Lou D.Washington,Hollywood Singer/Comedian Aimed for The Stars

Photo still from the movie Hollywood Shuffle , a comedic satire on the business of show business in Hollywood written and directed by Robert Townsend.(lft. to rht.) Washington, Townsend, Wyands

Photo still from the movie Hollywood Shuffle , a comedic satire on the business of show business in Hollywood written and directed by Robert Townsend.(lft. to rht.) Washington, Townsend, Wyands

  Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling 1986 PG-13 Language

Lou D. Washington was a friend and singing mate from my youth. He was also one of the original five founders of Steeltown Records, a team of musicians and businessmen who first recorded and launched Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. Occasionally Lou would sing with a young group I founded, in high school, called the Valiants. When I left the group to attend college at Fisk in Nashville Lou D.  continued to sing regularly with the Valiants who in that year recorded my song “I Shed A Tear”produced by Steeltown and later licensed it to Destiny Records in Chicago. Lou “D” as he was known was multi-talented and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known, in addition to being a standout serious R&B balladeer and songwriter.

Back in the day Lou D. was medium built and wore snazzy outfits and ensembles that always made him stand out from the crowd. I recall even once he was called into the principal’s office and queried about his choice of wardrobe. He wore the Sherlock Holmes double- billed plaid cap with a matching shoulder cape and ankle spats, a vest from which dangled a gold plated pocket watch and chain and high topped spit shined shoes. Wherever Lou D. was in a room there’d be at least three or more people gathered around him because you knew you were in for some serious laughter at some point. His humor was spontaneous, original and witty; he could make a joke of any thing small or serious. Lou D. Washington became known for his quick comebacks, and improvisational gifts of wit that humbled many a bumbling idiot who’d dare “play the dozens with him”, a word game that evolved within black urban communities prizing quick witted ‘Yo Mama’ jokes about the players’ mothers, family, personal looks, mannerisms or any other subject to be derided in a trash talking session. These ego boosting often derisive verbal competitions were largely the province of young black males. In today’s pop culture lingo rappers call it “spitting.”

A number of linguists, including conservative cultural critic Dr. Thomas Sowell and other cultural critics have observed that coming of age for many urban youth has often been benchmarked by an ability to “think on one’s feet” to face insult and indignity with quick witted thoughtful verbal barbs while developing facility with the English language. The kind of linguistic code switching is viewed as a skill set within postmodern interpretations of linguistic patterns and language use. It is seen in the selective use of so called “Ebonics”, a controversial idiom criticized as a form of black sub-standard speech by many who regard its use of  black dialectic speech as sub-standard and refusal to develop proficiency in English.

After leaving East Chicago for Hollywood to pursue singing and acting as a career, Lou’s comedic talent was quickly observed in L.A Clubs by writer/comedian Paul Mooney, a writer for the short-lived Richard Pryor variety Show on NBC.Pryor was to become a key figure, friend and mentor for Ludie.

He appeared weekly as a cast member and ensemble regular in the Richard Pryor NBC Variety TV Show. And  he was even given a small  role in Richard Pryor’s biopic film Jo Jo Dancer.

Lou D. and I stayed in touch over many years through good and bad times. When he passed away in 2003 he was on the verge of making a strong come back in movies and television, he was back to his normal healthy size having lost a considerable amount of weight,and had landed a national television commercial for “Little Caesar’s Pizza” and was in demand for a couple of movies. Earlier roles include “The Big Hat Wearing” bartender in Mr. Big’s Lounge, in the film “I’m Gonna Get You Sucker” A Keenan Ivory Wyands movie, and in director/actor comedian, Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle a movie. In all, Ludie appeared as mostly a character actor in about a dozen or so IBMd credited films.

Lou’s narrative would make a fascinating movie he left us far too soon. He was one talented funny brother from “the hood” by the way, Lou D. despite Hollywood accolades for his comedic roles, oddly enough he  loved  to sing most and pursued his passion as a lifelong dream, singing before audiences.. But fate would take him instead to the big screen where he’d often conjure up laughter as a caricature of a fat man humoring  largely black audiences eager for laughs and a black hero vs. a mostly white villain formula as often depicted in Blackploitation films. Character types during the 70s and 80s which black and occasionally white audiences would often laugh or smirk uncomfortably at  familiar archetypes, film persona’s like the Lou Ds.  known from within their own neighborhoods. In Hollywood he was known as “Big Man” and Tiny, a caricature , some called him “Fat Man” we his friends, knew him miss him and loved him as a supremely talented comedian, innovator and singer we knew as  simply “Ludie ! R.I.P.

 

Lou D. Washington’s partial IMBD Filmography

Without You I’m Nothing
Heckler #2 (as Ludie C. Washington)

1990Family Matters (TV Series)
Darnell Clark

– The Big Reunion (1990) … Darnell Clark (as Ludie Washington)

1990House Party
Uncle Otis (as Lou D. Washington)

1989UHF
Cameraman

1988I’m Gonna Git You Sucka
Big Brim Bartender (as Ludie Washington)

1987Hollywood Shuffle
Tiny (as Ludie Washington)

1986Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling
Backstage Manager (as Ludie C. Washington)

1982Airplane II: The Sequel
Shuttle Ground Controller (uncredited)

1977The Richard Pryor Show (TV Series)
Various / Mexican

– Episode #1.4 (1977) … Mexican (uncredited)

– Episode #1.2 (1977) … Various (uncredited)

– Episode #1.1 (1977) … Various (uncredited)

1977The Richard Pryor Special? (TV Movie)
Writer (as Ludie Washington)

Hide Archive footage (3 credits)

2003‘Weird Al’ Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection (Video)
Cameraman (UHF) / Gang Member (Fat) (uncredited)

1996‘Weird Al’ Yankovic: The Videos (Video)
Cameraman (UHF) / Gang Member (Fat)

1994Alapalooza: The Videos (Video short)
Cameraman (UHF) (uncredited)

Blurred Lines Between Old and New Music?

For a minute, I was about to cut Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams some slack. After all, Stevie Wonder has even said he felt their song “Blurred Lines” wasn’t a total copyright “rip-off”. Plus, music critics and intellectual property and copyright lawyers are debating whether or not U.S. Copyright laws are outmoded. They argue that the old copy infringement laws are geared toward sheet music and fail to take into account modern electronic embellishment that adds other dimensions to modern songs. I hear the strong melodic thread that is undeniably Gaye’s “You Got to give it up!” But the funk groove of Marvin’s band even without today’s technology still grooves with a raw soulful feeling that is organic and not synthetic to my ear making the rhythmic impulse from head to toe feel the real deal. Not saying Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines” didn’t rock too, it reached #1 in the pop and R&B Charts. It did indeed sale big time. But so does Marvin’s original track but the pure funk on “Blurred Lines” was over produced with techno and electronic histrionics and sampling manipulation all modern and accepted conventions in the new song writing milieu.

The argument of the defendants attorney suggest that interpreting copyright law is outmoded based upon 20th century legal interpretations and limited to sheet music that may no longer apply to the extemporaneous environment of today’s pop and commercial studio writers and producers. Now, on the other hand, there’s Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” bluesy slow jam. In Thicke’s song “Million Dollar Baby” featuring Jasmine Sullivan he clearly, and unabashedly does “rip- off” Marvin Gaye’s funky blues lament,”Trouble Man” another 70s Gaye song is laid in a melodic pattern that’s nearly identical to Thicke’s recording of the song. So now, I say Robin Thicke you have gotten your just deserts and well deserved! The chicken has come home to roost! D.Day Media 2015
Another Lawsuit Robin Thicke Stole from Marvin Gaye Song, Too?(Listen)Robin Thicke Marvin Gaye 3 marvin-gaye-and-robin-thicke(Take a few seconds to listen to segments of each song, “Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye and Robin Thicke’s “Million Dollar Baby” song.)Blurred Lines

Eulogy for an Old Friend: James “Snooky” Browning

This week I learned sadly of the death of an old friend and mentor, James “Snooky” Browning who died Friday March 7, at age 78 in Fairview Place Ohio. “Snooky” a nickname he is fondly called is an individual who left an indelible impression on me and many youth coming of age in my old neighborhood.

Life’s ebb and flow over time is marked by people, places and events that impress, inspire and even shape our out-look and sense of personhood. News of the death of a friend or mentor is thus always a sobering cause for reflection. This is especially true when the person is someone whose life-force cast a long towering optimistic shadow over ones’ own coming of age. The industrial Midwestern town of East Chicago, Indiana was a bustling blue-collar steel producing Mecca for ambitious immigrants and southern blacks seeking job security. Many residents and early arrivals were European immigrants and black southern migrants who mostly settled in their own ethnic communities. They worked hard to achieve the American Dream in numerous steel mills, factories and oil refineries stretched along Lake Michigan’s southernmost shoreline where Chicago’s magnificent Skyline is easily seen on a clear day.

Jim Browning’s maternal early northern ancestors the Dunaways were among the first African America families to settle in East Chicago’s West Harbor section of town currently known as the New Addition community. The Dunaways and their progeny were industrious, independent and stressed educational achievement, hard work and discipline as family values. The eldest of four boys, born to Clara Dunaway- Browning, and James Browning Sr., Jim cultivated broad interests and talents that found expression in challenges of the sort that prove irresistible to impressionable young boys growing up seeking fun, adventure and independence.

Jim, ruggedly handsome, athletic and studious, lettered in football at East Chicago Roosevelt. He later excelled as a great swimmer. The predominately black New Addition neighborhood for 50 years boasted one of the vast region’s few swimming pools,the George Washington Carver public pool was constructed and became a defacto segregated facility for recreational use of African Americans and Latinos in the surrounding neighborhoods of the region. Jim became a masterful swimmer. During summers while a student at Indiana University he worked as anEast Chicago life guard at Carver Pool where he taught swimming, lifeguard training and water safety. Certified African American lifeguards in East Chicago were limited in their assignments and guard opportunities in the towns and beach areas along Lake Michigan’s Shoreline, stretching from Michigan City and the Indiana Dunes’ pristine beaches to Chicago’s elite South Shore,black lifeguards remained off-limits as prospective job opportunities in those days.

Jim perfected his swimming skills at Carver during competitions for coveted spots on Indiana University’s Big Ten swim team, no small fete for a black swimmer during the late 50s and early 60s.It’s unclear whether Jim was ever allowed to compete for the IU team. He did, as I recall, train and receive expert coaching in one of the NCAA’s finest swimming programs as an outstanding swimmer while attending IU. Jim used those aquatic skills to teach black and Latino kids in the neighborhood the love and beauty of swimming. Years later black certified Life guards like my younger brother  would become City Life guards stationed at Lake Michigan’s Indiana Harbor shore, guard jobs historically reserved for white guards only.

Jim’s easy going affable personality allowed him to make friends easily. He and  brother Kenneth also an outstanding swimmer taught numerous children  in the area a love of swimming and water sports. The older Browning brothers shared a deep love of the great out doors. I don’t think either ever saw a wilderness or trout stream he didn’t like. Younger brothers Philip and Gerri each became highly successful physicians. Dr. Philip Browning an internationally renowned physician and cancer researcher died in 2004. Youngest sibling Dr. Gerri Browning has a successful medical practice in Lake County Indiana. Dr. Browning is also a leading proponent of public health administration in Indiana.

Jim “Snooky” Browning, brother Kenneth, “Pumpkin”Browning and their peers are the first real survivalists I’ve ever known. Their joy and skill at fishing, boating, cycling, hunting, scuba diving, trapping small game and exploring remote places was part of their DNA, as outdoorsmen and they gladly shared their experience and adventures with friends “game” enough to tag alone.

One of my fondest memories growing up was spending a summer assisting Jim as his (#1 goffer)”go get this, go over fetch that, sand down the bow, tighten that bolt on that rudder”. The summer boat project was vintage James “Snooky” Browning including design specifications, from bow to stern. Almost single handedly “Snooky” crafted his boat, sheering, filing, sanding, measuring, hammering, sawing. He said it would sleep four. The ambitious project took several summers.  Neighbors and passersby would jokingly exchange good humored barbs about “Snooky’s Arc”. The family garage door had to be removed to transport his boat to the back yard where it seemed to remain for some time. I suppose every kid in the neighborhood had a hand in building Snooky’s boat. Eventually Jim and Kenneth completed “Snooky’s Little Arc”. He after all was the kind of guy who finishes stuff. Years later I would ask  brother, Pumpkin about their maiden voyage. He said, nonchalantly, “well, we had a couple of little leaks caught a little water.” I didn’t press the matter, I was happy knowing that finally Snooky’s boat the neighborhood kids ‘ helped to build was finally worthy of sailing on Lake Michigan’s southern shore. Wishing you Smooth sailing “Snooky”, thank you for being a role model and a friend.Now, R.I.P. mate.

James Snooky Browning picBrowning Brothers Snooky Phil Pumpkin

Jim received a bachelors in Accounting from Indiana University, he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Men of Independence Chorus in Fairview Park Ohio. He leaves his beloved wife, Janet and their three children, Margaret (Jan) Barnickel, Steven Browning, Melissa (Matt) Dickey, three grandchildren and sisters Clara Marie Baity, Trilby Harmon,Dr. Gerri Browning and aunt, Verdel Mack and a host of relatives and friends.

The family suggests donations to the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund, 1401 Fulton Parkway, Cleveland OH. 44144

GOJA Music , Where Jazz and Worship Find Common Ground

It was a great thrill for me to be the guest singer at St.Steven’s United Methodist Church’s weekly program, “The Word and Jazz” service held each Wednesday afternoon. Reverend Nat Dixon for years has been  known as a highly regarded jazz musician and music educator garnering an impressive array of recording and performance credits as a leader and in big band and orchestral settings along the way.

When Rev. Nathaniel Dixon received the “call to ministry”,like with most of his considerable achievements he ‘stepped to it’ with a “divine passion” by garnering a second Masters degree, one in theology along with an earned M.A. degree in education from Columbia University. He has served as a teacher in New York City public schools and as supervisor before becoming an ordained minister.With five CD recordings to his credit and a string of international engagements appearing with top tier jazz artists, he possesses more than a yeoman’s knowledge of the jazz culture and traditions Rev.”Nat”, as I fondly call him, with genuine reverence, has led St. Steven’s United Methodist Church an historic edifice in the Marble Hill section of The Bronx for the past nine years.Under his leadership the church congregation has established Saint Steven’s Music Academy which enrolls currently 50 students from age 8 to 80. Other programs supported by the church include: serving the community’s youth offering a film institute designed to train students in the techniques and skills needed to introduce students to basic cinematography and film production skill sets to meet the demands in the era of digital e-commerce; computer training and each Wednesday’s ” “Word and Jazz Program” which provides a free weekly lunch program following the pastor’s midweek sermon.

For Rev. Nat Dixon “Jazz and Jesus” are not mutually exclusive, he’s even added to his repertoire original compositions building upon a genre he calls GOJA music,an eclectic blend of Gospel,Jazz, Calypso and African music. An accomplished reed instrumentalist, he views music as a creative force for uplifting and connecting with the diverse urban neighborhood and its people served by aRev Nat Dixon in Robe Excel Dixon Nat Rev in pews aisle church founded 189 years ago. In the words of the tall, affable minister,”the best part of the Wednesday service for me is to watch people fellowship over a good hot meal and do so in peace knowing for now they can leave their troubles at least for the moment by sharing in new friendships and feeling encouraged,with renewed hope. If they leave here feeling better about life today than when they came in,then I know God is accomplishing His purpose through our ministry.”

Traditional hymns, of course remain at the core of services but the pastor’s favorite tenor sax is ever ready by his side on the pulpit and at his direction the musically nimble young rhythm section remains perched to accentuate postludes with tenor sax choruses, and piano riffs of great Jazz compositions like John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme”, or the jazz standard “Invitation” accompanied ably by his international mosaic of excellent young musicians playing to an appreciative, growing group of neighborhood congregants.

Rev. Nat Dixon spreading the “Word and Jazz at one fell swoop”!

And as the old Baptist minister would like to say to his congregation during making a fine memorable point in his sermon eliciting a response to his call: ” And If I was gone say Amen, I’d put one right there!
Well Amen, Reverend “Nat” Dixon!

D.Day 2015

Selma and The Academy of Motion Pictures

hunterssearchimages-7images-5Dark manhattan Micheaux officeWell, the Oscars for 2015 are history. Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, has won this year’s Best Picture award. This is not too surprising, as it constitutes the Academy’s self-referential nod to Broadway and to the actors who fuel box-office ticket sales in movie theaters and on the “Great White Way.”
The movie Selma was nominated but failed to make the final cut for first place, prompting some film critics to cite Hollywood’s intractable issue with race and its perpetual failure to embrace diversity across the full spectrum of the filmmaking industry. Selma, as a drama steeped within an authentic American historical narrative, was not without its critics. The events and characters portrayed were real, but questions were leveled at the historicity of President LBJ’s role as advocate or deterrent in the pursuit of racial equality.
Authenticity is something Hollywood has sorely lacked in its depiction of Black people, so to see black bodies actualized in roles exhibiting a full range of emotion as embodied in the real lives of brave civil rights leaders and activists remains a rarity for viewers and Hollywood producers. Their courage and dedication to principles of non-violence required superhuman discipline, and they were unified by common human aspirations for freedom and acceptance as full citizens with equal rights. The passions, conflicts, and full range of human emotion on display helped humanize and make accessible the cause and those who fought for it, with some giving their lives along with Dr. Martin Luther King. King was portrayed brilliantly by actor David Oyelowo.
Hollywood financiers and the “Academy’s suits” seem loathe to correct the hideous cycle of Black male movie stereotypes it has promoted for more than a century. The image of the bumbling, cowardly Black sidekick, eyes bulged with fear of a Zombie, was the template for acceptable male movie roles for decades. No doubt there’s been change, but negative images fostered over time have a lingering insidious impact.
The bravery of African huntsmen and warriors since antiquity is legendary, written in hieroglyphics found on ancient cave walls from Mesopotamia to south Sudan. To kill a lion for many young African tribesmen in the interior regions was a rite of passage.
But the African’s proud heritage of bravery and self sufficiency was redacted by Hollywood moguls during the period referred to as the era of Jim Crow. This was a time of intense racial segregation and blatant racism fueled by White-supremacist pamphlets and propaganda – a time when the entertainment industry offered Black minstrelsy as the preferred representation. The blatant buffoonery and comedic affect of the “other” set the template that would travel from Vaudeville to motion pictures, making negative caricatures of superstitious, incompetent, and idiotic behavior the cinematic norm. With the exception of the rare action hero genre, Black historical films with real heroes have remained anathema to Hollywood, so it is no surprise that movies like Selma have a difficult time gaining traction among audiences and corporate producers who finance films. The Motion Picture Academy has come a long way, but it still has along way to go!
D.Day 2015