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Remembering Betty Wright (1953-2020)

The singer and songwriter Betty Wright, who has died of cancer aged 66, occupied a significant position in African-American music across six decades, beginning with powerhouse gospel in the 1950s and settling on an R&B, soul and funk groove from the 60s onwards that eventually led to work with superstar rappers of the 2000s.

Wright’s career began as a young child in a gospel group in Florida, and her signature song, Clean Up Woman (1971), was recorded when she was only 17, epitomising what became known as “the Miami sound” – Floridian soul music shaped by the many facets of her home city’s cultural melange.

After years of solid achievement in the US as a singer and songwriter, in the mid-80s she set up her own record label and, although she continued to record her own material, began to make a new name for herself as a producer and songwriter, collaborating with the likes of Gloria Estefan and Joss Stone. Later still her material was much sampled – including by Beyoncé – and she was able to undertake projects with rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne.

She was born in Miami, to Rosa (nee Braddy-Wright) and McArthur Norris. The infant Bessie – as Betty was christened – was co-opted into the family gospel group, the Echoes of Joy, at the age of two. The Echoes worked the Southern US gospel circuit and Bessie proved to be a vocal prodigy – so much so that by the time the group split in 1965, she was confident enough to start singing on her own, in a new R&B vein, and with a new name – Betty Wright.

Willie Clarke and Clarence Reid, two Miami-based musicians, were so impressed by the young girl that they signed her to Deep City, the only African-American record label in Florida. Wright’s debut 45, Paralysed, was released in 1965, and it sold well locally. However, Deep City lacked the resources to promote records properly, and so Reid and Clarke eventually passed Wright on to Henry Stone, a distributor with experience and contacts who was launching Alston Records in Miami.

Aged 14, Wright recorded her debut album for Alston, My First Time Around (1968), which not only revealed her to be a formidable soul singer but generated a single, Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do, that reached the Top 40s of the US and Canadian pop charts.

Although subsequent singles failed to make much of an impression, Wright continued to sing in the Miami clubs on the weekends, building up valuable contacts in the music business. Then chart success returned in 1971 with Clean Up Woman, written by Clarke and Reid, which got to No 6 in the US. Based around a distinctive guitar lick played by Willie Hale, Clean Up Woman’s breezy, danceable funk ensured that Wright would be one of the few school pupils ever to have turned 18 with a million-selling hit record behind her.

The song also helped to launch the Miami sound, whose origins Wright associated firmly with the city’s vibrant and fluctuating cultural scene. “You’ve got a little Cuba, a little Jamaica, and a little Haiti; you’ve got a large Jewish culture and you’ve got calypso,” she told Billboard magazine. “Then you’ve got people who were born here or came from South Carolina, where they’ve got a heavy African culture too. It’s a very rhythmic roots music. Even the white acts that come out of Miami tend to be very soulful. We’ve got that serious, serious conga rhythm.”

Wright continued to produce popular songs across the 1970s – Baby Sitter, Let Me Be Your Lovemaker, Secretary, Where is the Love?, Tonight is the Night – although none quite matched the success of Clean Up Woman and generally made more of an impact on the US R&B charts than in the pop sphere. A prolific songwriter, she won a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1976 for Where is the Love?, a song she had co-written.

Signing to Epic Records in 1981, Wright quickly grew disillusioned with the restrictions of being with a major company, and so launched her own Ms B record label in 1985. With her 1987 album Mother Wit she became the first African-American woman to achieve a gold album on her own label.

From that point onwards, however, Wright began to achieve greater success by working with other artists. Estefan’s US No 1 single Coming Out of the Dark (1991) featured Wright’s vocal arrangements, and Wright co-produced and co-wrote every track on Stone’s 2004 album Mind, Body & Soul, which reached No 1 in the UK.

In 2006 she appeared as a mentor on the US reality TV talent show Making the Band, and in 2008 produced two songs on Tom Jones’s album 24 Hours. Her 2011 album, Betty Wright: The Movie, featured Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne, and was praised by reviewers as her best effort in 30 years.

Wright continued to tour almost up to her death – she sold out the Barbican Centre in London in July 2019 – and earned considerable amounts from her back catalogue. Clean Up Woman has often been sampled, while Beyoncé used a section of Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do for her 2006 single Upgrade U.

In 1985 Wright married Noel “King Sporty” Williams, a Jamaican musician who had co-written the song Buffalo Soldier with Bob Marley. Noel died in 2015; Wright is survived by three daughters and a son.

Remembering Ja’Net DuBois (1945-2020)

Ja’Net DuBois, an actress who left her stamp on television playing beloved neighbor Willona Woods on “Good Times” and the voice behind the theme song to “The Jeffersons,” has died, according to Kesha Fields, DuBois’ youngest daughter. She was 74.

DuBois died peacefully in her sleep Monday at her home in Glendale, California, Fields said.
Her death was unexpected as she had no underlying health issues, her daughter added.
DuBois had a career that began in the late ’60s, but she became one of classic television’s most beloved figures thanks to her role on “Good Times,” a spinoff following characters from the TV show “Maude.” The series, from Norman Lear, Eric Monte and Mike Evans, ran for six seasons from 1974-1979.
“If you got a chance to know her and lived through the words of her song or just watched her contagious laughing spirit, every time she walked through the door on the set of ‘Good Times,’ that was her. She was effortlessly portraying a character because that was her spirit,” Fields told CNN.
An accomplished theater and music performer, DuBois co-wrote and performed “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song to “The Jeffersons.”

Fields said DuBois wrote the song “as a gift to her mother for all the promises she made to her when she was younger — what she would do when she reached a certain level of stardom.”
After the conclusion of “Good Times,” DuBois’s acting career continued with guest roles on shows like “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” “Home Improvement,” “ER,” and “Moesha.”
She also appeared in “The Wayans Bros.” and was part of the voice talent on Eddie Murphy’s “The PJs” animated series, a role for which she won two primetime Emmy Awards.
On Instagram, Janet Jackson, who was one of DuBois’s co-stars on “Good Times,” paid tribute to the actress. “I saw first hand how she broke stereotypes and changed the landscape for Black women in entertainment,” Jackson wrote. “I’m grateful in recent years I had a chance to see her and create more lasting memories. I pray for comfort for all her family and friends. Thank you Ja’Net, I’ll miss you.”
DuBois is survived by three children Provat, Rani, and Kesha and “a host of grandchildren,” said Fields.

African Americans Among Those Hit The Hardest By The Coronavirus

The coronavirus has now infected more than 1.2 million people across the country, and African Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations are disproportionately being affected by the virus and the illness it causes: COVID-19.

A mid-April analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) showed that in the majority of states reporting data that include race and ethnicity, black Americans account for a higher share of confirmed cases and deaths compared to their share of the total population. An earlier report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied a handful of states and found that among patients for whom information on race and ethnicity was available, black Americans were hospitalized at higher rates than whites for COVID-19. What’s more, in New York City, the U.S. community hardest hit by the virus, more Hispanics per capita are succumbing to the illness than any other ethnic group.

Infection rates have been especially high in the Navajo Nation, which has land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, with more than 2,700 cases and 88 deaths as of May 8. The KFF analysis shows that Native Americans make up more than a third of cases in New Mexico but only 9 percent of the state’s population. In Arizona, Native Americans account for 7 percent of cases and 21 percent of deaths, but 4 percent of the state’s population. Utah did not release racial data on its cases.

“The data is clear and has been clear for decades: African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups live sicker and die younger,” says Stephen Thomas, a professor of health policy and management and director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. “We cannot close our eyes or put up blinders to the disproportionate impact of this disease on racial and ethnic minority communities.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that fewer than 20 percent of black workers and roughly 16 percent of Hispanic ones are able to telecommute. About two-thirds of employed Hispanic adults say they would not get paid if the coronavirus caused them to miss work for two weeks or more, a Pew Research Center survey found.

“African Americans and Latinos and other minority groups are the ones out there in the warehouse, emptying food trucks, delivering your Grubhub or Uber Eats. They’re out there at risk” for catching the coronavirus, Thomas says.

Health experts, including Birx, stress that while African Americans and other minority groups are not more inherently susceptible to getting infected by the coronavirus, they are more likely to have a harder time recovering if they are infected.

“We experience social factors that are constantly putting us in a disadvantaged place to respond to an epidemic and to recover from diseases,” Rodríguez-Díaz says, pointing to unstable housing and lack of access to health care as two of the circumstances that aggravate health outcomes and disproportionately affect minority populations. “Social factors represent a significant [role] in our ability to be healthy. And if we don’t have access to those social resources, then we are in worse conditions to deal with a pandemic.”

You can ead the rest of the article on AARP.

“Rona” Life Hack #19

As the last post of my Corona life hacks, I wanted to talk about COVID resources available to those who are in need. Below is a small sampling of some of the organizations & charities that are giving monies away to those in need during these difficult times:

Last, but most importantly, if you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call –

  • Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health’s 24/7 hotline at 800-854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517) or
  • Dial 911 immediately if you are feeling suicidal or having suicidal ideations

“Rona” Life Hack #18

Get food items that store well & keep such as:

  • Oats
  • Grits
  • Pancake mix (that only require water)
  • White rice (it has been reported that brown rice can go rancid after a long period of time)
  • Pasta
  • Salt
  • Honey
  • Powdered Drink Mix – like TANG or Country Time Lemonade
  • Coffee and/or tea
  • Canned Meats – tuna, spam, etc.
  • Pasta sauces

These commodities are very important and will keep you fed while you’re under quarantine. Not to mention, they practically last forever and are very filling. Stocking up on these items now, will make you glad you did later!

God Will Keep You

[As for me] I am poor and needy, yet the Lord takes thought and plans for me. You are my Help and my Deliverer. O my God, do not tarry! — {Psalm 40:1}

God has a plan for each of us, and the good things that happen to us are not just a coincidence. All good and perfect gifts come from God (see James 1:17). It is exciting to have a relationship with God when we are aware that He is carefully leading and guiding us to His blessings.

If you don’t understand something the first time God speaks to you, He will give you another chance and will continue to teach you until you know clearly the way you should go. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost (see Luke 19:10). This means that He will find you if you go astray.

– Joyce Meyer

“Rona” Life Hack #17

If you haven’t already depleted all of your household supplies, it might be the perfect time to make a homemade first aid kit. You can get a 30 to 90 day supply of basic medications and supplies from the Dollar Tree or 99 Cent store to create your own Emergency First Aid Kit. They have some great bandages, off-brand Tylenol and wipes along with other products and first aid items. Watch this video for more information –

“Rona” Life Hack #16

Keep a positive attitude because your attitude can either make or break you. Summon your confidence, your patience & your fortitude and know that you have everything it takes to survive this situation. Remember, all of this is temporary and you can adapt – it may not be easy, but you can do it. For the past month or longer, we’ve experienced a myriad of emotions, ranging from fear to anxiety to stress to sadness to frustration. While it may not be possible to seek counseling at this time, find a way to keep your peace. As all the major news stations say “we will all get through this together.”

“Rona” Life Hack #15

Even though most of the nation is still quarantined, you never know when you might need to go somewhere in a pinch. There may be an emergency where you need to drive to care for someone or you may potentially have to go to a longer distance to get a hospital. Moreover, when the order is lifted, you can avoid long lines at the gas station. Not to mention, gas is the lowest it has ever been in certain parts of the country. According to NPR, gas has fallen below $2 in some states. Now is the perfect time to fill up your tanks with gas!

Waiting On His Goodness

I will make all My goodness pass before you. . . . Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand upon the rock, and while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.
 {Exodus 33:19, 21-23}

In times of trouble God hides you in Christ. Safe in the cleft of the Rock, there is provision for your needs. It may not be everything you want, but He gives you what you need to get through the situation.

Perhaps you are facing difficulty and have been waiting and waiting to see God’s glory. God desires to pour out His goodness upon you. He has covered you with His hand and is continually moving toward you with the answer. You may not see Him coming, but you will certainly know when He has been there!

– Joyce Meyer