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Local and State News

Gina Sicila Pre CD Release “Tug of War” at TC’s BLUEStage, Napoleon, MI

Gina Sicila will be is coming to Napoleon at TC’s Blues Stage on June 1st to support her new album, Tug of War, coming out the following day (June 2).  Gina has pursued her love of the blues with limitless passion since her bold, dark-honey voice made her a sensation singing in a Philadelphia jazz and blues club, when she was just 19.   

A dynamic vocalist and veracious live performer this new album celebrates her status as one of the reigning voices in modern blues marking a potent evolution in her songwriting.  Today, Gina's life experiences, coupled with her warm, flexible, emotionally-nuanced vocal styling resonates like never before…and this album is her most personal yet.

Tug of War’s title alludes to the complexities of life, which ring throughout this album’s original tracks, mostly written by Sicilia. And it speaks of her own experiences. “I’ve been through a lot in the past three years,” she relates. “I suffered through a painful and dramatic event in my life and needed to start over, so I moved to Nashville—where I didn’t know anybody, and went into a period of really challenging myself as a songwriter.”

Summer Solstice Jazz Festival Planned Lineup Announced.

Summer Solstice Jazz Festival will be held in East Lansing on June 24-25, 2017 in East Lansing, MIchigan. The planned lineup is as follows:
Lou Donaldson and Dr. Lonnie Smith
Miles Mosley
Dafnis Prieto
WMU Jazz Quartet
Planet D Nonet
Gabrielle Brass Band
Laura Rain and the Ceasers
Phil Denny
J.A.M.M. Scholarship Quartet
Zach Adleman Quartet
Quintet Ruby
Markus Howell Trio
MSU Jazz Studies Big Band Symposium

The 34th International Blues Challenge is scheduled for January 16 - 20, 2018

National News and Beyond

Sylvia Moy, Songwriter For Motown, Has Passed

Sylvia Moy, the Motown songwriter famous for collaborating with Stevie Wonder on legendary hits such as ‘My Cherie Amour’ and ‘I Was Made To Love Her’ died on Friday, April 17, 2017. She was 78. Her death occurred the same day Stevie Wonder received ASCAP’s inaugural Key of Life Award.

One of nine children, Moy was born on 15 September 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. Interested in classical music and jazz from an early age, she took singing lessons while at high school and landed a job performing at Detroit’s Caucus Club. During this engagement, she was discovered by Motown stars Marvin Gaye and Mickey Stevenson and became established as one of the legendary label’s first female songwriters and producers.

Her skills as a songwriter were so apparent and the label’s need for new music so dire that record executives convinced her to put her own singing career on hold and focus on songwriting.

Moy played a key part in shaping Motown’s pioneering legacy. In collaboration with Stevie Wonder and fellow co-writer Henry Cosby, she wrote Wonder’s US No 3 hit ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’ in 1965. Unsure the best way to communicate the lyrics of “Uptight” to someone who was blind, she finally opted to sing them into Wonder’s headphones as the song was recorded, careful to stay one line ahead.

The trio later penned Wonder’s Billboard Hot 100 hits ‘My Cherie Amour’ and ‘I Was Made To Love Her’. In addition to Wonder’s hits, Moy’s Motown credits include The Isley Brothers’ ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’ and Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston’s ‘It Takes Two’. A six-time Grammy Award nominee, Moy was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2006. Wonder made a surprise appearance at the ceremony to thank her.

Moy went on to write theme songs for television shows and, later in life, launched a nonprofit in Detroit to teach media arts to young adults

Lena Horne, The Enchanting Jazz Singer and Actress Dies at Age 92.

Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress who reviled the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them has died. She was 92.

Horne died Sunday May 7, 2017, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Horne, whose striking beauty and magnetic sex appeal often overshadowed her sultry voice, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success.

In the 1940s, she was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, the first to play the Copacabana nightclub and among a handful with a Hollywood contract.

In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black musical “Stormy Weather.” Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her signature piece.

In her first big Broadway success, as the star of “Jamaica” in 1957, reviewer Richard Watts Jr. called her “one of the incomparable performers of our time.” Songwriter Buddy de Sylva dubbed her “the best female singer of songs.”
But Horne was perpetually frustrated with the public humiliation of racism.

“I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn’t work for places that kept us out … it was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world,” she said in Brian Lanker’s book “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.”

While at MGM, she starred in the all-black “Cabin in the Sky,” in 1943, but in most of her other movies, she appeared only in musical numbers that could be cut in the racially insensitive South without affecting the story.
Later she embraced activism, breaking loose as a voice for civil rights and as an artist. In the last decades of her life, she rode a new wave of popularity as a revered icon of American popular music.

Her 1981 one-woman Broadway show, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” won a special Tony Award. In it, the 64-year-old singer used two renditions — one straight and the other gut-wrenching — of “Stormy Weather” to give audiences a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey of her five-decade career.

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, the great-granddaughter of a freed slave, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1917, to a leading family in the black bourgeoisie. Her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, wrote in her 1986 book “The Hornes: An American Family” that among their relatives was a college girlfriend of W.E.B. Du Bois and a black adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dropping out of school at 16 to support her ailing mother, Horne joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club, the fabled Harlem night spot where the entertainers were black and the clientele white.

She left the club in 1935 to tour with Noble Sissle’s orchestra, billed as Helena Horne, the name she continued using when she joined Charlie Barnet’s white orchestra in 1940.

A movie offer from MGM came when she headlined a show at the Little Troc nightclub with the Katherine Dunham dancers in 1942.
Her success led some blacks to accuse Horne of trying to “pass” in a white world with her light complexion. Max Factor even developed an “Egyptian” makeup shade especially for the budding actress while she was at MGM.

Horne was only 2 when her grandmother, a prominent member of the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, enrolled her in the NAACP. But she avoided activism until 1945 when she was entertaining at an Army base and saw German prisoners of war sitting up front while black American soldiers were consigned to the rear.

That pivotal moment channeled her anger into something useful.

She got involved in various social and political organizations and — along with her friendship with Paul Robeson — got her name onto blacklists during the red-hunting McCarthy era.

By the 1960s, Horne was one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement, once throwing a lamp at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant and in 1963 joining 250,000 others in the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Horne also spoke at a rally that same year with another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, just days before his assassination.

She had married MGM music director Lennie Hayton, a white man, in Paris in 1947 after her first overseas engagements in France and England. An earlier marriage to Louis J. Jones had ended in divorce in 1944 after producing daughter Gail and a son, Teddy.
Her father, her son and her husband, Hayton, all died in 1970-71, and the grief-stricken singer secluded herself, refusing to perform or even see anyone but her closest friends. One of them, comedian Alan King, took months persuading her to return to the stage, with results that surprised her.

“I looked out and saw a family of brothers and sisters,” she said. “It was a long time, but when it came I truly began to live.”
And she discovered that time had mellowed her bitterness.

“I wouldn’t trade my life for anything,” she said, “because being black made me understand.”