Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)—often abbreviated to Inner City Blues—is a song by Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) who released it as the third and final single from his 1971 album, What’s Going On.
The 32-year-old Gaye, who had his first hit song in 1962, had entered into a new and distinct stage of his musical career by the early 1970’s. Like Stevie Wonder, Gaye was one of the Motown artists to first gain complete control over his records. What’s Going On is one of Soul’s and Rhythm and Blues’ first “concept” albums and is considered by many to be not just one of the great albums of all time (though it is that) but the greatest.
The lyrics of Inner City Blues, written by Marvin Gaye and James Nyx and recorded in Detroit, Michigan, depict the conditions of America’s inner-city ghettos and the attitudes of those who live there. Relentlessly bleak economic conditions of these cities’ slums—”Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing, panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading”— perpetrate denizens’ lives. In a prosperous period in U.S. history such is offset by endless war, spiraling inflation, and an economy geared for permanently and grossly augmenting “haves” and “have nots.”
In Marvin Gaye’s mellifluous tenor voice which had a tremendous three-octave range, the singer relates soulfully and passionately—the multi-track background vocals were also sung by Gaye—his conclusion about “The way they do my life” which makes him “wanna holler and throw up my hands.” The writers’ conclusion about inner-city ghetto conditions in the United States, a rich country that ceaselessly spends its money on “rockets, moon shots,” is that insofar as the ghetto resident: “This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’, No, no baby, this ain’t livin’.”
In a career that exemplified the maturation of romantic black pop of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s—Gaye had his first hit at 23 years old and died one day before his 45th birthday after he was shot to death by his father following a violent verbal altercation in 1984— his music developed into a palatably popular artistic form that openly explored contemporary society and all manner of politics, including sexual.
In Inner City Blues the talented singer relates his harrowing subject matter and that which it implies by way of a sophisticated and mellow funk style. Detroit-based session musicians, particularly Eddie “Bongo” Brown and Bob Babbitt on bass, who were part of The Funk Brothers that performed on most Motown recordings of the period—added to the record’s sound.
What’s Going On produced three hit singles. All top ten chart bestsellers addressed diverse issues affecting a complicated time—including the war in Vietnam (What’s Going On, #2, 1971), the global biophysical environment (Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), #4, 1971) and civil rights and justice (Inner City Blues (Makes Me Want to Holler), #9, 1971).
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) Music and Lyrics: Marvin Gaye and James Nyx
Rockets, moon shots Spend it on the have nots Money, we make it ‘Fore we see it you take it
Oh, make you wanna holler The way they do my life Make me wanna holler The way they do my life
This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’ No, no baby, this ain’t livin’ No, no, no Inflation no chance
To increase finance Bills pile up sky high Send that boy off to die Oh, Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life Make me wanna holler The way they do my life Hang ups, let downs Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is I can’t pay my taxes Oh, make me wanna holler And throw up both my hands
Yeah, it makes me wanna holler And throw up both my hands Crime is increasing Trigger happy policing
Panic is spreading God knows where we’re heading Oh, make me wanna holler They don’t understand
Mother, mother Everybody thinks we’re wrong Who are they to judge us Simply cause we wear our hair long
English singer and songwriter Flo Morrissey (b. 1994) and Richmond, Virginia-based producer and musician Matthew E. White (b. 1982) teamed up for a collaborative full duet album of ten cover songs called Gentlewoman, Ruby Man. It was recorded in 2016 and released in January 2017 on Glassnote Records.
Following months of preparation, the cover songs were selected from a wide range of musical artists and recorded in 10 days at the studios of Spacebomb Records, a label White founded in downtown Richmond in 2011.
The album’s first track is their cover version of Little Wings’ Look At What The Light Did Now. Little Wings is a band founded in the late 1990’s in San Luis Obispo, California, by Alabama-born indie rocker Kyle Field (b. 1972). The original Little Wings version of the song is a vocal duet with acoustic guitar released in 2002. The song received limited reviews at the time though they were mostly positive.
Matthew E. White.
Matthew White first learned about Flo Morrissey from an article about her on The Guardian website. They met at a music event in London in October 2015.
The two international artists were signed to different record labels, but found out they had musical interests in common and that they worked well together. Morrissey and White discovered, for instance, that they both liked recording cover versions of great songs, especially ones that were personally resonating. As young performers they liked that they could hone their vocal performances as well as work with production values using these others’ time-honored musical compositions. Further, they could by way of their contemporary version, introduce these songs to a new generation of listeners.
They started to compile a list on Spotify of around 500 songs. From there, they chose their list of just ten songs. Morrissey and White discovered that the songs they ultimately selected weren’t necessarily the ones they went into the project expecting to do. The material they chose included newer compositions and extended into genres, such as R&B, they hadn’t first thought about singing.
The indie rock production featured, as planned, 10 songs from a diverse group of musical artists, such as Leonard Cohen, Frank Ocean, the Bee Gees, and James Blake.
Gentlewoman, Ruby Man tracklist: 1. Look At What The Light Did Now (Little Wings Cover) 2. Thinking ‘Bout You (Frank Ocean Cover) 3. Looking For You (Nino Ferrer Cover) 4. Color Of Anything (James Blake Cover) 5. Everybody Loves The Sunshine (Roy Ayers Cover) 6. Grease (Bee Gees Cover) 7. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen Cover) 8. Sunday Morning (Velvet Underground Cover) 9. Heaven Can Wait (Charlotte Gainsbourg Cover) 10. Govindam (George Harrison Cover)
Released in September 2002 on Peak Records, the Latin jazz ballad “Beautiful Walk” is from Argentine-born saxophonist Leandro “Gato” (the “Cat”)Barbieri’s 50th album, Shadow of the Cat.
Shadow of the Cat was Grammy-nominated for Best Latin Jazz. Gato Barbieri looked to two major sources for the album’s inspiration. The first was the 30th anniversary of his Last Tango in Paris (1972) for which Barbieri won a Grammy Award for the film score. The second was his huge-toned, raucous yet smooth jazz-pop sound Barbieri created in five albums he made at A&M Records in the mid-to-late-1970’s.
Following a six decade career as a music original, Gato Barbieri died on April 2, 2016 at 83 years old.
Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement in 2015. “What do you play?”
By 2006 Gato Barbieri was content that in a long musical career he had pursued playing different musical styles—jazz, Latin, film orchestration, etc.—and did not limit himself to a single genre.
In November 2015 Gato Barbieri received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for music that has been described as “mystical yet fiery, passionately romantic yet supremely cool.” Around the same time, Barbieri gave his final concert at the Blue Note club in Greenwich Village. That was the club where the “Cat” first performed in 1985 and—still sporting his trademark black fedora hat—started performing again there in 2013 on a monthly basis until his last concert on November 23, 2015.
“The jazz people they don’t consider me a jazz musician. If I am Latin, they don’t consider me Latin. So I am here in the middle,” Gato said. “It’s a good thing. You know why? Because they say, ‘What do you play?’ I say, ‘I play my music — Gato Barbieri.’”
Mid1960’s- Jammin’ fusion.
Gato Barbieri and Italian-born wife Michelle married in 1960 and moved to Rome in 1962, where Gato began collaborating with American jazz trumpeter Don Cherry (1936-1995). The year is 1966. Tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri is joined by trumpeter Don Cherry, jazz vibraphonist Karl Berger (German, b. 1935) and bassist Bo Stief (Danish, b. 1946). In 1966 Barbieri and Cherry recorded two albums for Blue Note—Complete Communion and Symphony For Improvisors. Also in that early era Gato recorded with jazz saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy (1934-2004) and South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (b. 1934).
Recordings for Flying Dutchman and Impulse!.
In the early 1970’s Barbieri recorded a handful of albums on the Flying Dutchman label and later signed with Impulse! where he recorded his classic “Chapter Series” which included Latin America and Hasta Siempre (both 1973), Viva Emiliano Zapata (1974) and Alive in New York (1975).
Gato Barbieri, “Encuentros” from Chapter One: Latin America, the 1973 album on the Impulse! label.
Barbieri’s free jazz meant he was playing with American jazz double bass player Charlie Haden (1937-2014) and American jazz pianist Carla Bley (b. 1936), among many others. The Cat could also be found jamming with jazz bassist Stanley Clarke (b. 1951), Brazilian jazz drummer and percussionist Airto Moreira (b. 1941), Cuban composer Chico O’Farrill (1921-2001) and American jazz musician Lonnie Liston Smith (b.1940).
Gato Barbieri’s Last Tango in Paris (1972) was an international sensation. The “Cat” won the Grammy Award that year for his musical score in the Bernardo Bertolucci film starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider.
Gato Barbieri’s free-jazz playing in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with his audacity to blend the improvised style with a cutting-edge mining of Latin jazz in multi-artist projects attracted Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci to recruit Barbieri to compose the score for his 1972 film Last Tango in Paris starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. Bertolucci was seeking his own musical blend from the young Argentine musician who could incorporate jazz, strings, and tangos into his score to embody the film’s chaos of spirit and ferocious sexuality with a nod to European intellectualism and Hollywood popularity.
Gato’s musical score became an instant international sensation and professional triumph for the 41-year-old musician winning a Grammy Award for best instrumental composition in 1973.
Fireflies is the lead track from Gato’s bestselling Caliente! album for A&M in 1976. It was produced by Herb Alpert.
Gato Barbieri performed benefit concerts, one for the Friends of Chile benefit concert in Madison Square Garden on May 6, 1974. Gato Barbieri’s five albums on A&M Records in the mid-to-late 1970s featured a more soothing jazz-pop sound.
Caliente! (1976) on A&M Records was released at the beginning of the peak of the jazz-fusion and disco eras. Produced by Herb Alpert, Gato Barbieri plays with sizzling heat relying on tango-infused Argentine fluency as well as the influence of Sonny Rollins (b.1930), John Coltrane (1926-1967) and Pharoah Sanders (b. 1940).
Caliente! is beautifully arranged and executed which makes for enjoyable listening. The concept of strings combined with rhythmic danceable funk anted up Barbieri’s raucous sound and made Caliente! a successful primogeniture to Herb Alpert’s instrumental Rise in 1979 which became a huge international hit.
“Tango is tragedy.”
“Always in the tango is tragedy,” said Barbieri in 1997. “She leaves him, she kills him. It’s like an opera—but it’s called tango.”
In the 1980s the “Cat” kicked it up a notch for Para Los Amigos (1984), an album which spotlighted the rock-influenced South American sound.
Mystica is from Gato Barbieri’s Qué Pasa. After working nonstop for nearly 30 year, the 1997 album was the Argentine jazz tenor saxophonist’s first of the 1990’s. Gato would produce over 50 albums in his career. (5.20 minutes).
“Music is a mystery.”
By the early 1990’s Gato had taken time off from creating in order to evaluate his musical style and identity going forward. Suddenly, in 1995, Michelle Barbieri, his wife of 36 years, as well as manager and confidant, died. In deep bereavment, Gato took up his saxophone and began to record again. This effort soon produced the 1997 album, Qué Pasa, Gato Barbieri’s first album of the decade.
In 1996 Gato Barbieri married his wife Laura and they soon had Christian, their son. After Gato’s death on April 2, 2016 at 83 years old, Laura Barbieri told The Associated Press: “Music was a mystery to Gato, and each time he played was a new experience for him, and he wanted it to be that way for his audience.”
The Italian early Baroque ensemble “Ensemble Accordone” was founded in 1984 by two musicologists—composer Guido Morini (born 1959) and tenor Marco Beasley (Italian-English, born 1957). In the last decade the duo in collaboration with other musical artists has recorded and released 10 albums. This 45-minute opera composed by Moroni called Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis (Revive the Life Force Spirit) appeared in 2009. While Accordone’s main focus is arranging and performing musical literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is one of two recent albums by the group conceived from original compositions by Morini.
In their interpretations Accordone often seeks collaboration with outside musical artists and this is the case for Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis, an opera in three parts. The first part is Effuderunt Aquas Nubila (Poured out of murky waters) arranged for soloists, chorus, organ and basso continuo concertante. The Helicon and Euterpe choirs as well as soloists Elisabetta de Mircovich and Claudia Caffagni are featured. Special guest musicians performing include Karen Peeters, Jaap Kruithof, Edwin Derde, and Guido Morini. The opera’s conductor is Geert Hendrix. While Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is imbued with the monophonic structure of sixth century Gregorian chant and Baroque polyphony from one thousand years later, Accordone consciously strives in this album to have early music be easier for today’s listener to enjoy. While today’s listener may not recognize or be able to identify this melodious music’s traditional backbone, the manifestation of a “rigorous lyricism” demonstrates Accordone’s creative confidence in bringing early music into relevant practice for the 21st century.
Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is the first part of a trilogy of compositions dedicated to the Christian Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit. By design the new commission by the Basilica Cattedrale della Vergine Assunta (Lodi Cathedral in northern Italy) is to counter today’s materialism by configuring the great religious traditions in a new way through contemporary music and words. This opera’s libretto is a new Latin translation by Ettore Garioni comprised exclusively of verses from the Old Testament.