Monday, April 5, 2010

Blowing UBM's Cover...

I have had the good fortune of having David Mills as an uncle for the entirety of my life. I won't take long but I wanted to take this time to blow UBM's cover and share with you all the real David Mills.

David was the youngest of five children and was born to his parents later in their life. His father was close to 51 when he was born and his mom in her mid thirties. Early in David's life his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and her decline was both dramatic and life altering. Dave was an inquisitive child and a voracious reader...a true "old soul". His love for words became evident at an early age as he would pore over his dad's unabridged dictionary and read the Washington Star.

Due to his parents age and health Dave spent alot of time with me and my mother (his older sister by 19 years) growing up. He had an incredibly mature wit for a kid and would cause me to have multiple belly laughs due to his jokes. He created this character called "The Ghost of Chareshema" and would stand at the top of the stairs and scare the life out of me...this was likely the first character he ever created. We also LOVED "Charlie's Angels" as kids...I preferred Jaclyn Smith while he was more of a Kate Jackson guy. He would write scripts on 3 X 5 cards and create his own stories for the show while I drew cartoon strips showing how the scenes should look.

Dave was an involved uncle. He was five years my senior and always checked in on me. He flew me to Chicago after he got his first real job, gave me cash while in college, and always provided a listening ear. He taught me to love music from the Average White Band, Beatles, Elton John, Bee Gees to the Ohio Players, Spinners, Gap Band and of course Funkadelic. We used to sing B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets out loud in fake microphones an play pretend instruments. He was a boatload of fun!

Everyone knows his accomplishments and his intellectual heft but what most did not know is that Dave was a devoted family guy. He loved his parents and siblings. He had a father who modeled modesty and frugality for Dave and was equally brilliant. His mother had a wicked sense of humor in spite of her illness. David was a beautiful combination of the both of them...sensitive yet strong, compassionate and analytical.

David adored his mother and in spite of his success made time to regularly check in on his mom and provide anything she needed or wanted while she spent her last years in a nursing home. He always shared his success with his family, inviting them to awards ceremonies, premiers etc., but he always seemed to feel uncomfortable with the accolades. He hated the shallowness and fakeness of Hollywood, preferring to keep a small circle of friends. While insular in nature he shared his skills and talents with so many people.

Dave was an incredibly brave guy. As a young man he beat Cancer and always had the balls to confront ignorance from a purely intellectual vantage point, never letting the noise of the exchange get to him. Being a "red bone" brother he constantly was exposed to racial ignorance...from black folk in Northeast growing up to dumb rednecks on the internet and even uninformed Hollywood producers. He never let this paralyze was like mental weight lifting to made him strong. Interestingly enough for him to pass in diverse, Creole, Mullatto New Orleans was somewhat ironic. I truly feel that he felt peace there...he fit in.

Dave approached me a couple of years ago and said to me that "I hate to do this to you Clifie but in the event something happens to me I have designated you to take care of my business". I told him that I hope we will be old farts when that happened and that he is only five years ahead of me so he may need to have my back instead. He spent Christmases with me and my family. He was a super uncle to them coming to spelling bees, graduations and other stuff. When Uncle Dave came over we held Scrabble tournaments with the kids and played a newer game this year called Smart Mouth. He would always SPANK us but my oldest son would give him a run.

While on vacation on March 30th I got a frantic call from a close friend of Dave's telling me that Dave had an aneurism. I immediately made arrangements to fly to New Orleans but he left us that night. I am now forced to "take care of his business" but in classic Mills fashion he has made it easy. He died filming a scene in front of Cafe DuMonde...very quickly and apparently painlessly. I visited the spot and had the pleasure of sitting in a directors chair while a scene on his project was being filmed. I put on the headphones and looked through the computer screen at the scene and at that moment I fell apart. It was surreal, I felt him and I understood why he loved his craft so much. I witnessed how the script of his life closed, with a surprise ending but no less beautiful. I smelled the air, experienced the people, ate the food, marinated in the multi-cultural Gumbo called New Orleans.

David leaves so much for us to cherish and it is much deeper than his professional accomplishments. Dave never ever talked about himself. He rarely used the word "I", he hated the spotlight and always expected the best from himself. David was about excellence and exemplified it in an unassuming way.

I have the good fortune of telling my children that when they look at David Mills' life they can see what CHARACTER actually looks like. He modeled for us all how to shut up and put up, how to be the best and not talk about it. I recognize that I am blogging on hallowed ground but I feel it is important to reach out to his UBM peeps. The family will keep this living memorial available for all to see.

The service for Dave will be on Monday April 12th at the University of Maryland Chapel in College Park, MD. The wake will be from 9AM to 11AM and the service will begin at 11AM. You can google the chapel for directions. On behalf of UBM I want to thank you and let you know that he loved the exchange this medium provided.

Clifton Porter II
Nephew and Fellow Funkateer

Monday, March 29, 2010

‘Treme’ is less than two weeks away.

And HBO has uploaded a 14-minute preview. You can check it out below. Also, TV critics are starting to weigh in. The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik dug the first episode.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I, Obama

Have y’all noticed something peculiar – and a little off-putting – about Barack Obama’s rhetorical style as president? Have you noticed how he over-personalizes shit? Makes it all about him?

I’ve noticed this for a while, but felt compelled to blog about it tonight... after President Obama’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Where he said this:

“I’ve made a promise to all of you who serve. I will never send you into harm’s way unless it’s absolutely necessary. I anguish in thinking about the sacrifices that so many of you make. That’s why I promise I will never send you out unless it is necessary.”

You anguish, Mr. President? You anguish? Dude, nobody wants to hear about your “anguish.” Least of all soldiers who gotta go out tomorrow and get shot at.

It’s your job to anguish about stuff like that, Mr. Obama. Being president is the hardest job in the world, and you wanted it. Now just do the job without congratulating yourself for having to do it... and without soliciting sympathy.

I found the complete text of Obama’s Afghanistan remarks online. Check this out:

I'll tell you right now the same thing that I said at West Point last December. If I thought for a minute that America’s vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away.”

Did previous presidents talk this way? I don’t think so. Nor do I think a president should talk this way... constantly referring to himself personally, to his own feelings, to his own power.

Let’s keep an eye on this moving forward. I will surely blog about it again.

Playlist: Killer musicians

Today I’m streaming tracks by four recording artists with something in common. These men are notable not just for making music... but for taking a human life. All four ended up convicted killers.

(Isn’t this a cool concept for a playlist? I semi-ripped it from another blog: Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.)

1. “Fever” – Little Willie John

A 1950s R&B hitmaker who would influence James Brown, Little Willie John was the first to record “Fever,” a tune made much more famous by Peggy Lee. I never knew about this original version, though it was a million-seller.

Now a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Little Willie John died in 1968 as an inmate of Washington State Prison, serving time for manslaughter. Several years earlier, the volatile little man stabbed a guy during a fight.

2. “A Way From It All” – Don Drummond

Trombonist and composer Don Drummond, a founding member of the Skatalites, was one of Jamaica’s greatest musicians. He was also mentally ill. Drummond died in a Kingston mental asylum in 1969, put there after murdering his girlfriend, an exotic dancer.

3. “Shame On You” – Spade Cooley

Fiddler and bandleader Spade Cooley was a country-western star. He had a popular show in L.A. during the early days of television. This recording, “Shame On You,” was No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart for weeks in 1945.

Spade Cooley’s enduring legend, however, has not to do with music. In 1961, he beat and stomped his wife to death after an argument. Did it in front of their teenage daughter. Cooley was sentenced to life in prison, and he died of a heart attack in 1969.

Dennis Quaid has been trying for years to get a movie made about Cooley.

4. “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby” – Pat Hare

Catchy title, huh? Memphis bluesman Pat Hare cut this track for Sun Records in 1954, but it wasn’t released until 1990... long after Hare had actually murdered his baby and died in prison.

A guitar player with a distinctively aggressive sound, Pat Hare gigged and recorded with the likes of Muddy Waters and Bobby “Blue” Bland. Hare moved to Minneapolis in the early ’60s to perform in Mojo Buford’s new band.

Alas, in 1962, a domestic dispute ended with Hare shooting his girlfriend dead. He also shot and killed a policeman who responded to the call. Hare got a life sentence.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

UBM goes to Metairie

This morning, for the first time since coming to Louisiana, I drove through Metairie (the nearest suburb to New Orleans). Needed to pick up my new jacket after alterations, and had time to kill.

Hey, remember that Smith & Wesson cologne I mentioned? The haberdasher hit me off with a few free samples. I’ll try it out tonight at the charity event I’m going to.

I’ll be like, “Ask me about my scent.” (And people’ll be like, “Yeah, dude... we been meaning to talk to you about your ‘scent.’ ”)

Anyhoo... New Orleans may look like no other city in America, but Metairie looks like every other suburb. Veterans Boulevard gots nothing going on except for convenient shopping. And I decided to make a few quick stops.

Passed by a pet store. On a window were painted the words “African and South American Cichlids.” I was like, “Ohhh shit! They got cichlids?”

Then I was like, “What the fuck is a cichlid?” (Turns out it’s a family of fish.)

I ducked into a CVS drug store. Made an impulse purchase of CVS-brand cookies. The dark-chocolate-topped butter cookies.

Know what I like to do with those bad boys? Y’all should try this. Get you some chocolate-topped butter cookies... and spread peanut butter on ’em.

Mmmm... yums. I’m doing it right now, bitches!!

Saturday morning cartoon

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sending love to Garry Shider

Word comes via the online grapevine that Garry Shider of P-Funk has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Shider has been a loyal soldier in George Clinton’s musical army for nearly 30 years... a guitarist, songwriter, vocal arranger and diaper-wearing hype man.

And, of course, a singer. Garry Shider is an amazing singer.

To channel some loving energy in Garry’s direction, let me stream a couple of 1970s tracks on which he wails.

Click here to hear “Sexy Ways.” You’ll notice... it ain’t just about how Garry swings a lyric. It’s about the vamping he does between lines.

Then click here and listen to “Baby I Owe You Something Good,” with special attention paid to the second verse (“I’ve loved, I’ve lost...”). Simply mindblowing.

I had the pleasure, alongside my colleague Larry Alexander, of interviewing Garry Shider back in the ’90s for a P-Funk oral history. He was generous with his time and cool as can be.

Happy birthday, Martin Short.

Martin Short, probably my all-time favorite improvisational comedian, is 60 years old today. Which is all the excuse I need to stream this tune...

“A Big Black Lady Stops the Show” is from Short’s 2006 Broadway show, “Fame Becomes Me.” (The big black lady is Capathia Jenkins.)

Click here to listen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Smith & Wesson makes a fragrance.

I drove to Metairie today during my lunch break to buy a sportcoat, dress shirt and tie. I went the “big & tall” route to make sure I found something that fits.

Anyway, at the cash register, I noticed some colognes on display. And one of them – swear to God – was Smith & Wesson eau de toilette.

Smith & Wesson. Eau de toilette.

Smith & Wesson has been making firearms since 1852. Revolvers, shotguns, pistols, rifles. The world-famous .357 Magnum.

I don’t know how fucking long they’ve been selling men’s cologne. Or why. But I thought it was worth noting.

Random whiteness

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marva Wright (1948-2010)

Another New Orleans music star has passed away.

Blues woman Marva Wright – who sang on Bourbon Street, in the White House and throughout Europe – died this morning. She had suffered two strokes last spring.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary is here.

Click here to hear Ms. Wright’s 2007 recording “Katrina Blues.” Her New Orleans home took almost eight feet of water when the levees broke.

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘Got to Give It Up’

Monday, March 22, 2010

New cuts from Bernie Worrell

One of my favorite living musicians has a new album out, and I never would’ve known except for a casual search of the eMusic database.

Keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell is way off the radar screen of today’s commercial music. That is why God invented blogs.

Having previously declared that I’ll purchase any track Bernie ever played on, I might come off as uncritical. Not the case.

Indeed, I must declare that Mr. Worrell’s new release, “I Don’t Even Know,” isn’t quite making my panties damp. The tracks sound like one-man products of a busy weekend in the home studio. For example, click here and check out “Hearin’ Dis, Playin’ Dat.”

Still... when we’re talking about a prime architect of Parliament-Funkadelic’s greatest hits, any new recording is like a handwritten letter from an old friend.

Click here to hear “Shades of The Kid.” Feel what I mean?

God bless you, Bernie. Keep on speaking through your fingertips.