or any portion of it on the internet? (of course not, cuz Clarence asked me not to. He said, "this is just for the people who SHOWED UP!!)
--Maybe I will put some narration around it and show it as a "never to be released concert movie" at the next Soul-Patrol Convention in 2016? (or maybe not?)
And one of the (many) reasons why this concert was such a fantastic live performance, was Clarence's inclusion of "Pasado"
Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I've been all through this thing Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I've been all through this thing You said our love would be ever so bright But I can't afford to make the sacrifice Cause I, cause I been all through this thing Yeah baby
You kiss and hold me just the way I'd want you to
But when it all goes down you still remain untrue And I, and I been all through this thing
Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I've been all through this thing No quiero saber nada Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa I've been all through this thing No me hables mas
First time we met we had a lovely start
Then we joined hands and said that we'd never part
But now I close my ears
Found out that you weren't sincere I caught you there, been playing everywhere But you were never here when I needed you "Never here when I needed you"
-- so I say Pasado por esa cosa
I've been all through this thing So I say, Pasado So I say -- Pasado por esa cosa
I've been all through this thing
So I say -- Pasado
No quiero saber nada No me hables mas Oye mulata mami mira Echa, echa te pa ya Ya yo-ha pasado por esa cosa
I've been all through this thing
Five Stairsteps - Don't Waste Your Time
This is a truly subversive song. On the surface, it's one of the few Five Stairsteps songs, that sounds like it's a "bubblegum song." It's bright, bouncy, and sounds almost like a nursery rhyme. (Almost nauseatingly so....LOL)
That is till you listen closely to the lyrics. And you see that it's one of the most
COLD BLOODED SONGS OF REJECTION I HAVE EVER HEARD.
This song never charted, however it is a major reason why hardcore Five Stairstep fans love the group so much. It is always featured on the Five Stairsteps compilations and treated as if it were a major hit song.
How did Clarence come to write a song with such a hardcore message, yet make it sound like it was a song from Romper Room? Was he rejected? Or did he reject someone else? I never got to ask him that question, so perhaps I will never find out.
However in my mind, this song is a perfect illustration of how his songwriting ability rivals that of Smokey Robinson.
Don't waste your time My love is taken
You'll easily find There's none to spare
You'll find another somewhere So don't waste your time Don't waste your time
Don't waste your tears Your love has been shared With others this year
Would be such a shame To cry in vain So don't waste your tears
Don't waste your tears With respect my dear I'm warning you It's said for me
You're one love, for you But it's time, my dear That you discover that I love another
And I tell you from the start now
Don't waste your time My love is taken You'll easily find
There's none to spare
So don't waste your time I see somewhere from 'round the station
That you don't understand the situation You're very sweet, yet I must confess
You would only be second best
Five Stairsteps - Come Back
One more (then I'll shut up for a moment about the music of the Five Stairsteps)
I think that this was Clarence's favorite Five Stairsteps song.
1. He used to refer to himself all of the time as "Mr. C.B." and then say "I'm commin back Bob, just like the song."
2. This is my own personal second favorite Stairsteps song, a close second to "Danger She's a Stranger." It's one of the best "begging songs" ever. It's a beautiful song (featuring great lyrics, beautiful music & angelic voices) that is one of many that I have on "permanent repeat" inside of my head. Back in another century.... I would press that "repeat button inside of my head" and play this song whenever I had "phucked up" a relationship and the "object of my desire," had left me.
3. As some of you might recall from my story about meeting Clarence Burke Jr. for the first time, 3 different versions of this song appear on the Eleanor Grant album that he produced. Version 1 is Eleanor, w/Clarence backing here up on guitar doing a very tasty straight up cover of the original song. Version 2 is Eleanor & Clarence once again, but this time Eleanor changes the lyrics and the meaning. In this version it's no longer teenaged puppy love, it's Eleanor as an Erykah Baduish/Marlena Shawish type, who is demanding that "MR C.B. come back" and provide her with a serious round of "adult sexual healing." Version 3 is Clarence's beautiful Curtis Mayfieldeque guitar driven instrumental version of "COME BACK."
4. And as you will recall from my story, Clarence is telling me that he is primed to make a career "come back," and as a hardcore Five Stairsteps fan, I am somewhat skeptical, since I know that inside of my head these songs are done by the voice of a 10 - 15 year old and I am sitting across the table from a 52 year old man. How could his voice possibly sound as good? Then Clarence says to me "I'll prove it to you RIGHT NOW Bob. Do you have that Eleanor Grant CD in your car?" I said; "of course I do." He says to me; "BET, let's go to your car." So we walk out to the car & he tells me to put the CD in and forward it to the instrumental version of "Come Back," from the Eleanor Grant album. I fast forward to the instrumental version of "Come Back," and Clarence starts singing. And of course his voice sounds as rich and powerful as it did on the original recording. In fact once he starts, I also recognize that I am being treated to something that a hardcore Five Stairsteps fan could only dream of. A DAMN PRIVATE CONCERT w/THE LEAD SINGER OF THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS. (had I just died and gone to heaven or what???)
5. A few weeks ago (4/28), as a few of yall might recall, I was raving about a fantastic new recording that I needed to "bookmark," but that I couldn't tell you who it was by or what the song was. Well at this moment I feel compelled to tell you that it is a brand new remake of "COME BACK." (more on THAT soon)
6. Here is how I described this new version; "It hurts because it is both familiar, yet distant at the same time. It hurts because it makes you think of days that were so sweet that you can taste the nectar. It makes me think of people, places & events from long ago. It revives my hope that I can experience those things again, since they really aren't bound in time at all. Yet because those days were so long ago, you question if it ever really did happen at all?"
7. ....& God Bless whomever is playing the "bone thrustingly" erotic flute on the original recording!!!)
(Do ya think I LOVE the song "COME BACK," or what????.....LOL)
OK....now I promise to stop talking about the musical genius of Clarence Burke Jr, for a little while, because I am starting to get really, really sad and I don't feel like crying anymore than I have to on a holiday weekend. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will hoist a few today, and every time I raise my glass it will be in honor of my friend, Clarence Burke Jr!!!!
I sure as hell wish that he could do just one last "comeback." I will REALLY REALLY miss this brotha :(
Clarence performed the song for us at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention and had us all memorized. In fact I recall seeing a whole bunch of the ladies of Soul-Patrol "swooning" during Clarence's performance of this song :)
Come back... Come back... Come back to me...Where have you gone now? Off with someone new?
If you really love me Let me be your fool Just come back... to me Come back to me
What have I done To make you feel this way? If I could stop crying I would have to say...
JUST COME BACK (to me) Come back, to me
I'm so mad about you Don't know what to do without you Your always on my mind I dream of you all the time
So COME BACK (to me) Come back, to me
RIP - Clarence Burke Jr
The Ghost of John Lee Hooker
Anybody who knows me even just a little bit, knows that I am a huge fan of the Blues. People who do know me "just a little bit," are always surprised by this. They think that Bob Davis "The Boy from New York City," would hardly be interested in tha Blues. That's because they think of the Blues as being strictly a "southern thang." Or perhaps a "rural thang." However if you get to know me a little bit better, a much clearer picture will begin to emerge.
When I first met Clarence Burke Jr, we immediately bonded. Of course it started from a musical perspective, with me being such a huge fan of the body of music that he had created, that had been such a huge influence on my life. But during the course of our very first 10 hour meeting, there were two common things we shared that I think he recognized as being foundational and important.
1. Our fathers had both been "big city" Police Officers.
2. We both were in "business" with our siblings
As you might well imagine, we discussed these two topics often :
In 2010 when I went to see him perform live at the Key Club in Newark, on that rainy night, he warmly greeted me before the show. Clarence was such a character. He always had 1001 ideas, concepts, perspectives that he wanted to tell you about. Some of them serious, some of them just plain silly. You could always tell that his brain was always operating at "warp speed." People who know me well, often make that same observation about me.
So before the show, Clarence was like; "Bob we gotta do this," Bob we gotta do that," Bob this is the first STEP," Bob here is the next STEP," "Bob I got more than FIVE STEPS," etc.
Of course I smiles and then proceeded to give him my 1001 ideas, concepts, perspectives, etc.
Then he went on stage and proceeded to deliver a KILLER show. As I watched, I observed how Clarence Burke Jr. was dressed. He was wearing a "black on black on black suit." And he topped it off with a "bowler" style hat. Which also was black. And with his guitar slung over his shoulder, I remarked to myself:
"HE LOOKS LIKE THE GHOST OF JOHN LEE HOOKER"
After the show of course Clarence asked me what I thought of the performance. And of course I verbally gave him a disgustingly detailed analysis of each song. He turned in a GREAT performance, of course, completely blowing away the audience. And then I said:
"AND ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT YA LOOKED LIKE THA BADD AZZED GHOST OF JOHN LEE HOOKER"
Clarence replied; "that's no accident mah brotha, that's by design, and you are probably one of the few people who could possibly connect those mo fo dots…"
So the next time you see me sign off of one of my postings with the phrase:
"When I grow up I wanna be like John Lee Hooker."
Know for sure that I mean that for real. Know for a fact that is one of my goals.
But also know that was one of Clarence Burke Jr.s goals. And know for a fact that while he may not have achived some of the goals that he aspired to in life.
I can tell you for a fact:
"CLARENCE BURKE JR. GREW UP TO BE LIKE JOHN LEE HOOKER."
And Bob Davis is gonna miss the hell out of Clarence Burke Jr.
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