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Melvin Van Peebles, Godfather of Black Cinema, Dies at 89

Melvin Van Peebles, the pioneering filmmaker behind the 1970s films Watermelon Man and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, has died. He was 89.

Van Peebles, the father of actor-director Mario Van Peebles, died Tuesday night at his home in Manhattan. His family, The Criterion Collection and Janus Films announced his death in a statement.

melvin van peebles

“In an unparalleled career distinguished by relentless innovation, boundless curiosity and spiritual empathy, Melvin Van Peebles made an indelible mark on the international cultural landscape through his films, novels, plays and music,” the statement read. “His work continues to be essential and is being celebrated at the New York Film Festival this weekend with a 50th anniversary screening of his landmark film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song; a Criterion Collection box set, Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films, next week; and a revival of his play Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, slated for a return to Broadway next year.”

Considered by many to be the godfather of modern Black cinema, Van Peebles was an influential link to a younger generation of African-American filmmakers that includes Spike Lee and John Singleton. The Chicago native also was a novelist, theater impresario, songwriter, musician and painter.

Van Peebles was living in Paris when the first feature he wrote and directed, The Story of a Three-Day Pass, attracted attention and put him on the radar at Columbia Pictures. The studio selected him to direct Watermelon Man (1970), a racial satire that starred Godfrey Cambridge as Jeff Gerber, a bigoted white insurance salesman who goes to the bathroom in his suburban home in the middle of the night and discovers he’s Black. Very few African-Americans were directing in Hollywood at the time.

On the strength of that movie’s success, Columbia offered Van Peebles a three-picture deal but wanted no part of his next project, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971). Helped by a $50,000 loan from Bill Cosby, he wrote, directed, produced, scored and edited the renegade film while starring as its anti-hero, a ladies man with superhero lovemaking abilities who battles the corrupt white establishment in Los Angeles.

Van Peebles made Sweetback in 19 days for a reported $500,000. It opened in only two venues, in Atlanta and Detroit, but fueled by strong word-of-mouth from working-class African-Americans and a soundtrack of music performed by Earth, Wind & Fire, the picture raked in more than $10 million, making it the highest-grossing independent film in history at the time. (The opening credits note that the star of the film is “The Black Community.”)

Read the rest on Hollywood Reporter

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Hip Hop Legend, Biz Markie Has Died at 57

Biz Markie, the pioneering rapper, producer, and beatboxer whose sense of humor and innovative samples made him a singular presence in hip-hop, died Friday at the age of 57.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, hip hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement. “We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time.

Biz Markie

“Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years,” Izumi added. “He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes, and frequent banter. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

His cause of death is unclear, but the New York MC (born Marcel Theo Hall) was hospitalized in April 2020 because of diabetes complications and reportedly suffered a stroke while in a diabetic coma last year as well.

Biz Markie

Beatboxing his way into the rapidly growing New York hip-hop scene in the mid-1980s, Biz Markie (born Marcel Theo Hall) made his mark with his unique rhyme style, sense of humor, and witty lines that won him the nickname the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop.

May he rest in Power.

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8 Little Richard Quotes and Sayings

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Little Richard died Saturday. He was 87 years old. His death was announced on his official Facebook page, as well as by his son, Danny Jones Penniman, who confirmed the news first to Rolling Stone.

The wildly influential singer and pianist established rock ’n’ roll as a genre with just one rule — there are no rules. And his signature recordings, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Lucille,” “Tutti Frutti,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” remain embedded in the core DNA of rock ’n’ roll.

Here are some quotes to remember the legendary musician by:

Richard Quotes and Sayings

I never accepted the idea that I had to be guided by some pattern or blueprint.

Little Richard Quotes

And I’d like to give my love to everybody, and let them know that the grass may look greener on the other side, but believe me, it’s just as hard to cut.

Little Richard Quotes

I’m here to sing.

Little Richard Quotes

It was a way out of poverty. It was a way to success. It was a way to education. And it was a way to a brighter day for me.

Little Richard Quotes

I think my legacy should be that when I started in show business, there wasn’t no such thing as rock n’ roll. When I started with ‘Tutti Frutti,’ that’s when rock really started rocking.

Little Richard Quotes

If at first you don’t succeed, you get back up and you try … and you try … and you try it again … except ice skating, I hate this crap, I quit!

A lot of people call me the architect of rock & roll. I don’t call myself that, but I believe it’s true.

I am the innovator. I am the originator. I am the emancipator. I am the architect of rock ‘n’ roll!


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Black Enterprise founder, Earl Graves Sr. dies at 85

Earl Graves Sr., the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise and iconic entrepreneur in the black community, has died.

Graves’ son, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., confirmed his father’s passing in a post on Twitter, saying he died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. According to Black Enterprise, Graves Sr. was 85.

“I loved and admired this giant of a man, and am blessed to be his namesake,” said Graves Jr. in an update on Twitter.

Graves Sr. founded Black Enterprise in 1970 as a resource for business and investing advice for African Americans.

earl graves sr

“The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community,” said Graves Sr. “The publication was committed to the task of educating, inspiring and uplifting its readers.”

Graves Sr. was heralded as a champion of black-owned business and a supporter of equal opportunity. He received the National Award of Excellence for his business achievements. Graves Sr. served on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies, including AMR Corp., which runs American Airlines, and DaimlerChrysler AG.

earl graves sr

Graves Sr. was previously chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., the largest minority-controlled Pepsi-Cola franchise in the U.S.

Graves Sr. was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1935. He graduated from Morgan State University with a degree in economics. Following a stint in the Army, Graves Sr. went on to work as administrative assistant to the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy from 1965 to 1968.

Graves leaves behind a rich legacy of teaching the importance of financial literacy and entrepreneurship to Black folks around the world.

 

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Aretha Franklin left behind an $80 million fortune — Why Cash was King for The Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin,  the “Queen of Soul,” left behind an $80 million fortune when she died on Thursday at age 76, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Franklin, known for hits including “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” had an unusual policy when it came to her money: she often demanded to be paid in cash, as Money magazine reported.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, noticed this quirk when he went backstage at one of Franklin’s performances in 2016.

“On the counter in front of her, next to her makeup mirror and hairbrush, were small stacks of hundred-dollar bills,” Remnick wrote. “She collects on the spot or she does not sing.”

UNITED STATES – JULY 01: Photo of Aretha FRANKLIN (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

He noted that the cash went straight into her handbag, which stays “with her security team or goes out onstage and resides, within eyeshot, on the piano.”

Franklin’s friend, Tavis Smiley, said this practice was because of the time she grew up in.

“It’s the era she grew up in — she saw so many people, like Ray Charles and B. B. King, get ripped off,” Smiley told The New Yorker. “There is the sense in her very often that people are out to harm you. And she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”

“It is understood that this money shall be presented by the promoter or the designated person, directly to Ms. Franklin,” states a contract published by The Smoking Gun in 2010. “No one other than Ms. Franklin is to be given payment in any form on her behalf unless prior written authorization is received from our office.”

The remainder of the fee, anything beyond $25,000, could be handed over in the form of a check, according to Money.

Franklin, who won 18 Grammy awards, is known as a musical icon. Former President Barack Obama said she “helped define the American experience” — and one of her performances even brought the former president to tears.

She was one of the best-selling artists in history, with one industry estimate indicating she sold over 75 million records worldwide in her career, according to Business Insider.

But “the songstress never appeared on any Forbes ranking of the highest-paid celebrities, and we estimate that her income sat in the low seven figures annually over the last few decades of her life,” Zack O’Malley Greenburg wrote in a Forbes article titled, “Aretha Franklin Had The Respect Of Billions, But Earned Mere Millions.”

Greenburg said this was because Franklin was afraid of flying and limited her North American tours by choosing to travel only by bus, so her income from tours was lower than it could have been.

According to The New York Times, Franklin’s “commercial fortunes were uneven, as her recordings moved in and out of sync with the tastes of the pop market.”

Still, $80 million is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And no matter the details of her estate, many people will likely agree that Rolling Stone magazine had it right in 2010 when it called Franklin the greatest singer of all time.

 

Source: Insider