As musicians, we tend to judge another musician based on how much they’ve practiced, how creative they are, and how pleasant to be around they are, and most other attributes fall away to a distance, including but not limited to skin color, economic background, cultural heritage, and aesthetic sensibilities, for instance. I am not saying that we are free of prejudice, but for decades, for example, I have been under the strong influence of a certain band (Fishbone) who is known partly for their unequivocal FUCK RACISM T-shirts and message. Blow that shit up, right from the start. So, there’s that. I hope to be a bit more pensive about the topic in this post, so bear with me, but that feels like a good starting point.
How do we make decisions in life? The direct seeing of Zen or any deeper, noetic knowing pierces the veil of worldly conditioning, but it is our “worldly being” status that gives us the initial access to this depth. Thus, initially at least, we find ourselves Conditioned. By people and society. Each of us–some more than others–seem to be messed with by our own society: the society that we make! Everyday, every moment.
I thank God from the depths of my being that in spite of so much that is and has been twisted based on superficialities and fear (read: bigotry and ignorance), I have nevertheless grown into who I am in the company of people, fellow musicians, teachers, recordings, books, films and–yes, even TV programs–that infiltrated my life to its very core with some amazing, blessed and brilliant qualities. Qualities that have shaped me from a young age, and that I am grateful to recognize. Of the lists that follow, there is a part of each of these people in everything I do, and since it is Black History Month, I started with a focus on black Americans. The list is thick yet was arrived at quickly, and I consider myself very picky, yet every person’s influence on this list seemed to have arrived in my life at exactly the correct time.
These are not casual presences for me, but true icons of varying degrees.
[“Ain’t That Love” by “Little” Stevie Wonder, 1962]
Deep Core, Life-Direction Influences and Role Models
Inner Circle, Super-strong Influences
The Swan Silvertones
Blind Willie Johnson
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Sly and the Family Stone
The Last Poets
Basic Love & Respect, Strong Influence
Samuel L. Jackson
Mississippi Fred McDowell
Martin Luther King, Jr.
George Washington Carver
Billy Dee Williams