Jody Watley, singer/songwriter/producer/businesswoman, is one of the architects of 21st century pop. From her groundbreaking marriage of rap & R&B (1987’s “Friends,” a collaboration with hip-hop legends Eric B. & Rakim) to her vision-forward marriage of high fashion, street fashion and music in the ‘80s (long before it became the norm), to her fusion of jazz and underground club culture with keen pop instincts, and the ease with which she crossed and still crosses genre, Ms. Watley forged the template that is now everybody’s playbook.
Winner of the Best New Artist Grammy in 1987, Jody Watley’s entire career has been about looking forward, drawing inspiration from personal heroes like Grace Jones, David Bowie, Diana Ross and jazz great Nancy Wilson – iconoclasts who were always ten steps ahead of the pack. The Chicago native’s eclectic repertoire – R&B, hip-hop, House, jazz, pop, drum & bass, ambient, spoken-word – is built on a positive vision and a strong taste for artistic and aesthetic risk.
Her self-titled 1987 solo debut – a showcase for her vocal chops and songwriting skills – was a beats & grooves tribute to her club kid roots, from the underground spots she frequented as a teenager to her stardom (while still a teen) as one of the most popular dancers in the history of iconic TV show “Soul Train.” It yielded the chart topping hits “Looking for a New Love” (which launched the Jody-penned phrase “Hasta la vista” into popular vernacular, becoming so huge that Arnold Schwarzenegger jacked it for his signature line in the movie The Terminator), “Don’t You Want Me,” “Most of All,” “Some Kind of Lover” and “Still a Thrill,” whose video was the first (and as yet unmatched) time a pop star flexed their skills at waaking, the underground Los Angeles dance that is a sibling to both breakdancing and voguing.
1989’s Larger Than Life, her blockbuster sophomore album, yielded the hits “Real Love” (whose influential music video – nominated for seven MTV Video Music Awards – was her second collaboration with acclaimed film director David Fincher, the first being her sleek video for “Most of All”), “Friends,” and the sultry ballad “Everything.” They were all huge hits.
Like many artists who top the charts, Ms. Watley soon found herself stymied by the limited vision of her label, who wanted to shoehorn her into formula. The albums Affairs of the Heart (1991) and Intimacy (1993) displayed her deepening songwriting skills and singing prowess, as well as her assured experimentation with layered musical textures, but label support was missing in action. The powerful, beat-driven spoken-word track “When a Man Loves a Woman” from Affairs sparked controversy for addressing AIDS and domestic violence long before they were topics of national conversation, and her skittish label turned its back on the track and album. Though Ms. Watley’s artistry continued to deepen and grow, she was hamstrung by her label’s lack of support and their adherence to the same narrow definitions of success that saw her leave iconic R&B group Shalamar at the height of its popularity in 1983. Her own definition of success centered then and now on artistic growth and freedom, not simply replicating whatever was or is hot at the moment.
After breaking from the majors and starting her own label Avitone Recordings in 1995, Ms. Watley began collaborating with a Who’s Who of visionary producers and remixers, many of whom were longtime fans and jumped at the chance to work with her: 4 Hero, King Britt, Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez & Little Louie Vega, Mark de Clive Lowe, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Ron Trent, Moto Blanco, and Alex Di Ciò. Thanks to her non-stop touring, her global fan base remains as fervent as ever and they’ve made chart and club hits of Ms. Watley’s indie albums – Affection (1995), Flower (1998), The Saturday Night Experience (1999), Midnight Lounge (2001), and The Makeover (2006) – and her 2014 EP Paradise.
For the past five years, the ever multi-tasking Ms. Watley has focused on both her thriving solo career and the group project “Jody Watley featuring SRL.” Much like Prince had The Revolution, NPG, and Third Eye Girl (among many other projects and aliases) as extensions or branches of his music and creativity, Jody Watley feat. SRL allows Ms. Watley another outlet for her artistic expression. SRL members Rosero McCoy and Nate Allen Smith – gifted singers, dancers, and choreographers in their own right – bring their own cool style and vibe to Ms. Watley’s trademark high-energy, all-love live performances, and the trio’s critically acclaimed concerts draw SRO crowds around the world. With musical influences that include Kaytranada, Anderson Paak, and Little Dragon, they’ve released several chart-topping hit singles in Europe, including the Alex Di Ciò remix of “The Mood.” Their forthcoming album will be a seamless mix of dance grooves, funky beats, deep House, R&B, trap, rock, and ambient ballads accented with guitar flourishes.
Also in the works is Jody Watley: The Jazzy Sessions, a longtime dream project finally come to fruition. Fans were given a taste of what to expect from that forthcoming EP on the bossa nova tinged cover of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” which shot to the top of the jazz charts within weeks of its release. A lilting, gorgeously melancholy take on the classic tune, the track simmers with tension between the longing of the lyrics and the lush, languid music and arrangement. Though some newer fans were pleasantly surprised that Ms. Watley pulled off a jazz tune, longtime fans saw it as simply the artistic thread being pulled forward from Ms. Watley’s show-stopping cover of Cole Porter’s classic song “After You,” from the landmark AIDS benefit recording project Red Hot & Blue, released in1990.
What links “Waiting” to the rest of Ms. Watley’s far-ranging and impossible to pigeonhole catalogue (which has seen her hit the charts in every decade of her career, from 1977’s Uptown Festival album with Shalamar to 2018’s “Waiting in Vain” single) is the sincerity and honesty from which it springs.
“Everything I’ve ever done has been to be distinctively Jody Watley,” says the pop icon herself, “from my first solo album through right now. Everything that I will ever do always has to be authentic to me, work that I can always be proud of first and foremost. It’s not so much about, ‘Oh, this is going to be popular,’ or ‘Oh, this is going to be a big hit.’ It’s always been so personal to me, everything that I do. And the fans can feel that. They connect with the honesty.”
JUNE 19 — Today Happy Juneteenth :: I’m so looking forward to to being a part of this live stream celebrating Eric B & Rakim “Let The Rhythm Hit Em’ 30- other guests include Chuck D, Fat Joe, Dapper Dan Harlem, Dr. Cornel West and more 5:30PM PST / 8:30 PM EST!!
Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em came out 30 years ago so we’re going live on Today the new app caffeine . Follow at caf.tv/TheLeader to celebrate with us.
I continue to shelter in place, as the many are ignoring the fact we are still in a pandemic-always thankful for music no matter what’s going on. As a songwriter, I’ve been with BMI since 1987. (BMI) is one of four United States performing rights organizations, along with the ASCAP, SESAC, Pro Music Rights, and Global Music Rights. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed.
Snapped these images quickly today from my iPhone 6.9.20 – finally able to get out to check on my Mom in person – with social distance and mask.
We are still in the midst of the protests there’s still a pandemic, and those with elderly parents can understand what that’s like. Judging by the volume of people out with so many out and about, seems as they many feel the pandemic is over.
I remain cautious and shelter in place only going out for essential errands. Along the way driving to my mothers house seeing so many businesses boarded up was a bit surreal and apocalyptic while other businesses, restaurants are open and unscathed – very much a dichotomy.
The signs reflect an atmosphere we’ve never seen – and more diversity than we’ve ever seen against police excessive force, brutality and racism. The murder of George Floyd, the visual of the cruelty 8:46 minutes as he plead for his life and mother impacted the global consciousness. These signs are in my neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Hollywood and West Hollywood where the population is primarily white and Jewish who now see what Blacks have been saying for decades about systemic racism and a need for police reform and accountability. That’s what makes what’s happening now even more powerful. It’s not just blacks who understand what “Black Lives Matter” is all about in this moment in society in the human race of which we all matter but it is the important issue of actual change with regard to racism and being anti-racist.
Everyone needs to continue pushing for change beyond this moment, younger generation all races together. This is not a political issue – it’s a human issue.
Tune in tomorrow June 12, 2020 – I’ll be going LIVE on Facebook and Youtube with Black Press USA pages, celebrating 80 Years of the NNPA and 193 years of The Black Press at 4 PM PST, 4 PM EST.
The BlackPressUSA is the only national website featuring news exclusively from African-American journalists, founded by Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., entrepreneur, global business leader, educator, civil rights leader, NAACP Life Member, syndicated columnist and author is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).
As I’ve said many times over the decades going to Paris to do the ‘Still a Thrill’ video in 1987 the only person I thought of to me in it with me was Tyrone Proctor. The invitation for him to be in it with me was my small way of thanking Tyrone for inspiring me and for teaching me how to ‘live’ and serve attitude in front of the camera as a teenager on TV …. how to ‘bring it’ at all times.
Initially a fan of Philadelphia native Tyrone, who one of the most popular on the show, before our lives would intersect. Tyrone is an integral figure of my life not as an every day friend who I talked to on the phone often but a special part of my life as a performer. An original Soul Train Gang dancer often featured in the black teen music magazine Right On! he was a dance star. Tyrone was dynamic, dramatic with a style that stood out. He was given the nickname “The Bone” by Don Cornelius because Tyrone was so thin.
Before coming to California to live with my Mom it was one of my dreams to meet Tyrone and The Soul Train Gang and of course get on the show myself. I’ll never forget seeing Tyrone walking down Santa Rosalia Blvd. near the Crenshaw strip in an area of Los Angeles called “The Jungle” at the time. Recognizing him from TV and immediately imploring my Mom to “Stop the car, that’s Tyrone Procter from Soul Train!” This is like a movie thinking back on it. Tyrone was a bit startled but still friendly once I hopped out of the car and approached him with my soft Midwest drawl introduced myself. Letting him know I’d just moved to Los Angeles, asking how can I get get on Soul Train .. Tyrone was patient and friendly in that moment. He scribbled down his number – subsequently something we’d end up laughing about as our lives eventually did come together – Tyrone had given me a non working wrong number .. fate and destiny got me there anyway and we’d be forever linked. Tyrone and I would become friends. I reintroduced myself once I did make it to a Soul Train taping. Tyrone remembered meeting me on the street a few months before – he knew the young man, Bobby Washington who had eventually brought me on – I’d met him at church when Bobby asked me though he didn’t know me but thought I had style and his partner was out of town-fate. So many fun and memorable stories and moments race through my mind today going back to my youth and decades since with Tyrone.
Rewinding back to Soul Train where he was an original on the show, this has stayed with me throughout my career as an artist, it was in me but Tyrone knew how to really push me to bring the best. He always made people laugh with his Tyrone-isms. It was Tyrone that prompted me to dance in heels. “Miss Thing – you need to be in heels!” .. and so I was werking the show in heels most often. Tyrone developed a nickname for me back then “Miss Waddle-lips” – only he could call me that. Tyrone had names for all of us, Sharon was affectionately and playfully called his wife and the most beautiful black woman in the world in his eyes.
We had a dance group at one point called “The Outrageous Waack Dancers” profiled in Ebony Magazine at the time.. waacking was a west coast style of dance to the east coasts voguing. Tyrone helped bring the dance from the under ground black and Latino gay clubs to the show – a dance style that was originally to disco music with strings, horns and accents for days and about your dance movements and attitude showing and making people ‘see’ the music. The term ‘waacking’ was coined by those early waacking pioneers Tyrone speaks of as his mentors.
In “Still A Thrill” we waacked, posed, sashayed and twirled all in the Paris Opera House including those iconic stairs making it up as we went along-I’d dressed us in Gaultier, Tyrone was so down and then off we went through the streets, just vibing late into the night on the two day shoot – no rehearsal or choreography we just ‘lived’ in the music that’s what makes it even more special. On many of my takes when the director Brian Grant called “Action” Tyrone would be hollering over the music “Werk Goddammit – you ain’t werking – Yess Miss Jody WeRK! Give me More Miss Thing!!” Lol that was Tyrone, he made you want to be all kinds of fierce. We had the best time in Paris.. a long way from that day on Santa Rosalia Blvd and the set on Soul Train.
A memory that always makes me laugh is he had his beloved dance partner and best friend Sharon Hill as he was twirling her with so much energy and dynamics, Sharon’s pony tail flew off in the middle of a routine in a dance contest. Tyrone kicked it across the floor on beat as if it were in the routine, that ponytail slid across the dance floor like a prop-they were serving so hard everyone loved the theater of it all. We all laughed about it after. Tyrone was the one I called upon when I wanted authentic club kids, transgender, voguers/waackers, a diverse mix of the underground scene for my “Friends” video in 1989 filmed in NYC, he basically cast everyone in the video except Eric B & Rakim’s posse.
In recent years Tyrone as teacher, mentor and guide took the dance around the world to a new young generation of dancers as well as teaching the history of the dance and it’s other pioneers keeping alive the legacies of his mentors Tinker, Andrew, Arthur, Michaelangelo, Blinky, Gary Keys and others-those boys were so fierce Diana Ross had them tour with her on one of her most iconic including the famed Caesar’s Palace show in Las Vegas. Tyrone was also in a group Breed of Motion with legendary voguing pioneer Willie Ninja and brother Archie.
Tyrone and I attended the Don Cornelius Memorial and shared fond Soul Train memories that day, laughing about rehearsals at my Mom’s apartment on Coco Avenue, he’d drive her crazy by always eating all of the candy in the bowl she kept on the coffee table. Not long after Don’s service he sent sent me a big box of a variety of candy to give my Mom with a thank you card and a wink to those days. “Miss Rose – She’ll be knowing honey..” he said and totally right, she laughed at the time and was touched by the gesture – today she was in shock and saddened as I am at his sudden passing.
I last saw Tyrone at my 2015 concert in NYC at BB Kings. Being the friend he was coming out to support through the years and also bringing other young waackers from around the world to watch, learn and usually for an impromptu onstage twirl to ‘WerK it out!’ I thanked and acknowledged Tyrone at those shows – he deserved it and most recently a speech last year in 2019 when I received a Woman of Excellence Vanguard Award at the LGBTQ Art & Music Festival.
Give people roses while they are here is so important so there are no regrets or open spaces of feelings left unsaid or shown. Tyrone knew how much he meant to me through my actions over the years though it makes me sad that 5 years have gone by without us being in touch.
Speaking to Lockeroo earlier was emotional, and she gave comfort and clarity. It’s a blessing Tyrone had her in his life there in NYC, she is a beautiful compassionate human being.
Ironically on Instagram just two weeks ago I reposted a memorable concert in NYC from 2013 with Tyrone and some waackers he’d brought including the incredible Princess Lockeroo who has shared her talents with me onstage and is really the modern Queen of Waacking with new innovations and a global following through her travels teaching as Tyrone taught her as well.
This is a video made documenting Tyrone in 2013, one of the last waacking pioneers of the 70’s when attending a workshop he had here in Los Angeles which happened to be the week of his birthday. Volunteering to take the class fees from students at the door and to assist in any way he needed me to was an honor for me-needless to say it was awesome and very full of Tyrone-isms full fledged. Tyrone kept us all laughing making the class so much fun – full of passion and spirit.
As the Father of The Imperial House of Waacking, Tyrone insisted that I be an honorary Mother of the House some years back.
Tyrone had a saying “I’m just living my life – allow it.” In other words – just live and forget what others have to say, it’s a great mantra to live by.
It was a life well lived for Tyrone-he will be missed and loved always.
We are all blooms and blossoms of the seeds of inspiration and guidance he gave us all – big brother, father figure to some, mentor with his knowledge, kindness and humor to believe in ourselves in what we do.. and always “You Betta Werk – Werk it Out!!!”- Jody Watley June 7, 2020.
My condolences to his family, friends and all of the dancers who are also saddened by this loss. His dance children worldwide will continue the legacy to “Show The Music” through movement, attitude and joy.
Tyrone on the history and origins of Waacking in his own words.
I’m not that great with short captions and descriptions on serious topics and so my blog is often is my place to get further into my thoughts or views. It’s cathartic to just write and not be concerned about likes or comments. My blog here is more akin to a journal entry and a quiet safe space for me. This week in general on social media trying to not get stressed and overwhelmed myself by the flood of posts since the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and with Breonna Taylor’s murder getting more deserved attention has been a lot needless to say for all of us in this country. Personally it’s added even more intensity having a protests turn into riots in my area, looting and vandalism, reading tweets on how they are targeting what they perceive to be all affluent white areas – ‘let’s burn it down’ as I read and think ok what’s my plan when there streets were blocked off, emergency alerts on curfews each day throughout the day these past few days, followed by a mini earthquake – my nerves have been frayed. Change is never pretty or easy. To a degree since the pandemic began I’ve felt a need to take a step back in many ways and appreciate not being on as frequently, trying to listen to music, read a book clear my brain from overload. Reading a particular quote meme the other day on Instagram resonated a good one to share prompting these additional thoughts that some may be feeling or experiencing as well. My song ‘The Healing’ remains on repeat – take the time.
In a conversation with someone very close to me who does very little social media they conveyed the frustration of this underlying pressure to be public and visible, brought on by co-workers on what people are doing right or not doing now for social advocacy. What are you doing? It’s like if your feed is not all protests and memes you must have apathy which is not the case. We agreed that not all of us are good at online activism, especially if you don’t do social media much anyway. My advice was it’s always best to be authentic and most of all what we do offline is what really matters and can be just as if not more impactful. This is not a contest. A lot of corporations and people are being called out for being disingenuous in a rush to ‘say something.’ I even cringed at the music industry proclaiming that the gatekeepers wanted a ‘the show must pause’ on Blackout Tuesday..the same gatekeepers that make sure black artists are paid less, shut out, rarely given positions beyond the ‘urban departments’ and have totally obliterated R&B music from the mainstream airwaves.
There are experts at advocacy and politics of course beyond posting out of emotion. We should applaud these brave and inspired people who do it for a living, it’s a life purpose. Fighting for police reform (defunding the police, holding them accountable for their brutality, racism and not dealing with bad repeat offending cops, Black Lives Matter movement, Black Trans, LGBT rights, homelessness, education a full time job for many. For an awakened portion of society at this important at this pivotal time while cell phones capture the ugliness that exists time after time we are constant virtual witnesses to so much hatred and racism. Now we do have broadened to mass attention and support worldwide as everyone can now see what black people have been experiencing for so long, marching, protesting for change, other countries deal with racism, poverty and so on as well so the world becomes smaller in it’s fatigue of injustice and an imbalance of financial and class equality mixed in. It’s important to say not all black people are not homogenous or monolith in how we do things or think to other blacks and also to non blacks. Stop with the blackness policing, something I’ve experienced as an artist my entire career. Everyone’s feed is full of outrage for one reason or another and it can get a bit overwhelming while understanding absolute need for all of it. I’ve personally been taking more social media breaks, it can’t be healthy to be consumed by the intensity of consistent bad news and violent images all day – day in and day out.
Yes it’s indeed powerful that whites, Asians, Latinos are joining the movement because blacks have been putting the time in for years – this new force will begin to make the change happen. In the midst of all of this there’s still a pandemic, people aren’t working – including artists like myself and you want to find some things to bring you joy each day without feeling guilty that you don’t want full days of anger, frustration, sadness and so on.
The positive is that with so much diversity and especially young people who will be the ultimate agents of change.I’m of the the don’t just post about it be about it mindset. This is not a competition of who can post the most or protest in the streets the most. There are many ways to help bring about and be a part of change, it’s about finding balance and what works for each individual in doing what’s right and just.
This is what prompted this blog, I added to it..
some are posting on social media
some are protesting in the streets
some are donating silently to organizations that fight for justice and equality year-round
some are educating themselves
some are signing petitions (change.org, colorofchange, blacklivesmatter..)
some are having tough conversations with friends, family and co-workers
a revolution has many lanes be kind to yourself and to others who are traveling in the same direction
just keep your foot on the gas
I’d like to add this too posted by a friend of mine on IG based on a reaction often given to “Black Lives Matter”
Another thing I’ve seen..the comment “why don’t black people protest black on black crime?” Crime as a whole is always an issue but when trying to use that, it’s as if it’s a justification or code to not be outraged by police officers who are hired as professionals to serve and protect not abuse their power and not consistently target black people while hiding behind the power of their badge – simple.
Here are resources if you are so inclined to be involved and choosing to not take it to the streets – this is an ongoing process for systemic change that will have to endure and take sustained energy beyond this moment in this country and history.
You can google the links and certainly many I don’t know about..I’m new at a lot of this myself and don’t profess to be an expert by any stretch.
Sign Petitions at Change.Org for Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Ahmard Arbery, Sandra Bland, Alejandro, Tete Gulley, Marshae Jones, Antonio Domingos Viola (shot and killed for not wearing a mask) T and so many more that I’m still learning about.
Minnesota Freedom Fund
Reclaim The Block
National Bail Out
Black Lives Matter
National Bail Fund Network
The Innocent Project
Run With Maud
Justice For Breonna
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles
Alliance of Californians For Community Alliance
Numbers to Call or Text:
Text Justice to 66-8336
Text Enough to 55-165
Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund
Black Trans Collective
For The Gworls
The Okra Project
What to know if you’re protesting, know your rights and have a plan; Tips
Leave a message for Louisville Mayor and demand Justice, Independent Internal Investigation for Breonna Taylor 502 574 2003 the 26 year old EMT frontline worker shot 8 times in her own home in the wee hours of the morning in her own bed as police used a no knock warrant at the wrong house. No arrests or charges have been filed..this is not a first – look up 7 year old Aiyana Jones in Detroit.
Vote in your local elections get these old guard racists out and of course in the upcoming national election systematic racism must come to an end.
It’s not enough say say “I’m not racist” – your actions must show that you are “anti-racist” that’s how the change will continue to happen long after this the biggest civil rights movement in history. 50 states, 18 countries of all races who have come out in protest.
Tuesday June 2, 2020 :: Vote primaries today – PENNSYLVANIA, South Dakota, MARYLAND, INDIANA, Washington DC, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana and make sure to vote in all other upcoming local primaries, elections.
Here are a few suggestions to make a difference today :: Support by donating funds for justice for Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, help the family of George Floyd, donate to community bail funds for protestors and organizations that fight for social justice and equality year round, sign legal petitions for justice, find ways to be an ally beyond this moment against racism and inequality, support small business, black owned businesses, don’t just post memes about it – be about it …take a break if you need one.
Posted on Saturday 5.30.2020 to my social media ::