...born michelle johnson in 1969, me'shell ndegéocello spent the first years of her life in germany. the daughter of a devotely religious mother and a strict military father, the family relocated to virginia in the early 1970s. though discipline prevailed in her home life, her father's occasional gigging as a jazz saxophonist provided her an introduction to music and set her on the path that would lead to international success. as a teenager, ndegéocello's interest in music lead her to the nightclubs of washington, d.c., where she played bass guitar.

at about the same time, ndegéocello began an exploration of her sexuality that would eventually become an aspect of her public persona almost as prominent as her musical acumen. though her first romantic relationship with a woman left her feeling an outsider, her musical ambitions were left unscathed. disillusionment with the duke ellington school of the arts' predominantly male jazz department led her to howard university, in the late 1980s. ndegéocello's howard career, however, would be cut short by an unplanned pregnancy which resulted in a panicked retreat to new york.

askia ndegéocello was born in 1988 to a mother who worked various odd jobs to provide for her son. auditions for a number of bands—most notably, living colour—led to a job with women in love. though bass players have rarely been the centerpiece of a band, ndegéocello's presence was every bit as commanding as her talent. at a new york rock protest, she captivated audiences and captured the attention of a would-be maverick scout by taking control of the performance with improvisational material created with a bass guitar, a drum machine and a keyboard. the first female artist signed to madonna ciccone's maverick label, the release of 1994's plantation lullabies offered a unique musical perspective, the likes of which had not been witnessed since tina turner snatched a mic and invited herself to front for ike turner's kings of rhythm. claiming as her own a fusion of rock and funk—two genres predominated by males—ndegéocello predated erykah badu and lauryn hill with her brazenly unapologetic resurrection of music dependent upon equal parts talent and showpersonship. ndegéocello drew parallels between her own personal narrative and the early-american slave trade claiming, "anywhere you feel trapped is a plantation. these songs i wrote to soothe all this stuff that was going on in my mind." her debut single, "if that's your boyfriend (he wasn't last night)", not only introduced the world to bass-playing talents that would earn her the distinction of being the first female "bassist of the year" to grace the cover of bass guitar magazine, but also ruled the dancefloors of 1994 in the form of a slicky-produced remix that capitalized on the club-culture skills of lil' louis, while perserving the integrity of ndegéocello's funkdafied rock. the lyrics of "if that's your boyfriend (he wasn't last night)" managed to start a quiet revolution of their own. though her sultry rap-sing vocals spoke of her role as point-person in a heterosexual love triangle, ndegéocello's lyrics set the stage for her unapologetic self-identification as an african-american, bisexual, female rock star.

blurring the lines of sexuality and musical genres, ndegéocello posed a threat to the status quo of the music industry. compared to such musical visionaries as al green and prince, ndegéocello has even escalated the divine confusion she's created by referring to herself as the female bruce springsteen—a comparison punctuated by her duet with john mellancamp on 1994's "wild night". 1995 saw another successful collaboration with the queen of funk, chaka khan, on "never miss the water". aside from gaining status as a sought-after collaborator and earning three grammy nominations for her debut release, me'shell ndegéocello was also asked to contribute her talents on such worthwhile causes as ain't nuthin' but a she thing and lilith fair, vol. 3. equally as sought-after to appear on soundtracks, ndegécello's work can also be heard on white man's burdern, money talks and living single. ndegéocello's follow-up, 1996's peace beyond passion took as its metaphor religious mythology, structuring itself loosely around the bible. "leviticus: faggot", for example, traces the tale of a young man forced onto the streets by unaccepting parents, while "mary magdalene" finds the unlikey diva making declarations of love to the bible's most famous prostitute to waltz timing.

while ndegéocello did not release an album of her own between 1996 and 1999, she definitely did not fade from the public's memory. in 1997, the success of her debut single was relived by ndegéocello and rapper queen pen on the later's debut album, my melody. "girlfriend", a song structured around the hook of ndegéocello's 1994 hit, earned more attention for its subject matter than for its solid beat and clever rhymes. with the help of ndegéocello herself, new-girl-on-the-block pen recounted the tale of a love triangle in which she found herself involved with another man's girlfriend. considered revolutionary for attacking the homophobia of the hip-hop industry ndegéocello reasserted herself as somebody who would not back down, while pen established herself as an up-and-coming player in the world of rap.

ndegéocello's third album, bitter, was released on 31 august 1999, both her admirers and detractors waited with bated breath to see what this one-woman phenomenon would do next. in the 31 july 1999 issue of billboard magazine, ndegéocello sumed up the new album by saying, "bitter is about duality and contradictions, about love and hate, about relationships, about how we are all perfect beings struggling to find peace in a world of contradictions…the world is made up of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, and i wanted to celebrate that sentiment on this album." the album proved to be a tour de force featuring lush orchestrations recalling phil spector's "wall of sound". as promised, the album used the metaphor of a relationship to depict and celebrate the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of the human condition.

while ndegéocello's undeniable talent as both a musician and singer easily establish her as a 90s diva, she offers a considerable lot more. railing against racism, sexism and homophobia with quiet strength, ndegéocello contributes much more to society than just her music. a german-born, african-american, bisexual, artist and mother, ndegéocello is a new kind of every-woman who has the respect of her peers and her fans, and has clearly redefined the term "diva" to mean bald-headed, bass-playing funkdafied soul sista.

 

 

Meshell Ndegeocello Meshell Ndegeocello Meshell Ndegeocello - b, g, voc Sy Smith - voc Mike Severson - g Mark Kelly - b Daniel Jones - keys Charles Haynes - dr Gilmar Gomez - perc

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Comment by Edie Antoinette on November 9, 2007 at 11:08pm
Thanks Brn...I love MeShell immensely! Talented is an understatement...

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Introspection

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) yahoo.com 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 ::

Sounds of 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

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪

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