In these times of political turmoil, socioeconomic inequities and environmental issues the songs of Stevie Wonder resonate deeply. In fact, so deeply that it has inspired Macy Gray to audaciously cover Wonder’s entire classic album, Talking Book. On songs like “Superstition,” “Maybe Your Baby” and “Big Brother,” Gray transforms the songs into a thrilling soundscape.
Gray shared that she felt compelled to tackle the project due to the messages in the songs. “He wrote ‘Big Brother’ so long ago and now everywhere you go you’re on camera. He has a lot of political comments and this beautiful perspective on love and politics without being preachy.”
Gray, whose previous album, Covered, was also a collection of covers, notes that taking a break from original material has reinvigorated her muse. “I haven’t been in love and I didn’t want to make a record whining about myself. There is always politics but the things that made me want to write, were the things that made me want to cry,” she says. “So I did other people’s songs and now I’m in the middle of two records and inspired by great things.”
While the title of her previous album of original material, The Sellout, alluded to her frustrations of not being considered commercial enough, Gray notes that we shouldn’t expect such concerns this time around. Gray is all about avoiding musical trends with no regrets. “There is an art to trying to keep up with the times and I think that is not my presence in music. I don’t want to be worried about all that.”
One worry on the minds of many is the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm that has devastated the Caribbean and almost crippled the East Coast. A particularly vulnerable group is the arts/culture community and the following organizations are offering emergency grants to ease financial burdens on artists: The Actors’ Fund of America; Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Inc.; Artists’ Fellowship; and Craft Emergency Relief Fund. For a listing of other resources please click here.
As always, the resiliency of the arts/culture community demonstrates its strength with several events aiming to keep Harlem’s cultural engine moving. Highlights include Art in Flux Harlem’s November 9th opening night reception for Echoes from Afar: A Time to Keep & A Time to Let Go; The Apollo Theater’s Master Class Songwriting Seminar with Gordon Chambers on November 10th; and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s open house celebrating the premiere of their Fall/Winter 2012-13 season. The latter kicks off on November 11th and one standout featured exhibition promises to be, Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967. Although the concert Ma, Mahalia, and the Man, already had its debut you’ll want to check out for its possible return in the near future. Tami Tyree, led a tribute to the pioneers of blues and gospel: Ma Rainey, Mahalia Jackson, and composer Thomas A. Dorsey—the man largely responsible for the iconic careers of these two women. The concert featured blues songstress LeeOlive Tucker, a jazz band led by Rudi Mwongozi and a gospel ensemble.
In these times, we can use all of this and more.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.