Craig's Pop Life: 10.28.22
Hey, everybody! Welcome to another edition of Craig’s Pop Life, a Black gay excursion into pop culture. It’s giving content, hunny!
Hope you had a great week. Mine was…well, it’s true what the internets say, “life comes at you fast.” In my last letter, I talked about my plans for the III Points festival and how excited I was to see James Blake. Shortly before his set, my mom called and told me she was taking my 103-year-old grandmother to the hospital. This was concerning but not exactly panic-inducing because, given her advanced age, my grandmother liked to go directly to the ER whenever something was bothering her. In the past few years, she even survived open heart surgery—something they don’t always perform on older patients, but my grandmother insisted on the procedure. She wanted to live.
During James Blake’s show, my mom texted me that they were headed to the ICU. That’s when concern started to creep in, and I mentally made plans to fly from Miami to D.C., where my grandmother lived, on the earliest flight the next morning. Then, something really strange happened at the show. Remember a couple of weeks back when I shared the TikTok about what musicians hear in their ear monitors? Well, James’ ear monitors—and those of his band—completely went out. They couldn’t hear themselves or their instruments.
This situation would’ve made many artists flee the stage, but London-born James, a virtuosic pianist who draws both from classic training and lessons learned from watching James Cleveland videos on YouTube, decided to do an impromptu piano-vocal set, even though he couldn’t hear himself sing. One of the songs he performed, a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed,” spoke precisely to how I was feeling about my grandmother at that moment. The song begins, “I will always love you.”
After the show was over, I tweeted James on my Uber ride home.
Sadly, I lost my beloved grandmother two days later. In the end, her frail body couldn’t keep up with her sharp mind. Throughout the many painful days that have followed, “Godspeed” keeps playing in my head, phrases like “the table is prepared for you” and “I let go of my claim on you.” I also know that living without her will mean accepting, as James sings, “There will be mountains you won’t move.”
Nobody wants to take on another subscription, but I’m completely independent, so reader support is essential. It’s just $5/month or $50/year. (That comes out to around $1/letter.) I really appreciate you showing that the work of a Black gay writer has value.
Rihanna - “Lift Me Up”
SZA - “Shirt”
Aleza, Gloss Up, Slimeroni, & K Carbon - “Shabooya”
Dawn Tallman - “Get Here (DJ Spen, Gary Hudgins, & David Harness Vocal Mix)”
TEN CITY - “Love Is Love”
EVERYBODY’S SO CREATIVE: PUMPKIN EDITION
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I remember exactly when I first heard Dennis Edwards’ single “Don’t Look Any Further” on the radio in 1984. My initial thought was, “Who is the sista killin’ it on the m-i-c?” (It’s Siedah Garrett). Then, I was like, “what is this groove?”
I was really into club music, and this song seemed like the perfect bridge between the dancefloor sounds that my 15-year-old self was learning about and the soul I grew up on. Of course, the record became a huge hit and has lasted through the ages. My one consistent thought about the song was that it was highly original and innovative.
Fast forward to last week, and I’m listening to a compilation of tracks by the Spanish rock group Barrabás.
Seems kinda left field, right? Well, Barrabás was played often at DJ David Mancuso’s legendary nightclub/home The Loft. Mancuso found out about the group during a trip to Spain, and their songs became so popular with Mancuso’s audience that he’d sell copies of the obscure albums to people at cost.
So, I’m streaming away, nodding my head to the oft-kilter grooves, when “Abraxame” comes on. It didn’t take 14 seconds before I was like, “This is ‘Don’t Look Any Further’.”
I was obsessed with finding out which came first, so I turned to my Twitter friends. @valsadie discovered one reference to the similiarities between the songs in a Rolling Stone story on “The 100 Greatest Motown Songs.” (What is it w/ all these d—n lists?)
So, now I’m curious about the full story because Don’t Look Any Further” is doing a whole lot more than reaching back. If you have any tips or clues, please share in the comments.
Queen Latifah, “The Source,” August 1998
Grace Jones - “Storm (Tommy Musto’s Soft & Warm Mix)”
Tribal House - “Motherland (Reverse Overlay Mix)”
Bayard Rustin (Yes, THAT Bayard Rustin) - “There Is A Balm in Gilead”
Thanks for hanging out again. I hope you enjoyed the letter. Until next week, be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself. Love, Craig