Category Archives: Music

A Herb Albert Flashback

Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream and other Delights album

Back in the 60’s, we had a TV, radio and record player combo made by Magnavox.  It was really a piece of furniture and my dad loved the Magnavox brand!  I remember when we lived in Puerto Rico the Magnavox was in our family room and it pretty much divided our kitchen from the family room.  Mom and dad had quite the album collection and me and my sisters loved pulling out records and playing them on the Magnavox.  You could stack several records and when one finished, the next one would drop from the silver stand in the middle of the record player and the music would just continue.  I guess you could call it a precursor to Pandora!

One of the records that I always loved to play was the Herb Albert and Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream and Other Delights.  The album cover was iconic and featured a woman in a shaving cream and chiffon dress and hat.  This may have been the bands most popular album and several of their songs were featured on the 1970s game show, The Dating Game hosted by Jim Lange.  This was one of those times when I heard a song on a TV show and realized who the artist was!  At the time, we just loved the brass music and me and my sisters and mother would dance and dance around the family room to this album!

Music on the Whipped Cream – Herb Albert album. I loved listening to this album when I was little!

I was watching Hallmark Home and Family one morning a few weeks ago and Herb Albert was on the show promoting his new Christmas album, The Christmas Wish!  As he played one of the songs on the album, I had a major flashback to being 7 or 8 years old and listening to the Whipped Cream album.  Every year I like to add a few new Christmas albums to my collection and I knew I had to have this one!  Later that day, I headed to my local Barnes and Noble and there it was…and off I went to the checkout!  All the songs are familiar Christmas songs but with that Tijuana Brass sound,  I so look forward to playing this after Thanksgiving!!!  Yes, I did listen to it as soon as I purchased it but I do like to wait until after Thanksgiving to really crank up the holiday music!  So come, November 24th, that cd will be played non-stop!

On a side note, I really want to find that Whipped Cream album – not the CD – the album!  I think one of my sisters has the album we listened to as children, but I’d love to have one of my own!  I was at the thrift store recently and they have an album section.  So, I looked through the section on the off-chance I would find it.  I didn’t, but instead found Herb Albert’s 2nd album called Volume 2!  Ironically, when I looked the album up online, I found out this one didn’t fare so well initially after the release of their first album.  No matter to me though…it still has that iconic Tijuana Brass sound and I was thrilled to find something by Herb Albert and in this case, for just $2.  Meanwhile, I do plan to add the Whipped Cream album to my collection before the end of the year!

 

 

The House I Live In

Sheet music to "The House I Live In."

Sheet music to “The House I Live In.”

I was visiting my sister Kanista in North Carolina last month.  On our last night together, she pulled out a Frank Sinatra songbook she had found at a thrift store.  What a treasure of Sinatra songs over the years!  We both flashed back to memories of listening to our parents’ Sinatra albums when we were growing up.  I opened the book and we went page by page singing the songs we knew – and that was most of them!

The Sinatra Songbook that my sister found at a thrift store! We know practically all the songs in this book and sang then all our last night together in North Carolina!

The Sinatra Songbook that my sister found at a thrift store! We know practically all the songs in this book and sang then all our last night together in North Carolina!

When we got to “The House I Live In,” Kanista didn’t know this one.  I only knew about it because of a Sinatra documentary I had seen on cable and got excited recalling the song and story.  And although I couldn’t sing the song for her we both started reading the lyrics and couldn’t look it up on YouTube fast enough…

What is America to me
A name, a map, or a flag I see
A certain word, democracy
What is America to me

The house I live in
A plot of Earth, a street
The grocer and the butcher
And the people that I meet

The children in the playground
The faces that I see
All races and religions
That’s America to me

The song was part of a short 10 minute film written in 1945 by Albert Maltz and produced by Frank Ross and Mervyn LeRoy.  The film was made to oppose anti-Semitism at the end of World War II and received an honorary Academy Award and a special Golden Globe award in 1946.

In the short movie, Sinatra plays himself taking a break from a recording session and stepping outside of the studio when he sees a group of boys chasing a Jewish boy and he steps in.  First he talks to the boys and then goes into the song.  He explains to the boys that we are “all” Americans and that one American’s blood is as good as another’s.  He also explains that all our religions are to be respected equally.

Me and my sister watch the 10 minute video of "The House I Live In" on YouTube.

Me and my sister watch the 10 minute video of “The House I Live In” on YouTube.

As Kanista and I watched the video we began talking about the current election cycle and how crazy things have gotten.  We reflected on how interesting it is that the same themes keep coming back over time.  This video is as relevant now and it was in the 1940s.  The Library of Congress selected the movie to be preserved in the US National Film Registry as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”  In fact, this was done in 2007.

The place I work in
The worker by my side
The little town the city
Where my people lived and died

The howdy and the handshake
The air a feeling free
And the right to speak your mind out
That’s America to me

The things I see about me
The big things and the small
The little corner newsstand
Or the house a mile tall

The song has been covered and recorded by a number of artists including Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke.  Sinatra performed the song as part of his repertory for decades in particular at a White House dinner during the Nixon Administration and the Reagan inaugural ceremonies in 1985.

As we go to vote tomorrow, this song and what it means will be on my mind.  Regardless of who wins this election, my hope is that everyone will be able to come together for the good of our country after the dust settles.  I know it’s not as easy as an actor/singer telling a story to a bunch of adolescents, but I think that’s a starting point and we need a place to start.

The wedding and the churchyard
The laughter and the tears
The dream that’s been a growing
For a hundred and fifty years

The town I live in
The street, the house, the room
The pavement of the city
Or the garden all in bloom

The church the school the clubhouse
The million lights I see
But especially the people
That’s America to me

Prince and Sheila E

Purple Rain album cover - released in 1984

Purple Rain album cover – released in 1984

Around noon today I took some Tylenol sinus meds, grabbed a mug of hot tea and settled into my recliner with my pup, Lucy. I grabbed my laptop to check a few emails and wait for the meds to kick in when I saw the first post about Prince.  A friend had shared a story that Prince was dead at age 57.  The news was stunning and not quite believable.  Could it be an internet hoax?

With the way social media spreads – wildfire comes to mind – I decided to wait to see if Associated Press and other news sources confirmed the news. A number of times I’ve seen friends post RIPs for actors or celebrities who have already passed on thinking it was recent.  But soon there were more posts and finally confirmation with the report coming from Prince’s publicist.  It was true…Prince was gone.

Prince was my soundtrack in the 1980s with the release of his album “1999.” I mean, who didn’t want to party “like it’s 1999?” His album was released in 1982 so we had plenty of time to plan!  Then he released Purple Rain followed by his movie of the same name.  So much great music and still more to come in his incredible career.

Prince and Sheila E perform at The Alma awards in Pasadena, CA - June 2007 - AP Photo

Prince and Sheila E perform at The Alma awards in Pasadena, CA – June 2007 – AP Photo

I think what I loved the most about Prince is the many collaborations he made throughout his career. All the artist he worked with and who made a name for themselves because of his help.  One artist that is high on my list is Sheila E.

Sheila E is the daughter of Pete Escovedo, a Mexican-American musician percussionist who has performed with Santana. Sheila is from a family of musicians so I guess it isn’t surprising she chose this path too.  It seemed predestined for her in fact.  Her relationship with Prince began in 1978 when they met at a concert where she was performing with her father.  She and Prince began their collaboration during the Purple Rain years (1984) and her vocals can be heard on several of his releases like “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Erotic City.”  Her own first hit was “The Glamorous Life” which was a chart topper in 1984.  She opened for Prince during his Purple Rain tour and was with him through 1989 as his drummer and musical director.  Since this time, when I think of Sheila E, I always think of Prince and hoped to one day meet them both.

Sheila E. ends at the end of the concert she gave for the NCLR conference in Chicago - 2009.

Sheila E. ends at the end of the concert she gave for the NCLR conference in Chicago – 2009.

Fast forward to 2009 and I got my wish – part of it. .  In 2009, I attended the National Council of La Raza conference in Chicago.  NCLR is known for drawing great speakers and performers.  One evening is always devoted to music and this particular time the artist featured was Sheila E!  I was so excited as our group headed over to The House of Blues to hear her perform.  I was able to get very close to the stage with my camera and started clicking away.  Yes, I DID stop to get in a dance or two!  Sheila wore a red form-fitting dress, her black hair was long and wavy and she had a white floral percussion set.  I was mesmerized by her.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be so close to this incredible artist…someone who was guided by Prince and worked so closely with him.  It was such a thrill….and then this happened…

Photo opp with Sheila E in our hotel lobby in Chicago after her House of Blues performance.  What a treat!  My friend Isabel Rubio and I were thrilled to meet her!

Photo opp with Sheila E in our hotel lobby in Chicago after her House of Blues performance. What a treat! My friend Isabel Rubio and I were thrilled to meet her!

Back at our hotel, a group of us gathered at the bar in the lobby to enjoy a few drinks after the concert. We were a lively group – well, we ARE Latinos – and then suddenly Sheila E walked in!!!  Everyone got even louder and excited as she walked toward us and was sweet enough to pose for pictures!  I still had my camera with me (when don’t I have my camera with me?!) so I became the official photographer for our lucky encounter.  Thankfully, someone offered to take a few pictures of me with Sheila and my good friend Isabel Rubio.  What a night!  Unforgettable!

I’ve wanted to tell the story about meeting Sheila E for some time now. Today seemed like the right time to share it with Prince’s sudden passing.  We lost a musical giant today, but his influence lives on in the many people who love his music, the artists he mentored and the many who were fortunate enough to collaborate with him.

“There are no accidents. And if there are, it’s up to us to look at them as something else.  And that bravery is what creates new flowers.”  RIP Prince.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.