Writer/producer/cultural critic Nelson George is an expert on Black Music given his long career as a critic covering the Black music scene. He is the former black music editor at Billboard magazine, a job that propelled him onto the front lines of a new genre that we all now know as hip-hop. He talked to the Tom Joyner Morning Show about Black Music Month, it’s origins, it’s future and more.
Tom Joyner: I think I first met you when you were writing for “Billboard” at the White House when we started Black Music Month during the Carter Administration.
Nelson George: I wasn’t there at that event. That was back in June 1979. That was an event that Kenny Gamble and Dyana Williams and the Black Music Association were able to make happen. That year, President Jimmu Carter made June Black Music Month, and it’s very, very important because there was already a Country Music Month which was October, and black music, which has given so much to America and the world wasn’t being honored in the same way.
Tom Joyner: I did not know that.
Nelson George: You know Clarence Avant, the great lawyer and all-around smart man in black music, he really helped make that happen. He’s always been plugged in close to the music world and the political world and he was able to make that event happen along with Kenny and the folks.
Tom: You look forward to Black Music Month like I do, every June.
Nelson: We always have to continue educating the young about the legacy. As time goes on and we get into the 21st century some of those names – the Chuck Berrys and the Sarah Vaughns and so forth get further and further away from what’s going on now. We need to remind people that all of this was built on a very amazing foundation.
Tom: I’ve got some questions for you. There was a white group that Gamble and Huff produced in the 60’s before Philadelphia International Records. Who were they and what song did they sing?
Nelson: The song was called “Expressway to My Heart” and I think the group was called The Soul Survivors. They were some Italian kids from South Philly that Kenny and Leon knew. I think that was their first charted record.
Tom: What group was the cornerstone of the Philly sound?
Nelson: Of course that would be the O’Jays though you could make the argument for Harold Melvin as well. “Love Train,” “For the Love of Money” “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby,” ” the hits go on and on.
Tom: What popular Philly group of the 70’s repertoire included soul, R&B, doo-wop and disco?
Nelson: There are a lot of Philly groups who do all those things but the most famous would probably be Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. They had the great doo-wop harmonies, they had Teddy Pendergrass with the great lead vocals, they had so many amazing tracks that they expanded the entire spectrum of what was going on in Black music at the time.
Tom: Who was the greatest artist of all time?
Nelson: If you’re talking about jazz, it would have to be Miles Davis, if you’re talking about R&B, Stevie Wonder, and if you’re talking about rock and roll, Jimi Hendrix. Those would have to be my top 3.
Tom: My #1 is James Brown.
Nelson: He may be the most influential. When you look at what goes on in dance music, his ideas about the 1, his ideas about syncopation, those things are still relevant. He’s still sampled to this day.
Tom: Every generation from his generation up until now knows James Brown’s music.
Nelson: I’m doing a documentary for VH1 called “Finding the Funk” which will be on in the fall. Obviously, James Brown will be a big part of it. The foundation of funk is James Brown.
Sybil: You wrote the book “The Death of Rhythm and Blues.” Is it dead or is there still life there?
Nelson: It’s around. It ain’t super healthy. If you have an insurance policy, you’re due to collect.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
1 of 31
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
3 of 31
4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
4 of 31
5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
5 of 31
6 of 31
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
19 of 31
20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
20 of 31
21. Bae #retailtherapy
21 of 31
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31