CURRENTLY ON STAGE… John Legend & The Roots

John Legend & The Roots

We’ve assembled video performances of this incredible collaboration.  For those of us who are Baby Boomers and may not be familiar with John Legend or, especially fuzzy on who The Roots are, this segment of this E-Magazine is presented expressly for the purpose of exposing us to young’uns who are doing fantastic work.  Bridging the gap between our music and today’s music, hopefully proving that good music is good music; yesterday, today and forever!  The Urban Contemporary artists you’ll find here are the types that I held in front of my children, when they were coming up in the 80’s and 90’s, as a shining example of “good music” presented by their contemporaries.  For you Gen X folk, you already know!

John Legend is like the reincarnation of a 60’s/70’s soul singer; they don’t often grow ‘em like this anymore.  He’s a standout in an ever-growing field of today’s artists who are making music from scratch.  I mean original songs from the depths of their souls, with visual lyrics sung over intricate original instrumentation played by super talented musicians.  Thank God, real music is makin’ a comeback!  And The Roots, a self-contained Hip Hop band, seem to be everywhere good music is being performed.  Their drummer, Quest Love, is seriously hired out as everybody’s sit-in drummer these days.  He’s like a modern-day Greg (Mouse) Phillinganes.  Even if you declare you don’t like Rap, you’ll love good Spoken Word… what we used to call Poetry… remember?  Remember the rage poems of the 70’s?  Remember poets like Nikki Giovanni, The Last Poets and Haki Madhabutti, formerly known as Don L. Lee.  He’s the author of my favorite book of poems, “Don’t Cry, Scream!”  Well, Black Thought, conscious Spoken Word M.C. for The Roots, is as good as it gets.  He would’ve fit in seamlessly back in the 70′s and been a standout then, too.  And Captain Kirk Douglas, the guitarist for The Roots, has blistering speed and a soulful Rock sound like none I’ve heard since the passing of Eddie Hazel, original lead guitarist for the Funkadelic.  Trust me, that’s high, high praise.

Currently On Stage… John Legend & The Roots!  First up, check out this live performance from New York at Amex UNSTAGED, presented by American Express and directed by Spike Lee.  The song… a beautiful message song which happens to be their current release, “Shine.”

 

 

John Legend & The Roots got together a little while back and recorded the collaborative CD, “Wake Up.” This work was released in September of 2010 and the first track and video unleashed was the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes classic, “Wake Up Everybody.” Check out this live performance at the NAACP Image Awards.

 

 

“Ordinary People” was released by John Legend on his 2004, “Get Lifted,” CD.  It was originally recorded with John on solo piano.  I want to share with you the performance of this recent classic as performed by John Legend with The Roots accompanying him at the Amex UNSTAGED performance.  The full band accompaniment gives this familiar, yet still beautiful song, a new flavor.

 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that  John Legend & The Roots dared to cover this Bill Withers gem, “I Can’t Write Left Handed.”  At his 1972 live performance at Carnegie Hall, Bill Withers recorded this tearful song about a Viet Nam soldier who had been shot in his right shoulder and, given that he couldn’t write with his left hand, had to have someone write a letter to his mother.  The live album was released in 1973 and made a powerful statement about the war that had just ended.  It’s one of my all-time favorite songs and an absolute underground classic!  A topical song about a past war, I thought it would never be covered by anybody.

Well, it’s George Clintonesque in its length but you will certainly be rewarded by Captain Kirk Douglas’ guitar solo on this emotionally charged rendition of, “I Can’t Write Left Handed.”  This live performance single-handedly (pardon the pun) showed me how incredible The Roots are as a band.  Baby Boomers, they will make you feel like a proud parent gushing over your Generation X children at a recital.  Enjoy!