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April 25, 2015

White Reservation: The Justification of Breath and Those Who Take It Away

My day ended with news of a Michael Brown memorial tree being chopped down in less than a day of it being planted. Amidst the maelstrom and versions of justice, it's hard to breathe when even the process of photosynthesis is being interrupted.

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Police Union Chief Defends Calling Baltimore Protesters A 'Lynch Mob'

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Michael Brown's Family To File Civil Suit Against Ferguson For Wrongful Death

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Michael Eric Dyson Deems His Public Critique Of Cornel West 'Vital And Necessary'

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10. Marvin Gaye,'Heard it Through the Grapevine' (Gladys Knight & the Pips)
Though Gladys and her Pips had a huge hit with song in 1967, Marvin's cover a year later is known as the definitive version and one of the late soul man's most enduring classics. Here, he's performs it live in all his ruffled-shirt, red-tux wearing brilliance.





9.Ray Charles,'Night Time is the Right Time' (Nappy Brown)

Charles' classic 1958 remake had a resurgence in interest when the Huxtable kids performed it on 'The Cosby Show' in this episode of the popular sitcom. But the original version was recorded by Nappy Brown who recorded the hit song in 1955.





8. Boyz II Men, 'It's So Hard To Say Goodbye' (GC Cameron)
The Philadelphia R&B boy band showed they could really blow with this 1991 a capella remake of '70s soul singer G.C. Cameron's original tune. Cameron's version can be heard in 1975 coming of age film, 'Cooley High,' but the Boyz rendition is the current R&B standard heard often at funerals, after a break-up and during other sad occasions.





7. Whitney Houston, 'All The Man That I Need' (Linda Clifford)

When this R&B diva was near the top of her wailing powers in 1991, she released this remake of Clifford's 1980s slow jam, which Sister Sledge also had covered in 1982. But here, Whitney gives the song an elegant upgrade, not just a surface shine and buff.





6. Mary J. Blige, 'I'm Going Down' (Rose Royce)

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul has covered a few R&B artists including Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan but here she really stands out, adding her own sad-girl touches to this song which was originally recorded by R&B band Rose Royce in 1977. Sean 'P.Diddy' Combs shows his early producing chops on this remake, which appeared on Blige's 1994 album, 'My Life.'





5. Alicia Keys, "If I Was Your Woman' (Gladys Knight & the Pips)
Legend has it that Gladys Knight didn't even like this tune when producers from Berry Gordy's Motown Records label approached her to sing it. Thankfully, she relented and the song shot up the charts in 1971. Here, Alicia Keys makes the song about devout love her own in this 'Unplugged' performance, combining power, grace and heartfelt emotion in a way that could only make Gladys proud.




4. Chaka Khan, 'I Feel For You' (Prince)
After Chaka left Rufus to embark set out on her own, she released this title track to her 1984 solo debut, which was actually a cover of a 1979 tune by Prince. (The Purple One would write many songs for her in subsequent years.) Chaka added heavy doses of rap (that's Melle Mel on the intro saying "Ch-Ch-Ch-Chaka Khan-Chaka Khan"), Steve Wonder on harmonica and dancing from b-boy Shabba-Do from the hip-hop drama 'Breakin' in accompanying music video.






3. Lenny Kravitz, 'American Woman' (The Guess Who)

An early knock against Lenny was that he was bent on sounding retro but lacked that special oomph in this own music to make him a truly great rocker. With this cover of this vintage 1970 track by Canada's The Guess Who, Lenny showed that he could tackle the classics and not lose himself in the process. He actually looks pretty badass in this video too.






2. Maxwell, 'This Woman's Work' (Kate Bush)

R&B heartthrob Maxwell's falsetto nails the somber valleys and peaks that British songstress Kate Bush touched on in the 1989 original song from her album, 'The Sensual World.' Unlike many of today's soul men, Maxwell's interpretive skills show that he understands how to express melancholy and longing without coming off like a schlockmeister. He's pure class.





1. Fugees, 'Killing Me Softly' (Roberta Flack)
Though this song is credited to the Fugees and appears on the trio's second album, 'The Score,' Lauryn Hill deserves every accolade she's received for her 1995 take on Flack's 1973 hit which was originally titled, "Killing Me Softly With His Song.' The hip-hop backing beat and her soaring vocals do the exact thing that every successful cover song should do: It makes you almost forget that the original existed. And that says a lot given that Flack's version won three Grammy awards during its chart-topping heyday.
Tagged as: alicia keys, black music month, BlackMusicMonth, ChakaKhan, GladysKnight, Kate Bush, lauryn hill, Lenny Kravitz, maxwell, prince, The Fugees, thewho

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