This Saturday night September 17th, legendary musician Nona Hendryx presents a fiery musical mosaic in RIGHT NOW! (a WeDaPeoples Cabaret), curated by award-winning poet/playwright/ recording artist Carl Hancock Rux as part of the Uptown Nights at Harlem Stage series on at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse.
RIGHT NOW! has its roots in an inclusive post-9/11 project created by the late performance poet Sekou Sundiata that explores what it now means to be American. In an unusually intimate setting, Hendryx will create a rock-and-soul mélange that traces her musical history as main writer and one-third of the female trio Labelle to her extraordinarily adventurous solo career. She’ll perform unreleased material (a driving cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, a song challenging Michelle Bachman’s candidacy) and cuts from her new CD Mutatis Mutandis (opinionated tracks such as “Tea Party” and “The Ballad of Rush Limbaugh”).
As an old fan of Nona Hendryx and her contributions to the canon of Black rock and pop, I jumped a chance to ask her a few questions for Blackadelic Pop.
MG: Part of the show is examining your history as an artist. Why do you feel made Labelle unique in pop music?
Nona: Labelle broke the mold of what girl groups used to be from when we began as Patti and the Bluebelles. With Labelle, our wardrobe was different and the music became more of a hybrid of funk, rock and opera. We weren’t afraid to cover songs like “Four Women” by Nina Simone or Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Creatively, behind the scenes, we were more involved in the writing of the songs.
MG: Many folks might not be aware that you wrote many of the songs for Labelle including “You Turn Me On” and “Space Children.” How did you start writing?
NH: Well, I had always read and wrote poetry. In school, my first love was writing, but I was into reading the works of e.e. cummings, the Bronte sisters and James Weldon Johnson; years later I got into H. Rap Brown and Nicki Giovanni. Although I can’t remember the name of it, one of the first songs I ever wrote was with my old friend Curtis Mayfield, who encouraged me as a lyricist. He and I wrote a song together in Baltimore that the Bluebelles later recorded.
MG: It seems that in modern times, so-called “girl groups” have disappeared from the pop charts.
NH: And, to me that is a real shame. There is something magical about girl groups, something that happens when particular voices come together as one. Not just in girl groups, but all groups be it the Jackson 5 or the Staple Singers. But, record companies are notorious for tearing groups apart by picking one artist over another. But, there is nothing like the sound of multiple voices on a record.
MG: What’s next for you?
NH: In January, my new CD Mutatis Mutandis will be getting a wider release. This disc is very political, and features songs that talk about everything from Katrina to the Tea Party to the oil spill.
Labels: Nona Hendryx