I’ve always had a passion for music and the arts ever since I could remember. I still had the Grammy’s tribute recorded on my DVR and finally had a chance to watch it last night. I grew up with “little” Stevie Wonder and have followed his music and life work for a long time. His list of songs is immeasurable. The ones I sing over and over like “Isn’t She Lovely”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, “My Cherie Amour”, “Superstition”, “You Are The Sunshine of My Life”, “For Once in My Life” will always be part of my musical repertoire.
Stevie was also a social activist and was one of the main figures in the campaign to have the birthday of Martin Luther King become a national holiday. He created his own song, “Happy Birthday”, to make this cause known. In 1983 the creation of the holiday was approved by President Ronald Reagan and is celebrated on the third Monday of January each year.
Also, I am a great fan of film and want to celebrate one of Rhode Island’s favorite “daughters”, Viola Davis, for her cover story on this week’s “Entertainment Weekly”.
Davis was born in South Carolina but her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island a few months after she was born. By the way, Central Falls is the smallest city in the smallest state in the country (1 square mile!)
Her story is an inspiring one. She grew up in a dysfunctional family with poverty and alcoholism. She credits her love of stage acting and the arts to her alma mater, Central Falls High School. Davis graduated from Rhode Island College in 1988 with a major in theatre. She received her SAG card in 1996. Her leading role in the film “The Help” (2010) won her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 2012 Time magazine listed her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Viola still has close ties to her Rhode Island family and her alma mater, where her sister is now an English teacher. Every Thursday night she is the star the ABC hit drama “How to Get Away With Murder”. If you haven’t seen her in action, you should tune in.
With the hundreds of artists from the Black community who were such an influence on me growing up, I always had the urge to do what I really wanted to do: get up on stage and sing. During the late 70’s and early 80’s I did just that and sang with an Oldie but Goodie and then a Classic Rock band the tunes that inspired me most. Chuck Berry (“Little Queenie”, “Johnny B. Goode”) was another hero of mine as were the girl groups like The Shirelles (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”). I sang those and many others. Everybody danced to Chubby Checkers’ “The Twist” when I grew up. What about you? What artists influenced you the most? Let me know…
See you Thursday…
In memory of my friend, Esther Walker, the only Black student in my graduating class of over 600+ students at Cranston High School East who went on to become the first Black hostess to fly for Delta Airlines. You reached the sky Esther! R.I. P.