All posts by Larry Buford

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, and author of Book/CD titled "Things Are Gettin' Outta Hand" (Steuben Pub.) www.amazon.com. He writes Human Interest articles and entertainment reviews for various newspapers across the country. He is also an editor, and provides services for press releases, interviews, business letters, resumes, etc. A native Detroiter, he is a former Motown songwriter.
jimmy & david ruffin

The Ruffin Brothers: Jimmy & David

Jimmy Ruffin ('What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted')

Jimmy Ruffin (‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’)

*Okay…right off the bat, for those who don’t know, glissando is the musical term for sliding your hand up and down the piano keys. Why I chose the term for this article…keep reading. This is a tribute to Jimmy Ruffin (‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’) who passed away on November 17th.

It was a phenomenon happening right before our very eyes. Detroit was trippin’ because we were getting all this great stuff firsthand (Motown and Aretha Franklin [go get her book ‘Respect’]). Among so many things, at the beginning of 1965 The Temptations hit with ‘My Girl’ and the lead singer David Ruffin’s brother, Jimmy, had a song called ‘As Long As There Is L-O-V-E Love’ at the end of the year. Both songs were written/co-written by Smokey Robinson. The Ruffin brothers epitomized brotherhood through their artistry, and represented upfront what Motown was all about behind the scenes – family.

Jimmy & David Cover

Oh yes, there were others like Joe Stubbs and Levi Stubbs – Joe a lead singer with The Falcons and The Contours; Levi with the Four Tops. There was also (brothers) Brian and Eddie Holland of the famous Holland/Dozier/Holland hit songwriting team – and many other Motowners who were related. Hell, the company was founded by Berry Gordy and practically run by his family! It was definitely a family affair throughout!

But there was something special about the Ruffin brothers’ voices – separately or together as demonstrated in their 1970 duo album ‘I Am My Brother’s Keeper.’ There was that sincere earthiness (‘The Things We Have To Do;’ ‘Lo And Behold’). Before we knew much about them, when we first heard them on record in the early ‘60’s it was easy to think that because David had the huskier, more dominant voice that he was the eldest; but Jimmy’s voice and delivery on ‘Brother’s Keeper’ seemed to convey a ‘big brother’ presence. Yes, David had the fire, spontaneity and impulsiveness, but Jimmy had the assuring stability (steadfastness) of an elder (by five years) looking after the younger. On their cover of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me,’ Jimmy sings ‘If you’re ever in trouble…David just look over your shoulder…you’re gonna find me standing right there.’ Jimmy had a warmth and patience in his voice, while David had that urgency (gotta have it now) like any typical younger brother anxious and chomping at the bit – out to prove himself.

I first met Jimmy at David’s house – there on Parkside off Seven Mile Road (yeah the mile before Eminem’s Eight Mile). We were all upstairs in an alcove equipped with a bar and music sound system. There was a door that led to the master bedroom, so we had access to both. I was there trying to shop some songs I had written. This was back in 1978. We were having fun. Jimmy and David were being brothers – not stars. David was going in and out of his bedroom closet with different electric razors for Jimmy to try. Finally Jimmy said he liked one of them. I remember thinking: Black guys using electric razors? They both had very smooth skin that looked as if a conventional razor blade had never touched.

david ruffin

David Ruffin

In a corner of the room was a small table with a photo of a guy in a military uniform. I asked who he was. They said it was their brother Quincy. I started thinking ‘Oh another brother…does he sing too?’ Quincy wrote a book called ‘Mississippi Tears.’

We were having fun and as I started naming some of their tunes that were my favorites, I said something like ‘You guys should have a patent on the hums.’ They said ‘What?’ I said ‘Like David’s hum on the intro to ‘I Wish It Would Rain,’ and Jimmy’s on ‘Maria,’ and ‘Our Favorite Melody.’ They laughed…we started talking about who had the better hum. David relented and said Jimmy had the better hum. He said, ‘Jimmy hums like he smells something.’ We all laughed at that!

Okay, as I promised in my opening: the glissando intro to Jimmy’s song ‘Our Favorite Melody (1972), and David’s intro to ‘You Can Come Right Back To Me’ (1971) are the same.

Compare:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9Gx-qO-KOs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGds7ztQK5w

But after the intro you get a picture of the two distinct personalities of the great Ruffin brothers – Jimmy and David. RIP Jimmy Ruffin. Thank you for one of the greatest Motown songs ever: ‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted.’ The songs referenced are on YouTube.

Below, check out Jimmy doing “Broken Hearted” and David performing with the Temptations on “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”


Luther Waters, sisters and pastor

Dr. Luther Waters: Man of Many Colors

Luther Waters, sisters and pastor

*Los Angeles – Educator, Dr. Luther Waters delivered a thought-provoking sermon November 16th titled ‘Divine Nature Applied’ at Agape Christian Fellowship.

Pictured above (L – R) are Dr. Waters, his sisters Julia, Maxine, and Pastor Edward L. Haygood.

The siblings, known as The Waters, have been stalwarts in the music industry for years along with their brother Oren who was not present.

They’ve sung back-up for everyone from Patti LaBelle, to Neil Diamond, to Ray Charles among so many others. To the delight of fans, a previously released album they recorded in the ‘80’s titled ‘Watercolors’ has just recently been re-issued.

The Waters have also received the distinguished Ella Voice Award earlier this year. (Photo by Larry Buford)

Jim Saphin

‘Motown Jim’ Saphin Shares a Collection of ‘Supreme’ Memories

'Motown Jim' Saphin

‘Motown Jim’ Saphin

During the 1960’s when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones began dominating the music scene this side of the Atlantic Ocean in America, American groups like The Supremes were answering back on the other side in Great Britain. As America embraced the ‘British invasion,’ Britain embraced America’s music – particularly the sound of Motown.

As Motown’s ‘flagship’ pop group, The Supremes were riding high on a wave of Top Ten hits with songs like ‘Where Did Our Love Go,’ ‘Stop In The Name Of Love,’ ‘Come See About Me,’ and ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On,’ British fan Jim Saphin started their very first off-shore fan club.

Supremes

‘Motown Jim Saphin,’ as he is known, whose e-mail address contains ‘DiMarFlo’ (as in Diana, Mary, and Florence [original members]) ran the fan club from 1966 to 1970, and over the years has collected more memorabilia (probably) only second to Detroit’s Motown Museum itself.

Since his retirement from British Airways as a flight attendant, Saphin has continued to help preserve the legacy of The Supremes. He still holds up the banner for the groups’ original members as well as the latter day Supremes: Jean Terrell, Scherrie Payne, Lynda Laurence, Cindy Birdsong, and Susaye Greene (two other members of the group – Betty McGlown and Barbara Martin – had left the group before they made it big).

Payne probably sums it up best for all the members saying, “Life was surreal back then. I never imagined that I would be traveling all over the world, meeting so many wonderful people. Several became, and still remain dear friends, like Jim Saphin in England…. I’ll forever treasure those memories of my moment in time as one of The Supremes. No one can ever take that away from me… I was there! God has been good to me.”

Saphin tells his story: “My admiration for Soul music began in the early 60s when I was in my early teens. Whilst my sister was listening to the likes of Elvis Presley, I was into Inez and Charlie Foxx, Carla Thomas and The Exciters. I also had a fascination for the girly groups and enjoyed listening to The Shirelles.

Then one day in 1963 I can remember hearing a record playing on the radio that blew my mind…“When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” by a group named The Supremes released on the Stateside label! I was instantly drawn to this magical sound. After the success of “Where Did Our Love Go” hitting the number one spot in the USA, The Supremes notched up consecutive No 1 records and in 1964 “Baby Love” hit the No 1 spot here in the UK and The Supremes had definitely made their mark. Diana Ross, the lead singer was envied for her torchy come-hither purr in her voice. Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard’s brilliant backing vocals together with superlative choreography made this trio a joy to watch.  The Supremes fan club of Great Britain came into being early in 1966 with the dissolution of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society of which I was a member.  I became National President and Secretary of the Fan club for four years until I became a flight attendant with BOAC/British Airways in 1970. During my career with British airways in 1988 I fulfilled another ambition when I visited “Hitsville USA” on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan. I was made very welcome and was given a grand tour of the building. It felt so very nostalgic when entering recording studio “A” of where it had all began. Imagining all of those big Motown acts recording those hits that we have all come to love and remember so well and when I set eyes on those three microphones in front of three stools, I was right there in the moment of where The Supremes had recorded the majority of their hits. I was also shown a passageway come restroom of where Mary and Flo would stand [for echo] to record the backups and hand claps to many of the hits that we know so well today.

I am so blessed to have remained dear friends with many of the eight Supremes in the various line-ups over the years especially Scherrie Payne and Cindy Birdsong who I love so very much.”

Saphin is currently a member of a local British amateur dramatic society where he has acted in many plays over the years.

Share now with Motown Jim a collection of ‘Supreme’ memories that he has just released on his new website at: http://www.jimsaphin.com/a-life-with-the-supremes/

BTW:  Jim’s birthday is November 15! He says one of his happiest and most memorable moments was when Scherrie Payne flew all the way to the UK to perform and celebrate his birthday in 2007.  Scherrie’s birthday, BTW, was November 4.

motown the musical

‘Motown’ Comes to See About Detroit!

The Supremes: Krisha Marcano as Florence Ballard, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross and Trisha Jeffrey as Mary Wilson in “Motown: The Musical.” (Photo: ‘Motown: The Musical’)

The Supremes: Krisha Marcano as Florence Ballard, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross and Trisha Jeffrey as Mary Wilson in “Motown: The Musical.” (Photo: ‘Motown: The Musical’)

*The song “Come See About Me” by The Supremes was released 50 years ago almost to the day in October 1964. Ever since Motown made its exodus from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972, Detroiters have been wondering ‘Where is Motown…will it ever come back?’

Well Detroit is getting its wish. With all its glitz, glamour and pizazz, Berry Gordy’s ‘Motown: The Musical’ will be playing at the fabulous Fisher Theatre in the heart of Detroit beginning October 21 through November 16.

Quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Motown founder Gordy says of opening week, ‘It’s going to be really exciting, dramatic and full of love. Being home is always great, but this is even greater because I’m bringing back something that I know they’re going to love and enjoy.’

Like a ‘Long Gone Lover’ (the B-side of ‘Come See About Me’), remaining Motown veterans are expected to come out in full force similar to the reunion that took place at the premier in New York two years ago. Only this reunion will bring it all back to where it all began. Diana Ross who first performed at the prestigious Fisher in 1968 as lead singer of The Supremes; Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder and many other Motowners will be in the audience reliving those magic moments that defined a generation during that critical time in American history – the civil rights movement.

Yes Detroit may have its problems, but now for one shining moment Detroiters, old and young, will get a glimpse of the splendor that was created in that little place called Hitsville USA – which is now the Motown Museum – on West Grand Boulevard.

As a tribute – for this may very well be the occasion for which it was created – there’s a song I wrote called ‘(Going) Back To Motown’ recorded by another former lead singer of The Supremes, Scherrie Payne which is on YouTube at:

Have a ball Detroit!!

david mitchell1

David Mitchell: What Constitutes a Musical Genius?

David Michell, Publisher Amalgamation Mag

David Michell, Publisher Amalgamation Mag

*Of late, I’ve been getting into these passionate debates with many of my fellow music industry peers – some much younger than me, others 40 and up – about who or what is a musical genius.

I’ve said for some time that I wanted to draft an essay from what I’d like to think is a worldly perspective. But in truth I have a very limited or narrow stance on who or what is genius.

By definition, at least per Wikipedia, “a genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of an unprecedented leap of insight.”

Genius comes from the Latin word of the same name, meaning “guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth” or “innate ability.” Those are pretty tall orders and heavyweight definitions to apply to individuals simply because they churned out a string of Pop hits. Typically we see glimmers of genius at childhood. And, I’m not referring to Little Magic who always got a rise from grandma and his cousins while he performed at the annual family picnic.

I’ll give you that some people experience flashes of genius, but music has been so watered down over the years, I even question those flashes. Most of the artists on the radio today couldn’t even tell you what key they’re singing in, or how their tracks were produced. Music standards have plummeted. People don’t comprehend or even learn the fundamentals of music, and even those who do aren’t geniuses. They are students of their field. Some are highly accomplished; others are great and learned artists.

In modern times, I believe Stevie Wonder is a musical genius. I don’t think I’m alone in that assessment. He’s a rarity. Blind since birth, he mastered several instruments, mainly the piano, drums and harmonica. He was at the forefront of embracing technology early on, composed and produced hundreds of remarkable songs (many considered a part of the American Songbook) that contained some of the most melodic, complex chord structures, and yet it’s some of the most commercially viable music of the last 40 plus years.

Genius can be almost supernatural; perhaps unworldly. Now people have asked me is Michael Jackson or Prince a genius. I can’t say yes. I love both of them immensely. Is Pharrell Williams or Kanye West a genius? I decline to apply that term to them either.

You see, we have watered down the English language to a fault, especially when there are words that aptly apply to great artistry like Michael Jackson who I would say is a creative visionary of the highest order. Prince is one of the most gifted, prolific and versatile musicians of our time. Both transcended their peers. I’ve LOVED the music and production of Pharrell Williams for nearly two decades. His wizardry as one of today’s top producers is second to none. “Happy” is an amazingly feel-good song but the production of Pharrell is pastiche and harkens back to the best of the `70s and `80s. In the rap game, Kanye and Jay-Z may be unmatched in their lyrical skills, their insightful poetry and penchant for giving audiences what they want. But is that genius? I was in a discussion where a colleague pointed out that DeVanté Swing (of Jodeci) and Missy Elliott were geniuses. Come on now! Again, not to take anything away from the good music they produced, and the talent they helped to bring to the forefront; some people are very adept at tapping into the hearts and minds of its audience at large, or they’re able to spearhead a cultural movement and speak for their respective generation. I’m not sure that’s necessarily genius, and a great part of what these artists do is via collaboration: with a collective of producers, musicians, videographers, and a large budget at their disposal.

I guess what I’m saying is [that] we need to expand our vocabulary and stop grasping for the easy terms. A BFF of mine recently stated that there are two words that he believed were overused into today’s Pop culture: one is epic, and the other is phenomenal. Hell, I’ll use epic and phenomenal over the label genius any day.

 

David Mitchell is Publisher, Amalgamation Mag
[email protected]
www.amalgamationmag.com/website
Re-printed by permission

lgbt (hands)

LGBT’s Urge to Merge [Marry]: A Church Challenge

lgbt (hands)

*The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to hear any of the seven same-sex marriage cases cleared the way for same-sex couples to wed in more added states across the country. Hooray for them (law is law), but as I stated before, why call it ‘marriage’? Why change God’s definition of marriage?

In a previous article I wrote titled ‘Marriage: Sorry that User Name is Taken,’ I proposed that the LGBT community come up with their own unique title for their civil unions. This is where separation of church and state should really come into play.

Just as a church could lose its tax-exempt status for endorsing a particular political party or candidate, it could also lose its effectual consecration in spiritual matters as standards become increasingly relaxed. The term ‘marriage’ is a Biblical standard that defines it as the union between a man and a woman. If we allow marriage to be redefined, what’s next? Will we then begin to erode the definitions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’? Aren’t our children going to be challenged enough that we have to leave them this legacy? I think it’s applicable what President Obama said when addressing global warming: ‘We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair.’

Wake up church – you have a responsibility in this! If the state will not allow you to impose your influence on the political scene, why let it impose something against God’s word upon you? What belongs to the state is the state’s, and what belongs to God is God’s. Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 ‘Therefore render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’

Let’s keep marriage intact. When same-sex couples have the urge to merge, let them call it just that – a merge, not a marriage.

Larry (no tie 2)

Larry Buford

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) www.amazon.com.  E-mail: [email protected]    Visit the author at www.larrybuford.com. (213) 220-8101