I’d changed clothes after performing my first solo #1 single “Looking For A New Love” to perform “Still a Thrill.” I loved that funky top hat which I’d purchased in Japan – my style always represents what I’m feeling. I still rock denim and ankle boots but wear them differently..the bra tops, not so much!
I had the pleasure to work with George Duke back in the early 80’s just after my departure from Shalamar. We recorded the song Baby Love” for a project he was working on. Ultimately, it was a stroke of luck for me that he chose not to use the song because I would have, according to the rules of the Recording Academy at the time – having a release in America as “Jody Watley, or George Duke featuring Jody Watley” would have made me ineligible for the “Best New Artist” category when my debut album was released a couple of years later in 1987. At the time he decided not to release it, I was bummed and disappointed, however fate was still on my side. Sometimes not getting what you want is actually the universe saying be patient! The experience recording with Mr. George Duke is a fond one, we had a great time at his renowned studio at his home in the Hollywood Hills. George Duke was the kind of person that made you feel at ease. I had great admiration for his countless works ranging from jazz, fusion, funk and soul. We had reconnected at the start of this year on Facebook after seeing each other at the memorial for Soul Train creator and host Don Cornelius. I asked about ‘Baby Love’ and if he would send it to me, as it’s been in my head for so long but I didn’t have a copy. Happy to send it to me, he also gave me permission to post it – which I did for a short time and took it down. I reposted it today in his honor, memory and celebration. To be a tiny piece of his musical journey as well is incredibly special and I feel very blessed to have crossed his path back then and recently as colleagues.
In February, we were a part of the inaugural Soul Train Cruise and were a part of a panel sharing fond memories of Don Cornelius. His final show on the cruise had everyone dancing in the aisles as he went straight P-funk to the delight of everyone near the conclusion of his performance.
My thoughts and prayers are extended to his family and friends. George Duke now joins his beloved wife Corine of 30 years. who succumbed to cancer just last year – as well as a host of other music legends. Beautiful music. Beautiful legacy in life.
Rest peacefully Mr. George Duke, you will be missed.
I just wanted to share a few photo’s from the Soul Train Cruise. I’ll be creating a gallery at my Facebook Page as well. Make sure to visit http://www.soultraincruise.com to learn more about the next cruise coming up in October 2013 and beyond.
Last day of cruise on Half Moon Cay. Pictured at the staff bar-b-que with bartender chef Bryce husband of one of Centric’s execs Kim, and Van Roy my friend and owner of Bailey’s in Marksville, Louisiana and part time staff at Avid.
All photo’s (c) Jody Watley 2013. All rights reserved.
This is a repost of the blog I wrote shortly after Don’s tragic death a year ago today. He’s gone but will never be forgotten – my life and journey will always be connected to Soul Train and Don Cornelius.
Read the post here:
The Soul Train Awards will air on Centric TV on November 25, 2012. Check your local listings.
In addition to being a presenter on the show, I was a part of various activities for the first annual Soul Train Awards weekend. At the Golf, Peace and Soul Golf Tournament I had the opportunity to meet NBA Hall of Famer and legend Julius “Dr. J.” Irving -if you know how much I love NBA basketball you’ll understand this made my entire trip! Being honest, I was hurt and disappointed with my participation – as it wasn’t what it was pitched to me to be with regard to the video package which wasn’t the one I approved; I’ll leave it at that but left the show feeling a bit like Rodney “I Don’t Get No Respect” Dangerfeld from the R&B gatekeeper powers that be. That said, it was still nice and an honor to be a part of the show especially to speak on Don Cornelius which is what it was all about for me. I believe the producers did a great job stepping it up with the production elements and moving the show to Las Vegas which gave it a more high end feel than recent past years. Raphael Saadiq and the assembled band and orchestra including Joi Gilliam on backing vocals was a nice funky touch. I came loving the song ‘Adorn’ by new singer Miguel who is a total cutie pie and sounded great live. I never had an opportunity to meet or take a photo with him. As a longtime fan of New Edition, I was happy to see them receive their lifetime achievement award, it’s hard to believe they’ve been in the music 30 years. In concert they were great and total pro’s as always.
Set your DVR’s today, Superbowl Sunday! Jody Watley will stop by CNN to talk Don Cornelius and Soul Train. 6:30 pm EST with Don Lemon.
There were many Shalamar appearances on Soul Train during my 7 year tenure; in addition to countless performances as a solo artist until the show went off air. My debut single “Looking For A New Love” posted here includes an interview with Don Cornelius.
Don Cornelius represents an incredible and unparalleled legacy in television, music and dance that will live on forever. Don and Soul Train shined a bright and historic light for our culture. A true visionary, icon, legend and pioneer in every sense; his impact on black pride and aspiration in youth like myself was immeasurable during the peak of Soul Train in the 70’s. Don created, built and opened a door of inspiration, hope and opportunity for street dancers and artists to walk through – especially me as my career has always been intertwined with the show because it’s where I got my start. It’s incredible to know he started the show in Chicago with just $400.00 of his own money. What many don’t know is that my father and Don Cornelius knew each other as they were on the AM airwaves in Chicago at the same time when I was a baby; my father doing Gospel and Don Cornelius as a part-time news announcer. I didn’t learn the connection until after I was a dancer on the show. In essence Don Cornelius was already in the fabric of my life before our paths would eventually line-up. Like most black kids in the 70’s Soul Train gave my friends and I something to look forward to on Saturday and to talk about at school on Monday. If you wanted to know what was cool in style, the latest dances or to see new and established artists – you watched Soul Train and lived to see the Soul Train Line. As a dancer on the show, you lived to come down the line. Whether rocking afros or flamboyant fashions; it was with pride as it was framed in a positive light also evidenced in the ads tailored for the show. I thank God for Don. Millions of us lived for Soul Train helping to make it the longest syndicated music television show in history. Soul Train was a vehicle of exposure for countless artists in music when all other doors remained (and to a degree remain) closed. If you made it on Soul Train, you’d arrived. As I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world as an artist – I’ve seen how far and wide the reach was. The last time I saw him was at The GRAMMY Museum in 2010 for the 40th Anniversary of Soul Train. I reminded him again how much I appreciated him and how thankful I was.
I owe so much to Don and Soul Train. It was Don who hand-picked me for Shalamar when forming Soul Train Records and he remained supportive throughout my solo career.
Ever the champion of dance, Don Cornelius opened The Soul Train Dance Studio in the late 70’s in Los Angeles on LaCienaga and selected me to be one of the instructors. From that, I had the honor to give private lessons to ‘The Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin, teaching her ‘The Robot’.
Talking about Don Cornelius with Don Lemon on CNN:
Rest in Peace Don Cornelius.