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Home Arts and Culture  TURN IT DOWN: A survey of Lansing’s musical landscape
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Wednesday, May 6,2009

TURN IT DOWN: A survey of Lansing’s musical landscape

Soul survivor?

by Rich Tupica

Real rhythm & blues and soul music is extinct, with only vinyl fossils left to prove it was here. Since soul legend Otis Redding died in a plane crash in 1967, there are music lovers who, to this day, wonder, “What if he had lived?”


Redding was such a brilliant songwriter and innovator in the genre that people not only mourn the loss of his life, but recognize that each of his albums showed progression. He had more to offer.


More than 40 years later, things have changed. The music I love has morphed into a genre that barely, if at all, reflects the passion created in the ‘50s and ‘60s.


No offense, but if Usher, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown all crashed into the sea, it would be a tragic day, but I doubt people would be wondering what brilliant songs they could have written had they not plunged into the water. These new R&B artists don’t have the postmortem “What If” factor.

Not that every R&B singer in the ’60s and ’70s were on Redding’s level, but many of them did seemed to share qualities that defined the true genre. There were gritty and bittersweet vocals backed by exciting horn sections. The songwriting incorporated blues, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll into one dynamic sound, all of which has disappeared.

Today, just about every “R&B” song is the same: polished, computerized beats, with arrogant, sappy or overly sexual lyrics. Today’s songs don’t carry the weight of Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (1965) or Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” (1964).

I’m not judging the quality of the music. Some current songs are catchy and provide nice hooks, which serve their purpose. It’s just not true R&B or soul, its pop radio, Top 40 fluff. The fact that these CDs are being marketed as “R&B” or “soul” is an insult to the predecessors who poured their hearts out to the world with ballads and boogies that were previously never heard. It’s misrepresenting the art form.


These new school celebrities are pop singers. Yes, they are talented vocalists, but it takes more than that to be R&B (which means rhythm & blues). Do you hear any trace of blues in current radio “R&B” music? I sure as hell don’t.


This argument may seem like much ado about nothing. But if you sit down and listen to “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” a song recorded three days before Redding’s death, you will hear a 26-yearold man who was passionate about R&B and who respected the elements that made his music what is: soulful.

For those interested in tracking down the real thing, a good place to start might be The Lansing Record & CD Show, which is setting up shop Saturday, May 9, at the University Quality Inn in Frandor. The huge show features a mix that is 70 percent vinyl (45s and LPs) and 20 percent CDs. The other 10 percent is a mix of rare music DVDs, band posters, T-shirts, vintage magazines and all sorts of music memorabilia. From rock‘n’roll and soul, to jazz, funk and folk, all genres are represented.

3121 E. Grand River Ave. (next to Holiday Lanes), Frandor. FREE admission. Show runs from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. For more information e-mail Ken at kpwildwood@sbcglobal.net.



Skate or die


A ton of local bands are coming together in Grand Ledge on Saturday, May 9, to benefit Fitzgerald Skate Park. The show will be outside of the Red Salamander, a home beer and wine making store in Grand Ledge. The park is in shambles, and cash is needed to get it ready for summer, so it’s a good opportunity to support local skaters and rock bands.

The all day event will feature: The Cartridge Family, DJ Ruckus, Danger Society, Feel Good Violence, Hex Bombs, One Without Reason, 3 a.m. Delirium, CBJ, The Playback, Shanghai Butchers, Ouch! Me Arse and Death Canoe. 902 E. Saginaw, Grand Ledge, $7, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. www.myspace.com/ misk8parkclub.



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