East Of Eden

"A curious mix of the relevant and reverential"


Flashback Friday: When Sammy Davis Jr. got devilish.

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(Image Source: Vice)

 

Last week in the Anton La Vey post, I mentioned how Sammy Davis Jr. became a member of The Church of Satan for a while. This struck me as... well, pretty weird. I could see why the publicity-loving Jayne Mansfield would sign up to be Team Lucifer, but Sammy "Member of Sinatra's Rat Pack" Davis Jr.? He was so... laid-back and... cool. And Jewish. He most definitely had converted to Judaism. So what the what? Let's go to Helen O' Hara at The Telegraph for more:

 

Sammy Davis Jr, the singer, actor and Rat Pack member whose own philosophy of life drove him to try just about everything that presented itself - women, men, religion, drugs - became involved in 1968. He had noticed a gang of lively young people each with a single red-painted nail at The Factory, a nightclub he co-owned, and was invited to go with them to a party he described as “dungeons, dragons and debauchery”.

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Flashback Friday: When Buddy Holly Broke the Color Line- at the Apollo.


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Bespectacled Buddy. (Image Source)

 

Before his shocking death at only 22 in 1959, Buddy Holly managed to make major moves. A native of Lubbock, Texas, Holly began playing the guitar as a kid, and counted a number of Country Music singers as influences. As a teen he began listening to Rhythm & Blues over the radio late at night, and it wasn't long before he combined Country and R&B and began playing the hot new sound of the 1950s: Rock & Roll.

Amazingly, Holly's professional career really only took off when he signed with Decca Records in 1956, meaning he hit the top of the charts, toured the country (and even internationally), and packed theatres in 3 short years (along with his band The Crickets for part of that time).This post is going to focus on one particular set of performances in 1957, when Holly took Harlem. From The Delete Bin:

Rock ‘n’ roll is not a type of music. It was a social phenomenon that threaded together music of many American cultures by the 1950s, and continues to be that today on a global scale. To prove the point of the range of rock ‘n’ roll music of their era, Lubbock Texas band Buddy Holly and The Crickets performed at the Apollo Theatre in August of 1957. Expectations were certainly undercut in the days before the civil rights movement, when audiences and musicians of various races simply did not mix. But, thanks to their historic show at The Apollo, this rule was gloriously broken.

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Flashback Friday: Sam Cooke's Crossover Pop Success and How It Made Change Come.


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Sam Cooke (Image Source)

 

Earlier this spring, when rapper Kendrick Lamar dropped his critically praised album, "DAMN", it shot up to the top of the Billboard charts. Thing is, it wasn't just a hit in Hip Hop; it was a certified success in the realm of Pop, too. Slate boasted, "Kendrick Lamar’s New No. 1 Proves He’s Not Just Our Greatest Rapper. He’s One of Our Biggest Pop Stars."

Rappers can be Pop Stars, yes. Twenty years ago (!), the recently deceased Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" spent most of May '97 atop the Hot 100 Charts until being bumped by Hanson's "Mmmbop" (!!). But it wasn't long before Biggie's producer/ B.F.F./ kind-of-a-rapper... kind-of... Bad Boy Records founder- buddy Puff Daddy knocked the blond brothers from number one with "I'll Be Missing You". It was an ode to Biggie that featured fellow Bad Boy artists 112 and Faith Evans, Big's widow.

In other words, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, a young Black music producer of Urban music, with a roster of Urban acts (Lil' Kim, Mase, The Lox), and a performer who sampled some of the best classics of old school Soul music... became not just a Pop hit, but a definitive Pop star. 

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Flashback Friday: When Grace Kelly stormed out of the Stork Club after they refused to serve Josephine Baker.

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Grace Kelly and Josephine Baker, circa 1951. (Image sources here and here)

In October 1951, Grace Kelly, just beginning to make a name for herself, decided to have a night out on the town at famous Manhattan nightclub, Stork Club. Also at the club that night was Josephine Baker, internationally renowned singer, dancer and famous ex-pat who was in the States to perform a series of concerts after years living in France.

Unfortunately, Baker wound up leaving the eatery after an hour of non-service; she stormed out claiming she had never received her dinner because of her race. Some dispute this, but one person who did not was Kelly. Observing the scene, she was shocked and left, too. From Mental Floss:

When the racist staff refused to wait on Baker, Kelly, who was dining with a large party of her own, flew into a rage and walked out of the club in support of Baker.

 

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Flashback Friday: The Black Actress Who Launched her career in "The Birth of a Nation".

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(Madame Sul-Te-Wan, Image Source: BlackPast.org)

 

And no, I absolutely do NOT mean last year's controversial Nate Parker flick, "The Birth of a Nation". I'm talking the D.W. Griffith, 1915 film that celebrates the supposed end of the "treachery" that was Reconstruction and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. From Wikipedia:

The Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) is a 1915 American silent epic drama film directed and co-produced by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. The screenplay is adapted from the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon Jr. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay (with Frank E. Woods), and co-produced the film (with Harry Aitken). It was released on February 8, 1915.

 

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Flashback Friday: That time Eartha Kitt made the First Lady cry.


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LBJ LIBRARY PHOTO BY KEVIN SMITH

 

I love the above picture. I love that in 1968, Eartha Kitt, singer, dancer, Catwoman, invited to one of those oh-so proper "Ladies who Lunch" type-lunches by THE First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, wife of LBJ, at the White House, and kept it really-real on the Vietnam War. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Debuting on Broadway in 1943, Kitt, born dirt-poor on a South Carolina cotton plantation, built a multifaceted show business life that included stage acting, dancing, singing (a come-hither 1953 hit version of "Santa Baby") and movies. When she made the 1958 film Anna Lucasta with Sammy Davis Jr., THR said her performance "is best summarized by the word 'great.' " In 1953, Kitt was making $10,000 per week ($90,000 today) singing at the El Rancho Vegas casino/hotel. By 1968, she was playing Catwoman on ABC's Batman — and was famous enough to be invited to the 50-women luncheon the first lady hosted (with seafood bisque, chicken and ice cream on the menu) to discuss "What Citizens Can Do to Insure Safe Streets."

 

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