– by DJ Bill Coleman of Peace Bisquit
"Where are my keys?" Ugh, I generally don’t like the concept of Black
History Month to be honest – feels so limited, and it occurs during
one of the coldest and shortest months of the year no less! That
said, I greatly appreciate the light it sheds on many unsung heroes
for not only Black or African-Americans but for all Americans.
As far as
iconic performers are concerned – there’s been sooo many that have
and continue to influence, inspire and were unquestionably true
Diahann Carroll, Lola Falana, Dorothy Dandridge, Chaka
Khan, Sammy Davis, Jr., George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Aretha
Franklin, Bill Cosby, The Emotions, Quincy Jones, The Pointer
Sisters, Pam Grier, Grace Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Donna Summer,
Tina Turner, Salt-N-Pepa, Sister Sledge, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael
Jackson, Run DMC, Sidney Poitier, Biggie, James Brown, Ashford and
Simpson, Richard Roundtree, Richard Pryor, the entire cast of Good
Times, Chic, Nona Hendryx, Prince and the beat goes on …
I’d like to
give some props to Miss Jody Watley.
From pop locking with fierce teen hair on Soul Train to the synth-etched R&B nuturing of her Solar years in Shalamar to a fashion-forward solo launch in the ’80s, Jody constantly enraptured with the
looks, attitude, grace and a wholly distinctive vocal style.
with a ‘girl next door’ glint, she has consistently kept us
interested and curious. From "Right In The Socket" and "A Night To
Remember" through to "Don’t You Want Me" and "Real Love," there’s
always been a melancholy smile to her tone – at once familiar and
comforting but also passionate and assured. No one could make a
broken heart sound so good in 4/4 time!
Watley’s classic releases
combine good ol’ pop songwriting ("Most Of All", "Everything") with
the rhythmic pulse of that era ("Some Kind Of Lover"). Spanning
genres of R&B, adult contemporary, dance and pop, the Chi-town native
conquered the charts and our hearts effortlessly. The introduction of
music videos as a mainstream medium cemented Jody as an icon and
ushered in a Grammy win for Best New Artist.
The vintage clothes! The
freestyle dancing! The empowering lyrics! The chunky beats! And oh,
yeah … The flaming queens! Whether it was her "fabulous" friends
("Still A Thrill") just working the runway ("Real Love") or inviting
a host of trannies, voguers and scenesters to serve it with rapper
Rakim ("Friends"), Watley always kept us on her radar with her
videoclips and wasn’t afraid to let the world know what the ‘T’ was –
before it was de riguer.
This was unprecedented from an African-American pop performer. Peep her sleek, stylized "I Want You" clip
and you’ll see all the seeds of visual inspiration for everyone from
En Vogue and Janet Jackson through to Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.
Often underrated, Jody has been worked with some of the top fashion
photographers, video directors and stylists before their names were
marquee: Matthew Rolston. David Fincher. Michel Comte. Steven
Meisel…and turned out a larger than life Gap ad long before today’s
Flash forward as Jody celebrates 30 years in the mix with nine albums
and millions of records sold worldwide, still keeping a pulse on
today touring the world and releasing new music. As a songwriter,
producer, and label owner, our proclaimed "queen of cool" continues
to surprise, delight and hone her talents by collaborating with the
likes of fan favorites Masters At Work, 4 Hero, King Britt and
Dj Spinna. Experimenting with soultronica ("A Bed Of Roses") ,
midnight lounge ("Saturday Night Experience"), club rhythms ("A
Beautiful Life") or putting a fresh makeover on classics ("I Want
Your Love"), Watley quietly breaks ground over and over and over as
she has for the last three decades – with class and purpose.
So the next time one of your new divas poses for the camera, dips it
low, snaps for the kids, says everything’s just fine, does the Naomi Campball walk, tells you to let him go or to not stop the music –
please be kind, rewind and remind – JW did it first.
Hasta la vista, baby.
Special thanks to New York DJ and manager BILL COLEMAN of Peace Bisquit for this guest blog!