Stepping into the Light – 20 Feet From Stardom!✨

(Prince and Judith Hill. CreditPhotographs by Karrah Kobus/NPG Records, via Getty Images)

Mourning the 1 year passing of music legend Prince, I was amazed to learn about his relationship with the powerhouse singer-songwriter Judith Hill as her confidant and musical collaborator.

Ms. Hill was a contestant on the 2013 season of “The Voice” (the TV singing competition) and later that same year appeared in the Academy Award-winning documentary about backup singers, “20 Feet From Stardom” earning a Grammy for her performance.

Judith Hill

(“I was with Prince the last two years of my life,” Judith Hill said. “Now he’s gone, and I realize I was leaning on him a lot,” she said. “And that’s what’s scary. I’m on my own.” Credit: Elizabeth Weinberg for The New York Times)

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I cheered for Ms. Hill on “The Voice” and was shocked when she didn’t make the cut. Her voice is phenomenal and once before she had been so close to blowing up as a recording star when she was paired as a featured vocalist with Michael Jackson on his ill-fated tour “This is It”. On “The Voice” I thought, maybe this time she’ll get her shot.

 

And now, with the passing of Prince, Judith would once again be denied the major exposure that could have skyrocketed her to the top of the musical ladder instead of her forever feeling – “20 feet from stardom”.

 

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Judith Hill, Michael Jackson

 

Here’s a look at the Oscar-winning documentary about the incredible backup singers and the travesty of how their careers have always been “20 Feet From Stardom”.

 

20 feet from stardom

 

2014 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Feature,  “20 Feet From Stardom” is directed by Morgan Neville and inspired by producer Gil Friesen’s quest to reveal the untold stories of the phenomenal voices behind some of the greatest artists in American music.

 

 

The film takes a backstage look at the lives and experiences of backup singers Darlene Love ( Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), Judith Hill (The Voice), Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega and Jo Lawry among others.

 

 

The Ladies Speak:  Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love, Judith Hill

 

Merry Clayton performed that killer background vocal on The Rolling Stones’ classic “Gimme Shelter”

Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. I was thrilled when this film was released to showcase these gifted women that for whatever reason remain in the shadows. It’s a sad fact but, nevertheless, they stayed in the game and they are legends!

 

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Reeling Through The Year in Review Part 2 🎊

 

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In Memoriam

2016 has been a challenging year in so many ways including the loss of some of our childhood idols and icons. As I reflect back on the year, these are some of my most heartbreaking moments.

 

David Bowie 

R.I.P. David Bowie

 

The loss of David Bowie truly touched my heart. I’ve followed and loved his music since 1972 with the release of the album  – “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”.

 

“Starman” from the 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

“If you’re sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie”. – Dean Podesta

I’m appreciative of this tweet because I found it calming and it put Bowie’s passing in perspective. A true innovator. He will be missed.

 

 

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Gene Wilder

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Jerome (Gene Wilder) Silberman (June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016)

Time reversed itself for a moment when I heard the news of Gene Wilder’s passing due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. He’s been a part of my life since “Willy Wonka” and his spirit helped me through the challenging and uncertain days of my fight against Colon and Breast Cancer.

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Our Prince is Gone – 1958-2016

 

princepassing

 

Ever since Prince came on the scene his music has been such a vital part of my life. His passing is a tremendous loss personally and his enormous talent leaves a hole in our collective souls.

 

As the memories flood my mind I flashback to Prince and Morris Day with The Time performing at Hill Auditorium on the campus of my alma mater – The University of Michigan. This was 1978 before Prince was PRINCE. I can still see the audience swaying, fully in tune with Prince’s dynamic energy and saw a sea change, realizing this was the last time I would intimately see this badass, revolutionary genius.

Now, PRINCE would belong to the world.

 

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To my dismay, more artists would follow

 

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And, the Greatest of All Time

muhammad ali

 

So, as we wind down 2016, let us remember the joys, and the sorrows, but look ahead in Faith of a bright and shining tomorrow.

 

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Have a Blessed and Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jammin’- Music that Makes the Movies🎶🎬😎

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Movie Soundtracks

What would the film experience be without a memorable soundtrack that sets the mood, pumps up the action and evokes nostalgic memories?

 

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The idea of musical accompaniment has been around since silent films but with the advent of sound in the 1920’s, filmmakers were able to have direct control over the soundtrack as a device to manipulate the audience’s emotions.

The first film to use a completely original score was written by composer Max Steiner for the classic ‘King Kong’ (1933).

 

Imagine Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” without those driving Bernard Herrmann violins and strings during the shower scene and the ominous “dun-dun-dun” that alerted the audience to the arrival of “Jaws” thus evoking all kinds of fear. With the Soundtrack Album, audiences have the freedom to listen to and relive the memories of their favorite films at anytime.

In developing his film projects Director, Quentin Tarantino approaches the movie process in this way:

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

“One of the things I do when I am starting a movie, when I’m writing a movie or when I have an idea for a film is, I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie. Then, ‘boom,’ eventually I’ll hit one, two or three songs, or one song in particular, ‘Oh, this will be a great opening credit song.” (Tracks and Fields)

 

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“Purple Rain” (1984), “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), and “Almost Famous” (2000) are 3 of my favorite films that demonstrate the impactful relationship between the storyline and the music.

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Purple Rain (1984)

purple rain soundtrack

The music from “Purple Rain” has kept me groovin’ since it premiered. While rockin’ the theater, “I Would Die 4 You” also connected the events necessary to resolve the plot and “The Kid’s” conflicts, utilizing the flashback technique leading to the climactic ending scene. The album rocketed Prince to superstardom!

The soundtrack for the film was released on June 25, 1984, by Warner Bros. Records and to date, it has sold over 22 million copies worldwide, becoming the sixth best-selling soundtrack album of all time.

“I Would Die 4 U”, “Baby I’m a Star” and “Purple Rain” were recorded live from a show on August 3, 1983, at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis, with overdubs and edits added later. This marked the first time Prince included live recordings on any release. The show was a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theater and featured the first appearance of guitarist Wendy Melvoin in Prince’s band, The Revolution.

 

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Prince won two Grammy Awards in 1985 for Purple Rain, for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special, and the album was nominated for Album of the Year. Prince won a third Grammy that year for Best R&B Song (songwriter) for Chaka Khan’s cover of “I Feel for You”. Purple Rain also won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score in 1985.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians of the galaxy

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is the 2014 film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Directed by James Gunn, the movie features the songs present on character Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) mixtape in the film.

The album was released by Hollywood Records on July 29, 2014, and reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first soundtrack album in history consisting entirely of previously released songs to top the chart.

“Come and Get Your Love” by (Redbone) set the tone and mood of the film for me and is also a classic rock song from the 70’s. The film incorporated songs from the 1960s and 1970s, such as “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, which, according to the film’s director, James Gunn, acts as a way for Quill to stay connected to the Earth, home, and family he lost.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill forms an uneasy alliance with a group of extraterrestrial misfits who are fleeing after stealing a powerful artifact.

 

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Drax, Gamora, Quill, Groot, and Rocket

 

I couldn’t help but fall in love with the sweetness of “I am Groot” and subsequently, jammin’ “Baby Groot”.

“Baby Groot”

Other hits from the soundtrack and my childhood include: “I Want You Back”, Jackson 5, “Oooh Child”, The 5 Stairsteps, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell which make for one kickin’ playlist!

 

Almost Famous (2000)

almost famous movie soundtrack

Almost Famous was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, and starred Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit. It tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published. The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. (Wikipedia)

 

The film received four Oscar nominations, one of which led to an award to Crowe for his screenplay. It was also awarded the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. Roger Ebert hailed it the best film of the year, and also the 9th best film of the 2000s. It also won two Golden Globes, for Best Picture and Kate Hudson won Best Supporting Actress.

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Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup

This scene between William and his sister Anita takes me back to the days of vinyl and a time and way of appreciating music you cannot get from a cd. Music can change your life and for child prodigy William Miller (Patrick Fugit) it does.

Frances McDormand, as the mother, strictly controls and protects him and his older sister Anita by forbidding rock music and in her opinion, other unwelcome influences which drive Anita to leave home and become a flight attendant.

 

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I’ve always loved the song “America”. It’s just as poignant today as it was when it was first performed in 1968 by Simon and Garfunkel. The song was written by Paul Simon and concerns young lovers hitchhiking their way across the United States, in search of “America”, in both a literal and figurative sense. It was inspired by a 1964 road trip that Simon took with his girlfriend Kathy Chitty.

 

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Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

Director Cameron Crowe took a copy of the film to London for a special screening with Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. After the screening, Led Zeppelin granted Crowe the right to use one of their songs on the soundtrack — the first time they had ever consented to this since allowing Crowe to use “Kashmir” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Wikipedia)

 

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Zeppelin also gave Crowe rights to four of their other songs in the movie itself, although they did not grant him the rights to “Stairway to Heaven” for an intended scene (on the special “Bootleg” edition DVD, the scene is included as an extra, sans the song, where the viewer is instructed by a watermark to begin playing it). (Wikipedia)

 

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Robert Plant (Led Zepplin) and Cameron Crowe

This classic soundtrack takes me back to some of the best memories of my high school days. Every time I watch this film I’m inundated with emotions and remember where I was when these songs were playing on the radio.

 

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Music has the power to cross time and space. I believe it’s our common bond. Even if you don’t speak the same language you can speak the same music.

 

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“Batman” 🎬 Small Screen to Big Screen

I’ve been a tv and movie junkie since I was a kid and the intersection of movies and television got me thinking about what tv shows successfully made the leap to the big screen. In my previous post, I celebrated the 50th Anniversary of “Batman”– the classic 60’s  tv series. The eventual Warner Bros movie franchise that resulted made “Batman” one of the most accomplished superhero series to make that leap.

In 1989, Tim Burton set about the challenge of  retooling the DC Comics superhero, “Batman” – this update veered away from the “campy” Adam West version and set in motion the money-making Warner Bros Batman films, most notably the “Dark Knight” trilogy.

Batman Keaton

I remember being in the grocery store when “Batman” (1989) premiered. Standing in line overhearing the chit chat, some people were truly upset that the Keaton movie was nothing like the tv series. They wanted the “pow” and “bam” of the William Dozier inception. I didn’t say anything but my husband is a comic book geek so I knew the real story and it was nothing like the “dynamic duo” of Adam West and Burt Ward. The 60’s classic was based on light-hearted portrayals and over the top villains. The real “Batman” is so far from campy it’s funny.

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The film, directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters was based on the DC Comics character of the same name. It is the first installment of Warner Bros.’ initial Batman film series. It stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, alongside Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, and Jack Palance. The plot is more closely aligned with the comic book as Batman, widely believed to be an urban legend goes to war with a rising criminal mastermind known as “the Joker” (Nicholson).

I felt Keaton brought a vulnerability to the role while focusing on the conflict within. I remember reading an article about Michael Keaton speaking to Jack Nicholson on how to approach the character. Jack being Jack told Keaton to let the mask do the work. Following Nicholson’s advice, Keaton played with his voice’s lower register so the character’s intensity was amplified.

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Michael Keaton as Batman (1989)

Director Tim Burton did a tremendous job bringing the “Batman series” back to life. The atmospheric presence of Gotham City created the perfect backdrop for the conflict between “good” vs “evil”. Along with Nicholson providing the maniacal humor,”Batman” couldn’t help but be a hit!

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Gotham City

“Batman” was one of the first films to spawn two soundtracks. One of them featured songs written by Prince while the other showcased Danny Elfman’s score. Both were extremely successful. Prince’s soundtrack album was No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart for six consecutive weeks. It has sold over eleven million copies worldwide.

Prince

Prince

Burton explained the theme, “the whole film and mythology of the character is a complete duel of the freaks. It’s a fight between two disturbed people”, adding that “The Joker is such a great character because there’s a complete freedom to him. Any character who operates on the outside of society and is deemed a freak and an outcast then has the freedom to do what they want… They are the darker sides of freedom. Insanity is in some scary way the most freedom you can have because you’re not bound by the laws of society”. (Wikipedia)

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Jack Nicholson as the “Joker”

The tone and themes of the film were influenced in part by  Frank Miller‘s The Dark Knight ReturnsBatman was a critical and financial success, earning over $400 million in box office totals. It was the fifth-highest grossing film in history at the time of its release. The film received several Saturn Award nominations and a Golden Globe nomination and won an Academy Award.

The American Film Institute anointed Batman the 46th greatest movie hero and the Joker the 45th greatest movie villain on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains. In 2008, Batman was selected by Empire magazine as number 458 of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.

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“Batman” initiated the original Batman film series and spawned three sequels: Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997); the latter two of which were directed by Joel Schumacher instead of Burton, and replaced Keaton as Batman with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, respectively.

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Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Killmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale

Personally, I feel the franchise wasn’t fully formed until “Batman Begins” (2005) with Christian Bale as the “dark knight”. This and the subsequent sequels delved even deeper into the dark and intense storyline of Bruce Wayne and his inner demons.

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins was co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan and starred Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman. The film reboots the Batman film series, telling the origin story of the title character (Bale), from his, alter ego Bruce Wayne’s initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, and his journey to become Batman. (Wikipedia)

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and three BAFTA awards. It is followed by The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) in a continual story-arc, which has later been referred to as The Dark Knight Trilogy. Many consider “Batman Begins” to be one of the best superhero films of its decade.

The Dark Knight in 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 (with Bale reprising his role in both films) earned over $1 billion worldwide, making “Batman” the second film franchise (and to date one of only five) to have two of its films earn more than $1 billion worldwide.

Well, I’m totally into this franchise and never miss a new installment in the series. Christian Bale is the man, he’s managed to capture Batman’s intensity with such vigor that the deeper he plunges, the deeper the journey we take with him.

Our Prince is Gone – 1958-2016

princepassing

 

Ever since Prince came on the scene his music has been such a vital part of my life. His passing is a tremendous loss personally and his enormous talent leaves a hole in our collective souls.

As the memories flood my mind I flashback to Prince and Morris Day with The Time performing at Hill Auditorium on the campus of my alma mater – The University of Michigan. This was 1978 before Prince was PRINCE. I can still see the audience swaying, fully in tune with Prince’s dynamic energy and saw a sea change, realizing this was the last time I would intimately see this badass, revolutionary genius. Now, PRINCE would belong to the world.

Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

 

 

Purple Rain 30th Surprise!

Prince’s landmark soundtrack and film – Purple Rain turned 30 this week.  Prince marked the occasion with a surprise concert at his Paisley Park compound in Minneapolis.  For me, it brought back memories of the energy and excitement in the theater on opening day.  The movie had all the buzz of a true concert experience.  It so rocked I brought my husband back for the midnight showing!

 

Purple Rain poster

Purple Rain 1984

“Let’s Go Crazy, Let’s Get Nuts, look for the purple banana ’til they put us in the truck.”  Let’s Go!!

Okay, you got me, I’m in!

 My weekly movie matinee ritual was turned on his head as Prince and the Revolution along with Morris Day and the Time deconstructed and reconstructed the movie musical genre.  From the very first cord we were plugged into a musical score that would impact the direction of Pop music.

Prince went on to win the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song Score.  And also walked away with a Grammy for Best Album of Instrumental Score written for a Motion Picture.

 

Directed by Albert Magnoli
Starring Prince
Apollonia Kotero
Morris Day
Clarence Williams III
Olga Karlatos

The Kid (Prince) struggles to mediate his parents dysfunctional relationship while dealing with his own tenuous one with the new honey in town, the aspiring singer Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero).

A cherry on top for The Kid is the kick butt love token Apollonia bestows on him, that super sweet white guitar!

Prince Apollonia white guitar

The music moves the story line along and reveals the shifting dynamics between The Kid and Apollonia.  The budding romance, “Take me with You” and the darker side of The Kid “Darling Nikki.”

The Kid and Morris Day and The Time duke it out onstage with licks like -“The Beautiful Ones” and “Jungle Love.”   It turned 1st Avenue, in Minneapolis into a landmark and music mecca.

Exciting, rocking, sexy Prince, there is no other!   The concert numbers totally made the film.  These were my top faves:

Let’s Go Crazy – Prince and The Revolution
Jungle Love – Morris Day and The Time
Purple Rain – Prince and The Revolution
I Would Die 4 U – Prince and The Revolution

Check this funky, fresh version of “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Prince with 3rdEye Girl 2013 Billboard Music Awards

 

I’ve gotta talk about Morris Day and the Time.  I love Morris Day!  Both cool and hilarious.  And  I can’t leave out my man Jerome (Jerome Benton) ever ready with the car door or a jumbo size mirror.  Here’s Morris Day and Jerome’s take on the classic routine “Whose on First?”made famous by the 40’s comedy duo Abbott and Costello.

I wish I could have been at Prince’s Paisley Park for the June 29th celebration!  Being a die-hard Prince fan and having attended all his concert tours, I’m sure it was an amazing evening.  Also, his very special guest turned out to be his Purple Rain co-star, Apollonia Kotero.  (would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall for that reunion:)

Prince graciously posted this audio from his late-night surprise concert with 3rdEye Girl:

Enjoy!