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Um a Souuuuul Mane! (shameless plug time)

Soul Men,”  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the late Isaac Hayes, opens tomorrow. Go see it! I played on either the score, the soundtrack, or both. Help me out so that my checks will be a little larger! Thanx!

Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac star in The Weinstein Company's Soul Men

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November 6, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Entertainment, Isaac Hayes, Movies, Music, Music Business, Samuel L. Jackson, Saxophone, Soul Men | 2 Comments

Death Wears Three Shoes. Two Have Fallen…

“Hey, Derrick, we got a possible session comin’ up, and it’s BIG. I don’t wanna say anything yet, ’cause I might jinx it,” my trumpet player friend, Marc Franklin, told me a couple of months ago.

I didn’t press the issue because I’ve had a number of false alarms in the past.

It turns out that it IS happening. Tomorrow, August 11, we are (were) scheduled to play behind Anthony Hamilton and other notables on the soundtrack of the upcoming movie, “Soul Men” directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Spike’s cousin,  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the — Lord, help us — late Isaac Hayes! I didn’t even have a chance to be happy about the whole thing because Marc had played everything so close to his vest that I didn’t even know that I was to be part of the music to the movie. I was fired up about the chance to shoot my shot with r&b artist Hamilton.

It hurt to hear about Bernie Mac simply because he was so genuine and funny. I always loved that dude. I didn’t even know I was working on his LAST FILM!

And then today, as I was at my folks’ house trying to get my usual Sunday afternoon nap (since I don’t ever go to sleep on Saturday nights anymore), I heard Kathy screaming from the distance and getting ever closer to where I was. “Isaac Hayes just died!” I sat up.

“WHAT?!?”

“They killin’ all the black people!!” she lamented. “First Bernie, now this! I can’t take it! Who next?!?” She was pretty upset.

You know they always say these things come in threes.

So, needless to say, tomorrow’s session is cancelled. See, Isaac is in the movie, too (unbeknownst to me), and the guys who played on the “Shaft” score with him, Skip Pitts (wa wa guitar) and Willie Hall (all those drums), are in the group that I often play with, and they are doing this project. They were at the studio when they got the news, and it was, I’m told, not pretty.

Isaac is the icon of Memphis music. He was one of the pioneers who got out and did it BIG. I can say with honor that I have played with him a few times and have spoken with him. Cool dude! Truck Turner in the flesh!  And, as I found out, he was a real musician who knew the music.

I was playing in the horn section at a NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) event a couple of years ago (nearly eerily where I met Morgan Freeman). We were honoring hometown Stax Records and Memphis musicians, among them William Bell, Justin Timberlake (when he was still with Cameron Diaz), and Isaac Hayes.

At a rehearsal, he came in to check out the band. We were working on a song of his, and one of the charts had some funny voicings for the horns. Isaac came over with a smile and asked us to play what was on the paper. I was like, “Man! Isaac Hayes is right in front of me listening to me play! Don’t mess up!”

We got into it, and I thought I was killin’ it when he stopped us…

“Play that again. Just the horns,” he baritoned. (“Wow! Sounds jus’ like hisself! I kin dig it!”)

We played the section again, and he looked at me and stopped us again. “Gimme your chart.” Cool as butter.

“See this ‘B’ right here? Play a ‘B’ flat. ” He basically re-voiced the whole chord. But I thought, “Naw. That ain’t right. He must have mis-read it. This is like major, and that note ain’t even in the key. It’s gonna clash, and everbody is gonna think it was me. He IS kinda old. I’m ‘on play a ‘B’ natural.”

So we played it again. See, I’m trying to impress Isaac Hayes with my abilities.

“Stop. Did you play that ‘B’ flat like I told you?”

My black face turned red. On the inside. “Aw. My bad. I musta missed it.”

He was still smiling at me.

So we hit it again, and I played the ‘B’ flat. Man, that chord rang out as pretty and altered as some Miles or some Monk or something!!

I looked up at Isaac and he had a grin on his face wider than an Atlanta expressway! I couldn’t do anything but laugh! We spoke no words, but here is what we said:

“Isaac! Maaaannn, you know yo’ stuff!”

“Yeahhh, young buck, they ain’t just invent music five years ago. I’m thru wit’ stuff you ain’t even heard of yet!”

“I’m impressed! My daddy got your records, but that whuppin’ you just gave me raises you waaay up in my book! I ain’ gone never forget this lesson! (I break verbs an assault adjectives and murder modifiers in my thoughts.)”

“You keep on playin’. You gone be all right. Just listen to the old heads.”

All that with a glance and two smiles. Isaac Hayes is — was — thorough! And now, he’s in the hands of the Lord.

Death hurts. The living as well as the departed, maybe the living hurt more. It is cool to have a few memories, but the pain of all this is a memory, too, and they kind of all go together. Otherwise, it would be like watching the first thirty minutes of a movie and leaving before the end.

I never got the chance to even wonder what it would be like to talk to Bernie Mac at the premiere. And the fact that I have interacted with Hayes makes his passing even more poignant.

It’s just not right to be speaking of these men in the past tense.

August 11, 2008 Posted by | Bernie Mac, Celebrity, Current Events, Death, Hollywood, Isaac Hayes, Life, Movies, Music, News, Show Business, Soul Men, Work | 5 Comments

Bows of Holly

Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. In light of current occurrences, I thought it apropos… You’ll get it before it ends. Once again, it has meter and rhyme — something that is not entirely in vogue. 

She’s the shining star we all desire

That none can ever rule

Your heart burns for her like a fire

But you are just her tool

She’s the old man’s broken dream

And yet the young boy’s folly

Slicker than a bowl of steam

People call her “Holly”

The face she wears is stunning, though

A most deceptive guise

Her whim will bring you running, though

Her wiles confound the wise

Being seen with her will frame

The diffident secure

Her colder shoulder, though, will name

The confident demure

Morally, she knows no bounds

She’ll draw you to the pit

You marvel at the sights and sounds

And beg for one more “hit”

She’s a fickle paramour

Her lovers span the globe

Their broken hearts on every shore

Still blinded by the strobe

She takes them, chews them up, and spits

Them out like melon seeds

When wined and dined and danced, she quits

Them once they’ve met her needs

What makes a person while so vain,

So ceaselessly divine?

The prize, when won, soon soaks the brain

In salty pickle brine

It could be our necessity

For fortune and for glory

Perhaps we find it best to be

The center of the story

It seems that most would pawn the heart

For billing and a statue

And wouldn’t you tear your soul apart

To have the world look at you?

The masses court disaster for

A night in Babylon

(Of) Illusion she’s the master, for

You’ll wake and she’ll be gone

Your puerile fantasy becomes

A living, breathing hell

The ruling sounds are pounding drums,

And sorrow’s telling knell

You wonder if she really cared

Somewhere down deep within

But in the dark she only bared

A wicked, mordant grin

She prances with the attitude

Of one who knows she’s wanted

She peppers you with platitudes

Her skill is widely vaunted

She seems to prosper, seems to thrive

But most will never know

That Holly needs us to survive

She’ll never let it show

For if we turned our backs on her

She’d wither like a leaf

She hides it well, would much prefer

To revel in our grief

So lose you will on Beverly’s hill

Or dip where Sunset strips

Dance the dance and take your fill

Of Holly’s poison lips

The Siren’s not resisted, so

Don’t stray within her range

The melody is twisted, so

Will certainly derange

Who would grind your soul to powder

Crush you into dust?

Whose seductive song grows louder

Begging for your trust?

Who would rip your heart asunder

Meaning you no good?

(You) Know the answer, needn’t wonder

Surely — Holly would!

Copyright 2001, Derrick L. Williams

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, Entertainment, Hollywood, Metaphor, Morality, Movies, Poetry | 4 Comments

“Thou Shalt Sell No Bootleg Movies.”

The other day, while the band was on a break, the subject of the new Denzel movie, “American Gangster” came up. A couple of the guys were talking about how good it was, and since it hadn’t come out yet, I asked, “Waitaminnit. How y’all see the movie and it ain’t came out yet?” (My conversational grammar is not always as polished as my published grammar. Besides, there were no White folks around!)

They laughed at me, the church boy.

“Bootleg, mane*! You wont it? I got it,” Dude 1 said. (I’ll not name names here)

“Naw,” I replied. “I’ll wait to see it at the movies.” Chuckling.

Dude 2 laughed and said, “The preacher don’t want to tick the Lord off!”

Dude 1, the seller, eyed me sideways over the top of his shades and asked sarcastically, smiling, 

“The Lord don’t like bootleg?” He was trying to corner me…

“Nope.”

It is important for the sake of timing,  to note that the rest of this exchange came rapid-fire, without pause:

Dude 1 asked, “Aw, rilly**? Where dat at in the Bible?”

” ‘Thou shalt not steal!’  (They fell out laughing!) Yeah, thass EARLY in the story! Thass in the firss act, even before the firss commercial!” (They’re rolling, laughing now, falling backwards and stomping like we Black folk do. We LOVE to laugh.) Yeah, man, you ain’t even gotta be a theologian to know that one! I gotcha, didn’ I?”

“Yeh, mane! I cain’t argah*** witcha right there!” We kept right on laughing.

I don’t get many opportunities to preach to the guys with whom I work, and it is cool when I do. It is a delicate balance– trying to be relevant while not selling out the Lord. They see me as separate, not doing many of the things they do, yet they do not shun me thereby rendering me ineffective.

This is one small reason why I do not see a problem with what I do. I play music for a living. “Secular music.” (I HATE that term! Is YOUR job “secular”?) I don’t get high, I don’t get drunk, I don’t run around with women, etc. And if I slipped, my entire Christian witness would be torn down. But how many street folk read the Bible recreationally? How many of them go to church and ACTUALLY adhere to the ad they hear? We are told to go out inTO the world. That’s where the people are.

These guys knew that selling and buying bootleg movies was wrong. That’s common sense. I didn’t impart some startling new revelation to them. But what I hope I did was to let them know that God is in every corner of life. And that, hopefully by my meager example, it is possible to be holy and still be an enjoyable person to be around. Christian life is not to be boring and stiff! Will Heaven be that way?

*Man
**Really
***Argue

November 13, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Common Sense, Entertainment, Food for Thought, Humor, Life, Life Lessons, Movies, Playing Music, Work | 2 Comments