Friday, June 24, 2016

Good Bye To Funk Pioneer Bernie Worrell

AP - Bernie Worrell, (1944 - 2016) the Jersey native who revolutionized keyboard playing in popular music, died Friday, June 24, from the effects of lung cancer, his wife Judie Worrell announced on FacebookHe was 72.

Worrell’s music tapped into the heart and lifted the spirit. There was a universal melody, whimsy, soul and passion in his work, and to see him in concert was to experience it all.


Worrell had worked with the Talking Heads, Bill Laswell, Keith Richards, the Pretenders, Jack Bruce, Deee-Lite and many others, but is perhaps best known as the keyboard maestro of Parliament-Funkadelic, most prominently on tracks like “Flash Light,” “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” and “Aqua Boogie.”


“He was a phenom at 14-years old, he was a phenomenal kid, he could play the organ already — (akin to organ greats) Jimmy Smith and (Jack) McDuff — he could do that stuff when he was 15, 16-years old,” said Parliament-Funkadelic frontman George Clinton previously to the Asbury Park Press. “We took our funk and rock ‘n’ roll and put Bernie’s chops in it and we had something nobody knew what the hell we were doing.”
There wasn’t anything like the music of Parliement Funkdelic and there hasn’t been anything like it since. A multi-color melange that included rock, soul, gospel, classical, psychedelic and folk that will forever be known as the zenith of funk music.  It was at once farcical and fanciful, but it was also a pointed commentary of the turbulent nature of the times. You could take it either way, and that was part of its genius.
Worrell’s Mini Moog synthesizer made the band unique, to say the least.


“We were just funking around for fun, we were glad to be on the road playing and when we weren’t on the road, we were in the studio making all those albums that are out there now,” Worrell said previously to the Asbury Park Press. “We were just creating, and thank God for that. At least for myself, we weren’t thinking about making hits, we didn’t go into the studio to make a hit. Who knows what’s going to be a hit in the first place? So it’s just happened we were blessed.”


Worrell was born in Long Branch and he gave his first public performance at the city’s Star of the Sea Academy as a 4-year-old. He was given the key to the city by Long Branch Mayor  Adam Schneider during a 2012 performance at the Brighton Bar.


After the Worrells moved to Plainfield, Bernie’s talent was soon apparent to Clinton.
“Bernie was from Plainfield, like the rest of us, and in his youth we heard about him constantly, from almost everyone: how he was a local Mozart who wrote his first symphony before he was in junior high school, how he could do anything from Ray Charles to classical music,” wrote Clinton in his autobiography, “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir.” “With Bernie we could paint more colors, mix together soul and rock and even a little bit of gospel.”


Post P-Funk, the Worrells lived in Hampton, where they created the annual Local and Legend Music Festival to benefit young musicians from the area with music scholarships.
“We’re providing a way for (area musicians) to play original stuff,” said Bernie Worrell to the Asbury Park Press. “It’s an extension of themselves. Play it and let the people hear them.”
A benefit for the ailing Worrell April in New York City drew a wide array of stars, from actress Meryl Streep to Clinton and Bootsy Collins.


All the stars who appeared stage expressed strong affection for the keyboardist.
“Bernie made stardust and he sprinkled us all with it,” said actress Meryl Streep on Monday. Streep appeared with Worrell in the movie “Ricki and the Flash.”


“Bernie changed my life,” said David Byrne. “The way I think about music and the way I think about life.”


“He doesn’t have to shine by himself, he wants others to shine,” said Bootsy Collins. “That’s a great gift to have.”


The performers included Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads; Sarah Dash of LaBelle; Fred Schneider of the B-52s; Living Colour; the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra; Marc Ribler; Rick Springfield; and Leo Nocentelli of the Funky Meters, who was joined by Questlove of the Roots and Jon Batiste of the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” house band.
Film director Jonathan Demme brought out a clips of the Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense.” He jokingly said that Byrne and Harrison wanted less Worrell in the film because he was too cool.


Worrell also performed at the show. He joined Nocentelli and guitarist Buckethead for an instrumental, and later came out on stage to join Collins and George Clinton. Collins gave Worrell a melodica wrapped up as a gift, and Worrell broke it out and started sweetly playing the Collins song, “I’d Rather Be with You.”


A long jam on the Parliament Funkadelic classic “Flash Light” followed.
“It’s about us,” said Worrell, as he motioned toward the audience. “I’m just a channel who was given a gift, just like all of us.”

UPDATE: Shows for The GroovaLottos in July and August 2016


Farewell and R.I.P. To Native American Blues Legend Jim Boyd

Jim Boyd Performing at the NAMA Ceremony
Singer, songwriter, musician and producer Jim Boyd reportedly died due to natural causes on June 21, 2016. He was 60 years old. As one of the most active Native American recording artists, Jim Boyd’s music career spanned over four decades in the roles as; musician, performer, songwriter, and producer. He has worked on projects for Miramax, Warner Brothers, Mega International Records, Dixie Frog Records, Sound of America Records, as well as produced audio-visual projects for businesses and colleges. Jim has released 15 records to date;  Reservation Bound, Unity, Reservation Blues, First Come Last Served, AlterNatives, Jim Boyd w/ Alfonso Kolb Live At The Met, Kyo-t Live, Going To The Stick Games, Them Old Guitars, Live At Two Rivers, Blues To Bluegrass, Voices From The Lakes, Harley High, Living For The Sunny Days, and most recently Bridge Creek Road​.  Jim also managed his own career and continued to perform as the business owner and operator of his label, Thunderwolf Records.
 
Jim has received multiple nominations and awards for his work from the Native American Music Awards over the years. At the Second Annual Native American Music Awards, he took home the award for Best Compilation Recording for the Smoke Signals soundtrack; at the Fifth Annual Awards, he won Record of the Year for his recording, AlterNatives. The next year he took Best Pop/Rock Recording for Live At The Met; at the Seventh Annual Awards he received Record of the Year for Going To The Stick Games; he received Songwriter of the Year at the Eighth Annual Native American Music Awards for Them Old Guitars; he won Best Short Form Music Video for Inchelium at the Ninth Annual Awards; and he received the prestigious Artist of the Year Award at the Tenth Annual Native American Music Awards.

Jim first started playing gigs in junior high in his older brother’s band, The Benzi Kriks, around Sewart Air Force  Base in Tennessee. In 1968, the family moved back to the Colville reservation where Jim continued to play gigs with his lifelong friend Jerry Stensgar, who played bass.  He started playing cover music in bars by the age of sixteen.

At the age of 23, Jim was recruited as a guitar player in the group XIT, which was one of the first rock groups in Indian country to have success.  Boyd played for two years with XIT.  Boyd also appeared in the documentary, XIT: Without Reservation, which was a live recording filmed at the Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Boyd and XIT bass player, Frank Diaz, started a cover group called Greywolf with drummer, Ed Banning. This group continued in many forms throughout the next fifteen years, and eventually added drummer Alfonso Kolb, who continued to play with Jim afterward. After Diaz’s departure, Jerry Stensgar joined as bass player until Greywolf officially disbanded.

With intentions to become a recording engineer instead of a songwriter, Jim attended the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio in the early 80's.  He didn't start writing his own songs until the age of thirty, penning lyrics about Native American issues placed to contemporary music. He met Sherman Alexie at the Columbia Folk Festival in Spokane when Alexie was preparing his first movie, Smoke Signals on Miramax. He asked Boyd to write songs for the soundtrack. The first song Jim wrote, "Father and Farther," became the movie's central theme. "Music is Jim's voice," Alexie had said. "With his music, he is more courageous, more passionate, more extroverted. He is a gentleman, tender and funny in his private life, and brash and courageous on his public stage. I love them both."

Jim had four songs featured in the Miramax motion picture Smoke Signals, which were also included on the TVT Records soundtrack. He also recorded music for Warner Bros. books on tape, Indian Killer. Not all of Jim’s songs dealt with Native American issues or Native American genres for that matter. His songs ranged from folk to country, rock and blues all while balancing his commercial and artistic sides. A music magazine said he was "a mix of folk, rock, blues, thoughtful lyrics with great guitar riffs and strong vocals".

At the time of Jim’s death, he was serving his second term on the Colville Business Council as Chairman and was standing for reelection.  He was previously the Culture Committee Chairman, Vice-Chairman of the Business Council, and Chairman of the Law & Justice Committee.

In addition to his wife Shelly, Jim Boyd is survived by his mother, Violet Boyd; brothers Lanny and Michael; sisters Pam, Luana and LaDonna; sons Joel, Dakota, Brian and Michael Carson, and daughter Stevey Seymour; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

As we mourn the loss of Jim Boyd with his family, we will also celebrate the many amazing songs and recordings he has left us and the world. And wherever you may be, remember to bring out your guitars, your hand drums, your big drums, your flutes, your voices and sing Jim on his way.

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