The Soundtrack of My Life – The 60’s

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English: The disc for the first The Shirelles ...

English: The disc for the first The Shirelles song to top the Hot 100, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago I asked my brother Isaac Littsey, a talented and very knowledgeable person on music, to write a little something about Black Music Month.  In his own words…

June is “Black Music Month,” so when my brother, Arthur, asked me to write a few words about its significance I struggled a bit.  Black music is so far reaching and broad that to try to reduce it to a few simple paragraphs would, in my opinion, not do it justice.  At least not the justice it deserves.  So what I’m going to try and do is give you a look at Black Music as the soundtrack of my life.  Now I’m sure each of us has a “soundtrack” or at the least, we have music that when we hear a particular song, we remember either where we were or what we were doing, when the song was popular.  There were so many songs that were part of my soundtrack that what I’ve done was, go on my computer, put on my list of “soul classics,” and as they played, just sit back and reminisce.

WOW, the very first song that played was “Soldier Boy,” by the Shirelles.  The year was 1962.  I was starting my junior year in high school (Pershing High School/Detroit for all of my alumni friends).  This was before Motown became a significant musical entity and there was not a lot of “black music” being played on the radio.  American Bandstand was still in its adolescence and to hear the Shirelles sing that song on the radio was a real awakening.  You’ve got to remember that the Vietnam War was going on at the time.  I was in the R.O.T.C. and catching a lot of flak about my uniform and that song became some sort of validation for my cohorts and me.  The teasing stopped as soon as the refrain “Soldier boy, oh my little soldier boy, I’ll be true to you” began.  With that song and others like “This is Dedicated to the One I Love”, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?and “I Met Him on a Sunday” (remember “da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron) the soundtrack began.

There were others then and later like the Chantels, the Jaynets (remember “Sally Goes Round The Roses?”), the Crystals (Uptown, He’s a Rebel) who along with performers like Nat King Cole, Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter, Ray Charles, Brook Benton, all of whom gave “pop music” some “soul” and helped elevate soul music performances to prominence.

This was also the time of talent shows and “street corner symphonies.”  I was fortunate to go to school with some of the best of the local talents, like the fellows who would become The Dramatics.  Here’s a shout out for Elbert Watkins, my friend, who passed in 1992 (Ron Banks, “Wee Gee” Howard, Johnny Mack Brown, Lenny Mayes, and Tony Hester who, also, are no longer with us).  Gino Washington (“Gino Is a Coward”) and Demetrius Cates of the Fabulous Counts were schoolmates, as well.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two people who played a significant part in my soundtrack.  Grady Pounds, perhaps the finest pure singer I’ve known (his renditions of “So Much in Love,” by the Tymes and “Farewell My Love” by the “Temptin” Temptations are two of my all time favorites) and Carl Holloway, definitely the finest drummer I’ve known.  None of those elaborate drum sets for Carl.  He could do it all with a snare, a tom, a bass drum, a cymbal and a high-hat.  Hey, if you read this fellas, “holla back.”

It was around this time when I started connecting music to my personal experiences.  Little Anthony and the Imperials“Going Out of My Head” just started playing.  Music had just added a voice and words to my developing interest in love and falling in love.  When I was walking around totally confused about what was happening to me, the words of the music became my screenplay.  The words to the soundtrack of my life.

There were the Ronettes (“Do I Love You, Be My Baby, Walkin’ in the Rain”), there was Gene “Duke of Earl” Chandler asking, “What Now?” and wanting us to “Just Be True,” there were the Impressions (“Little Young Lover, Gypsy Woman, Minstrel and Queen, I’m the One Who Loves You”).  In fact, it was with the Impressions that I first heard Jerry “the Ice Man” ButlerJerry Butler’s “Need to Belong, Make It Easy On Yourself” and “He Will Break Your Heart,” were stand-ins for all the words I thought at the time, but hadn’t the nerve to say.

Confused at the time about my relationship with “love”, I was encouraged by knowing that I could be both Mary Well’s “Two Lovers.”  When Mary sang “My Guy,” “The One Who Really Loves You,” when she reminded me “What’s Easy for Two, Is Hard for One” (“Let’s get together and go for a walk in the park”), my oh my!  Ooh, “You Beat Me to the Punch” just played from my song list!  What I loved about Mary was that, through the daze and the haze, she would always be “Your (my) Old Stand By.”

As nervous a time as it was, though, there was The Intruders to help me transition from “Cowboy to Girls,” and Archie Bell and the Drells to show me how to “Tighten Up.”

During the summer “Heatwave” we were “Dancin’ in the Streets” to Martha and the Vandellas.  My favorite songs by then were “Come and Get These Memories” and “Jimmy Mack.”  And I remember skating to “My Baby Loves Me.”

There was Justine “Baby” Washington’s “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face” and “That’s How Heartaches Are Made.”  Maxine Brown’s “Oh No, Not My Baby” and Jimmy Ruffin’s, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”  Oh yeah, I can’t leave out Ms. Jackie Ross.  The refrain of those French horns on “Selfish One” was a clarion call to the dance floor.

Before there was the Jackson 5, we had the Jackson 2.  I’m talking about Chuck and Walter Jackson (related only by their talent).  Chuck Jackson with “Any Day Now,” “Tell Him I’m Not Home,” and my favorite “I’m Your Man.”  Walter Jackson with “It’s All Over” and “It’s an Uphill Climb from the Bottom.”  This was music that not only set the scene, it told the story.

And then there were the Dells.  Yes, the Dells.  The soulful harmonies, the tight interaction of melodies and backgrounds, made slow dancing one of the most pleasurable actions on the dance floor.  I’m still amazed at how long Marvin Junior held that note in the song, “Stay in My Corner.”

And speaking of the dance floor, how about the time when “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown recorded “Live at the Apollo” with the long version of “There Was a Time” (Hey hey, I feel alright…One time, uh!).

The Friends of Distinction helped me with “Going in Circles,” and along about that time the Originals with “Baby, I’m For Real” helped me to explain what I didn’t have the words to say.

Other songs that might not be as well known, from that time were Jimmy Williams’ “The Half Man,” Tony Clark’s “The Entertainer,” Ruby and the Romantics “Hypnotized,” The Radients “It Ain’t No Big Thing,” and how about Sammy Turner’s “Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly),” or “Elephant Walk” by Donald Jenkins.  I know I am leaving some really important tunes out, my soundtrack and possibly yours as well, but maybe you’ll include them in your soundtrack and let me know about them.

With the emergence of black radio, we were blessed with great deejays…the people who became conductors and arrangers of my soundtrack.  People like Ernie Durham, Butterball the Jr., Leon Isaacs (out of Chicago but airing on WJLB weeknights at 9:00 or 9:30, somebody help me out here?) and a young Donnie Simpson, whose family lived just down the street from me.

There were so many others.  The rest of the Motown groups (the aforementioned Temptations, the Supremes, the Four Tops…), the Atlantic groups and singers (Aretha Franklin, the Spinners, Ben E. King, the Drifters…).  There was Stax-Watts with Isaac Hayes, the Bar-Keys, Rufus and Carla Thomas (father and daughter), Booker T & the MG’s.  So many artists, so much music…I would need more space to mention them all.

I’ve really enjoyed this trip back in time and I hope your musical experience matches or exceeds mine.  One thing though, it seems we are going to need more than one “Black Music Month” a year to cover them all.

I am looking forward to knowing, with your comments, about the soundtrack of your life.

Isaac Littsey, Jr. 

 

Isaac also has a blog of his own and you can read his comments at www.declarativeusa.com

Also read “Black History Month: The Work of Wendy Woods Jackson”

Going Rogue…With A Raw Food Diet!

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Around this time last year I was having a conversation with a very talented friend that lives in Canada about gardening and one of the subjects that was discussed was why we were into gardening.  I stated my reasons which all sounded like the tried and true textbook reasons of a health-conscious man but my friend said that she was motivated because she wanted to focus on embracing a raw food diet/lifestyle.  She went on to recite a particular passage from the bible that Genesis 1:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.”  The implication is that we are to eat these things raw, without cooking or processing. Cooking is unnecessary!  Well for me, I thought that what I was doing with a lot of the food from my garden, some of which I ate raw, had me positioned to reap a lot of the benefits of a raw food diet intentionally or coincidentally!

But a television talk show showed me that I could do even better with greater benefits.

The Raw Food Diet vs. Diabetes

On a recent weekday afternoon I stumbled upon a segment on the Dr. Oz talk show where he and his guest had an animated conversation about the benefits of a raw food diet (more will be said about the benefits later).  The guest referenced/used a video that is called Raw for 30 DaysRaw for 30 Days is an independent documentary film that “chronicles six Americans with diabetes who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, live, raw foods to reverse diabetes naturally.”  More can be found, along with a trailer for the video, at: http://www.diet-blog.com/07/raw_for_30_days_can_diabetes_be_cured.php.

On this site you will learn that there are three variants of raw food diets: vegan, vegetarian and raw animal food diets.

  • Vegan raw food diets focus solely on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.  No animal products are consumed.
  • Vegetarian raw food diets consist of primarily of plant foods, but also include foods like dairy, honey, and eggs.
  • Raw meat diets focus on consuming animal products that can safely be eaten raw, such as organ and muscle meat, raw dairy, and sashimi (raw fish), but also includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but not grains. 

The Benefits of A Raw Food Diet

According to the site Death to Diabetes the health benefits of a raw food diet are:

  • Increased energy
  • Stabilized blood glucose levels
  • Improved skin appearance
  • Better digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of cancer

The raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet.  It is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and health-promoting chemicals called phytochemicals.  At least 75% of food consumed should not be heated over 116 degrees F. 

These properties are associated with a reduced risk of the abovementioned diseases.  A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations

There are specific cooking techniques that will make your food/meals more digestible and add variety to your diet.  Techniques, such as…

  • Sprouting seeds, grains and beans
  • Juicing fruit and vegetables
  • Soaking nuts and dried fruit
  • Blending
  • Dehydrating food

Here’s a short list of some of the equipment you will need to effectively execute a raw food diet.

  • A dehydrator, a piece of equipment that blows air through food at a temperature less than 116 degrees F.
  • A good-quality juice extractor for juicing fruit and vegetables.
  • Large glass containers to soak and sprout seeds, grains, and beans
  • Mason Jars for storing sprouts and other food

There are a few precautions for those interested in undergoing a raw food diet regimen.  The diet may not be appropriate for:

  • Children
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • People with anemia
  • People at risk for osteoporosis

People also need to be aware that certain nutritional deficiencies can occur on the raw food diet, including:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • B-12 (The Journal of Nutrition study found that a raw food diet increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency)
  • Protein
  • Calories

Critics of the raw food diet say while its true that some enzymes are inactivated when food is heated; it doesn’t matter because the body uses its own enzymes for digestion.  In addition, cooking makes certain phytochemicals easier to absorb, such as beta-carotene in carrots.

Obviously, this is one diet that is probably easier to do living on the west coast where access to a multitude of fresh vegetables is easy.  But it does make sense, even if I don’t go all the way with it.  One of the best reasons for having an “organic garden,” is that I can go out anytime and pluck something off of a bush or vine and pop that sucker right in my mouth where the flavor explodes on my tongue and makes my nostrils swell and my eyes bulge…not really, but it is pretty close to that.  You really can’t go wrong, since a diet that follows the recommended nutritional guidelines includes a lot of the strategies used as the basis of a raw food diet, any diet filled with high levels of fruit and vegetables along with properly prepared and portioned meat servings will position you to have a long and healthy life.

Compost Tea…A Most Beneficial Brew!

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I have been reading a lot of magazine articles and doing online research on how to improve the soil in my garden.  After I put in a few cool-weather crops in late April, I noticed, for the first time, how different, how course and sandy a couple of areas were.  For a variety of reasons I am off to a late start this year and I didn’t get out into the garden, other than for watering the few plants that were out there, until right before Memorial Day weekend.  There were a few sections that the soil had a great texture but there were more sections that the soil was weak in character or total lacking it and was very sandy.  I had gone too long not feeding my soil at sufficient levels to maintain its quality.  Not enough compost and other nutrient-rich organic materials to sustain the soil’s vitality.

In a kismet-like moment one of my younger sisters gave  me, the March/April 2012 issue of Urban Farm magazine (first discussed here February 2011, Urban Gardening Resource: Urban Farm Magazine click here), and as usual it was loaded with several great articles, but the one that caught my eye immediately was “Prepare Perfect Soil.” The information in the article, as well as, some of the online research I had originally found, served me well as I took a meaningful step in to restoring my soil to premium grade again.

One of the coolest things the article covered was what they called “The Three Amigos” – Compost*, Mulch and Compost Tea.  It was the compost tea section that I was drawn to immediately.  I have been making a potion that I thought I was the only person in the world that knew it existed.  Not knowing if I was really doing something beneficial, I would dump the scant remnants in the compost bags into a bucket, add water and then pour it over my garden plants as far as it would go.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that someone had stolen my recipe and enhanced it quite a bit, made it stronger and technologically superior to my homemade, but feeble tonic.  I have been victimized by a snake-oil salesman and that salesman was me.

Now, you don’t have to worry none, I am not all that despondent.  One of the fun things about gardening or farming (?) is that every day there is always something new to learn.  By necessity, we are always learning, adapting and applying new information on a daily basis.  I knew my compost tea, which I unknowingly called it, was a good idea; I just didn’t know how good it was and take it far enough.

The article had a very simple recipe for making compost tea.  All you have to do is to “add a little well-made compost or manure into a bucket of water, let it steep for a few days and, tada!, you have compost tea!  That’s how our grandparents did it!  It also discussed another more sophisticated recipe that used de-chlorinated water, compost or worm castings, and nutrients for the microbes and pumping air through the batch.  The article states that the bubbling action of the air releases the microbes from the compost and into the tea.  As a result, this type of compost tea has a higher concentration of essential microbes than the best, most perfect compost and is easier to apply.  It can be sprayed directly on the soil, used as a drench to inoculate a new or sickly plant or applied to leaf surfaces as a foliage spray.

After reading the magazine article and doing some online research, I now know exactly how beneficial my little potion could have been if I had done it properly.  Compost Tea does the following…

  • Makes the benefits of compost go farther
  • When sprayed on foliage, it suppresses foliar diseases, increase the amount of nutrients available to the plants and speeds the breakdown of toxins.
  • Increases plant growth

Using compost tea has even been shown to increase the nutritional quality and improve the flavor of your vegetables (Brewing Compost Tea, http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/brewing-compost-tea.aspx/).

Now many of us can’t afford some of the fancy compost tea systems (www.growingsolutions.com) you can buy online, so here is a simple tea maker that you can make on your own or have one of your handy dandy D-I-Y friends make one for you.

Supplies Needed

  • (2) 5 gallon buckets
  • 1 gallon mature compost
  • 1 aquarium pump
  • 1 gang valve (to divide the air supply into several streams)
  • 4 gallons of water
  • 3 feet+ of aquarium hose
  • un-sulfured molasses

Instructions

  1. Attach 3 separate pieces of hose at least 12 inches long to the gang valve
  2. Place the gang valve in the bucket
  3. Add your finished compost and make sure the ends of the hoses are covered
  4. Add the water, filling the bucket within 6 inches of the top. (If you are using from a public source, run the pump and bubble air through the water for at least one hour before adding the water to the compost.  This allows any chlorine to evaporate.  Chlorine can kill beneficial organisms in the tea.)
  5. Add one ounce of un-sulfured molasses to provide a food source for the beneficial microorganisms.
  6. Turn on the aquarium pump and let the mixture brew for 2 – 3 days.  Stir the brew occasionally to help mix the compost and separate the microorganisms from the solid compost particles.
  7. After brewing the mixture you need to strain the tea.  Use cheesecloth and strain the tea/compost mixture into another bucket. (You can put the compost solids back into the compost pile or in your garden) The tea should smell sweet and earthy.  If it smells bad, do not use on your plants, but dump the mixture back into your compost pile.
  8.  Apply the compost tea to your flowers and vegetables immediately.  The beneficial microbes will begin to die shortly after the air source is removed.

You can apply compost tea to your garden every two weeks.

Source: Compost Tea: As Easy As 1-2-3 (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep//deputate/airwaste/wm/recycle/Tea/tea3.htm  

So the next time you are making that potent cocktail for yourself, think about your deep-rooted friends that are probably starving for a drink themselves…Compost Tea, on the rocks…shaken but not stirred!

*Black Gold! https://ninedegreesbelowzero.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/black-gold/