Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
November 1, 2014

THE REAL MONSTERS

DorianGray via Getty Images

What Can Mandela's Jail Cell Teach Us About Leadership?

Nelson Mandela President
TREVOR SAMSON via Getty Images

Theodore Wafter's Lawyer: 'Ghost Of Trayvon Martin' Was In The Courtroom

Renisha Mcbride
Thurswell Law

How Mississippi's Racist Past Is Harming It's Future

Mississippi State Flag
Matt Trommer via Getty Images

No, Being Black and Gay Does Not Suck

Black Gay Men
Hero Images via Getty Images

Voters In 14 States Navigating New Rules While Trying To Cast Ballots

Voting
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Dante Martin Guilty Of Manslaughter In Hazing Case

Dante Martin
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Street Harassment Happens In Every Neighborhood, Even Wealthy Ones

Woman On Street
Petri Artturi Asikainen via Getty Images

A Republican Midterm Wave Will Further Sink Black America

Obama
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images

Lawmakers 'Disturbed' After NYPD's Highest-Ranking Black Officer Resigns

Chief Philip Banks
ASSOCIATED PRESS

There's History Behind Those Halloween Blackface Fails

The Jazz Singer Blackface
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Al Sharpton Calls For Federal Prosecution In Ferguson

Al Sharpton
Donald Traill/Invision/AP

Nelly Reveals Why He's Worried About What May Soon Happen In Ferguson

Nelly Ferguson
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Boyz II Men: We 'Represented Our Race' With Future Artists In Mind

Boyz Ii Men End Of The Road
HuffPost Live

Walking The Streets Of Baltimore With The Other Barksdale

Baltimore
Kyle Reid/Getty

Advocates Demand The NYPD Stop Handcuffing 5-Year-Olds

Handcuffs
Chris Mathias

Man Convicted Of Double Murder In Landmark Case Released From Prison

Alstory
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Problem With That Catcalling Video: They Edited Out All The White Guys

171248054
olaser via Getty Images

Ta-Nehisi Coates On White Supremacy And A Life Of Struggle

Ta Nehisi Coates
Leigh Vogel via Getty Images

It's About Time Someone Other Than Straight White Males Got To Be Superheroes

Chadwick Boseman
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Twitter Account Leaking Details About Ferguson Investigation Was Hacked, Prosecutor Claims

Bob Mcculloch
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Why Black Women Are Less Likely To Survive Breast Cancer

Black Woman Patient
Siri Stafford via Getty Images

Halloween: The Season for Culturally-Insensitive Fashion

Native Feathers
Milk & Honey Creative via Getty Images

Mitt Romney: Obama Hasn't Given The Poor And Minorities Enough Gifts

Mitt Romney
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Beyond Ferguson -- Unrepresentative Democracy in City Elections

Election
Blend Images - Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis for Black Women

Here Is Why 'Redskins' Shouldn't Be Heard On Television

No Honor In Racism
Red Circle Agency

California Health Officials Investigate Illness At NAACP Conference

Ambulance
PNC via Getty Images

Chicago Man Says Police Stormed His Home After He Was Just Walking Down The Street

Arrest Video
NBC Chicago

Cosby Has No One to Blame But Cosby for His Sullied Image

Bill Cosby
Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

Watch Nas React To Seeing An Ancestor's Bill Of Sale Into Slavery

Nas Finding Roots
PBS

Republicans Fear Price To Pay For Attacks On Black Interests

Vote
Blend Images - Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

Zambian President Michael Sata Dies

Michael Sata
Pool via Getty Images

Ebola Appears To Be Slowing In Liberia: WHO

Liberia
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Giants Are World Series Champions!

Giants World Series
Pool via Getty Images

Suspected Boko Haram Militants Attack Another Nigerian Town

Nigeria Soldiers
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Watch This Dancing Traffic Cop Tear Up The Roads With His Sweet Moves

Dancing Cop
WTHI

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

North West Is The Only Skunk You'd Want To Be Around

North West Skunk
Instagram

Why, Eight Years After It Ended, The Wire Remains America's Best Example of Racial Melodrama

Wirehbo1031
The Wire HBO

WATCH
Chris Rock Preaches About The Top 5 Halloween Costumes

Chris Rock
NBC

Bad News For Pharrell And Robin Thicke

Robin Thicke Pharrell
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

23 Things Any 'Scandal' Fan Knows To Be True

Olivia Pope Scandal
Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

What Nelly Tries To Remember About Raising Kids Today

Nelly
HuffPost Live

Why Deion Sanders Will Never Be On 'DWTS'

Deion Sanders Toe
HuffPost Live

Chris Rock Shows A Totally Different 'Prince' In 'SNL' Promos

Snlrock
NBC

Rihanna Gets Risqué For AmfAR

Rihanna
Steve Granitz/WireImage

The Real Story Behind Boyz II Men's Estranged Fourth Member

Boyz Ii Men
Gabriel Olsen via Getty Images

'SNL's' Michael Che Takes Heat For Street Harassment Comments

Michael Che
NBC via Getty Images

Things You Don't Know Your Natural Hair Can Do

Teyonah Parris
Bright Ideas Magazine

WATCH
This Was One 'Thriller' Of A Baseball Game

Thriller
AOL Huffington Post Video

Viola Davis Explains Why The Wig Had To Come Off

How To Get Away With Murder
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

This Is The Greatest Boxing Moment Since 'Rocky'

Tyson
NBC

At Least Theophilus London's New Song Features Kanye West

Theophilus London
SoundCloud

This Is What Happens When Fred Armisen & Ice-T Play Video Games

Ice T
Andy Kropa /Invision/AP

Marvel's Making A 'Black Panther' Movie

Chadwick Boseman
Andreas Rentz via Getty Images

Man Arrested For Pot Tells Cops He's Denzel Washington

Justin Lee Seay
Rutherford County Jail

13 Real-Life Struggles Of Perpetually Forgetful People

Forget
Imgur user: larhavoc

Dionne Warwick: Don't Call Me A Diva

Dionne Warwick
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

That Time Blake Griffin Attended A 'White Party' At Donald Sterling's House

Blake Griffin
YouTube

David Oyelowo Talks 'Selma'

Selma
CloudEightFilms

How Beyoncé & Jay Z Spent Their Monday Night

Beyonce Jay Z Nightcrawler
Mammoth PR

Black History Month: Johnny Gill Talks a New Edition Reunion, Obama and Music Influences

Comments (13)

Johnny Gill is one of our favorite R&B crooners, who will always be remembered for his contributions as part of New Edition, and for sizzling solo hits like 'My, My, My.' An important figure in the New Jack Swing music era, Gill continues his career today through acting, international touring and other amazing developments (which you can read about below). To celebrate Black History Month, Johnny has partnered with TV One on their 'Way Back When series,' which its producers describe as "a look back at dramatic, musical, and comedic portrayals of African American life from the 70s, 80s and early 90s." As a co-host of the series, Gill has brought his soul music expertise to bear on a deeper understanding of the black roots inherent in our pop culture past.

Mr. Gill took some time to talk with Black Voices about our inspiring music history, President Obama and our future as a community.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. I am sure the Black Voices audience will be excited to hear what you have been up to lately. Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?


Yes, there are actually several things that are going on. I am in the middle of finishing the first Johnny Gill CD after 14 years. I feel like you go through a period where you work hard, and you feel somewhat unappreciated in a lot of ways. But I've grown up a lot, and now I understand that it's not a question of who wants to hear from me, it's a matter of what I feel I need to say and where I'm at today.

I truly got a reality check when I watch my friend Gerald Levert pass away. When I watched my friend Luther Vandross pass away. I watched someone I didn't know personally, but who I met in passing over the years, pass away – Teddy Pendergrass. It really makes you put things in perspective.

What is most important to have when you leave this planet is a body of work. It's not about what sells. It's important to know that as an artist, you have to continue to express yourself. It took me a minute to get that. I'm still not sure that people want to hear from me. But I know that I have a lot of catching up to do, and not for myself – for my son. I've got to leave a legacy here that's for my son. I've gotten off to a great start, but there is so much more that I need to do, want to do and can do.

You will always be remembered for your work with New Edition. Do you still keep in touch with any of your former group members?

Yes! Ralph, myself and Bobby, we formed a group called The Heads of State and we've been touring for the last two years. We just got back from Spain, London and Amsterdam. It's just been incredible. And to watch Bobby come full circle has been more rewarding than anything. He's been doing so well. All it took to help him at this stage in his life was to acknowledge him for the good things he was doing. The more I acknowledged him, the harder he started working. And it taught me a lesson that we all need that, I know I do.

And I'll let you in on a little secret. We just finished up our final paperwork. We've signed with Irving Azoff of the Front Line Management company – we are putting all the pieces together for a New Edition reunion – all six of us. That's possibly going to take place some time this year. Everybody thought that they were ready to come together and go full-steam – and it's going to be all six of us.


Your fans will be glad to hear of this, because New Jack Swing was a favorite period in black music. What do you think of today's male R&B singers like Tyrese and Trey Songz?

I had the pleasure of working with those two guys. It was wonderful. The response was so great that people were talking to us about forming an actual group together. We did a tribute for the O'Jays, and the response was just overwhelming.

Let's talk R&B music history. Who are some of the great male singers of the past who have most inspired you?

Let's start with Stevie Wonder. Donnie Hathaway. Luther Vandross. Teddy Pendergrass. Marvin Gaye, obviously. Peabo Bryson. There are a slew of vocalists that have come before me and had a great influence.

How were you affected by the death of Michael Jackson?

Ironically, right before I got on with you, I had just hung up with Janet. I'm kind of like everyone else. It goes beyond Michael as an artist. I've only met Michael a few times, but because of my relationship with Janet – we've been very close for many years – my heart goes out to the family first and foremost.

Then you take a step back to look at what he contributed to the world. That record he has for giving the most as a celebrity? When you look at him giving to so many charities, at his love for kids, which was found never to be anything but that love – to be crucified for it. But, he never wavered. He never got angry. He never said "I'm going to be selfish now." At the end of the day, you have to see the truth about where his heart really was.

In a strange way, I can identify with what Michael went through. I work hard. I give all day every day to people, and it's never reported. But it's not about me being acknowledged. But to work so hard, and then to be crucified. To be lied on. It really has an impact. He really, truly got crucified.

Can you talk about the importance of black music to our struggle in America? How has music strengthened and supported us as a community?

Music for us has been like food. Like air. It has taken us and carried us for many, many years simply because it's all we had. That's why when you look at trends in music we are normally at the forefront of it. And if you look at music in general now, everything started with rhythm and blues. Now it's taken a new shape.

Musical is so magical. It can take you on a journey, from being happy, to being sad. When you look all over the world, even with hip hop, you see kids who, through music, are trying to emulate what we do. I've been all over the world. The love and respect they have for soul music, for black music – it's amazing.

When you look at Elvis, Jackie Wilson had an influence on him. When you look at the Rolling Stones, you are seeing Howlin' Wolf. The Beatles, everyone, if you look back and start to see where their influences come from, it speaks volumes.

There is a big debate every year about whether Black History Month is still relevant. Please share your thoughts and feelings on the month.


I think Black History Month is definitely still relevant. I just think it needs to be on a bigger scale today. It should go above and beyond just a month of reminding people about black history. We are truly some of the most remarkable people on the planet when we think about where we come from. We've had to make something out of nothing. There should be more taught about black history in school, and all over the world. We've come a long way, and we've still got a ways to go.

But when you look at what we have accomplished, it speaks volumes. We have our first black president. That's why I get angry when people act like the honeymoon is over, and they now want to criticize Obama. There is no one man, short of God, who can turn this situation around in one year. Give him some time to work. It really disturbs me to hear people like Danny Glover, people who I have great respect for, talking about what Obama did do and isn't doing. We have to support him and hope that he can continue to pave the way for others to have an opportunity to sit in that position one day, and to have the country have faith and believe that we are capable.



What are the key issues we as a group need to work on as we move forward?

In my 43 years of living, the one thing that I've noticed about our people is that we have many people in our community that think small. A lot of our people are entertained by looking into entertainers' lives. They dwell on it, and talk about it everyday. I wish that we would take a step back and look at people who have made an impact through their work, and get the message that "if they can do it, I can do it."

I did not get where I am today by worrying about other peoples' lives, who's sleeping with who, who's gay, who's straight, who's in, who's not, who's hot, who's not. There has been a focus on who's inspired me and what I want to do with my life from that. We need to look at the people who are accomplished, whether it's Obama, or some of the athletes, or the list goes on to people in different areas. If we look at what some of our African American heroes have accomplished, it's important for that to be the focus. That way we can continue to grow and develop and make headway for the next generation that's coming.

I find that we waste more time in tearing each other down in our own community than anybody. There's nothing that we have taken over, that when we decide to do it, we don't master. Whether it's golf. Whether it's tennis. Whether it's running a country. The list goes on. It's only the people who are focused who understand that you have to keep your eyes on the prize. It's not going to come through sitting around and watching television, or being on the Internet.

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement to share with the BlackVoices.com audience?

I want us to continue to grow as we have over the years, so that we will be able to look back and see the progress that we've made and that we are making.



Be sure to catch Johnny Gill and other "back in the day" stars as TV One celebrates Black History Month with it's "Way Back When" month of programming.

Comments: (13)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 2

Add a Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed but they are required to confirm your comments. When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password."

Most Commented Articles

Get Closer to BV

  • slider Image
  • slider Image
  • slider Image

BLACK MUSIC NEWS
The latest news and updates on a multitude of music stars.
Check It Out!

BLACK MUSIC NOTES

       

MEN OF MCCAFÉ SEARCH
McDonald's continues its nationwide search to find five community-service minded black men during this year's CIAA tournament.


LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN

       
 

Find a Message Board

Discover conversations on everyone from Barack to Beyonce. There are nearly 50 forums, so click on a category below and find the right one for you.