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Music Video Spotlight: “Pelvis Pusher” by Vintage Trouble

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If you took James Brown and put him together with guitar riffs reminiscent of early rock n’ roll, then you’d have the band Vintage Trouble. The band members include singer Ty Taylor, Nalle Colt providing backing vocals and guitar, Rick Barrio Dill providing backing vocals and bass guitar, and Richard Danielson providing drums, percussion and backing vocals.

In 2012, the band released their debut album The Bomb Shelter Sessions and released their Swing House Acoustic Sessions earlier this year. I recommend both if you like this video for the track “Pelvis Pusher”, which is a bonus track from an encore edition of The Bomb Shelter Sessions.

While this is not one of my favorite tracks, I do enjoy the video. It reminds me of those 50’s or 60’s high school dances where the kids are dancing to Bill Hailey and The Comets or a similar band. It’s a fun video where people are auditioning to be dancers for the band. If the song and that scene doesn’t get you up on your feet, then the scene with the band performing in the gym in front of a dancing crowd will.

Written by Serena Zola

December 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

My Favorite Music Discoveries of 2014: Albums, EPs, and Songs

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In a previous post, I shared my favorite music of 2014, which featured music actually released this year. Now, I’m going to share my favorite music that I discovered this year that is from the past.

Albums:

The Collection by Nina Simone (Exclusive 2014 Spotify album)- This features music from Simone’s career in the 60s, 70’s, and maybe 80’s. Genre: classical, jazz, blues, pop

Tracy Chapman (1988) by Tracy Chapman.  Genre: folk, blues

The Bomb Shelter Sessions (2012) by Vintage Trouble. Genre: rock, soul, R&B

The Live and Aflame Sessions (2012) by Akua Naru. Genre: hip-hop and jazz with a dash of soul and spoken word

Metaphorical Madness (2003) by Nujabes. Genre: hip-hop and jazz

Freedom Suite (2010) by The Beast and Neena Freelon. Genre: hip-hop and jazz

Be Good (2012)by Gregory Porter.  Genre: jazz, soul

For The Whole World to See (1976) by Death Genre: punk rock, funk

EP:

Boy Without A Fairy (2013) by Dr. Awkward. Genre: nerdcore rap

Room for Living (2013) by Marian Mereba. Genre: folk

Spectrum 2.0 (2009) by BOSCO. Genre: jazz, funk, trip-hop, R&B

Wasted Years (2013) by Claire Renee and Joe Grisly. Genre: jazz, hip-hop, soul

Songs:

“Unwind” (2003) by P!nk. Genre: rock

“Free” (2003) by P!nk.  Genre: rock

“Zah-Zuh-Zaz” (1930’s) by Cab Calloway. Genre: jazz

“The Ghost of Smokey Joe” (1930’s) by Cab Calloway. Genre: jazz

“Happy Home (Keep on Writing)” (2008) by Kimya Dawson. Genre: anti-folk

“I Like Giants” (2006) by Kimya Dawson. Genre: anti-folk

“The Competition” (2006) by Kimya Dawson. Genre: anti-folk

“Blak Girls” (2008) by Shelley Nicole’s blakbushe Genre: funk

“Run Like The River” (2012) by Vintage Trouble. Genre: rock and soul

“They Say I’m Different” (1974) by Betty Davis.  Genre: funk

“F.U.N.K.” (1974) by Betty Davis. Genre: funk

“Baby Love” (1977) by Mother’s Finest. Genre: funk

“Truth Will Set You Free”(1977) by Mother’s Finest. Genre: funk

“Fairy Tail Main Theme (slow ver.)” by Yasuharu Takanashi. Genre: instrumental Celtic music

“Natsu’s Theme” by Yasuharu Takanashi. Genre: instrumental Celtic rock

“Carla’s Confession” by Yasuharu Takanashi. Genre: instrumental Celtic music

“Lucy and The Power of Her Celestial Spirits” by Yasuharu Takanashi. Genre: instrumental Celtic rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

December 8, 2014 at 9:08 PM

My Favorite Music of 2014: Albums, EPs, Mixtapes, and Songs

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Update Dec. 4 2014: Added the album “Crimson Cord”, which I found after this was originally posted.

Since the year is winding down, I’d thought I’d go ahead and post about my favorite music of 2014. I’ve discovered a lot of great music this year and I enjoyed listening to all of it. I will also be doing another 2014 music list about music from past years that I discovered this year, so stay tuned for that.

Albums:

Dirty Gold by Angel Haze (Genre: hip-hop, pop, R&B)

Landing on a Hundred + B Sides and Remixes by Cody ChesnuTT (Genre: funk, soul, rock)

Gary Clark Jr. Live by Gary Clark Jr. (Genre: blues, soul, rock)

Sky Blew’s Unmodern Life by Sky Blew (Genre: nerdcore with a little soul and jazz)

Crimson Cord by Propaganda (Genre: hip-hop, spoken word)

EP’s and Mixtapes

The Reintroduction of Mumu Fresh by Maimouna Youssef (Genre: hip-hop, pop, soul)

Another M by Sammus (Genre: nerdcore)

Blak and Blu: The Mixtape by Gary Clark Jr. (Genre: blues, rock, soul, hip-hop)

Broke and Baroque by Chargaux (Genre: classical, experimental)

Dragonfly by Purple Ferdinand (Genre: folk)

KULA by KULA (Genre: rock)

Songs:

“Angels and Airwaves” by Angel Haze (Genre: hip-hop, pop)

“Gold Digga” by Sa’ra Charismata (Genre: electro-pop)

“Gunpowder on the Letter” by Cody ChesnuTT feat. Gary Clark Jr. (Genre: blues rock)

“Pity” by Estère (Genre: witch-hop, soul)

“Stardust” by Maimouna Youssef (Genre: soul)

“Please Come Home” by Gary Clark Jr. feat. Alice Smith (Genre: R&B, rock)

“What If Times” by Shinobi Ninja (Genre: pop-rock, rap)

“Break The Cycle” by You + Me (Genre: pop)

“NPC Anthem (Part 1)” by Mega Ran feat. Doug Funnie, 1-Up, and Kadesh Flow (Genre: nerdcore)

“Land of Opportunity” by A Great Big World (Genre: pop with a dash of jazz)

“Weapon” by Bastille feat. Angel Haze, F*U*G*Z, and Braque (Genre: hip-hop, pop)

Written by Serena Zola

November 28, 2014 at 9:00 AM

7 Reasons Janelle Monáe Should Be More Popular

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Janelle Monae

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Author’s Note: I feel like the original spotlight I did on Janelle Monáe last year did not do her justice, so I’m doing another one. Another reason is that I’m tired of reading YouTube comments that say she has no talent.

1. She has created an epic music saga that has science fiction, romance, and sociopolitical commentary.

Beginning with Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase, the story is set in a futuristic world called Metropolis where there is a class system of humans and androids. Humans make up the wealthy while androids make up the working class and poor. The main protagonist of the story is the android Cindi Mayweather, who is sent back in time to free Metropolis from its strife. Cindi’s story begins when she becomes the target of Metropolis’s government for falling in love with a human  named Anthony Greendown.

The albums Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase and The ArchAndroid focus on Cindi’s attempts to evade the authorities, becoming aware of what is going on in the world around her, and realizing how she could change things.

The Electric Lady, Monae’s most recent album, is set before The Archandroid album and tells multiple stories. First, there is Cindi’s past before she fell in love with Anthony Greendown. Then, there are the identities Cindi assumes when she is sent back in time,  Janelle Monae and The Electric Lady. Finally, there is the daily lives of the androids in Metropolis.

With this much creative storytelling, it is impossible to skip a track on her albums.

2. All the albums of The Metropolis saga feature a variety of genres and influences.

Despite being her shortest work so far, Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase, is a great blend of R&B, funk, soul, and operatic elements. The ArchAndroid  is her most eclectic work, featuring classical, pop. rock, jazz,  electronica,  and funk. Finally, The Electric Lady  features different sides to R&B, showing its connection to funk, soul, rock, jazz, and hip-hop.

Collectively, you can hear a variety of musical influences on Monae such as David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, and Betty Davis (the funk singer).

3. Her music videos are just as creative as her albums.

They work together with the songs to tell the story of Cindi Mayweather and Metropolis. It’s a shame more videos weren’t made for The Archandroid. 

Notable videos:

“Many Moons”– from Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase

“Cold War”– from The ArchAndroid

“Q.U.E.E.N” – from The Electric Lady

4.  Her singing and dancing, whether live or studio, is phenomenal.

With her dancing, you can see how Michael Jackson and James Brown influenced her. She channels her own energy into their moves to create fun, exciting performances. When it comes to her voice, it has a great range that goes from soothing low notes to energetic and soulful high notes.

Songs and Performances with notable vocals:

“Cindi” from The Audition (a very rare album released in 2003)

“Come Alive (War of The Roses)” from The Archandroid

“Say You’ll Go” (Live audio from a National Public Radio session)- from The ArchAndroid

“Ba Bop Bye Ya” (Live from Emory University)- from The ArchAndroid

Music Videos and Performances with notable dancing:

“Tightrope” from The Archandroid

“Dance Apocalyptic” (Live from the David Letterman Show)- from The Electric Lady

“Electric Lady”  (Live on The Today Show) from The Electric Lady

5. Certain tracks are made to empower or represent specific groups of people.

“Cindi”(see above link)- encourages those who don’t fit in to accept themselves and be themselves

“Q.U.E.E.N.” (see above link)- According to an interview, the song is meant for women and those with different sexual orientations,  but is also an acronym for  the queer, the untouchables, the excommunicated, the emmigrants, and the negroid.

“Ghetto Woman” from The Electric Lady– for working class women

6. According to an acceptance speech she gave at Black Girls Rock! in 2012, she stated that she wears her signature black and white tuxedo to honor her parents and to stay connected to the community.

7.  Janelle Monáe is a brilliant, beautiful, and  talented woman who cannot and should not be categorized because she dances to her own beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

October 12, 2014 at 10:59 PM

6 Reasons New Generations Must Listen to Nina Simone

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Nina Simone

Source: Wikipedia

1.  During the Civil Rights Movement, she wrote songs that expressed the anger, grief, and hope of black people.

My personal favorites are To Be Young, Gifted and Black and Revolution (Parts 1 and 2). To Be Young Gifted and Black was an anthem of the civil rights movement, but I consider it a personal anthem for myself now. Revolution is a fantastic musical representation of the defiance and chaos going on at the time.

2. “Four Women” is a song that black women of all shades and ages can connect to either personally or emotionally.

When I first heard this song, I was entranced by Simone’s voice and the raw lyrics. The song plays out like a stage performance, with Simone singing different parts. By the end of the song, Simone’s voice had me stunned.

3.  She was an eclectic artist that was hard to pin down.

She sang the blues and gospel, fused jazz and pop with classical, and even had one song with reggae influences. One of the first Nina Simone songs that I enjoyed was “Love Me or Leave Me“. Her piano playing was a pleasant surprise, especially when she switched from jazz to classical and then back. Another favorite of mine is “Little Girl Blue“.  I love Janis Joplin’s version, but Simone’s version is beautiful and soothing.

 

4.  She had great live performances where she improvised on piano and looked like a queen.

“I Love You Porgy”- Live 1960

“Mississippi Goddam”- Live 1965

“Work Song”- Live 1966

“Ain’t Got No… I Got Life Life”- Live 1969

5.  She has influenced rap, pop, and R&B musicians such as Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Talib Kweli,  and Lauryn Hill.

6.  She was a hardworking, outspoken, talented, and resilient spirit.

Very recently, I finished reading Simone’s autobiography I Put A Spell on You.  It is a tale of how she endured racism, physical and emotional abuse, alienation, and bi-polar disorder (which she wasn’t diagnosed for until after the events of the book). She endured all this and made music that moved people and inspired them to action. For that, she is amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Reasons More People Should Know About Funk Singer Betty Davis

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[Betty-cycle.jpg]

Source: Blogspot

1. They Say I’m Different” is possibly the best anthem ever for a black woman who doesn’t fit in. 

Not to mention, it pays homage to the blues and rock musicians that became Davis’s influences. It has become my favorite song of hers because I can relate to the lyrics and it is one of her best funk rock songs. My favorite part is when she yells “Chuck Berry!” and his signature chords are played on guitar.

2. She did a fantastic tribute to funk called “F.U.N.K.”

From her growls and yells to the rhythm, this is an amazing song that pays homage to funk and soul musicians. It is a song for funk musicians and funk listeners alike.

3.  Her voice (and half of her lyrics) is sex  and unbridled passion that is pioneering.

If this isn’t evident already. Her growls, purrs, and yells can be heard in almost every song of hers. You can hear her in current female singers like Janet Jackson and Beyoncé. In my opinion, her voice is best appreciated in slower paced songs like  “Anti-Love Song” and “You and I“.

4. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

When it comes to this, my favorite songs are “Don’t Call Her No Tramp” and “Dedicated to The Press“. During an era when some women were expected to be seen and not heard, she said whatever she wanted and held her own in a genre dominated by men. Other honorable mentions are the songs “Steppin in her I Miller Shoes” and  “Stars Starve You  Know“, which are cautionary tales for aspiring musicians.

5. She has influenced multiple genres.

Her most notable influence would be with Miles Davis. According to an interview with The Guardian, Betty Davis was featured on the cover of Miles’s album Filles de Kilimanjaro and inspired two tracks. She also introduced him to Jimi Hendrix. Other influences include the hip-hop group Outkast and the independent black rock singer Tamar-Kali.

6. She is the total package: sexy, talented, and bold.

She has become one of my favorite black musicians of the past because she was a pioneer as a person and a musician. She showed women it was okay to express your sexuality and your mind. She showed men that women can do dirty funk just as well as they could (if not better). Her influence can be heard in many mainstream and independent musicians, whether they know it or not. It almost makes up for being so underrated in the 70’s.

7. There is NO FOOTAGE of her on YouTube.

The reason I made this post isn’t just because I really like some of her music and want others to do the same. I want to see some live footage of her on YouTube someday. I imagine her being Madonna before Madonna came on the scene, sensually moving on stage and singing her butt off to entice the crowd. Please, if anybody has any footage of her performing, put it online. The world deserves more than Nicki Manaj’s butt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM

End of Summer Music Spotlight: More Afropunk Goodness!

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Summer has flown by fast. My For Harriet internship is just about finished and my fall semester of college starts on Saturday (got an online class that starts on the weekend). To end the summer with a bang, I’m going to share Afropunk music that I’ve discovered since my other summer music spotlight. I’m also including some musicians and downloads I completely forgot to mention.  As in my other music post, I will include free downloads that the musicians have made available. Also, feel free to go to Afropunk.com and sign up for their newsletter for more goodies.

1. Sophia Ramos

Genre: Soul, rock

Free Downloads: ” Freedom is Over” (from the free compilation album Fire in The Dark), “Esperanza“, “Let Me Tell You Something

2.  Songs from the compilation album Fire in The Dark (these are my personal favorites)

“Blak Girls” by Shelley Nicole Blackbushe– an empowering funk song for black women

“On Planet Earth” by California King– a rock ballad about youth and drugs

“The Last Time We’re Here” by The Family Stand– a soulful rock song about redemption

“Fear of Numbers” by Milk Plus– a fierce rock song about the fear of people coming together

Bonus Song I found after I did a Google Search- “Shades of Blue” by The Family Stand

3. Quinn Deveaux and The Blue Beat Review

Genre: rock n’ roll, gospel, blues, jazz, soul

Notable Song: Left This Town

Free Download:  Under Covers (a collection of cover songs that don’t sound like cover songs)

4. Sa’ Ra Charismata

Genre: Progressive conscious pop

Notable Song: Gold Digga

Free Download: Big Man Pharma

5.  Hadassah

Genre: soul

Free Download: Lexicon of Love EP

6. Princess Nokia

Genre: experimental, electronica

Free Download: Metallic Butterfly EP (in the article, click where it says “click here for the download”)

 

Other Free EPs I forgot to mention in past posts

Geechee Goddess Hardcore Warrior Soul by Tamar Kali– soulful, empowering rock

The Roxx Boxx Experience by Divinity Roxx– fun, empowering rap-rock (scroll down, click where it says “free exclusive download” and put in your email)

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Live Performance Spotlight: “Geechy Joe” by Cab Calloway

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I haven’t done many live performance music video spotlights this year, so I will pick it up again now. As I mentioned during Black Music Month in May,  jazz musician Cab Calloway has become one of my favorite black musicians of the past. He was a charismatic performer with a big voice, smooth dance moves, and amazing scatting skills. Not to mention, a cool enough intellect to create his own slang dictionary known as The Hepster’s Dictionary.

This performance is my number one favorite Cab Calloway performance. Taken from my favorite blues and jazz film Stormy Weather, it is one of Cab Calloway’s most famous appearances. The moment he walks out on stage in his zoot suit, you know you are in for a treat.  Showcasing his vocal range, dance moves, and powerful stage presence, this is an iconic performance that everyone should watch.

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Summer Music Spotlight: Afropunk and Black Nerdcore Rappers

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A couple of months ago, I did a post on my top ten Afropunk musicians. Since then, I’ve discovered more Afropunk musicians as well as black nerd core rappers. If you want to get in the know about the newest Afropunk music, go to the Afropunk website and sign up for an account. By doing this, you’ll also subscribe to a free weekly newsletter that will be emailed to you.

When it comes to black nerdcore rappers, it was something I discovered via a post on For Harriet, the blog I’m interning for. Nerdcore is basically rap music about nerdy things like video games and comics as well as other subjects. It may or may not use chiptune, the sound you hear on classic Nintendo Games.

While nerdcore is dominated by white males, there are some black ones too. I’ll get to them later on in this post. For now, let’s get the Afropunk musicians out the way. I’ll even let you know about free downloads if the musicians have any.

1. Maimouna Youssef

Genre: Rap, jazz, pop, soul, spoken word

Some Favorite Songs: I’m A Woman, We’re Already Royals, Tell My StoryBasquiat The Concrete/All Shea Everything

Free Downloads:  The Reintroduction of Mumu Fresh Mixtape

2. Chargaux

Genre: classical with elements of other genres

Some Favorite Songs:  All The PartiesGreat Expectations

Free Downloads: The Gallerina Suites

3. Purple Ferdinand

Genre: Folk

Some Favorite Songs: BirdsWasn’t Taught To

Free Downloads: DragonFly EP (click free download and use your email or Facebook to get it)

4. Estere

Genre: soul with elements of hip-hop and electronica

Some Favorite Songs: I Spy, Reptilian Journey, Culture ClashPity

Free Downloads: Estere mixtape

5. The Objex

Genre: punk rock

Some Favorite Songs: GG. Social Disease, R.S.V.P.

Free Downloads: R.S.V.P. (see above link), Toxic Waste Girl

6.  Cody ChestnuTT

Genre:  soul, funk, blues, rock

Some Favorite Songs: I’ve Been Life, That’s Still Mama, Under The Spell of The Handout

Free Download: Landing on a Hundred (on the right, click Free Mp3  and then Free Download)

Black Nerdcore Rappers

1. Sammus

Some Favorite Songs: Fly Nerd, Cybernetic Armor, America

Free Downloads: Fly Nerd EP, America (see above link)

2.  Mega Ran

Some Favorite Songs: Chun Li (with Ryu Black and Masia One),  Maya’s Song, Infinite Lives (featuring D&D Sluggers)

Free Downloads:  Maya’s Song (see above link), Infinite Lives (see above link)

 

 

 

 

Black Music Month Spotlight: My Favorite Black Musicians of The Past

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Since this is my first year celebrating black music month, I’d like to share my favorite black musicians of the past. As an early twenty-something, I am so grateful to be able to appreciate these musicians and their impact on music today.

Janet Jackson- As a 90’s kid, I grew up listening to her and Michael. On her birthday last month, I rediscovered her music via a bunch of tracks that were not released as singles and songs released as alternative versions. My favorite Janet songs are “The Knowledge“, “Velvet Rope“, “Special“, “Funky Big Band” and the guitar mix version of “Black Cat“.  My favorite Janet music video is “Alright“.

When I was a kid, my parents recorded The Velvet Rope tour on VHS when it came on HBO. I loved watching that concert over and over. I also liked watching a VHS tape I still have called The Rhythm Nation compilation, which has all the music videos from the album Rhythm Nation 1814.

Death, the punk band If you have viewed the documentary A Band Called Death like I have, then you know that this band has a unique and special story. In the mid-70’s the band’s original line-up (David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney) recorded the master tapes for what would become the album Death For The Whole World To See. Unfortunately, the band’s name prevented any record company from fully supporting them, and the music would remain unknown until 2008.

I liked that David Hackney, the band’s late guitarist and founder, was willing to stick to what he believed the band should be. He was the one who came up with the name Death and the spirituality around it, and I liked how he incorporated some of  his beliefs into the song “Let The World Turn“.

Another thing I like about this band is that they were willing to play rock music during a time when black musicians were expected to do Motown or soul and disco music. Some tracks on For The Whole World To See incorporate funk and rock, which is really cool.

Overall, I think this band was ahead of their time. Listening to them led me to discover the Afro-punk music genre, so I’m happy I learned about them.

Poly Styrene from the punk band X-Ray Spex- I love how Poly yelled the lyrics with so much fire and conviction. She didn’t care how she sounded, because she had something she wanted people to hear no matter what. I also liked that she held her ground in a mostly white, male-dominated genre.  I love the song “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” because it really lets you know who she is. Heck, the entire Germ Free Adolescents album reflects her bold spirit. R.I.P. Poly.

Rock Musician Chuck Berry- He was the first classic rock musician I ever listened to. I have four songs from him on my iPod, but I like watching live clips of him on YouTube because you can see how awesome his guitar playing was. Like most people, I think “Johnny B. Goode” is the best.

Blues-Jazz Singer Billie Holiday- I love her voice, especially when it was younger because it was so golden. I love the way she stretches out the words on songs like “Billie’s Blues” because it allows me to savor the emotion in her voice. I also liked how she could fight when she wanted to. According to a BBC documentary I watched, she once hit a guy with a chair because he made a lewd gesture toward her when she was performing the haunting anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit“.

Jazz Singer Sarah Vaughan- Her young voice is like drinking something warm and sweet. It always gives me a good, soothing feeling when I listen to it. She is my number one favorite female jazz singer. My favorite song by her is “Autumn in New York“. I wish I could go back in time and see her live. Recently, I discovered a beautiful live version of the song “Over The Rainbow“.

Jazz musician and bandleader Cab Calloway- I’ve had a couple of his songs on my iPod, but I’ve recently added four more and have become fascinated by him. His upbeat songs like “Jumpin Jive” are so energetic and fun to listen to. I love that he is multi-talented; he could sing, dance, scat, compose songs, and lead a band. Not to mention, he had his own dictionary of slang words!

Besides Sarah, he is someone else I’d love to see live. Recently, I watched this great documentary about him called Sketches and have been watching some live footage of his performances. One that has become a favorite is “St. Louis Blues“. In the past, I also remember loving the live version of “Jumpin Jive” with The Nicholas Brothers from the film Stormy Weather.

Honorable Mentions:

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong– I love Ella’s voice and scatting and Louis’s voice and trumpet playing, but I think they sound best together. They are they perfect combo. Love their versions of  “Summertime” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me“.

Michael Jackson- My favorite song by him will always be “Human Nature“. It holds a special place in my heart because I love the lyrics and his vocals and this song helped me put imagery into my poetry when I was in high school. I don’t really have a particular favorite music video, but I always enjoyed watching the movie Moonwalker on VHS. R.I.P. Michael.

 

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