Every day going out to work with my good friend Don Campbell and the band is a good day at work. Over the 13 or so years that we’ve played together, we’ve shared many special moments together on stage. Last night was definitely one of them. Big thanks to Don for always trusting me to be his wing man, especially in moments like this One at Mill Creek Park in South Portland last night. Having Jonathan Edwards sit in for the back half of our set was amazing. Getting to back him up on his biggest hits? Priceless, and infinitely memorable. Thanks also to Jonathan for being so accommodating with the photo. Best complement of the night? He said to me after the show, “those were some great grooves back there!”
Today is the birthday of Gene McDaniels. Eugene Booker McDaniels was born in 1935, which would have made him 80 today. What a fantastic accomplishment that would have been, but it certainly would have been a sweet icing on an already rich cake.
In his career, Gene advanced music, art, pop culture, social awareness, and the incendiary issues of racial divide that seemed to mark his entire time on this earth. Gene always got there before anyone else, defined the space he was in, and left seemingly before anyone else arrived. He did this in several chapters in his life to history-making success. Gene McDaniels was exceptional at everything he did.
Since Gene’s passing, I think of him frequently. The sense of loss is significant, as I had just gotten to meet and work with him in the last 2 years of his life. I have a lot more about Gene to share, but have been at a point of pause for some time now. I’ve been focusing my efforts on a gift to Gene that I had hoped would be complete by today so I might offer it as a birthday gift. Alas, this one will have to be slightly belated, as many homemade things are…
So, to celebrate Gene today, I’ve collected some of my favorite work of his in to a playlist. This is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive; it just is a tiny scratch on the surface of a huge body of work. I’m enjoying these songs today, and hope you do, as well.
“I have just begun to know the meaning of my being…” – Gene McDaniels, “Follow You Down”
Thanks, Gene. Take it slow.
(image courtesy of Matthew Robbins Photography)
There was a period of time when I was not fully cognizant of the man and the artist that everyone calls Gene. Eugene McDaniels, however, has become one of the most significant forces in my music and daily life. Before I was even aware of Gene, I was orbiting him. His music was surrounding me. His influence was finding ways to reach me, having the graciousness to send intercessors.
This orbit lasted decades, weaving through other artists and points of entry (including his producer, his producer’s son, the artist that became his “voice,” his longtime studio engineer and collaborator, and his own son, among others) before threading the needle and opening a moment where I could connect with the man himself.
At first, I was not actively seeking Gene, or these people in his life. Rather, they met me on my journey, and all of them pointed to Gene. It almost seems a little like “Alice in Wonderland” or perhaps “Wizard of Oz.”
When gravity finally won after this long orbit, and I was drawn in to contact with Gene, I should have anticipated at that point that our time together would be brief.
Since his passing in the summer of 2011, I have rewound and replayed every spare moment I shared with Gene… every phone call, every unreleased note we listened to in the quiet of his car, and every piece of sushi between us. One might say that the tape in my mental recorder is showing a little wear from dragging it across the playhead repeatedly. But, these recollections have proven to sharpen my picture of Gene, and contribute to my better understanding of why our orbit was so long, and why our actual connection in person seemed so damn quick.
As brief as it seemed, Gene has obviously given me a lifetime of music and thoughts to understand and actualize. I am hardly the only one. The man was a sublime and wide-ranging vocalist who wrote some of the most genre-defining love songs in popular music. He learned the art of interpretation from his early pop career, and then wrote music that others wanted to interpret for themselves. He was a keen producer who understood how to make memorable artist-centered records. He has been hailed as an activist for social, political, and racial issues. His own recordings were so groundbreaking that, despite some of their label-imposed obscurity, are some of the most sampled and lauded records in hip hop music.
As this world approaches 2 years on without the person of Gene, it almost has become easier to see his presence everywhere in pop music, art, and culture. I’ve been looking, and I see him constantly.
Wanted to give a minute of respect to the homie, producer and artist extraordinaire, soso.
Did I mention he makes a gorgeous appearance on the forthcoming “Dreaming: The Music of Andy Happel Remixed” record on The Downbeat Renaissance? If I haven’t, then the cat is now out of the bag.
soso just gave a great interview at Ominocity, and you can find it here.
If you aren’t familiar with his work, I can’t tell you how phenomenally gifted this guy is. His music is sublimely sparse, and rich with a melancholia that can be disarming. Check out this new trailer for his newest project, and stay tuned for his contribution to the upcoming Andy Happel release.
I finally was able to justify putting away my winter coats this week (Maine spring.)
Look what I found in a pocket! Sumner and I (along with the DCB) call these the “Get it Together Papers.” Essential to getting through the show. Might want to put these in a safe place, in case the Eskimo ever decides to return…
Miss Fairchild’s excellent record “Show Band” hits the digital stores today. The limited-edition CD run was put together as a special partnership with my hometown brewery, Cisco Brewers. And now, the whole world gets to check it out!
I played percussion tracks on a few cuts off of this record, and I love how it turned out. Feel free to take a listen here before you buy.
As a former member of Miss Fairchild’s touring band, I can attest to the fact that the show really does sound and feel like this recording. They really did a great job conveying this awesomely electrifying (and now very large) live band. Big ups to frontman Daddy Wrall, aka my kid brother Travis.