Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 8 A Playlist)

Part 8 of Soul Insurance. Music is our policy...

The previous folktales under the banner of Soul Insurance could be read as the liner notes for this soundtrack of comfort food. My bags are all packed and I have my pandemic bubble playlist. Listen without prejudice. (spotify version)

Soul Insurance, a playlist

  • Soul Insurance by Angie Stone
    Angie sings for the real soul cat and sounds the cautionary note about those who bring out the Xerox.
    It's too many ya'll ridin' in the same boat
    It's getting too heavy and the boat can't float
    Here's a little something to make you think
    You goin' down under if the mother sinks
    She's got our back but will call out those faking the funk. This mellow groove is my pick me up, my great day in the morning, my wellspring of soul inspiration. It bounces along lazily, the harmonies are impeccable and the intent is fierce. I plan to be a believer everytime I hear it and, even if I seem to have taken its theme into a surreal folktale, it continues to make me happy. Nothing hits your heart like soul music.
  • Searchin' for my Soul by Amel Larrieux
    Rendered live, this is a crowd pleaser because she always reinvents this song with an outstanding scat coda, it'a an opportunity to let her voice fly, my favourite bravebird lets loose.
  • Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid by Charlie Hunter
    The claims adjuster delivers the news without commentary. Just the facts, humanity. When I lived in the Bay Area, Charlie Hunter's Home for the Holidays concert was the highlight of the season. I always tried to catch as many shows as I could for soul insurance. The tour in support of that aptly named album, Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid, was phenomenal, the horn section led by Curtis Fowlkes added to the customary jazz-funk guitar virtuosity. You're a good man, Charlie Hunter.
  • Lessons in Love by Level 42
    By the time the horns come in around the chorus I am already happy. Feel good sing-along soul music.
  • Contribution by Mica Paris and Rakim
    Initially this was going to be Should've Known Better, her confection with Omar but it's hard to argue with Rakim Allah, there is no competition. Like his duet with Jody Watley this collaboration is the perfect meeting of hip hop lyricism and conscious soul. Voices in their prime. One world united. All shades invited.
jo bag: ghana must go in South Africa

A reprise. In the end, all we need is Angie Stone's warm voice and soulful groove to fortify the soul. I guarantee it

Guide to Lagos 1975 023 royal exchange assurance nigeria

See also: The Second Wave and A Covidious Playlist

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions
  12. The Die is Cast

This soul food is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Indemnity Provisions

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Writing log: Part 8 March 28, 2021

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Teddy Mink

Along came Teddy Mink, as usual, with the girls in tow
The Mink Quadrant was a tight unit, a hard act to follow

Sheila, Joyce, Melissa, and Stephanie came up in lockstep
The classic lineup, they danced as if they were doing it to death

But Teddy insisted, he laid down the funk rules of the beat
And Diana and Mary couldn't handle the supreme heat

They’d opted for Motown and greener pastures
Get down on the one, the groove was the master

The drum is a woman, The Duke had said it before
Teddy agreed with this aspect of Ellington's Law

He'd had a falling out with Cucumber Bones
Over the woman, and the song, Aretha is Home

Something about the credits and, as usual, the royalties
But, mostly, it was the oversight in the liner notes that he found petty

And now that he had something to prove on his hands
He was determined not to lose the battle of the bands

As a bandleader, he drilled the musicians harder then the Godfather
His work ethic approached Prince, truly, no one did it better

In the warehouse, the grooves and ideas flowed, the pace was unrelenting
And as for the dancers, he wouldn't let them quit - man, it was exhausting

His love language was a jam session, he lived for music, it was an obsession
But who the hell knew if they would defeat Cucumber Bones and Frankie Ocean?

A brief sketch, as told to me by the then 4 year old

The names of my son's imaginary friends have become more interesting. Who is this Cucumber Bones? And what is he singing with Frankie Ocean?

the bad tour by danso

Teddy Mink, a playlist

A soundtrack for this jam session. (spotify version)
See also Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar

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Writing log. Concept March 25, 2017. May 5, 2021

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Tony Toni Tone - Weary Sons of Soul

The Music Snobs were discussing Tony Toni Toné the other day - sterling as usual, covering the band's breakup, the legacy and the music. Still, they always leave an opening and I have some thoughts...

I was at university with a Wiggins cousin and like all of the Wiggins, he was a beautiful soul, insanely talented but famously prickly and always wary - he had seen some things. I later learned this friendly-but-guarded business is true of many black Bay Area folk.

He would speak of his cousins who were in a band and how they used to mess around at home and in talent shows, trying to find studio time. They were already doing well, The Revival had a serious impact the previous year. Musically minded, their family reunions had epic soundtracks.

Still, there was something a little frayed, a faint thread that ran beneath the smooth surface of these guys. It's in the music, in all their albums even as they became more confident performers. And maybe it's best to point to a lyric...

Lovin' You is arguably Tony Toni Toné's masterpiece. It stands in the pantheon of slow jams, an impeccable and lush ballad. And yet I'm drawn to a lyric that Raphael throws in: "This world is drunk and everybody's mad". How did that get into this seduction suite?

Skip forward to 2019 and Raphael Saadiq with nothing to prove to anyone, releases his most personal album, Jimmy Lee, a song suite musing about his uncle's addiction. And what do you see? Track 3: This World is Drunk

The driving chorus:

This world is drunk
And the people are mad
Lovin' You was their Adore perhaps, and just like Prince deflating things with "but maybe not the ride", Raphael drops "this world is drunk" to ground the beauty... They had moved beyond bubblegum by this stage. They could drop the mic and walk away. Grit was part of their legacy.


True story. Late at night. The mixtape is ready. Prince got us in the mood, then Maxwell's suite, the satin sheets are prepped, Meshell Ndegeocello, a declaration of intent, we're going to get freaky, D'Angelo, Brown Sugar baby! Then the Tony's come in, Lovin' You, to seal the deal.

Mood, low lighting, you're drawing close to steal a kiss, singing along "loving you..." Crooning. Let's sing together, it's on tonight... Then: "the world is drunk and everyone is mad" !!!

What? What did we just sing? That's like a reminder to use a condom, to make sure you have birth control measures in place... That is a warning.

I'd been thinking Let's get it on, not Brenda's got a Baby. I'd been thinking Turn off the Lights, I was suggesting Lay Your Head On My Pillow. Caveats and responsibilities were the furthest from my mind. Had I picked the wrong track?

These weary sons of soul put a parental advisory notice on the most sensual of moods. Rain check that night, I'm sad to say. I'd have to change the playlist going forward.

So... Tony Toni Tone put the contraception in baby-making music.

I started a family 15 years later...

If they were in finance instead of family planning, they'd have said sure go for the money but choose cement instead of crypto, choose dividends over dotcom dreams. Careful out there.


My introduction was Born Not to Know. A friend had brought the tape back from the States, I was hooked. But I stayed for Baby Doll (which had a Teddy Riley remix) and the songcraft. While Foster/McElroy were doing production duties on their first album, the Tonies were doing the writing and it was intriguing at that.

They were traditionalists, they had a band sound and were students of the greats. You heard that even in the first album, Who?. Their second, The Revival explicitly referenced their Oakland antecedents, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana etc. They had ties to Sheila E's band after all.

Sons of Soul and House of Music were further studies of the craft, hearkening to the different styles of the greats. But it wasn't just homage; they were modernizers, conscious of the legacy. Throughout, their soulful grooves came with real talk.

Little Walter was a little controversial for interpolating a spiritual. Sinbad appeared in the video - comic relief at the outset of their career, but there's no hiding that it was a cautionary tale that ends with "When Walter went to open it, he was blown to the floor".

261.5 features Dwayne singing about "falling in love with a minor" and risking breaking the eponymous California Penal code number. Playing for laughs and done with subtlety - PG-rated. It's an age old story and some later predators would ignore the warnings (say R Kelly)...

There's a lot of dysfunction in their songbook. Take Jo-Jo - Raphael singing about a family situation - Jo Jo who goes missing, or My Ex-Girlfriend - learning about infidelity and being cuckolded with the immortal chorus "My ex-girlfriend (girlfriend) is a hoe". Vicious fun.

Don't Fall in Love is up there:
Have you ever fell in love with a woman, that wasn't a woman?
I mean, all the time, you thought she had the things it takes to be a woman
That's the Eddie Murphy line: "I was just giving the person a ride", that's The Crying Game denouement sung with soul.

I know, I know, that's a poor interpretation of the song, he's really singing about picking the right woman and even sings "You better let God pick your one". But the ambiguity of great songwriters is to make you find layers in their musical world even as you sing along.

Or take Annie May - their stripper anthem.
"Annie May's gotta make up her mind
Is it a girl or is it a guy?"
Is it a love triangle, gender confusion, sexual ambivalence, a discourse on binary themes? Or just a fun thought piece about a dancer? Shut up and dance. "Let your hair down"

Sidenote: at a certain point they dropped the punctuation in the band name: Tony! Toni! Toné! became Tony Toni Toné. They didn't need the exclamation points perhaps. Or was it like The Jacksons being born out of The Jackson 5, contract negotiations? Industry shenanigans? (ducks)

Like Janet Jackson, if there were only faint traces of bubblegum at the outset, they very quickly leaned in to chart their own direction. Regardless, when they took over production duties, there was no need for any histrionics, the music spoke for itself and lingers. We still talk about them and play their well crafted albums years later.

I'm glad that they weren't absorbed into the Prince universe, that going to Paisley Park didn't work out. I'm glad they remained a band and charted their own course. Being soul men was not easy in that era. But the writing was on the wall as to their longevity.

Still, they did warn, listen to Tonyies! In The Wrong Key: "Sometimes I wonder how we stuck together / But I'm so glad and happy we did". On hearing that, I wasn't sure that there would be another album after Sons of Soul. In that sense, House of Music was a double blessing.

Sons Of Soul

I saw Raphael Saadiq live at The Fillmore in San Francisco in 2009, he was touring The Way I See It. I think that he would have been happier playing in the East Bay. When he went into his gospel, revival mode, very few in the crowd followed. It seemed I was the only one whooping and singing hosannas.

I did my 8 years in the Bay Area, my children were born in Oakland, proper African Americans. I'd like to think that there's something of the East Bay that rubs off on you. To live a remove from the moneyed power centers but also where the Black Panthers were founded. But I digress...

To be black in the East Bay is not to be living out Medicine for Melancholy, or even The Last Black Man in San Francisco. It's more in the vein of Sorry To Bother You and Fruitvale Station (especially). Restless joy but with a weary edge, and Tony Toni Tone laid down the soundtrack.


Tony Toni Tone had been through a lot but they had a formula: they seduce you with lush soul but made sure there was grit underneath. That's the Oakland Stroke, that's The Blues, the necessary counterweight to It Never Rains and Lay your Head on my Pillow. Family friendly but never shying away from reality.

Their legacy is to be central to the conversation amidst the soul movements of their era. They proudly wore the mantle of The Isley Brothers, The O'Jays, Maze and The Ohio Players.

Their brand of soul was beautifully constructed, the sound of a band, danceable grown folks music. It feels good and is something that lingers. I'm conflicted that they went out on a high but glad they they gave us what they did.

"This world is drunk and everybody's mad"

Tony Toni Tone, a playlist

A soundtrack for these weary sons of soul. Spend some time in their catalog, it's worth your time (spotify version)

(Orignally written for twitter)

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Writing log. November 11, 2022

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Plight of the Soccer Widow

Dilemmas and dysfunction, the plight of the soccer widow
Yet there's a curious periodicity to those moments of sorrow
The arc of estrangement, it is said, reaches its peak every four years
During the world cup, experimental evidence confirms the trail of tears

For the soccer widow wears a thick veil of invisibility
The absent spouse having discarded the burden of responsibility
Grudging grunts and head nods, barely even acknowledging
It's clear you'll have to fend for yourself and your offspring

Alienation of affection, or rather transference
For that month, football is his sole allegiance
True, the unbridled enthusiasm can sometimes be infectious
After a win, especially, the tribal cheers are precious

But it turns out that frustration is the lot of the soccer widow
And her sole consolation is that there's no game tomorrow
A temporary reprieve that day between rounds of the competition
Palliative relief, truth be told, for the husband's obsession

For instead it's the constant discussion of minor trivia
Speculation about the starting lineups and locker room drama
Lamenting bribery and corruption in the ranks of FIFA
Bemoaning those sheikhs that brought the game to Qatar

Bedraggled after the first two weeks, now he's looking rough
All conversations revolve around a draw that was markedly tough
The injustice of being drawn in the group of death
But also the upside of the situation on betting spreads

That it's now all about commerce, rank power, and globalization
Colonizers facing independent states, questions of possession
No time for the old thrills and sensations of the beautiful game
Total football is long gone, there's a sameness to the styles of play

Complaining about the commentary, he's going quite out of his mind
Expletives galore - shouting: "Can't you see? The referee is blind!"
The madness, the insanity, the chants, the screams
The color of memory, fully wrapped in this fever dream

Any hopes for discipline are fictitious, those costs are fully sunk
All schedules rearranged, it's a wonder that any work gets done
Your household in upheaval, leaving you to do all the pickups
You're left wondering when you'll see the end of this world cup

But there's also the morning after, the inevitable disappointment
Comes the letdown and recriminations when the dream comes to an end
Worse still is the glint in the eye, even after he's fully spent
He's already looking forward to the next one four years hence


"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I'm very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

— The Shankly Code (Shankly, Bill)

world cup brunch

world cup croissant bacon and eggs


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See previously: Dilemmas

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Writing log. December 10, 2022

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Gee Doctor Fauci (Revisited)

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
This strange life is such a mess
Look around, our streets are paved
With discarded rapid tests
Far too many think the pandemic's over
So cavalier and reckless
That we have staffing shortages galore, employee turnover
That's the price you pay for being feckless

Dear kindly Doctor Fauci, you know, I'm ailing
I'm really finding it hard to be a believer
The kid came home from school Friday, sniffling
Just hours later, we found out that he had a fever
What a life, even though the rapid test came back negative
We're all wearing N-95 masks just to be safe

Dear kindly Doctor Fauci
In this minefield of mixed metaphors,
I'm forever drawing a blank
Or, to hearken to pirates of old,
It feels like I'm walking the plank
True, the virus sets the timeline for this crisis
But it's hard to keep living on the precipice

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
You know, I really can't cope
With this covidious business
Daily navigating the tightrope
We are canaries in the mine
Harried, our faces drained of hope
While outside, observers are worried
Waiting for the white puffs of smoke

Dear kindly Doctor Fauci,
They keep making the same mistakes
Behaving, for all intents and purposes,
As if their mind was a clean slate
When you act, without a care,
As if there's no community transmission
If you're lucky, in the best case,
You'll live to regret the decision

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
Please give me a break
A word to the wise:
Open your windows and ventilate
Wear a mask in crowded rooms
Get boosted, don't tempt fate
Lest you end up in the emergency room
Lying in state
And the doctor reminds your kin
That you said "Do not resuscitate"

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
We're really going through the wringer
The former president said it will all just go away by Easter
That we should shine ultraviolet light
And drink bleach; best of luck!
Sure, we voted him out and impeached him
But it's now two years later, what the fuck?

Dear kindly Doctor Fauci
I think it's going to take a miracle
For humanity to abide, as it were,
With the mosquito principle
Those ghouls instantly latched on
To those fateful words: herd immunity
And continue to hold fast, despite the cost,
The very definition of insanity

Doctor Fauci, Pence, Trump coronavirus briefing April 10 2020

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
When will they come to their senses?
This plague has so many unintended consequences
On election day you thought you'd take a chance
Now the whole world is strangely out of balance
It's really a tragedy of the commons
When you submit to the rule of morons

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
The latest research confirms
That the plague's most common side effect
Is to make wives unhinged
And husbands truly reckless
Officials at the CDC
Now call these symptoms learning loss
The index case in the study?
The family of Justice Thomas

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci, we're living out Hollywood realities
If you go by how they're managing the pandemic
It's rather like being passengers on the Titanic
Every man for himself, we're not all on the same boat
And then the fat lady sang, "That's all", she wrote

Dear kindly Doctor Fauci I hate to take you to task
I hear you fell prey to the disease and dropped your mask
By lowering your guard at your college reunion
You forgot for a moment and were imprudent
But, as you know, the virus really doesn't care
Indeed, it spreads readily through tainted air

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci
At this point I'm so dispirited
The handling of the pandemic
Needs to be revisited
A postmortem on how our leaders botched it
So many infected, they lost it
Due to their incompetence and misrule
Now millions are lying six feet under
Because of these fools

Gee kindly Doctor Fauci, I counted
I'm now up to 60 stanzas, disenchanted
For we're no closer to finally
Finding, a cure for this cancer
Ambivalence, I keep going round in circles
The same themes, concentric
Dissonance, my rhyme scheme meandering
Heavy-handed and more eccentric

Dear kindly Doctor Fauci
Truth be told, I think it's really pathetic
To observe their preferred strategy
For dealing with the pandemic
I daresay that it's a sin and rather odd
Because it's plainly not effective
Indeed it's quite akin
To using the Rhythm Method
As a contraceptive

the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Soundtrack for this note

I give you three playlists that the Doctor and I have enjoyed over the pandemic See previously The Grand Reopening of Texas, Gee Doctor Fauci (Remixed) and Telemedicine Consultation

This lament with the good doctor is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: September 3, 2022