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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Maybe There's Some Truth to losing People in Threes-The Passing of thespian Percy Rodriguez and musicians Bobby Byrd & Joe Zawinul

Well it's that time again when I get frustrated at the loss of heroes that have played a tangential role in my cultural upbringing. First up, we have lost one of the great character actors of a bygone era, Percy Rodriguez. Many of you coming from a Afronerd persuasion, perhaps best know him from his role as Commodore Stone in the Star Trek (the original series) episode (the snippet, above) "Court-Martial". Rodriguez definitely provided the template for a generation of Black actors interested in mimicking his consistency in playing dignified roles-a mantra that appears to be losing ground in this current neo-minstrel entertainment phase. Here's more on the death of Mr. Rodriguez, courtesy of PittsburghLive.com:

Percy Rodrigues, neurosurgeon on 'Peyton Place,' dead at 89
By The Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2007

Percy Rodrigues, whose role as a neurosurgeon on the 1960s television series "Peyton Place" broke ground because he was cast as an authority figure when relatively few black actors were given such parts, has died. He was 89.
Rodrigues, who also had a long career as a voice actor, died of kidney failure Sept. 6 at his home in Indio, Calif., said his wife, Karen Cook-Rodrigues.

With a booming voice and a commanding presence, Rodrigues came to Hollywood in the 1960s from Broadway and "respectfully fought for these more dignified roles," his wife said. "He was most proud of that."

Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, said, "Television didn't have its equivalent of Jackie Robinson -- there wasn't that one moment when the race barrier was broken. But Percy was one of a very small army of actors who were in a relatively quiet way beginning to get these roles that television was very reluctant in the 1960s to give to black actors."

For more of the above piece, click on the link below:

Percy Rodrigues, neurosurgeon on 'Peyton Place,' dead at 89

And for Wikipedia's take on Percy Rodriguez, click here:

Wiki does Percy Rodriguez

Typical conversation between Mr. Starks and I:

(Mr. Starks) "Dburt, what you gonna write about now?"

(Dburt) "Mr. Starks, I don't know.....but's it's got to be funky"

Okay we really don't speak to each other like that but we both definitely acknowledge the death of the Godfather's right hand man, Bobby Byrd. And if you pay close attention to Byrd's preeminent composition (above) I Know You Got Soul, it has been sampled (and literally carved up like a turkey) by a litany of hip hop artists. Now, the true test will be if the hip hop community will lend a few words of recognition to an artist (along with Mr. Brown, of course) who was highly instrumental in the development of the rap genre. But then again, Mr. Brown really didn't receive his credit from the hip hop industry when he died either. So I guess it will be unnecessary to hold my breath as well. Anyway, here's more on Byrd's passing, thanks to the Washington Post:

Bobby Byrd, 73, a singer, pianist and songwriter credited with discovering James Brown and who was one of his most important collaborators for two decades, died Sept. 12 at his home in Loganville, Ga. He had lung cancer.

Without Mr. Byrd, it has been asserted by some music scholars, Brown might not have become famous beyond the walls of a Georgia youth detention facility, much less become the "godfather of soul." Mr. Byrd was dubbed by some "the godfather's godfather."

In the early 1950s, Mr. Byrd's family helped secure Brown's early release from a juvenile detention facility in Georgia. The Byrds provided a home for Brown, who hitched himself to Mr. Byrd's gospel group, which morphed into a much more secular vocal band. The Famous Flames were led by Brown, who strutted his way to international funk stardom as the "hardest-working man in show business."

Mr. Byrd remained with the Famous Flames, and subsequently the JBs, for 20 years. During that time, he energized crowds before the cape-sporting superstar appeared. He participated with Brown on million-selling records such as Brown's "Live at the Apollo" on several TV appearances.

As a composer, Mr. Byrd received co-authorship billing on songs including "Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothin', " "Licking Stick," "Get Up, Get into It and Get Involved" and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine." For the last, he was heard on the recording shouting the famous refrain, "Get on up!"

For more of the Post article, click below:

Bobby Byrd, 73;Musician Credited In Igniting Career Of James Brown

And last but certainly not the least of us, is the passing of Weather Report co-founder, Joe Zawinul. I literally grew up listening to a healthy dose of jazz-rock fusion and Weather Report's Birdland (a homage to Charlie "Bird" Parker) was constantly played in my household especially while listening to the now defunct NY jazz station, WRVR. Take a gander at what the BBC News has to say about the legendary Mr. Zawinul:

Zawinul, 75, passed away at his home in Vienna. Austrian media reports said he had been suffering from skin cancer.

The celebrated keyboardist enjoyed his biggest hit - the Grammy-winning Birdland - with Weather Report in 1977.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer said Zawinul's death meant the loss of a "music ambassador" who was known and cherished around the world.

Here's more from the BBC:

"As a person and through his music, Joe Zawinul will remain unforgettable for us all," the president said in a statement.

Born in Vienna, where he attended the Vienna Conservatory, Zawinul is credited with bringing the electric piano, as well as African and Middle Eastern rhythms, to mainstream jazz.

The artist emigrated to the United States in 1959, where he played with jazz stars including Dinah Washington and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley.

Honorary grave

He went on to perform and record with the great Miles Davis on such chart-topping albums as In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew.

In the early 1970s, Zawinul founded Weather Report with saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bass player Miroslav Vitous.

Weather Report pianist dies at 75

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