Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson – R.I.P.

Just celebrated God’s favor of another birthday and the end of my chemotherapy treatments to the funky sounds of the Brothers Johnson’s bass thumping soundtracks. What very special memories of college they evoke.

I was truly blessed to be able to share this birthday with some of my very special friends from “back in the day” at the leader and the best – The University of Michigan!

This is a repost of the memorial of Louis Johnson from 1 year ago today. R.I.H.

I just celebrated a milestone birthday this past Thursday, May 21st but, while I was basking in my special day the news came out that renowned funk bassist and one of the grandfathers of slap bass playing Louis Johnson of The Brothers Johnson had passed that very day. We shared a common birth year and his death served as a stark reminder that tomorrow is not promised. An incredible talent gone way too soon.

 

louis johnson 2

Louis Johnson

 (April 13, 1955 – May 21, 2015)

When we think about birthdays it’s usually about the celebration of the years lived and those memories, moments and for me, in particular, special films and music. In the 70’s and 80’s Louis and his brother George played the soundtrack of my life. Songs like: “Get the Funk Out Ma Face”, and “Ain’t We Funkin Now” were always at the top of my playlist.

 

Louis Johnson

Louis’ innovative bass slapping technique

 

Louis and his George got their start playing for Quincy Jones who later went on to produce the brothers debut LP Look Out for #1 in 1976. Over the next five years, the Brothers Johnson racked up three Number One hits on the R&B charts: 1976’s “I’ll Be Good to You,” their 1977 cover of singer-songwriter and soul musician Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23,”(featured in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown) and 1980’s smash “Stomp!”

Louis garnered the nickname “Thunder Thumbs” as a nod to his innovative bass slapping technique. His signature sound was from the Music Man StingRay bass which Leo Fender especially made for him to first use and promote, and form his slapping technique.

 

 

 

 

Louis Johnson brought the “funk” to Michael Jackson’s hits “Billie Jean” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. He also appeared on “Off the Wall”,”Thriller and artists Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin tracks. The Brothers Johnson’s 1980 album Light Up the Night, featuring “This Had to Be” was co-written by Michael, featuring him on background vocals. The album rose to the top of the R&B charts.

Although the news of his passing saddens me, I’m grateful for the time we shared through his incredible musical performances. I honor his legacy and say – Thank you, Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson for bringing the funk! You will be missed.

 

In Memorial

louis johnson 3

Thanks, Louis!

 

 

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Nicholas Brothers – Flash! (So You Think You Can Dance?)

In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.

Nicholas Brothers

This repost and film duo for the month is the incomparable Nicholas Brothers. Their energy and dynamic dance routines are legendary and unmatched by any other artist then or now. Born during an era when African American entertainers were restricted in film appearances and even cut out for southern audiences, the Nicholas Brothers rose above and beyond the sensibilities of the times.

Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000). Their highly acrobatic technique (“flash dancing“), demonstrated such a high level of artistry and daring innovations that they were considered by many to be the greatest tap dancers of their day.

Growing up with musician parents (mother played piano and father drums) who had their own band, the brothers were surrounded by some of the best Vaudeville acts of the time and became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance . Fayard and Harold went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

 

Their signature move was to leapfrog down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. This move was performed to perfection in the finale of the movie, Stormy Weather . In my humble opinion, the “Jumpin’ Jive” dance number in Stormy Weather was the greatest movie musical sequence of all time!

Nicholas Brothers - Jump!

Nicholas Brothers – Jump!

Another signature move was to arise from a split without using their hands. Gregory Hines (with brother Maurice – tap dancing brother and father team Hines, Hines and Dad) declared that if the Nicholas Brothers biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.

 

The Nicholas Brothers influenced every dancer that came after. Including Michael Jackson. Here they are together on the Jackson’s TV Show.

Legends of dance that should always be remembered!

Moonwalker’s Smooth Criminal

Smoothcriminalmoonwalker

 

Back in the day, when Michael Jackson released a new tune it became a television event. The announcement of the date and time of the video was always anticipated by the fans. We would arrange our schedules to make sure not to miss the latest and greatest from the King of Pop. But with the release of Moonwalker, Michael took the debut event to a whole other level!

smooth criminal

 

What we witnessed that night was a game changer.

Michael Jackson: Moonwalker (1988). Not just one video but an anthology style film compilation of long form videos including the songs: Smooth Criminal and Leave Me Alone. Releasing these songs in this format was unique to TV and the times and proved Michael’s mastery and revival of the film short.

Leave Me Alone was a “Michael Vision”, dead-on rebuttal to all the gossip and rumors about Michael’s life including Bubbles the chimp and did he really buy the bones of the Elephant Man? (watch for MJ dancing with elephant man bones)

Smooth Criminal features the most dynamic and straight up coolest choreography ever!!!  And “the lean” shut up!!

Michael was granted a patent for the hitching mechanism which was built into the floor of the stage and the performers shoes.

smooth lean

Danger abounds with Annie and her friends (including John Lennon’s youngest son Sean), storm troopers, machine guns and a pint sized imitation of Michael by “baby bad Michael.”

A truly innovative project with probably one of the most mangled lyrics in music history. “Annie are you walking?” No!!  It’s “Annie are you okay?”

 

So without further adieu, the smoothest moves of the Smooth Criminal.

Nicholas Brothers – Flash! (So You Think You Can Dance?)

The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000). Their highly acrobatic technique (“flash dancing“), demonstrated such a high level of artistry and daring innovations that they were considered by many to be the greatest tap dancers of their day.

Growing up with musician parents (mother played piano and father drums) who had their own band, the brothers were surrounded by some of the best Vaudeville acts of the time and became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance . Fayard and Harold went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

 

Their signature move was to leapfrog down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. This move was performed to perfection in the finale of the movie, Stormy Weather . In my humble opinion, the “Jumpin’ Jive” dance number in Stormy Weather was the greatest movie musical sequence of all time!

Nicholas Brothers - Jump!

Nicholas Brothers – Jump!

Another signature move was to arise from a split without using their hands. Gregory Hines (with brother Maurice – tap dancing brother and father team Hines, Hines and Dad) declared that if their biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.

 

The Nicholas Brothers influenced every dancer that came after. Including Michael Jackson. Here they are together on the Jackson’s TV Show.

Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson – R.I.P.

I just celebrated a milestone birthday this past Thursday, May 21st but, while I was basking in my special day the news came out that renowned funk bassist and one of the grandfathers of slap bass playing Louis Johnson of The Brothers Johnson had passed that very day. We shared a common birth year and his death served as a stark reminder that tomorrow is not promised. An incredible talent gone way too soon.

 

louis johnson 2

Louis Johnson

 (April 13, 1955 – May 21, 2015)

When we think about birthdays it’s usually about the celebration of the years lived and those memories, moments and for me, in particular, special films and music. In the 70’s and 80’s Louis and his brother George played the soundtrack of my life. Songs like: “Get the Funk Out Ma Face”, and “Ain’t We Funkin Now” were always at the top of my playlist.

 

Louis Johnson

Louis’ innovative bass slapping technique

 

Louis and his George got their start playing for Quincy Jones who later went on to produce the brothers debut LP Look Out for #1 in 1976. Over the next five years, the Brothers Johnson racked up three Number One hits on the R&B charts: 1976’s “I’ll Be Good to You,” their 1977 cover of singer-songwriter and soul musician Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23,”(featured in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown) and 1980’s smash “Stomp!”

Louis garnered the nickname “Thunder Thumbs” as a nod to his innovative bass slapping technique. His signature sound was from the Music Man StingRay bass which Leo Fender especially made for him to first use and promote, and form his slapping technique.

 

 

 

 

Louis Johnson brought the “funk” to Michael Jackson’s hits “Billie Jean” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. He also appeared on “Off the Wall”,”Thriller and artists Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin tracks. The Brothers Johnson’s 1980 album Light Up the Night, featuring “This Had to Be” was co-written by Michael, featuring him on background vocals. The album rose to the top of the R&B charts.

Although the news of his passing saddens me, I’m grateful for the time we shared through his incredible musical performances. I honor his legacy and say – Thank you, Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson for bringing the funk! You will be missed.

 

In Memorial

louis johnson 3

Thanks, Louis!

 

 

Moonwalker’s Smooth Criminal

Smoothcriminalmoonwalker

 

Back in the day, when Michael Jackson released a new tune it became a television event. The announcement of the date and time of the video was always anticipated by the fans. We would arrange our schedules to make sure not to miss the latest and greatest from the King of Pop. But with the release of Moonwalker, Michael took the debut event to a whole other level!

smooth criminal

 

What we witnessed that night was a game changer.

Michael Jackson: Moonwalker (1988). Not just one video but an anthology style film compilation of long form videos including the songs: Smooth Criminal and Leave Me Alone. Releasing these songs in this format was unique to TV and the times and proved Michael’s mastery and revival of the film short.

Leave Me Alone was a “Michael Vision”, dead-on rebuttal to all the gossip and rumors about Michael’s life including Bubbles the chimp and did he really buy the bones of the Elephant Man? (watch for MJ dancing with elephant man bones)

Smooth Criminal features the most dynamic and straight up coolest choreography ever!!!  And “the lean” shut up!!

Michael was granted a patent for the hitching mechanism which was built into the floor of the stage and the performers shoes.

smooth lean

Danger abounds with Annie and her friends (including John Lennon’s youngest son Sean), storm troopers, machine guns and a pint sized imitation of Michael by “baby bad Michael.”

A truly innovative project with probably one of the most mangled lyrics in music history. “Annie are you walking?” No!!  It’s “Annie are you okay?”

 

So without further adieu, the smoothest moves of the Smooth Criminal.

Memories of Michael Jackson – King of Pop 1958 – 2009

Today is the 5th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death.  I remember being in disbelief  upon hearing the news and remember exactly where I was.  About to leave work when a co-worker told me “Michael Jackson is dead.”  I told her to stop playing but she stood by her statement.  I immediately jumped on the computer to scan every news outlet I could find to see if it was true.  None of the major news sources would either confirm or deny his death.  Finally I went to TMZ (they usually have the lowdown on everything pop culture) and they were reporting that in fact Michael had passed.

As soon as I arrived home from work I turned on every TV set in the house to confirm TMZ’s account.  While I was waiting I got on the phone to call my sister in Detroit – my hometown.  I couldn’t reach her so next I called my best friend, she was on the phone with her nephew trying to console him because she had taken him to his first Michael Jackson concert.  The whole city of Detroit was buzzing.  The news hit everyone like a ton of bricks.  I later found out from my sister that she, along with everyone else in town was at the mall buying up everything Michael.  CDs, DVDs, memorabilia.  Anything to feel closer to the brother we lost.

Growing up in Motown we considered Michael ours.  The Jackson 5 was signed to Motown Records in 1969 and had their 1st single, “I Want You Back” hit number one in 1970.  I still remember my first Jackson 5 concert in junior high school.  Olympia Stadium.  I was hoarse for the next 2 days.

It’s hard to believe that 5 years have passed, but they have and I still miss Michael.

 Share some memories with me.