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Legendary Musical Performances


Some days you just get into a musical groove that encompasses different genres spanning several decades.  Today is one of those days for us.  Our team assembled some of the best musical performances by some of the greatest artists of our time.

Singer Sammy Davis, Jr. Plays Drums and Piano


An Evening with Nat King Cole

James Brown In A Legendary Performance (No One Outperformed Mr. Dynamite)

By Gary A. Johnson – Founder & Publisher, Black Men In

The year was 1964.  The place was the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the T.A.M.I. show (the Teenage Awards Music International) was held.  The lineup included a bunch of white acts and the headliner was The Rolling Stones.  There were some black acts, most notably, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and James Brown and the Famous Flames.

Brown, who had played the Chitlin Circuit for years, was pissed that the producers of the event would not let him close the show.  They scheduled what he believed to be acts of lesser quality to perform after him.  As he wrote in his memoir, “James Brown: The Godfather of Soul,” “We did a bunch of songs, nonstop, like always. . . . I don’t think I ever danced so hard in my life, and I don’t think they’d ever seen a man move that fast.”   Brown performed a four-song set: “Out of Sight”; “Prisoner of Love,” “Please, Please, Please”; and the closer, “Night Train.”

RJ Smith wrote a book on Brown titled “The One.”  Smith quotes Brown as saying that the T.A.M.I. performance was the “highest energy” moment of his career: “I danced so hard my manager cried. But I really had to. What I was up against was pop artists—I was R. & B. I had to show ’em the difference, and believe me, it was hard.”

This show was reportedly the first time that Brown, pulled out his “cape act,” in which, he drops to his knees, seemingly unable to go on any longer, at the point of collapse, or worse.  The act continued with his backup singers, the Flames, move near, Danny Ray, a valet comes onstage a drapes a cape over Brown’s shoulders. Over and over again, Brown recovers, throws off the cape, defies his near-death collapse, goes back into the song, back into the dance, this absolute abandonment to passion.

“It’s a Holiness feeling—like a Baptist thing,” Brown said of the act. “It’s a spiritual-background thing. You’re involved and you don’t want to quit. That’s the definition of soul, you know. Being involved and they try to stop you and you just don’t want to stop. The idea of changing capes came later, ’cause it’s good for show business.”

Years later, Keith Richards, the lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones reportedly said that the very idea of following James Brown was the biggest mistake of the Stones’ careers. “Just go out there and do your best,” Marvin Gaye had told Jagger. And he did. Jagger was never anything but admiring and respectful of James Brown. Years later Jagger was one of the producers of bio pic on Brown “Get On Up.”

Watch the 17 minute video above of the hardest working man in show business and you will see why no one ever out performed the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown.

To learn more about James Brown watch the 2012 Biography Channel documentary “James Brown, The Godfather of Soul”


The Legend of Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke 3

Sam Cooke was a trailblazing recording artist who sang with the gospel group the Soul Stirrers before he had pop and R&B hits like “You Send Me,” “Chain Gang” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.”  Forging a link between soul and pop, Cooke attracted both black and white audiences, and started his own record label and publishing company. 

Cooke had 30 U.S. top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964, plus three more posthumously. Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement.

Sam Cooke

If you want to learn about this music legend watch these videos “Sam Cooke Crossing Over, “ and “The Sam Cooke Story.”

Larry Graham:  Still Funky After All These Years

Larry Graham

By Gary A. Johnson,
Publisher, Black Men In

The last time I saw Larry Graham and Graham Central Station I was in High School.  I saw him at the Capital Center in Landover, MD, just outside of Washington, D.C.  I went to the show tonight expecting Mr. Graham to be FUNKY, but not this FUNKY.  After all, he’s been around for over 40 years.  I figured he may have lost a step, or developed a hitch in his “funk-get-along.”

Talk about being wrong.  After last night’s show, 68-year old Larry Graham catapulted himself into my All Time Top 5 List of live performers.  Before seeing Larry Graham last night my top 5 best live performers were:

  1. James Brown
  2. Prince
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire
  4. The Jackson 5/Michael Jackson
  5. Brian Culbertson

After the Larry Graham experience last night, Brian Culbertson has been voted out of the Top 5 to the #6 slot with Larry Graham and Graham Central Station comfortably occupying the #5 slot.

Larry Graham

Last night the show started with the band coming on stage from the right wing.  The crowd was looking toward the stage chanting “Larry! Larry! Larry!”  The crowd erupted in applause as Larry Graham came from the rear of the building walking through the audience playing his bass guitar as he made his way to the stage.  Dressed in his signature all-white suit and a white hat topped off by a huge aqua blue feather, Graham also wore a floor length “Elvis-like” jacket.  By now everyone was on their feet (including me and I hate standing at concerts).  Graham walked by our table playing that bass guitar like the Pied Piper of Funk.

His band, Graham Central Station (GCS) has gone through a number of changes in membership.  The current GSC band are all young folks who grew up idolizing Graham.  The band also featured female vocalist Ashling Cole, who goes by the nickname “Biscuit.”  Ms. Cole has the daunting task of taking over the vocals made famous by original GCS member, Patrice “Chocolate” Banks.  I had my doubts if the young girl named “Biscuit” was up to the task.  She quickly sold me and the audience when she belted out the song, “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”  Biscuit, who says her musical influences were Teena Marie and Chaka Khan, also sang a Chaka Khan song to prove that she could do the “heavy lifting” vocally when asked.

After about an hour into the show Graham told the crowd:  “You better call the babysitter and tell them you will be home late.” Dude played for 3 hours!  Graham had 5 encores! (I guess he forgot that some of us had things to do the next morning).

Throughout the night Larry Graham and the band performed their 1975 anthem “The Jam” before taking fans back in time with “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), and “Dance To The Music” from Graham’s Sly & The Family Stone days.  At one point the band exited the stage leaving Graham playing the thumb funk box, alone with the drummer.  In addition, the band played a medley of musical influences that included music by George Duke, Prince, Chaka Khan, Miles Davis, James Brown, The Originals and The Ohio Players.  If that wasn’t enough, Larry Graham allowed people from the audience to come on stage and showcase their talent by jamming with the band.  Can you imagine going on stage and saying: “I play bass,” and Larry Graham takes his bass off and gives it to you to play?

Everyone who came on stage had an opportunity to play their instrument of choice or sing and the band members stepped aside, gave up their instrument for you and let you jam with the band.  I almost ran on stage to sing Sly’s “If You Want Me To Stay.”  I would have turned The Birchmere out!

After the show, Graham, the band, and his wife Tina of 40 years, came out and signed autographs, took pictures and mingled with the crowd until well after midnight.  If you have a chance to re-live your youth, go see Larry Graham.  I was exhausted after the show.  I think I pulled a hamstring bouncing up and down to “1999” during the Prince medley of the show. It was that song or James Brown’s “I Got The Feeling.”

To learn more about Larry Graham visit his official website Larry  Check out this video of Larry Graham with his buddy Prince.



Question:  Who are your Top 5 live musical performers?

Concert Shot

Answer:  “James Brown was the greatest live performer I’ve ever seen, closely followed by Prince.  My next three are Earth, Wind & Fire, The Jackson 5 and Brian Culbertson–in that order.  Period, paragraph, end of sentence.”

Gary Johnson

Founder & Publisher, Black Men In

James Brown Knees



The One and Only Prince


Earth, Wind & Fire


Brian Culbertson2

Brian Culbertson

Lenny Williams2

The Incomparable Lenny Williams

You know him as one of the most distinctive voices on one of the most gut-wrenching love songs ever written (“Cause I Love You”), and as the former lead singer for the legendary group Tower of Power.  He is the legendary soul balladeer Lenny Williams.  Over the past 3 decades Lenny has had such classic hits as, “So Very Hard to Go,” “Cause I Love You” and “Don’t Make Me Wait For Love,” his top Pop and R&B hit with Kenny G.

Unlike many other singers in his era, Lenny still has his voice and sounds great on his new CD “Still In The Game,” on Bridle Ridge Records.

For those of you who have lost touch with Lenny, he has continued singing on tour throughout the U.S., Europe and South Africa sharing the stage with Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, K-Jon, Anthony Hamilton, The Whispers, Rick James, Boney James, Bobby Womack, Ohio Players, Al Green, Usher, Frankie Beverly and Maze.

Lenny has a new single “Still.”  You can watch the video below.  You can also check out Lenny’s classic live performance of “Cause I Love You.”  Stay up-to-date with Lenny Williams by visiting his official web site at
With this song, Lenny Williams gives arguably one of the most soulful performances ever.


Marcus Miller and Larry Graham – “The Jam”

The One and Only Chanté Moore (Gary Johnson’s #1 Female Vocalist)

Ronald Isley

The Incomparable Charlie Wilson Live!

Sammy Davis, Jr. – The World’s Greatest Entertainer

Lena Horne

Ella Fitzgerald

Don Grady3

Jaz Rok Pop by Don Grady

Don Grady is best remembered as Robbie Douglas, on the landmark 60’s and 70’s TV show “My Three Sons,” starring Fred McMurray. Don was also one of the original Disney Mouseketeers in the late 1950’s.  I bet you didn’t know that Don Grady was also a multi-talented musician.

Over the next several decades Don made his living in the music industry as a  composer, arranger, and conductor. He penned “Keep the Dream Alive” for Jazz to End Hunger, a musical project that drew artists such as Herbie Hancock, Della Reese, Dianne Schuur, and Bobby McFerrin, among other notables.

Don was the composer behind The Phil Donahue Show’s theme song and the Democratic National Convention’s opening song in 1996. He also contributed musically to features presented by HBO/Warner Bros., A&E Television Network, Universal Studios, and George Lucas Productions.

After his contract ended on “My Three Sons” Don started another career as a professional composer and arranged and scored music for film and television documentaries.  Don also created original music and special material for DVD animation and live stage shows.  Don was a musical prodigy who played drums, bass, piano, trumpet, and guitar.

Don’s last solo project was a CD called Boomer featuring an eclectic mix of music aimed at baby boomers.  The CD features the single and video “JazRokPop.”  You can download or buy Don’s CD from his web site

Don Grady Don Grady died on June 27, 2012 from cancer at age 68.


 Kashif:  Unsung and Still Going Strong

Kashif Cover

His career spans over four decades. He’s sold over 70 million records. He’s the author of arguably the most recommended book on the music business. Who is he? Want a few more hints?

OK. He was recently featured on the groundbreaking music documentary series on TVOne “Unsung.”

This man has written and produced award-winning albums for Whitney Houston, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Kenny G., Evelyn “Champagne” King, Melba Moore, Me’lisa Morgan, Barry White, Da Brat, Glenn Jones, Howard Johnson, Lil’ Kim, and Dionne Warwick.

Still don’t know? Folks, I’m talking about the one and only Kashif.

With hit records like “I Just Got To Have You (Lover Turn Me On),” “Stone Love,” “Help Yourself To My Love” and the Grammy-nominated instrumental “The Mood,” Kashif began creating a solid reputation among record buyers for his distinctive musical sound.

Never knowing his real parents, Kashif grew up in eight foster homes. Learning to play a $3.00 song flute at the age of seven provided him with what turned out to be an important common denominator in his unstable environments. By age 15 when he joined B.T. Express whose credits included early funk/dance hits like “Here Comes The Express” and “Do It ‘Til You’re Satisfied,” Kashif was already an accomplished musician.

Kashif teamed up with then-newcomer Whitney Houston and contributed to her first smash hit “You Give Good Love,” which he also co-wrote, and “Thinking About You,” on Houston’s astounding 17-million selling debut-album. Kashif has also amassed gold and platinum albums for his work with Evelyn King, George Benson and Kenny G.

In the 90’s, with an invitation from the famed UCLA Extension program, Kashif created a course called “Contemporary Record Production With Kashif.” He wrote and released the now highly acclaimed book Everything You’d Better Know About The Record Industry, as well as The Urban Music Directory, A&R Source Guide, and Music Publisher’s Source Guide. Each of these books is designed to assist people that have an interest in the music industry.


The Kashif Interview Hey Kashif, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I want to jump right into the interview. In preparing for this interview, I’ve discovered quite a few folks, under 35 years old, who may not be familiar with you or your music. So hip these “new schoolers” to you. How long have you been in the music business?

Kashif: I have been in the music business for 32 years. My first professional gig was when I joined BT Express back in 1974. The name Kashif is very unique. What is the origin or significance of your name?

Kashif: It is Arabic. I first took on this name back in 1975. One of the members of BT Express, Jamal Rasool – The bass player was a Muslim. The group was on tour and I had seen a lot of musicians and people about that lived with low morals and little discipline. But I respected Jamal as he demonstrated personality traits that I aspired to. He was studious, respectful, a hard worker, and seemed to have a real plan as to where he was going. He became my role model. He had a great influence on my life. He offered me a book of Islamic names and I chose the name Kashif – Which means discoverer and inventor. Saleem, my last name means one who comes in peace. Tell us about your background. (Where you grew up, family background, level of education, etc).

Kashif: I grew up in Brooklyn New York. My early childhood was spent moving from foster home to foster home, eight, to be exact. I never know any real family but found a solid foundation with the Simpson family. I stayed with them until I was 14 when my foster mother died. The next year I graduated high school. I did not attend any college because I was on the road with BT Express. But that was not the end of my education. To this day I spend a lot of hours doing research and studying business, music, science, and other subjects. How old were you when you joined the group B. T. Express? What did you learn from that experience?

Kashif: I joined B.T. Express when I was 15 years old. Up until then I had done little traveling and was not exposed to things outside of Brooklyn very much. But when I toured with the Express all that changed. We visited Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Kwala Lumpur, and all over the America in the first year alone. I gained an appreciation for the variations in life, to respect and value the way other people lived. I’ve been playing your music (albums and CD’s) in the office. When I think back to the early 80’s, you had a very distinctive sound with such hits as like “I Just Got To Have You (Lover Turn Me On)”, “Stone Love”, “Help Yourself To My Love” and the Grammy-nominated instrumental “The Mood.” When I listen to music recorded in the 90’s and today, I can hear your influence in other artists. Who are some of the artists that you’ve influenced?

Kashif: I really don’t think about that at all. When I create I try to practice what I call free thinking. That means that I try not to adhere to any school of thought as far as making music is concerned. Of course there is a natural tendency to give into the gravity of past successes that I have experienced. But I really try to ignore what has worked in the past and try to give into what I feel is the best choice for that record and production at that time. As far as fine art goes whether we are play writes, dancers, painters, scientist etc., the things we admire influence us all. Approximately how many records have you sold and who are some of the people that you’ve written and produced for?

Kashif: My recordings have sold over 70 million units worldwide and counting. I have been so fortunate to have worked with some of the most talented artists during my career. They have been the vehicles for my songwriting and productions. Whitney Houston, Kenny G., George Benson, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Barry White, Will Downing, All Jarreau, B.T. Express, The Stylistics, Dionne Warwick, make up some of the people I have worked with. How many gold and platinum records have you earned?

Kashif: I have no idea! I don’t think about that. Who are some of the people who influenced you?

Kashif: My influences come from many different disciplines. Science, politics, music, art, technology, business, and humanitarian. Leonardo Di Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi, Steven Jobs, Steven Covey, Deepak Chopra, Bono, Bill Gates, Dr, Charles Drew, Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan. How much time do you have? We have all the time you need. One of the things that I noticed about you early on in your career was a determination to be diversified. Did you make a conscious effort to prepare for life after the music business?

Kashif: I will always be involved with the music business. Music is my first love. But my interest in science, medicine, art, technology and other disciplines also drive me. Music gives me the financial support to dabble and exercise my interest in the others areas. It’s really funny to me when I see other music artists with great big egos. After all it is only entertainment. But it is courage and the willingness to challenge the status quo that makes one great. Most folks don’t know that you’re a successful entrepreneur. What made you write the highly acclaimed book, Everything You’d Better Know About The Record Industry, and your software enterprises? How did this all start?

Kashif: When I am out touring I get questioned quite a bit about what it takes to be successful in the music business. In 1996 I decided to write a book that would help newcomers and veterans of the music industry. That book became a big seller for me. I really had no intentions of becoming a book publisher but 10 years later here I am.

The software that I developed is called the Music Business 411. It was developed to help anyone who is interested in the music industry connect with the right people. There are over 35,000 music industry contacts in the professional version of the program, including; record companies, talent scouts, publishers, attorneys, agents managers, producers, recording studio, radio stations and much more. With this we have solve the number one problem of getting into the music business… You now have thousands of contacts that you can reach out to who can help you find success. What do you want people to “get or learn” as a result of reading your books?

Kashif: I want to teach people how to think for themselves, to learn the basics of the music business so that they can make the proper decisions to have health and prosperous careers. The other night I watching a re-run of “VH-1’s Behind The Music,” featuring New Edition. The show pointed out that after their first major tour, the group got a check for $1.87. How can artists protect themselves from being ripped off?

Kashif: Again, the most important thing about the music business is that you realize that it is in-fact a business first. Take care of your business and your business will take care of you. It is as simple as that. Most people react on emotions and that tends to get them in trouble. When you act on facts and you are clear about that agreements that you make then you can make decisions that will work for you and not against you. Is the FOX TV show “American Idol” good for the music business? Why or why not?

Kashif: I think “American Idol” is good in a sense that it provides a real career opportunity for a very limited number of singers to showcase their talent. However, that is precisely why it is not that great for the business. American Idol looks for one type of singer. But there are all types of singers, folk, and gospel, R&B, Rock, etc. There are also People who do not sing but play an instrument instead. They too deserve a chance. American Idol is about stardom, not music. Imagine Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, John Denver, or any other superstar that did not have the all American belting voice that Idol looks for. They would be booted off right? You do the math. It is one-dimensional at best. Is there anyone that you haven’t worked with but would have liked to?

Kashif: Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Seal. Seal is my favorite artist, and others. OK Kashif, this is the part of the interview where we “strap” you in the Black Men In Hot Seat. This is our version of “Call and Response,” where we say something and you call out the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready?

Kashif:  Ready.  Great.

Kashif AlbumKashif 2
Whitney Houston – Great Talent but had Challenges
• Kenny G – Playing below his real talent
• Clive Davis – Legend
• P Diddy – Ground breaker
• Jay Z – Industrious
• Sly Stone – Universal Sound
• Favorite female artist – Alicia Keys
• Favorite male artist – Seal
• Favorite charity or cause – Rainbow Push
• Favorite way to relax – Sailing
• Favorite song of all time – Too many to list
• Top 3 things you must do to make it in the music business – Work hard, be aware, network
• Most common mistake people make when starting out in the music business – Signing agreements without the advice of an expert music industry attorney. Kashif, you are officially out of the Black Men In Hot Seat!  What are the biggest challenges facing black men in America?

Kashif: America itself. The playing fields are still not even and fair. But as black men don’t have time to stop and complain to the referee. We must forge ahead dunk the ball celebrate for a moment get back down the court and do it all over again. How can people reading this article support you?

Kashif: Tell their friends that we have a web site devoted to helping musicians, singers and songwriter become successful in the music business. Tell us the name of the company again and give us the web site address?

Kashif: The company is Brooklyn Boy software and the web site is Any final words?

Kashif: Live life to the fullest. Enjoy your health, family, and loved ones. Say hello to a stranger. Seek to understand your adversaries before you demand that they see things your way. Lead by example. Smile all the time. Eat healthy. Avoid stress. If you can’t avoid stress then make sure to do things that will help to offset it. Avoid toxic people and substances at all costs. Be proactive about your health. Spend less on cars and more on organic fruits and vegetables. Where light colors. Get plenty of sun. Call someone and tell then that you appreciate them. I could go on and on but I think I made my point. I wish you all health, wealth and happiness. Brother, you said a mouthful. Wow! These are certainly words to live by.

Kashif: Thank you.

Kashif was recently featured in the TV One music documentary “Unsung” for 2015Click here to watch the full Unsung episode featuring Kashif.

Kashif Book Cover  Click here to purchase Kashif’s book, “Everything You’d Better Know About The Music Industry.”

Editor’s Note: Gary A. Johnson originally conducted this interview for Black Men In in 2006.  That interview was titled:  “Kashif: “Brooklyn Boy” Does Good (Real Good)”


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