FALLEN GREATS – BELITA/DONNA SUMMER/CHUCK BROWN/ROBIN GIBB

Growing up in Detroit, we used to watch this Canadian TV movie host named Bill KennedyBill’s show consisted of showing movies with his insightful comments about the actors, the making of the movie and Hollywood gossip in general.  Well, Bill Kennedy used to always say that the deaths of the famous always came in triplicate, three at a time.  Sadly, his statement has been true most of my life.  However, we recently experienced this sad phenomenon in quadruplicate with the back-to-back-to-back passing of four musical GREATS; one of Detroit’s most distinct voices, Belita Woods, the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer and one of the Kings of Disco, Robin Gibb of the BeeGees.  This article is simply a tribute page to these enormously influential, incredibly gifted pioneers of their respective genres of music.

BELITA WOODS  -  In 1967 Belita Woods put out a record in Detroit that marked her as a local Icon.  Her release, “Magic Corner,” on Moira Records (Detroit label owned by Ollie McLaughlin), introduced an incredibly beautiful, soulful and strong voice to the world.  Belita went on to record with the hot Detroit band, Brainstorm, leading on such classics as “Hot For You,” “Everytime I See You I Go Wild” (written and released by Stevie Wonder in ’67) and, of course, “Lovin’ Is Really My Game,” written by Belita and fellow bandmate, Trenita Womack.  If more Disco tracks had singers like Belita Woods on the lead, I would’ve really, really loved the genre because this was my JAM… ok, not just mine.  Belita belted out her soulfulness for 7 minutes and 39 seconds on the 12” Disco Track and the house was properly “rocked” by the time it started fading out.  Belita “took her talents” to George Clinton and began touring and recording with his P-Funk All-Stars in ’92 and continued to do so.  On May 14, 2012, 63 year old Belita Woods died of heart failure; silencing that extra special, unique voice forever.


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CHUCK BROWN  -  In some parts of the country, Chuck Brown is known exclusively for his biggest commercial success, the ’79 Funk Hit, “Bustin’ Loose.”  Nelly recently brought him back into our consciousness with his hit, “Hot In Herre,” which sampled Chuck’s “Bustin’ Loose” music track.  But to music lovers in the DC (Washington), Maryland and Virginia area, Chuck Brown is a LEGEND who’s known as the Godfather of Go-Go.  I visited the Chocolate City (DC) back in the early 80’s and went to a concert and a club party.  I came away from the District of Columbia exhausted because those Chocolate People love that Funk Beat.  If they ever played a Slow Jam at the club party, I don’t remember it.  They Rocked it out from wall to wall with that incessant Bottom that never stopped thumping hard and loud… I loved it!  And the concert was Funk Band after Funk BandParliament-Funkadelic, Bootsie, ConFunkShun, Mother’s Finest and a couple more that escape me but take my word for it, whoever they were… they were out-and-out FUNKY.  I caught the tributes to Chuck Brown on Tom Joyner’s Morning Show and the Michael Baisden Radio Show and they both expressed that Go-Go was basically Funk that went on and on, thus the phrase, “Go-Go.”  So in a live performance, Chuck Brown might do a song for an extended length of time wa-a-ay beyond the length of the recorded version.  I wasn’t timing it at the time, but I’ve seen Parliament-Funkadelic do what I believe was a 15 minute version of “Cosmic Slop.”  It sure felt like 15 minutes or more.  That’s “Go-Go” and Chuck Brown is credited with being the Founder of this brand of Funk music.  Chuck Brown, who was still performing, passed away May 16, 2012 at the age of 75 due to multiple organ failure and heart failure.  Several weeks prior to his passing, he was hospitalized for pneumonia.


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We featured Donna Summer a couple of months ago in NO SKIPS NO SCRATCHES with no indication that she was sick or that we might lose her soon, we just wanted to highlight her phenomenal voice and how much I dug her, while not being a fan of DiscoDonna Summer’s passing, like Chuck Brown’s, seemed to mark the death of a whole genre of music.  Sure, there are others to carry on the music traditions but nobody did it better than they did.  In 1975, we all thought she was just a beautiful sex kitten who would moan on records when Donna Summer released her first hit song, “Love To Love You Baby,” and as a teenage boy, I was cool with that.  She moaned for 16 minutes and 50 seconds, the entire Side A.  But she went on to prove that she could really sing songs with deep meanings for a style of music that was usually full of fluff.  If you’d stop dancing for a minute and truly listen to Donna’s lyrics, her storylines were always fully thrashed out.  My favorites are the ones that start off as ballads and then build up into a Disco Frenzy.  I always wished she had done “On The Radio” and “Dim All The Lights” fully as ballads without the Disco ascension.  Donna, whose birth name was LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was born in Boston, Massachusetts.  She was 63 years old when she passed away from lung cancer on May 17, 2012.


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Robin Gibb is 1/3 of the British trio of the “Brothers Gibb,” professionally known by the spelled-out  acronym name, the BeeGees.  Born to British parents and raised in Australia, the BeeGees headed back to Great Britain when their singing career was on the verge of blossoming.  The BeeGees were the three brothers; Robin and his twin brother, Maurice and older brother, BarryRobin and Barry wrote the classic tune that was covered by Al Green and did wonders to bolster his career, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”  They really hit their cross-over stride to become known to all music lovers when they wrote and recorded the music for the hit dance movie, Saturday Night Fever.  After that, they were planted firmly on Super Star soil.  They were far more than just a Disco group but they were fondly known as the Kings of Disco because of the catalogue of extremely popular Hit Songs that came out of that 1977 Soundtrack album.  The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album was certified 15 times Platinum when released, selling over 15 million records, 5 singles were released, all Hit records; “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Staying Alive,” “Night Fever,” “More Than A Woman” and “If I Can’t Have You.”  And, of course, this movie made John Travolta a star from all the dancing and strutting down the street to the BeeGees songs.  Robin Gibb was 62 at the time of his passing from liver and kidney failure on May 20, 2012.


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