Actress Vonetta McGee Dies After Cardiac Arrest

Another icon from the modern heyday of black moviemaking has died.

Vonetta McGee, who starred in “Blacula,” “Shaft in Africa” and “Thomasine and Bushrod,” died last Friday at a hospital in Berkeley after suffering cardiac arrest and spending two days on life support, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. She was 65.

Family spokeswoman Kelley Nayo told The Times that although McGee had been diagnosed as a teenager with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, her death was unrelated to the disease.

As word of her death began to circulate Thursday, postings began showing up on a Facebook fan page, as well as on Twitter and the blogosphere.

In addition to starring with actors Richard Roundtree in “Shaft in Africa” (1973) and Max Julien in “Thomasine & Bushrod” (1974), McGee also appeared with Fred Williamson in “Hammer” and Clint Eastwood in “The Eiger Sanction,” an action thriller.

"I was pleased to see her get a role with Clint Eastwood," said Williamson, who knew McGee before they made "Hammer," told the Times. "Not many black actors had that opportunity to be in a movie where color doesn't matter,”

"Vonetta McGee was like a lot of actors and actresses at that time, like myself, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Billy Dee Williams and Pam Grier, in that we had more talent than we were allowed to show because everything was perceived as a black project," Williamson said. "Once they categorize you, your marketability becomes limited."

Vonetta's film credits include the following:
• Johnny B. (1998) Repo Man (1984)
• Scruples (1981)(TV Movie)
• Superdome (1978)(TV Movie)
• Woo fook (1977)
• Brothers (1977)
• The Eiger Sanction (1975)
• Thomasine & Bushrod (1974)
• Detroit 9000 (1973)
• Shaft in Africa (1973)
• The Norliss Tapes (1973)(TV Movie)
• Hammer (1972)
• The Man Next Door (1996)(Tv Movie)
• Cagney & Lacey: The Return (1994)(TV Movie)
• Wonderworks: You Must Remember This (1992)(TV Movie)
• Perry Mason: The Case of the Reckless Romeo (1992)(TV Movie)
• Stormy Weathers (1992)(TV Movie)
• Wonderworks: Brother Future (1991)(TV Movie)
• To Sleep with Anger (1990)
• Hell Town (1985)(TV Movie)
• Blacula (1972)
• Melinda (1972)
• Crucified Girls Of San Ramon (1972)
• The Kremlin Letter (1970)
• The Lost Man (1969)
• Faustina (1968)
• The Big Silence (1968)

Vonetta had been married to actor Carl Lumbly since 1987 and they have one child. The couple married in 1986 and had a son, Brandon, two years later. In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by her mother, Alma McGee; three brothers, Donald, Richard and Ronald McGee; and a sister, Alma McGee.

Thoughts of Vonetta………By Her Brother!

Her brother left this note on her imdb page:

My sister did pass away this past week, thank you all for the strong positive feelings, I didn't know these posts existed. As beautiful as she was on the outside she was even more beautiful on the inside, a force of nature.

I'll try to answer some of the questions posted

1. She was born in 1945, not 1940.
2. She did go to Italy and became famous over there first, I can remember us being chased down the streets by fans.
3. Her first actual appearance on film was a walk on role in "Guess who's coming to Dinner", uncredited, at the airport, in 2 spots. Sidnet Poitier connected her with people in italy.
4. She did not do any other italian westerns besides the "Big silence".
5. Both of our parents are Black, all of our Grandparents are black.
6. Yes her first name really is Lawrence, my mother's sense of humor I guess.
7. She stopped acting to raise their son.

Thank You All

Rick McGee

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Comment by Edie Antoinette on July 19, 2010 at 9:33am
LOL! I did the FB symbol for a heart... should be ♥
Comment by Edie Antoinette on July 19, 2010 at 9:33am
I'm doing well, love. Thanks for asking and the lovely tag <3
Comment by Ronn Nichols on July 19, 2010 at 9:11am
You are welcome.....My Sweet Friend............How are you?
Comment by Edie Antoinette on July 19, 2010 at 9:03am
Wonderful! Thanks Ron. She was beautiful!

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Spotlight | Maze

  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue

The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 

As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.


The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)

Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪



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