Soul Music: Stacey Epps and R.I.P. to Legendary Songwriter Norman Whitfield

Time to drop a little bit of the new Soul Music on the and the FuseBox Radio Broadcast heads...

I've been crazy busy in between trying to do 1,000 things at once (literally at times) and have not had a chance to do a great deal of Soul Music posts in the while, so I just wanted to hit folks up with some quality - here goes:

First off, we have to put a focus on Atlanta's singer and MC Stacy Epps. She put out her first solo album, The Awakening (released on Japanubia Musik/735 Music), at the beginning of August.

I have to be real and say while I've dug her music and feature apperances for a while on releases from folks like Lil' Sci (a.k.a. John Robinson) of Scienz of Life and Sol Uprising, Madlib, MF DOOM, Oh No, Wildchild, J Rawls, Jneiro Jarel & Shape of Broad Minds and other folks, it took me a while to actually sit down and listen to the album.

The Awakening definitely has some quality head nodders, good production and vibes to it (as well as someone who can actually sound decent without using the bane of Soul and R&B music at the present of autotune and Pro Tools wizardry).

When you get the chance, check the album out and if you like it, cop that ASAP. We have 2 tracks for folks to download for free from the album below to see what's good with the sis on the vocals and the mic and think folks will dig it.

The Awakening Tracklisting:

1. Eppisode 1
2. The Awakening
3. OM feat. Muhsinah
4. Addicted (right click and "save as")
5. Heaven feat. Bilal Salaam
6. Cosmik Dust
7. Floatin' (right click and "save as")
8. Floatin' (reprise)
9. Who Knows
10. Mothership
11. 00:00 feat. Finale

Bonus Video #1: Stacy Epps @ The Artshare Rhyming Over Dibiase's Metroid Beat

Bonus Video #2: Sol Uprising (Stacy Epps & Lil' Sci) - They Don't Know (directed by Kane U$A - 2003)

Stacy Epps Official MySpace Page

Next off, the and FuseBox Radio Broadcast family have to give respectful condolences to family, friends and fans of the legendary Soul Music songwriter, Norman Whitfield.

(Picture taken from The Guardian Newspaper)

Top Motown Songwriter Norman Whitfield
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 18, 2008; Page B05

Norman Whitfield, the Grammy Award-winning songwriter who as producer of the Temptations helped create the Motown sound and was one of the most prolific hitmakers of the 1960s and early 1970s, died Sept. 16 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications from diabetes. He was believed to be 67 years old.

With Barrett Strong, Mr. Whitfield wrote such chart-topping hits as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)." He pushed the early, innocent Motown sound into funkier and edgier regions with "psychedelic soul" tunes and grittier lyrics reflecting the changing social ferment.

In such singles as "War," "I Wish It Would Rain," "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" and "Cloud Nine," Mr. Whitfield addressed lost love as well as political chaos and drug use. "Cloud Nine" by the Temptations won Motown Records its first Grammy, in 1968.

"My thing was to out-Sly Sly Stone," Mr. Whitfield told Marvin Gaye biographer David Ritz. "Sly was definitely sly, and his sound was new, his grooves were incredible, he borrowed a lot from rock. He caught the psychedelic thing. He was bad. I could match him though, rhythm for rhythm, horn for horn."

His list of song credits goes on for seven pages at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Web site, citing such well-known tunes as "I Can't Get Next to You," "Psychedelic Shack," "Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing (Don't Say No)" and "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby."

The Temptations' 1972 version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," a seven-minute tour de force that Mr. Whitfield wrote and produced, won three Grammies.

As Motown began to fade and disco took over popular tastes in the mid-1970s, Mr. Whitfield left Detroit for Los Angeles, where he formed his own record label. He wrote the title song and soundtrack album for the 1976 comedy film "Car Wash" for the band Rose Royce, which won a Grammy.

Singer Lionel Richie told The Washington Post in 1984 that he once approached Mr. Whitfield with a song, trying to play a tape recording for him. "He said, 'If you've got a great song, hum it to me. No drums, no nothing. Lionel, it has to come from the melody.' "

A New York native, Norman Jesse Whitfield was a young phenomenon at Motown, arriving at the Hitsville USA headquarters when he was in his late teens or early 20s -- after his father's car broke down in Detroit.

He played tambourine on some records and worked in the quality-control department, where he offered advice on which tunes to release. He also began writing songs and producing singles such as the Velvelettes' "Needle in a Haystack" and the Marvelettes' "Too Many Fish in the Sea."

Mr. Whitfield and Strong were teamed up by Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., and together they penned some of Marvin Gaye's earliest hits, including "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)."

Gaye recorded the duo's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" in early 1967, but it sat on the shelf for more than a year because Gordy didn't like how it sounded. Mr. Whitfield badgered the impresario to let him try the song again with Gladys Knight and the Pips. That gospel-tinged version became a huge hit.

When Gaye's sparer version of "Grapevine" was released the next year, it overtook the previous recording in sales. The song became one of the most valuable copyrights in Motown's enormous catalogue, and last week Gaye's version ranked at No. 65 in Billboard magazine's compilation of the top singles of the past 50 years.

By 1966, Mr. Whitfield had taken over producing the Temptations from Smokey Robinson in the wake of the song Mr. Whitfield wrote with Eddie Holland, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." A string of hits followed, and not just for the Temptations.

In 1970, Edwin Starr hit the charts with Mr. Whitfield and Strong's jackhammer chant "War," an antiwar protest that is periodically revived when hostilities threaten. The song was so well known, a biography at notes, that 22 years later, its lyrics ("War, what is it good for") figured in a key joke involving Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in an episode of the television show "Seinfeld."

Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004, Mr. Whitfield had all but faded from the news until 2005, when he pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion for not reporting more than $4 million worth of income between 1995 and 1999. He was sentenced to six months of home detention and fined $25,000.

Source: The Washington Post

In memory of Mr. Whitfield, here are five music videos representing DJ Fusion's Favorite Ways Music Folks "Heard It Through The Grapevine":

1. Gladys Knight & The Pips - I Heard It Through the Grapevine (my personal favorite interpetation of the song - the funk and groove is killing it)

2. Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine

3. King Curtis - I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968) (no video, but a GREAT jazzy and funk music driven instrumental interpetation of the joint from the saxophonist)

4. Clarence Creedwater Revivial - I Heard It Through The Gravevine (live)

5. Tina Turner - I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Live)