Aretha Franklin’s ‘A Rose is Still a Rose” Are the Words of a Wise Woman
One always needs that someone who hands tissue, offers a comforting ‘there, there’ and suggests a sensible way forward. If you’ve been done wrong by a lover then this song is just the cure for you. This modern soul track will confront any concern you have with self-issues and the temptation to indulge in sadness and destruction.
The song is a cocktail when the sun is setting, that bids farewell to what was and salutes the greatness that is to come. It’s about moving on and realizing one’s self-worth. Do you want to be a mere leaf that wilts with self-pity or a flower that blooms with self-love? The energetic beat matches the power in the lyrics and the force in her voice. Oh, and did you notice the voice of another soul diva, Lauryn Hill? Yes, the line “what I am, is what I am.”
There is no room in between the lyrics for sobbing over a man, it fills all its passages with an uplifting and strengthening air. An honest reminder that another person can hurt your feelings but you shouldn’t let them take a single petal away from you. You bloom as fierce as ever and make sure your stem is still armed with those sharp prickles. “Let your life be in the sunshine/Not the darkness of your sorrow” encourages you not to let the mess get you down. Add it to your playlist, wipe your eyes and let the sunshine in.
A Rose is Still a Rose is a title track released in March, 1998 and first on the list of the thirty-sixth studio album. The song was nominated for “Best R&B Song” and it got the album nominated for “Best R&B Album.” I listen to it from the collection, Love Songs [BMG International].
Enjoy the video:
To Be “Freer Than A Smile In A Baby’s Sleepin’ Eyes”
Song Title: Free
Artist: Stevie Wonder
Year: 6 November 1987
I must have been about seven or eight when I first learned to use a record player, and the album Characters by Stevie Wonder was one of the records I learned to carefully play. The thing with records is that you have to start at the outermost part and when a song you love is the last one you have to wait and listen to everything – no skip or fast-forward. Well, you could place it near the innermost part but you might scratch it. So, I had to wait until the last track of side two for my favourite track, Free. It’s difficult to choose a favourite when it comes to the mighty Stevie Wonder but this one is the first on my favourite list.
Free is a lyrically rich song that conveys meaning deeper than that of physical freedom. The song penetrates into freedom within us, beyond the skin. This is one of the most powerful songs of its time, evoking emotions of self-liberation, a sense of personal victory and peace. I’ll do my best not to quote the whole song but lyrics such as the ones below are so wealthy with soul and poetry.
“Me, having nothin’
But possessing riches more than all
And I’m free
To be nowhere
But in every place I need to be”
A number of instruments like the piano, drums and percussion blend harmoniously with the featured gospel choir. The song didn’t become as popular as most of his songs such as Isn’t She Lovely, I Just Called to Say I Love You, As and I could go on for long, but it is still a masterpiece. The album Characters is the twenty-first of his work. Stevie is a musical god and has been an inspiration for many of the great artists that came after him and of our generation.
I’d prescribe this as a song for one of those moments when you need to meditate and throw yourself into a few minutes of self-examination. However, this doesn’t make it a just-sit-down-and-ponder song, it has a buoyant and colourful beat, it’s a “take me to church” song and you won’t help but dance your soles off.
Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire
“I find romance when I start to dance in Boogie Wonderland
All the love in the world can’t be gone
All the need to be loved can’t be wrong
All the records are playing and my heart keeps saying
‘Boogie wonderland, wonderland'”
One of the biggest R&B bands of the 20th century gave us this get-up-off-your-ass-and-dance hit in 1979. It was released as a single on the 20th of March and was also included in their ninth album, I Am. The jam hasn’t lost its fire ever since.
In this song the band features the sister-band The Emotions who add extra spice to it. It’s an electric and energetic song, add the enthusiastic performance of the band and you just won’t stop dancing. True to its name it takes you to wonderland, to a happy place.
You definitely must watch the video, the fire in their feet and the twist and in their bodies. We all know what a spirited and lively performance Earth, Wind & Fire always gave. Dance and sing along here:
Boogie Wonderland was successfully received, sold over a million copies and it won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. The song has been covered by many musicians, it has been featured in TV series, films and other media, but my favourite is in the film The Intouchables when Driss (Omar Sy) is smoothly boogieing on the dance floor.
Watch the scene from The Intouchables here (no need to understand the French):
Go ahead, play it on repeat and have a blasting start to the weekend.
Rushing To by Ashford & Simpson
The song that reminds us to take a second and breathe.
We’re a generation that never sleeps – the go-getters, grinders and hustlers. We live by mantras such as “Sleep is for the dead” and when we think we are taking time out we are still busy trying to be most fun and title bearers of the best party goers and champagne bottle poppers.
I woke up this morning and remembered a song I used to play when I was learning to place the needle correctly when playing records. With a soft falsetto, Nickolas Ashford’s lyrics melt in;
“Where’s everybody going?
Where’s everybody rushing to?”
We’re chasing dreams, meeting expectations and deadlines and rushing after images that we’re constantly in a desperate need to portray to the world so that they can approve of who and what we become. Where are we rushing to? This song is a reminder of the fast lane that we’re on and how sometimes we just need to take a seat and breathe. Just breathe.
Rushing To is the second track from the album A Musical Affair by Ashford & Simpson, released in 1980 under Warner Bros. Records.
If you don’t know who Ashford & Simpson are, just think of some of their most popular hits, Solid and Found a Cure. Okay, you must know those two, right?
You can hear the smooth sound from the flute and how the strings are delicately teased. Ashford’s falsetto is balanced by his wife, Valerie Simpson’s bold voice and what you get is magic and a masterpiece such as Rushing To. The song is filled with depth, so much that it has remained meaningful and timeless from the 80’s to now. It says a lot and should definitely be one of the anthems that we play for ourselves as a reminder to slow down.
Nickolas Ashford was born on 4 May 1941 in South Carolina. Valerie Simpson was born on 26 August 1946. They met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in 1964. The duo had their downs in the music industry at the beginning but over the years their success just kept on hitting the skies. They have written songs for stars such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Diana Ross, and worked with great musicians such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Teddy Pendergrass, Chaka Khan and many others. They were talented songwriters and performers. They have also recorded an album titled Been Found with the unforgettable poet Maya Angelou.
Nickolas Ashford passed away on 22 August 2011 from throat cancer, leaving behind his wife Valerie Simpson, their two daughters and a musical legacy.
Teddy’s Triple Seduction
Come Go With Me, Close the Door and Turn off the Lights
He didn’t need abs, he didn’t need to get all naked and he definitely didn’t need to surround himself with naked women in his videos. The man just had it. Back in the days sexy was not overdoing it like it’s done these days. Just take his silky voice, add his heart-reaching (and other places) lyrics, top it with the man’s swagger and you have yourself knickers on the floor.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Teddy Pendergrass. I play these songs in a particular order. I like starting with Come Go with Me to send out the invitation. The song is about Teddy at a joint and asking a lady he’s had his eyes on all night to go home with him. She’s reluctant at first but hey, who are we talking about here? The man was smooth, okay?
Here’s a live performance in 1982.
“Let’s take a sip of some cold, cold wine
And dance to the music nice and slow
And you won’t be under any kind of pressure
You see, we’ll just let, we’ll just let the evenin’ flow”
No pressure there.
Then they get home and it’s Close the Door so that he can show her what she’s been missing out on.
Enjoy Close The Door
“Let’s bring this day to a pleasant end”
And once the damn door is closed, it’s time to Turn off The Lights.
This is my favourite performance;
“I’m lyin’ here waitin’, my dear
You can get what you want any time you want it”
These songs are somewhere in the definitions of romantic and sexy. No cheesy pick-up lines needed with these. They set the mood, they keep the mood and you don’t want to lose the mood once you’re enthralled by the magic that’s taking place here. Teddy knew just how to reach his audience, speak to women and on behalf of men.
What I love about the last two are how they speak of making love in a ceremonious way. It was about taking time to give each the gift of one another’s bodies. I give you these songs as prescription and do not forget to include some of the instructions from the lyrics; light candles, take a shower together, rub each other down with some hot oils and give each other some special treats.
Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me
The song begins with the gentle rise and fall of the piano’s keys. The first line, “My baby don’t care for clothes”, floats in, riding on the smooth texture of Nina Simone’s voice. The notes of the piano have a subtle bounciness that give the whole song an appealing energy.
You don’t have to have someone to call ‘baby’ for you to feel or enjoy the song. It is one of those songs with lyrics that don’t necessarily evoke any memories or relate to anyone or anything in your real life but you still fall in love with it anyway.
Nina Simone has one of those unique voices; it is elegant and graceful and just ‘takes you back’ to wherever it is that your thoughts float to. With that deep tone that sets her apart she brags about her man in the song, how he doesn’t care for anything but her. Isn’t that what many wish for in their relationships?
When you have that man or woman who focuses all their attention on you and everything else is not as important as you, and you hear the lyrics, “My baby just cares for me” you find yourself skittering about in pride and joy. “Yes! That’s my boo.”
It’s a musical masterpiece, with the instruments, lyrics and her voice combined in the right measures, producing just the right effect on its listener.
Hear it for yourself: