Today I would like to pay tribute to my hero Ruth Brown. Fate would give me the good fortune to have the release of her autobiography coincide with my first year producing my soul radio show. I sought out and seized the opportunity to interview this legend in promotion of her book. It's the one of the best decisions I've ever made. I learned a great deal from that interview and I often think back on the things she said, especially as I get older (since a lot of what she talked about where the challenges that come with aging.)
I was 22 when I interviewed Ruth Brown in 1996. A wide-eyed rookie who had just begun a long journey throughout all arms of the music industry. I was eager to glean any wisdom from this incredible lady who defined what it was to be a pioneer in rhythm and blues. In a little over an hour I learned the importance of poise, grace, charm, dignity, determination, assertiveness, perseverance, personal power, and commitment to community. These are lessons I carry with me to this day.
Like Esther Phillips (who I wrote about a couple of weeks ago) Ruth Brown was a genuine original artist. She developed a signature vocal style complete with the "Ruth Brown Squeal" that was imitated by many, but Ruth remained the Queen of R&B, the Mother of Rhythm and Blues. She also had the COOLEST nickname, Miss Rhythm.
It wasn't just her music that made her a legend. It's what she did in the wake of her stardom that makes her my hero. Ruth Brown was a warrior. The music industry of the 1950s was set up to exploit musicians. It was a business, and it's stars were merely seen as a product, or "cash cows" owned by the record labels. This ad beside accompanying this post pretty much says it all.
In 1987 Miss Rhythm fought back. She battled for royalties owed to her by the music industry. No musician had previously waged a war on this level up until this point. And she WON! Part of her settlement was the establishment of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to fostering greater appreciation of the genre while also providing financial support to the musicians ripped off by the music industry.
It's hard to pick just one Ruth Brown record as there are SO many great ones. I decided to go with the one I'm digging a lot presently. In the past I've typically stuck to the rockin' Ruth records, but this one is more of a subtle "popcorn" style. Yes, it sounds suspiciously similar to "My Babe" released the same year by Little Walter, but this one's got whimsical gimmicks. Lord knows I'm a sucker for gimmicks.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!