TERRY CALLIER / “Satin Doll”

MP3 07 Satin Doll.mp3 (4.93 MB)

  terry callier 23.jpg At 60 I’m officially a senior citizen but I’m not through growing and I continue to look to others for daily inspiration and occasional guidance. My man Terry is my role model. Although we’ve written a lot about Terry before (here and here and here), we’ve barely scratched the surface on this amazing, albeit relatively obscure, songwriter/performer. It’s not just because he’s a senior and still recording wonderful music that I identify Terry as a role model. Nor is it simply because he is producing some of the best music of his life or in the lifetime of any of his peers or the lifetimes of younger musicians. Terry’s catalogue is astounding, but there’s another reason. Terry Callier is an example of Black manhood taking responsibility as both a father and artist. With five offspring and a career as a professional writer, I know how difficult it is to do either vocation well, but when you try to do both responsibly, well, let’s just say you have to make some hard choices. Terry dropped out of the music scene for eight years to take care of his daughter. I’ll let that statement stand. He stopped performing and recording at a point when his career was poised to take off. He took a day job. Played at home. Loved and cared for his daughter. In 1991 got an invitation from an Englishman to perform in Britain and found himself deep into a renewed music career. By the way one of the conditions of his accepting the invitation is that he be able to bring his daughter—she loved it and wanted to linger in London. terry callier 28.jpg These four cuts represent covers and remixes. They all sound good. Sound modern. Don’t sound like music somebody’s grandfather would make. Hell, it’s difficult for forty year-olds to make quality music in today’s world, so sixty-something Terry turning in these rocking recordings is a minor miracle. From the funky remix of “Running Around” (from his remix album Total Recall) which, as you can hear (the original is from Speak Your Peace and is in the contemporary section of the jukebox), was already happening, to Terry’s classic interpretation of “Love Theme from ‘Spartacus’ “ (from Timepeace) we are witnessing an artist not in his declining years but rather a man at the top of his game producing timeless music. Check the forward thinking of “Sierra Leone” (from Speak Your Peace). Yes, the sound is up-to-date, but what really makes the song is the insightfulness of the lyrics: “water is precious / diamonds a stone.” And, yes, Terry’s 2002 song was recorded years before Kanye West’s 2005 “Diamonds.” terry callier 15.jpg One would have to be a stone not to appreciate the warmth of Terry’s interpretation of The Isley’s “Caravan of Love” (from Speak Your Peace). Indeed, I think Terry ought to cut a whole album of covers (check the jukebox for Terry’s take on Ellington’s “Satin Doll”). Understand this is exceptional music produced by an extraordinary individual, a sterling human being whom we can proudly color both father and artist. Can you think of any other musician who is his match in both categories? When I grow up, I want to be just like Terry. —Kalamu ya Salaam              I hear that!             I hear that! I think we could all do worse than Terry Callier as role model. But Baba, I think you picked the wrong track to feature. "Caravan Of Love" is OK, but some of these are songs are really out of sight. That cover of "Satin Doll" is probably my favorite. Terry sings the old tune as if it's a brand new song that he just wrote the other morning. I like "Sierra Leone" a whole lot too. But is that a cover or an original or what? Anyway, this is one of those weeks where I'm not just a contributor to Breath of Life, I'm a fan too. Lucky me - I get all the tracks, not just the features. Ha! emoticon —Mtume ya Salaam
          His cup runneth over.            
1. That's a remix of "Sierre Leone" by a production team called Block 16 (Mtume, you're making me have to drop some Block 16 On folks. Maybe even next week.) I didn't have enough room to include the "Sierre Leone" original (it's happening also). Like I said, it was difficult choosing which songs to include, which to leave out. 2. I was torn about what track to use as the cover feature. I ended up staying with more recent material. There are others I started to use. I even had "Satin Doll" in the covers/remixes and then decided to slide it back into the general mix. But on the other hand... I think you're right. "Satin Doll" (from I Just Can't Help Myself - 1973) is the absolute bomb. It's all in his phrasing and his impeccable sense of rhythm at a slow tempo. Terry has that lilt that you usually hear in the best of the bossa nova stuff. It sounds effortless and easy until you try to do it. Man, Terry Callier makes it difficult to choose. Plus, you know last year we already did "Love Theme from Spartacus," which is one of my all time Callier favorites. How to choose? What a wonderful problem to have. —Kalamu ya Salaam

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