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  • 0 Sly Stone - Thank You! Review

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 01/24/2024

    I love this in-depth story about Sly Stone: Thank You (Faletttinme Be Mice Elf Agin). He tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth in his electric 2023 musician memoir, co-written by Sly with Ben Greenman.  During my entire professional radio career I played Sly's music: the hits, the heavies, and the near misses. Mr. Stewart's word-driven, song-laden, narrative timeline is accurate and all-encompassing as he tells the Sly story. The book is long. It's almost 300 pages before you get to the selected discography and other back of the manuscript matter. Who is Sylvester Stewart, the architect of the hit making Sly & The Family Stone machinery? Sly enters the world of Denton, Texas in 1943. He says "a little while after I was born, we moved out to California." He and family settled in Vallejo, a port city that was the home of the first naval shipyard on the west coast. Soon there were seven members in the family unit. Sly recalls that music was front and center as the eighth sibling of the clan. Sly became a jack of all instrument trades playing piano, keyboards, bass, guitar and other melody maker devices, joined by his eventual Family Stone brother Freddie (on guitar). The whole family rejoiced together singing gospel songs at home and at church. They bonded through the chorus of praise.  After high school, a strong music theory teacher at Vallejo Junior College was a big influence. Sly credits instructor David Froehlich for helping him "recognize chords, scales, intervals, and rhythms." He says he "learned how to learn," crediting Froehlich for his appreciation for "music as a language." We learn how Mr. Stewart acquired the sobriquet "Sly." Not how you might think! Before jumping into music full-time, the medium of radio knocked as a possible opportunity. If you want a broadcasting job, you have to be aggressive. Our hero explains how he got his first radio gig at KSOL San Francisco after completing training at the Chris Borden School of Modern Radio Technique. Listen to this aircheck of Sly Stone at KSOL inside my blog post from 2006: The Secret Life of Sly Stone. Singing and Playing Simple Songs Progressive forward thinking creative people at Black radio stations always open up the song airwaves to multi-cultural artists. KSOL was a Black station. Sly took some heat in 1964 for including "Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, and Mose Allison" in his on-air playlist. This era was the heyday of the three minute or less hit song. Stations could jam in more ads by playing short records so artists created those records! Sly emphasizes his philosophy of writing short tunes throughout the book. Even in the radio studio, Sly was never far from a musical instrument. Styling the thank you words If you've ever watched a Sly Stone talk show interview, you may have noticed his innate ability for non sequiturs. The Random House Dictionary defines them as "an inference or a conclusion that does not follow from the premises." So when Sly says "arrest records were my new records" or "I didn't really keep score except when it came to scoring" (talking about good and bad days), you know this is authentic and this is the real Sly. The book uses this technique to move the story along. Another of his gems: "if I wasn't straight, I didn't have much interest in being straightforward." Producing hits While still at KSOL, Sly shares anecdotes about early success producing hits for Bobby Freeman "C'mon and Swim," and both "Laugh Laugh" and "Just a Little" by the Beau Brummels. Sly Stone shares ideas and interacts with a who's who of performers, stars, and musicians. He has a lot of interaction with Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, George Clinton, and others. George 'Mr. P. Funk' Clinton is at the center of a famous story related by Sly. If you've watched the documentary "Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic," this birthday suit story is shown in the film and recalled by Sly's summary in the book. Sports, Cars, and Everyday People Sly loves boxing and collectable cars. He talks fondly about interactions with Muhammad Ali. He lustfully describes his army of personal automobiles. Everything is on the table during his story. Mr. Stewart wanted an everyday people concept for his band Sly & the Family Stone. "White and Black together, male and female both, and women not just singing but playing instruments." It's 1967. Sly was missing shifts at KSOL. He hops across The San Francisco Bay to Oakland's KDIA. The interracial Sly & The Family Stone drop "A Whole New Thing" into the marketplace while Sly is still at KSOL. This collection of songs showed some promise but received mixed reviews. By the time "Dance to the Music" is released, the legend of Sly as a saint, sinner, and performer takes off. I've written about seeing Sly & the Family Stone live at both The Apollo Theater and at Bill Graham's Fillmore East during the same short period in NYC. Sly touches on this dynamic in "Thank You..." At these two shows I sensed the tension in the Black audience uptown, and the welcoming embrace of the white audience downtown. Let's face it. Sly & the Family Stone were not the Temptations wearing matching suits. When "A Whole New Thing" was released by the Epic record label, Sly describes the Family Stone band outfits as "eclectic." Sly recalls label chief Clive Davis asking "if I thought that our fashion might distract people from the music." Sly said no, continuing "it was fashion but it was also a feeling" responding to Davis. These songs took off in 1968 and 1969: "Dance To The Music" "Everyday People" "Sing a Simple Song" "Stand" "I Want To Take You Higher" "Hot Fun In The Summertime" "Life And Death in G & A" (Georgia and Alabama) by Abaco Dream "Everyday People," "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mic Elf Agin)" in 1970, and "Family Affair" in 1971 are the three Sly & The Family Stone number one records. Between all of the girl friends, marriage, children, talk show appearances, problems with promoters, gun culture, drugs, and dogs, Sly details the progression of his music year by year alongside his personal and professional challenges. Each book chapter summarizes a couple of years through his timeline. There are so many behind the scene stories that this element makes Thank You (Faletttinme Be Mice Elf Agin) a book you won't want to put down.  Sly discusses all of his album covers and why specific art was used. You'll discover what really happened between Sly and Larry Graham, his bassist who left and went on to score Graham Central Station music fame. Sly gets into expressing how hip-hop artists have sampled his music. He likes this and thinks that sampling their music in his tracks might be wonderful to try out! He says "working on music settles his mind." There are unsettling stories within the prose about his experiences with the drug culture that I don't need to detail. Read the book to learn more. There's also a nice explanation about the "no show" reputation he was branded with and the justification he offers for why he missed so many concerts. Sly made his reputation with the Family Stone performing at some of the biggest shows: Woodstock, Isle of Wight, Summer of Soul (The Harlem Cultural Festival), and others. In the later years new musicians would come and go passing through the Family Stone circle of players. There's a good story about the original group's induction into the Rock Hall of Fame. We learn what was said, and who was there. Sly talks candidly about superstars Michael Jackson, Prince, and James Brown. He knew them all and has lots to say about them. Mr. Stewart shares his practice to use cameras and microphones to keep tabs on the pulse of the action inside of his home front. He is a tech guy. I give him credit for moving smoothly from the analog world into the digital age. His music production benefited. He got interested in using computers. He mentions the digital audio editor Pro Tools that was used to lay down tracks. Sylvester says his Alexa smart speaker "let's me request any song I want." As Sly now navigates through his eighties, I'm happy that this book was finally written. It's his story in his words. This is how he did it. Sly says he loves to read 'how to' books. Here is his. There's much more that I haven't touched on. Now it's your turn to discover more! I got the hardcover and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Back in the day, Sly was and still is one of my favorite all time artists. If you are curious about what shorty song clips I used in the video, here they are in order: "Higher" "I Want To Take You Higher" "M'Lady" "Love City" "Sing A Simple Song" "Dance To The Music" "Hot Fun In The Summertime" "Everybody Is A Star" "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin" "Everyday People" "Family Affair" "Life" All photos of the record labels are from my personal music collection. I learned during the early Sly era to finally stop putting numbers and my initials on vinyl records! Big Apple Showtime The pictures below are from my May, 1969 Fillmore East program. Yes I was there. Seventeen years old. You'll notice that Sly's birthday is wrong in the group biography. I supply the correct date in the Denton, Texas paragraph above!  A Nice Bonus! This 12" single from my collection was released in 1986 with former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson recording "Crazay," featuring Sly Stone. "Crazay" became a number two R&B hit. Jesse has Sly's name in pretty small print on the front cover! Can you even read it (in purple)? The top photo is the front of the 12" single. Underneath is the flip side that features Sly.     Previous Post

  • 0 QBR Thoughts About the Powerhouse Radio Book

    I'd like to thank my editor, proof reader, publisher, special family members, and wonderful friends who provided sparkling feedback after reading copies I provided to them of Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance and Rebirth. Today, the paperback becomes available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Baby, and other retailers. The audiobook dropped in December, 2023 on Audible and iTunes. EBook launched in Fall, 2023. Here's a part of what QBR, The Black Book Review had to say in a commissioned review: "Racial discrimination in commercial radio in America has been a persistent issue throughout its history, reflecting broader societal inequalities having broader implications for communities, as it affects the types of stories, music, and cultural content that reach audiences." "Lack of diversity in content creation result in a limited representation of the tapestry of American culture. But Smith allows little of this to thwart the passion for his work or his persistence in achieving his measures or learning from the greats in the business on either side of the microphone." "He is technically astute – generously sharing hard earned "how-to's" – and is gifted in his craft. And he spills tea on music artists and influencers, known and lesser known, giving backroom details that only an insider could know." Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Powerhouse Radio Year In Review

    • Video
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 01/02/2024

    Here are some of our 2023 memories in thirty seconds beginning with an appearance on Blackman (Chris Fraley's) Nodcast the Podcast at the Black Label Comicon in Philly. He's on the left. Peace Moore is in the center.  We drift into Vampire Bobby P. at Tapped in Berlin, NJ. Andre' Gardner at WMGK FM Philadelphia's Sweetwater Marina event in NJ is the next pic. I'm with Olivia Burton at the Philly Odunde Festival followed by Superwoman at the Black Label Comicon. The next frame features Darren Palmer who owns L'Ouverture Books in Pleasantville, NJ. Wrapping up is his honor the Mayor Eric Adams who strikes a pose at the Harlem Book Fair, NYC. Mayor Adams wrote me a nice letter via postal mail expressing his gratitude for my book that I gave him! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Audiobook Assembly Anecdotes To Learn From

    Plan 'B' might have to be your go to solution if plan 'A' fails! When producing an audiobook, your best made plan might lead you down an alternative highway if a wrong turn is taken. Five voice talents were auditioned for my project. The winner was a guy with FM broadcast experience. Great! He fit the bill. It was the second week in July, 2023. July is a long month. Four weeks later when the project was not delivered as promised, my voice talent asked for a two week extension. No problem. The middle of August had just arrived. I gave the talent a second two-week extension to record this nearly 40,000 word book as he had only completed: Opening credits Preface Chapter One Professionals have to meet deadlines. Since the Labor Day holiday had just arrived, and my talent could not meet deadlines, he had to go. Dude was released and fired. I received a full refund for a large deposit that was put into escrow.  When your intuition tells you something is not right, you implement plan 'B,' your backup plan. Plan 'B' action came early On the day the first extension was granted to the talent at the end of 30 days, an alternative reader began to record the audiobook simultaneously. This was not  disclosed to the first talent. The second voice talent took eight weeks working part-time to finish the read. Not bad! Once the audio level matching, editing, and fine tuning was complete, audio files had to be converted to ACX, Audible, iTunes and Amazon requirements. Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance and Rebirth; My True AM - FM -Satellite - And Audio Streaming Survival Story audiobook was finally submitted to those gatekeepers in early December, 2023 and approved on December 8. It is available right now. That's good, because the promised audiobook release date was January 3, 2024. A six month pre-promotion period was a perfect buffer zone for unexpected issues. The paperback version of the book was submitted to the publisher BookBaby on June 1, 2023. I hope you enjoy my story. If you didn't guess, the second voice talent who made the cut to tell my story was me. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Art Blakey Interview

    Art Blakey with his Jazz Messengers had an amazing career. Anyone who was anybody played with Blakey during the golden era of the art form. He showcased and featured fresh talent who were on the way up. How many albums did Art record? If you counted one per day each day consecutively you'd still be counting for several months! Thirteen years before he passed in 1990, I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with him at radio station WUSS AM in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Enjoy! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Soul of the Beatles

    • Songs
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 11/15/2023

    Soul of the Beatles past and present Why has everyone under the sun recorded John Lennon - Paul McCartney songs? Why have artists from all genres recorded Beatles music? Because whether it was John, Paul, George Harrison, or Ringo Starr, the fab four are icons of twentieth century music.  Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. even note the iconic status of the Lennon - McCartney songwriting team in the subtitle of their 2021 record Blackbird. In the early 2000s, I named one of my two online music streams fabfoursoul. You'd hear all Beatles music performed by R&B, soul, and jazz artists. I mention it in my book Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance, and Rebirth. Read on to discover more about the fascination hundreds of musical performers share with Beatles songs. Recently, I finally listened, for the first time to all of the songs on the McCoo & Davis CD multiple times. Lucky for me and other CD owners with a paper package, Marilyn and Billy present written social posts we can see within the art space on the CD jackets. You don't get that if you pick their MP3 downloads. There are six panels containing art. The cover above is a "say their name" tribute. Whose name? People who are no longer with us due to murder, violence and hate. Another panel shows a timeline titled Blackbird Tears listing eighteen violent attacks on Black churches and worshippers from 1822 to 2019. Yet another page takes a lighter tone. Davis & McCoo are depicted in a colorful illustration brushed in oil painting style. The pair walk cross "Abbey Road." The depiction mimics the famous cover from the Beatles album. One super benefit of the CD: complete song lyrics are printed in an easily readable font size inside of a stapled booklet. The songs "Got to Get You Into My Life" featuring Yancyy "The Fool on the Hill" featuring Natalie Hanna Mendoza "Blackbird" "Yesterday" "Ticket to Ride" "The Long and Winding Road" "Silly Love Songs" "Help!" "(Just Like) Starting Over" featuring James Gadson "And I Love Her" The Marilyn and Billy husband and wife team have called their record "Blackbird." If you are not familiar with the reason why Lennon - McCartney wrote "Blackbird," I will point you to an audio interview McCoo & Davis Jr. did that partially explains the social awareness of their album name and covers. See below for more information. Here's a summary of the CD. "Got to Get you Into My Life" is sung in a medium tempo by Billy who takes the lead with help from Yancyy. This one is breezy, bouncy, jazzy and soulful. The explosive energy igniting Earth, Wind & Fire's "Got To Get You Into My Life" is still my favorite cover version. "Fool on the Hill" gets a slow to medium pop treatment and reminds me of the 5th Dimension's "Love Lines, Angles and Rhymes" in the way it is orchestrated. Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. were members of the hit making group the 5th Dimension. You may not know the 5th Dimension, but you've heard their songs. "Fool on the Hill" features McCoo, Davis, and Natalie Hanna Mendoza sharing lead vocals. Nice! "Blackbird." This is my favorite song in their collection. Marilyn's lead carries the song's gospel overtone while she is accompanied by a sublime choir. Crafted orchestral touches are prominent in the arrangement. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. have different vocal styles. They do know how to blend them together on duet parts. Marilyn's controlled voice has lots of pop appeal. That's why the 5th Dimension were so successful back in the day. Billy Davis Jr.'s song styling is harder edge with a subtle touch of R&B rasp when he sings solo. He's smooth, but reminds me of Johnnie Taylor, Wilson Pickett and Charles Bradley. That's a compliment. Track four, "Yesterday," features McCoo immersed in a medium to up-tempo Bossa nova style. Think South American and Brazil. Think Astrud Gilberto and Flora Purim. The treatment is jazzy. Marilyn gives it a fine rendering. This song is the only one on the album that fades out. "Ticket to Ride," handled by Billy Davis Jr. is certainly bluesy. A blues guitar solo takes charge during this medium to up-tempo song. A touch of neck bone ad-libbing by Davis Jr. near the end of the song reminds you of traditional blues belting. "The Long and Winding Road" is done slowly with just enough rhythm to keep the pace toe tapping with a delightful beat. Marilyn sings this one close to the Beatles original. It's the closest cover on the record to a Beatles original version. I really like "Silly Love Songs." It is the only real up-tempo song here.  The rapid pace echoes an Al Green - Willie Mitchell produced styled (but faster) with lots of horns that even Isaac Hayes would love. Billy Davis Jr. takes the Paul McCartney song and gives it new life with his strong delivery. We get a tight 4 minute 18 second song rather than the almost 6 minute Wings original. "Silly Love Songs" was written by Linda and Paul McCartney and appears on their album Wings at the Speed of Sound (by Paul McCartney & Wings). You might choose something else, but this is my second place personal favorite on this collection. Songs eight, nine, and ten are fine and should be slotted where they are. "Help!" is turned into a slow ballad. I wasn't expecting that. The Beatles original is fast. You get some good emotional expression here from Billy Davis Jr. in this slow interpretation. "Help!" is sung with spiritual soul that exposes the desperation of the original song lyrics. This one is different. "(Just Like Starting) Over" featuring James Gadson is light and bouncy with a big pop treatment style that opens with dare I say a touch of new jack swing! This is a charming, middle of the road duet. It is not father John Lennon's style. I had to pull out the original 12 inch vinyl single from my library to listen to the John Lennon original (off of the John Lennon / Yoko Ono album Double Fantasy). The Lennon version teases with nostalgia. Music artist Big Bopper and other styles from the 1950s and 1960s are used while Lennon frolics along with a heavy rock and roll beat. Finally, "And I Love Her," presents Billy and Marilyn trading duet and lead parts giving the tune a sweet, torch song treatment. If you like Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. and the Beatles, then you'll like "Blackbird." The McCoo - Davis Jr. versions are strong. Musicians backing the songs are excellent. Beatles: Motown, folk, reggae, acappella, and more Here are five other soul of the Beatles albums that are quite good. We'll list them in chronological order. Motown Meets the Beatles: seventeen songs are on the CD released in 1965. Who doesn't love The Supremes, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Jr. Walker, Edwin Starr, and Syreeta. All of the Beatles favorites are here along with the feel-good Motown Motor City magic. It is wonderful to listen to Diana Ross in her prime singing John Lennon's "Imagine." That's one of the standouts. We played this version often in our fabfoursoul R&B, jazz online Beatles stream.   Richie Havens sings eleven of the eighteen Sings Beatles and Dylan songs from the Beatles songbook. Subtitled Old & New Together & Apart, this CD dropped in 1987. Vocals are mixed upfront so you can hear the clarity of Haven's voice. Acoustic guitar, synth-bass, drums, electric guitars, conga, and percussion is all that's needed to convey the Beatles musical message. Top notch. As 2001 rolled in, the Snapper Music label released A Reggae Tribute to The Beatles. There are thirty-two tracks on this double CD. Among the artists, John Holt might be the most familiar. He sings two songs, including John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over). All reggae and all Beatles. Nuff said.   This is the back of the CD that I chose instead of the front so you can easily see the songs. The Persuasions are an all voice only group. Their style is commonly called acappella. KEM who sings "Doo Wop Christmas (That's What Christmas Is All About)" is a contemporary acappella group. What do you get with no instruments other than the authentic human voice? You get a street corner vocal style with The Persuasions giving you Beatles melodies with soul.   Soul Tribute to the Beatles was released in 2003. You can see the artists above. Fats Domino, Otis Reading, and Esther Phillips are performers you might not expect. As I've already noted, everyone in music could record the Beatles without any fear or reservations. I had digitized just under 400 tracks from R&B, soul and jazz performers belting out the Beatles during the days when I presented the fabfoursoul online stream that won a Best of Live365 station award. Here's one song that was very different. James Brown's version of "Something," was written by George Harrison. I found Brown's "Something" on the 'B' side of one of his hit 45 RPM vinyl singles. James' version is unique! It's certainly soulful, certainly unexpected, and certainly James Brown. Tropical Tribute to the Beatles A sixth bonus for you is below. Our Latin community amigos can't be left out. "Live" from Radio City Music Hall: Tropical Tribute to the Beatles was released on DVD in 2003. Video clarity shot at the New York City venue is not 2023 high definition 4K quality, but it's good enough to experience exciting Latin flavor lighting up Beatles songs. Thirteen performances are captured live. Half of the songs are sung in Spanish. Half are sung in English. A couple of the featured stars are Tito Nieves who sings "Let It Be" accompanied by percussionist Tito Puente on timbales / drums. Celia Cruz closes out the show singing "Obladi Oblada." How do you sing "Obladi Oblada" in Spanish?" You sing "Obladi Oblada" and it works! Here are some of the many Beatles books in my library: Max Milk, Yellow Submarine, New American Library, 1968. This is a picture book building off of the "Yellow Submarine" movie based on the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Edwin Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky, The Compleat Beatles Quiz Book, Warner Books, 1975.  What's inside: Questions about song lyrics Song rhymes to complete Song titles Beatle history Beatle travel trivia Beatle bio facts The Compleat Beatles Quiz Book also contains games and other fun stuff. Penelope Rowlands, The Beatles Are Here!, Algonquin Books, 2014. If you want to read what fans, musicians, disc jockeys, writers, and significant personalities of the Beatles era have to say, The Beatles Are Here! is the book for you. I learned a lot from this one. Organized into chapters, reflections of Beatles memories and influence are told by 50 folks including: Billy Joel Cyndi Lauper Renee Fleming Janis Ian "Cousin Brucie" Bruce Morrow, disc jockey David Dye, radio host Gay Talese, reporter Other musicians, writers, and fans talk about their connection to the Beatles in a historic context. The complete title: The Beatles Are Here!: 50 Years After the Band Arrived in America, Writers, Musicians, and Other Fans Remember."  More about Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. Summer of Soul…or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Stay Sweet 5th Dimension Catalog to be Reissued  You'll find the location of the McCoo - Davis Jr. "Summer of Soul" and "Blackbird" interview in post #1. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Jerry Butler Ice Man Interview

    You'll love what Jerry Butler is cooking up in this classic conversation I had with him at radio station WSSJ AM, Camden, New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. In 2023 we finally added it to YouTube with some visual dynamite. Our chat is an upgrade to the audio only version that lived in our Powerhouse Radio Archive. Butler had four number one songs on the Billboard R&B Charts: "He Will Break Your Heart" 1960 "Let It Be Me" 1964 "Hey, Western Union Man" 1968 "Only The Strong Survive" 1969 His career was rejuvenated in the late 1970s - early 1980s when he recorded for Philadelphia International Records, and on his own label as you'll hear in my conversation with him. Watch the Jerry Butler audio interview on YouTube. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Ode To Hip Hop 50 Albums That Define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music

    • Review
    • by Kingsley H. Smith
    • 09/06/2023

    Ya gotta hear some hip-hop tunes before reading further about Kiana Fitzgerald's marvelous book Ode To Hip-Hop: 50 Albums that define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music. Here are two quick audio snapshots from songs you might know. "Empire State of Mind" from Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys (2009), and "I'll Be Missing You," a number one song in 1997 by Sean "Puff Daddy / P. Diddy" Combs and Faith Evans. Your browser does not support the audio element. 2023 was the year of 50 years of hip-hop tributes Many people jumped on the nostalgia tribute bandwagon this year commemorating a musical genre most thought would disappear faster than a disco cover song. By September, 2023 it became quite easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. The great projects stood out from the duds. I was extremely happy to add Kiana Fitzgerald's fresh hardcover book to my library. Ode To Hip-Hop: 50 Albums that define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music is an A+ project.  Kiana picks hip-hop artists and songs representing these decades: The 1970s The 1980s The 1990s The 2000s The 2010s The 2020s Wow! What an ambitious project. The meticulous nature of the research, storytelling, and wonderful prose is peppered in the pages with colorful illustrations by illustrator Yay Abe. The book that needed to be written My music anthropology captures real life experiences primarily with R&B, soul, rock, pop, disco, and jazz. Those are my strengths. Ode To Hip-Hop fills in lots of missing pieces absent from my own personal familiarity. Don't get me wrong. I have some of the records, and have seen live in concert Whodini, Beastie Boys, RUN-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Busta Rymes, Ludacris, DMX, and many others. If your love affair with hip-hop has been platonic or hardcore, you will gain wisdom through the well vetted facts Kiana Fitzgerald presents in this book. Her music centric story begins in the early 1970s examining the explosion of a new underground trend flying under the radar in the Bronx, New York. The vision of Sugar Hill Records cofounder and CEO Sylvia Robinson is illuminated as a highlight of this decade. Kurtis Blow, RUN-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa, Eric B. & Rakim, N.W.A., plus other artists jump from the pages as you learn more about the 1980s. As we move on through the decades, virtually every year within the 50 year span receives a well written summary focusing on one or more artist. The introduction to Ode To Hip-Hop: 50 Albums that define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music should not be overlooked. Fitzgerald digs deep into her rationale for creating this outstanding, well written, carefully researched and colorfully crafted resource. The book has both visual and cerebral appeal. In her conclusion on page 178, Kiana says "from selecting albums to research to writing, working on this book has been the adventure of a lifetime." She continues "there has never been a culture-shifting, trendsetting invention such as hip-hop." I agree. Hip-hop is truly an American art form that has planted roots, blossomed rhymes, and bloomed beats as a bright rose of popular modern music, performing its lingo in different languages all over the world. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 When do you and ChatGPT cross the Milli Vanilli Line?

    • Commentary
    • by Mark Schaefer - guest author
    • 08/15/2023

    I recently engaged in an energized LinkedIn discussion with Frank Prendergast and Jason Ranalli. We were trying to discern the "Milli Vanilli Line" when it comes to personal disclosure and AI. Never heard of it? It's probably going to impact you soon, so let's dive into it ... How much authenticity can we lose? The debate began with Frank's comment on my recent blog post (Where humans thrive in the hierarchy of AI content): "If I read a blog post from someone on the assumption it's written by them, and I find out it was actually AI, I'll feel cheated," Frank said, "like I've been a victim of the old bait-and-switch. "But where's my line? Is 20% AI OK? 40%? 60? I have no idea. And how would it even be measured? "Will that question be a thing of the past when AI is ubiquitous?" How much authenticity are we willing to lose? ChatGPT makes everyone a competent writer, just like the calculator made everyone competent at math in the 1980s. We don’t feel compelled to declare to the world that we use a calculator to do our taxes or run a business. When does AI simply become … life? The Milli Vanilli Line Now let's get to the Milli Vanilli part. In 1989, Milli Vanilli rose from obscurity to superstardom almost overnight. Their debut album sold over 8 million copies and spawned three Number One singles. All of that was swept into the dustbin of pop history by disgrace. By the time Milli Vanilli accepted their Grammy award for Best New Artist in 1990, many in the music business had suspected something was wrong with this duo. It was soon revealed the two singers -- Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan -- never sang on any of their recordings and lip-synced live performances. The ruse torpedoed the act – radio stations stopped playing their songs, fans destroyed their records, and the Grammys rescinded their award for the only time in history. Milli Vanilli became cultural shorthand for hubris and deceit. Jason Ranalli provided his observation: "Anyone remember Milli Vanilli back in the 80s? BIG scandal because we all felt cheated that they didn't actually sing the songs themselves -- they had zero part in the production other than lip-syncing and dancing. "How did the world react? We rejected them entirely and stripped them of their Grammy. "What are we doing now with AI content? Well, the line is somewhere between singing yourself and a TON of auto-tune/effects. "Perhaps AI ends up drawing the same muddy lines of authenticity." The fellas in Milli Vanilli were clear-cut cheats. An absolute. But how do we interpret "cheating" in a world where everyone can get an AI-assist on their writing, their voice, their music, and even a LinkedIn headshot? Let's look at a couple of scenarios. Crossing the Milli Vanilli Line Weeks after ChatGPT entered the scene, a friend asked me to help promote his new book, which I discovered was entirely written by ChatGPT. Literally, he had just cut and pasted responses to prompts into a manuscript. There was no human commentary, editing, or insight whatsoever. Although he was transparent about the AI assist, he put his name on the book as the author. I told him I would not promote the book and observed that this was the very worst use of ChatGPT imaginable. In essence, he was lip-synching his book. He crossed the Milli Vanilli Line. Example two: I have a friend who, by her own admission, is a terrible writer. Once she discovered ChatGPT, she told me that she could put her ideas into this machine and create serviceable content for the first time in her life. "I can blog every day," she exclaimed, "I could even write a book!" This is the beauty of AI -- unleashing a new creative power in a person with a creative deficit. She's not lip-synching. She's the author of her work with a little auto-tune to keep her on key! In between these two extremes, we face nuanced ethical decisions about ownership, authorship, and authenticity. We face these decisions now Today, or in the near future, every one of us will have an opportunity to cross the Milli Vanilli Line. What percent of AI work can we still claim as ours, as "authentic?" I haven't used AI in any of my writing. My blog posts are my stories and observations and insights about our marketing world. It's faster and easier just to be "me" than try to prompt a bot into it! Could AI have written this post? No, at least not as effortlessly as me pecking on a keyboard for an hour. I am uniquely connecting dots, creating something unique, insightful, and connected to my own life experience. But what about my next book? Could I edge towards the Milli Vanilli Line? My last book, Belonging to the Brand was finished about a month before ChatGPT was unleashed. One of my first AI experiments was to ask ChatGPT to write an essay based on an idea from the book, in the voice of Mark Schaefer, with academic references. It did it. It did it well ... and in five seconds. It would have taken me a day to write that essay. So in the future, I'd feel stupid not to use AI to some degree and save days, or even weeks, of my life! But another choice might be ... to be stupid and keep doing it the hard way. Or, maybe it's the right way -- to just always be me. Perhaps my reward is in the toil that comes with authenticity. I never want to explain to somebody how close I am to the Milli Vanilli Line.     Kingsley's thoughts (Kingsley H. Smith): Mark Schaefer is a speaker, author and marketing expert. His Milli Vanilli analogy is spot on! This picture was posted on my personal Facebook page in 2019 with me and the four Schaefer books in my library that I've read. Mark's article, originally written on August 8, 2023 is reproduced here with permission. From my perspective, I like his quote "I haven't used AI in any of my writing." My position is the same, as I haven't used AI in ANY of my writing either. I do have audio software that generates scores of AI voices from a text script that I have to write. I've used it less than an handful of times to add a few spoken words to a couple of my YouTube video voice tracks that I or a paid voice actor reads. I also own a license to use AI software that creates real-life-like-looking humans who appear on screen and speak in videos, but I haven't used it yet. My first book, Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance and Rebirth will begin shipping in January, 2024. You can trust that I wrote it myself, word by word! If you've never heard Milli Vanilli, here's a quick sample of "Baby Don't Forget my Number," from my personal song collection. Milli Vanilli is Turkish for 'positive energy.' Fabricators Rob Pilatus (from Germany) on the left, and Fabrice Morvan (from France) had 4 R&B hits in 1989. The real singers in the recording studio were Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howe, according to Joel Whitburn in his 2006 book The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits. Your browser does not support the audio element. Milli Vanilli's 1989 hits ranked in order of popularity according to Joel Whitburn: "Girl You Know It's True" "Baby Don't Forget my Number" "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" "Blame It On the Rain" Read more of my thoughts about AI on my software blog... Will AI Create Your Next App?  Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Writing Powerhouse Radio Step By Step To The Finish Line With Bonus Interview

    In January, 2023 I offered an update about writing my radio memoir: Powerhouse Radio. This book project was completed June 27! On March 4, I displayed the book cover, (not the version below), on one of my social media channels. Once the cover was out there, the incentive to finish writing went into overdrive! Sixteen thousand words were written in the first two years of the project (2021 - 2022) while I was still working full-time in my app business. That business is still rolling along. Since January of this year, I wrote another twenty thousand words in 5 months. The final unofficial word count is 36,741, or approximately 172 paperback pages. Many people I talked to said that 150 pages was the perfect length that they wanted to read. Using the iOS Books app for the e-book, there are 231 pages on an iPhone, and 118 pages on an iPad. The Kindle Previewer software app doesn't give a declarative real world page number total I would want to quote. You can't use the regular Kindle app that is on Android phones and Fire Tablets to test e-book design formatting. Once the audiobook is finished, I'll let you know how many hours it is. I've been promised a mid-August 2023 completion date. Frankly, while writing Powerhouse Radio: Rough Roads, Radiance, and Rebirth; My True AM - FM - Satellite - and Audio Streaming Survival Story, I focused on writing for the page. Nothing is the matter with that, except presenting the same story in an e-book or audiobook requires some changes! With your e-book, these elements may flow differently on screen: Text Wrapping Fonts Drop Caps (fancy styles for first letters of a paragraph) Justification Image Captions Individual devices, (your e-reader), will dictate how each of these elements are handled. Note that print book back covers are not included in e-books. For your audiobook, I had to lightly re-write certain references of the paperback text. "You'll read in the next chapter" changed in the audiobook to "you'll learn in the next chapter." There are other similar examples. My grammar, spelling, and syntax is pretty good so I didn't use a line-by-line professional editor to review the manuscript. However, it was money well spent to use a professional copy editor to go through the manuscript and catch a relatively small number of errors. The copy editor also encouraged me to further explain a few sections that could use more clarification. Lastly, I also used a professional proof reader to go through the book as the final step. In broadcasting jobs, I was used to the AP style, which is the Associated Press guide for grammar and citations. My proof reader was a Chicago Manual of Style expert. Really good. This person was more valuable in suggesting grammar changes than the copy editor! Publishers dictate what style you need to use when writing a hardcover or paperback book. My hardcover Chicago Manual of Style Seventeenth Edition is a massive brick weighing 4 pounds with 1,152 pages. It's very difficult to find what you are looking for in this reference! I would not write a book without using a professional copy editor AND a professional proof reader. You want to select someone who does this work full-time. My publisher selected both for me. KingsleyHSmith.com has more info about the book including some of the retailers you can preorder it from: Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Books-A-Million, Walmart, and BookBaby. Note that the eBook and paperback are available right now from BookBaby. Official launch dates are January 3, 2024 for the eBook, and January 10 for the paperback. You can preorder Powerhouse Radio right now. Follow the links above. Audiobook availability date is to be determined. It might come sooner than the e-book and paperback. I could have gone with an almost human sounding AI 'robot voice' to read the audiobook, but I feel this would have been a cheap mistake and a disaster. An audiobook that is about general broadcasting  - performing arts - and is additionally slotted as a 'Black and African American memoir' needs to be read by an authentic human being. You'll love the guy I selected to read the audiobook. I could have read it myself, but I wanted to give a younger 'voice actor' a chance to shine the way I was given opportunities when launching my career many years ago.  A special bonus for you! Here's my very first interview recorded on the enclosed front porch of radio station WWRL AM in Queens, New York City with DJ Gary Byrd when I was a student at NYU. I've freshened it up with some new millennium visual appeal. Discover how this New York Radio legend writes his prose. You'll learn his secret. I also re-recorded my questions in a studio for better audio quality. Previous Post | Next Post

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