Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Friday, June 27, 2008

That Shirley Horn-"She's a Goodun'"

"I've never known anyone that could do a ballad that slowly and keep it musical, keep it happening."
--Mary McPhartland

Question: Has this ever happened to you? You know, you get cocky, thinking you know a lot about something or someone, and someone comes along and drops some knowledge that floors you, that reminds you of that old adage: “the more you know, the less you know?"

This happened to the daddy recently when he was schooled big time about singer/pianist Shirley Horn, considered the greatest singer/pianist since Nat King Cole. A friend had him listen to one of her songs (“Here’s to Life”) and the daddy instantly knew two things: that this is the singer that singer Diana Krall got her singing style from, and that this Shirley Horn could sing her ass off. As my ebonics-talking Aunt Bess would say, “She’s a goodun'.”

For those who don’t know or who may need to be reminded, here are some facts about Shirley Horn. She was a child prodigy, one of those children that catch on to something at a very early age and become great at it. The daddy’s nephew is like this with chess. When he’s not prowling the streets with his “crew,” training to become a straight-up thug, he’s sitting on park benches, outwitting old men three times his age. And, because you have to move within a few seconds, he dispenses with them quickly, further depressing them and perhaps causing them to pray more forcefully for the lawd to call them home. Like my nephew with chess, Shirley was hooked on the piano—so much so that her momma had to bribe her to get away from the ivories and to play with neighborhood children.

At age 12, Shirley studied musical composition. At 18, she received a scholarship to study at Juliard but chose to study music at Howard University.

Though her first album, “Embers and Ashes,“ went nowhere (It was a small label with little distribution), it helped to get the word out that there was a new musician in town. In fact, after Miles heard her album, he invited her to New York to open for him. This exposure helped her get the break she needed. Soon, she was playing in the top jazz clubs all over the country and recording with none other than the great Quincy Jones at the Mercury label. She even did the singing on several movie soundtracks.

But two things kept her from gaining greater fame. First, she wanted to be with her family, especially her daughter Rainy. Second, she had irreparable differences with Mercury about her music. So, she left New York, became resigned to her role as wife and mother and played primarily in clubs close to her home in Washington D.C.

In 1981, with her daughter out of the house and married, Horn formed a trio and began traveling again. In 1986, she began recording for Verve; and she was also becoming popular too, performing with top jazz musicians like Davis and Wynton Marsalis. And her strong-selling records in the 1980’s earned her 9 grammy nominations.

In 1991, she won a Grammy for best jazz vocal performance. In 2004, Horn was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts as a jazz master. After a long illness, Horn died on October 20th, 2005, in her beloved Washington D.C. She was 71.

Staff writer Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post characterized her performances as "mesmerizing."

"An uncompromising perfectionist, she worked hard to develop a personal, pensive sound. Her artistry had long depended on the interaction between voice and piano, but in 2001, Horn's right foot was amputated because of her diabetes. As a result, it was difficult for her to use the elegant pedal work that marked her piano style."

Horn said of her music: "I don't much hurry, because I do believe in time and space. I think I can paint that picture for you slowly, so you can see."

Pick up a Shirley Horn CD. Let her paint a picture for you. See if you agree with my Aunt Bess and say, "She's a goodun'."


New Black Woman said...

That's happened to me on numerous occasions.

Anonymous said...

daddy, good research. I got my daughter to download the song "hear's to life." Real nice voice. Reminds me of my younger days going on dates to clubs in New York. said...

Hey MacDaddy!

Thank you for sharing this!

I had not heard of her...I should be ashamed...

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

rainywalker said...

My grandmother once told me when two hearts have touched they will always be together. Shirley Horn music embraces piety at its best.

Felicity said...

DaddyBstrong, thanks for sharing this, I have never heard of Shirley Horn's music.

Anonymous said...

Well like you always say, there are so many "forgotten" artists of all kinds --many very talented and relatively unknown. I'm sure you know Abbey Lincoln. She was a jazz/cabaret/protest singer of sorts. I love her plaintive song, "Bird Alone". These jazz singers worked where they could - clubs, traveling with bands and hotel gigs. I guess being so versatile, many eked out a living yet we still don't know them. Think of how we love Debbie Duncan and yet she's not known on either coast. So keep educating DaddyBstrong and start hooking up some tunes. Time to resolve those technical difficulties!

sdg1844 said...

All the time. All the time daddy. The older I get, the less I know. I'm still learning and keeping my mind active.

Thanks for sharing this story about Ms. Horn. So much music, so little time. I'll be purchasing her stuff w/a quickness.