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Gazette |

After The Love Has Gone

(A Musical Journey Into Yesterday)

By Steven L. Clark

Several years ago I went back to visit my old neighborhood in the good old Boogie Down Bronx. I smiled as I walked through the streets where me and my buddies used to hangout and talk about women, music, movies; and women. The music was always an important background for us; it was a musical score for our lives. I grew up the descendant of the Civil Rights / Black Power movement from the 60's My Mom and her family not being musicians but through their parents had a passion for all forms of music. Imagine an African American family listening to not only Blues, which is the catalyst for Rock N Roll, Doo Wop, Jazz, Gospell, Nat King Cole, Soul Music, Frankie Lane, Bobby Darin,Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield. My cousin dug Beethoven, Mozart, Led Zeppellin, Jimi Hendrix. Years later my cousin hipped me to the Electric evolution of Stevie Wonder, as well as Earth, Wind & Fire, my musical heroes. I listened to the the old 45's, the 8 tracks; in my generation came the cassettes and later (much later!) CD's. I took all this music fed from it and hungered for more.

History, our true history has many Heroes and Heroines. I like to acknowledge the local heroes that influenced me and my friends. There were several groups who would come around in the summertime and perform for the neighborhood. Several of the musicians lived in our area, studied in the same schools we did; these were our elders. One group Tungsten Steel, a powerful versatile band of great musicians. I mean these brothers would play Funk, Jazz the latest jams almost if not better than the original artist. Once again they were products of the music education system. One more band worthy of mentioning is The Funkmaster's Gang, with a name like that you know these dudes were serious.My buddies and I took in all of this music, the skills; the tight vocal harmonies coming from cats that on any other day you would find playing Basketball on the court. Music was all around us, Brothers would be in the park playing Congas while their pals played handball.

On Saturday nights we were too young for clubs but The Monterey club was a few blocks away so we would venture up to the spot look through the window to check out a group known as The Rhythm Makers who would later find commercial success as a band called: G.Q. Outside of Edenwald in the private houses while visting some friends I would sometimes hear some funky live drumming coming from a garage. I would later find out that the Drummer was the late great Errol “Pumpkin”Bedwards a future Hip Hop Producer and Master Musician. The Churches on Sunday had not just a wonderful Choirs but some funky musicians laying down the music for the most high. In those days our Educational system had a very good music program. Elementary Schools, Junior High Schools, High Schools had Junior & Senior Band, Junior & Senior Orchestra; plus Choir. None of the children had come from well trained musical families but they all had one thing in common the love of music. I walked into our Community Center when the memories overwhelmed me.

I remembered back about some young Junior High School kids wanted to use a room to just rehearse. The Center manager agreed without any hesitation whatsoever; you see back then community centers were just that centers for the community. I played Clarinet at the time, but would later changed to Alto Saxophone; and my buddy played Trombone, we jammed on different horn riffs of Earth,Wind & Fire, Brass Construction; we were just jamming. Now a few local young people heard us and came upstairs, a conversation began and we found out that they were musicians also. A mutual love of music brought together a bunch of young esquires and so my first band N.B.C. (Nothing But Class) was born and the rest was history, at least in our side of the hood. The music programs in school brought the kids together, showing us the beauty of not just music we listened to at home but other forms of music. We were taught theory, composition.

My love of music took me to venues I would never imagine playing in. I mean we gigged all over the place: Banks, Casinos; McDonald's, (that's right McDonald's'!), Weddings, you name it we played there. All of this was apart of the education that started in school, but because of our love of the music and our dedication we took it to other levels. Now many of us went on to pursue a professional music career, others have not. However, I believe the experience stuck with them throughout their lives.

Now I look around for some young people with horns or violins but I find one or two. I remember how back in our day we would run across musicians on the trains and buses. I sometimes talk with some young people and they have no idea of the music from the past thirty years let alone 50 years ago. Then I look on television to see a little White Child is playing Blues Guitar, like B.B. King; well that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. This young lad was taught the rich culture that is Black music. Where is the love for our music? Our musical history is vast and is the foundation for most of the Pop & Rock Icons that are now considered legends. Ask The Rolling Stones who were their idols. Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis Presley; they all studied and imitated, oh excuse me emulated R&B artists. I have talked with many of my friends who were musicians and singers, they did pass on the rich musical legacy of our people.

So the journey continues, we who have the knowledge, the passion for the groove, that melody that lingers one, we share. We remind the young people how great music was created in the midst of turbulent times. In a time without computers or cable music shows, the artists only weapons were old instruments, bad sound systems. Back room recording studios and chitlin' circuit tours, but great talent and a passion for the music!