Sumdumhonky : Chatting With Lloyd Price, Plus Andrea Bocelli's Cinema and Indra Rios-Moore, The Turnback, When In Rome II and Nesta! Exclusives

"What is being called rock 'n' roll today, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, it's all the same as the stuff we did way back in the day. The only thing that's changed is the beat. You can get a whole drum set on your iPad. That's the whole difference in the music. That's why everything today sounds alike."
08/26/2015 09:35 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

ANDREA BOCELLI'S CINEMA COMING; "NELLE TUE MANI (NOW WE ARE FREE)" VIDEO DROPS

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Global superstar Andrea Bocelli's new album Cinema will be released in the US on October 23rd. It features some of the most classic themes of all time from movies such as Doctor Zhivago, Love Story, The Godfather, Life is Beautiful, Gladiator, The Postman, Breakfast at Tiffany's and others. The singer again teams with David Foster, Humberto Gatica and Tony Renis, the supporting team behind Amore, his first album of popular songs.

Also, on September 18th, Bocelli will appear at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, performing songs from the new album. It will be televised as Andrea Bocelli: Cinema, part of PBS' Great Performances series on November 27th, the final presentation of the network's Fall Arts Festival.

The following is a video for Bocelli's take on the Gladiator theme, "Nelle Tue Mani (Now We Are Free)," filmed in the Mojave Desert with a cameo by John Travolta.

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INDRA RIOS-MOORE'S "LITTLE BLACK TRAIN" EXCLUSIVE

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photo credit: Phillipe Levy

According to Indra Rios-Moore...

"'Little Black Train' was a fortunate last minute addition to my new album Heartland. I'd originally intended to write an album of originals and boleros, but after losing my mother and having a little boy, I found myself up late at night listening to songs that were calming and restorative. I ended up covering a small selection of the songs I listened most to during that period. The result is an album that spans Ellington, Doc Watson, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, a Yoruban Orisha song, and this great song, 'Little Black Train' that I first heard when I was a teenager, originally recorded by Rev. JM Gates as 'Death's Black Train is Coming.' Somehow, I ended up listening to this old tune on YouTube and started to hear an uptempo sort of 'cheeky' version of it in my head.

"Larry Klein did some wonderful things to give the song a sense of forward movement. Most notably, he had Benjamin--my husband and our band's sax player--play those great overdubs that sound like little exclamation points to accentuate this message of repentance. It ended up having a great 60-70's soul feel with Benjamin's Eddie Harris inspired solo and Uffe Steen's guitar makes us all sound like we are chugging along on this train."

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photo credit: Travis Hodges

A Conversation with Lloyd Price

Mike Ragogna: Lloyd, you placed a pretty interesting quote on the back of your book Sumdumhonky: "Times have changed since I was born more than eighty years ago. Blacks can now drink from the same water fountain as white people, eat at the same restaurants, ride in the front on public transportation, get a bank loan, hold jobs in management, and we don't get lynched quite as often as we used to."

Lloyd Price: [chuckles]

MR: Was it current events like what happened in Ferguson, etc., that inspired you to write this book?

LP: I guess it's life experience. You can't rush experience, and you can only tell it once you've experienced it. Times have definitely changed. If you haven't lived in the period I'm talking about, it would probably seem foreign, like it never happened. But those things in those days really took place and it all changed, not a hundred years ago, but in the late seventies. I was beginning to see a change in the relationships and how people who had lived together for centuries lived in denial of each other. I was able to see that because being a young teenage recording star, probably one of the first black teenagers to be an American idol in the fifties with my hit record "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," I was able to be privileged to a lot of things and a lot of places where other kids couldn't go. My father lived his whole life without knowing anything about manhood. Whether he weighed five hundred pounds and was seven feet tall he was never respected as a man. I guess that experience from those days as a kid compelled me to do this book after my experience in Africa. I found out it was all the same everywhere, so I said, "You know what? In terms of finding my own identity, I couldn't find it in Africa," because the Africans called me a black American, not an African American, "It's the same everywhere!" I'm an American.

MR: How did life diverge from the experience of being a black teenager in America once you had this sudden skyrocketing success? Were you conscious of the differences at the time or did you just kind of roll with it?

LP: I kind of rolled with it because being a second-class citizen as a southern boy was kind of natural. You always saw racism coming because you accepted that as who you were. I was a veteran when I came back from Korea and found out that there must be a difference. "I went in the army as an American soldier, why now, can't I use the bathroom? I just volunteered my life for this country and I'm being treated as a second-class citizen." I didn't recognize that until I was a veteran. When I was a teenager making records, I would say, "I don't know how to be racist," because I never felt race. I'm colored, I felt like it always was against me. I never created racism, that's never who I was, because born in Louisiana all my cousins on my mother's side, I couldn't tell whether they was black or white, cause they're all Cajun. They had red hair and green eyes. My grandfather looked like a white man. That kind of race thing I didn't understand. It was my position as a citizen in this country, being second-class, that I felt more than anything else. I didn't see it as race because we all played together, black and white. The difference was when you got to be a teenager and you saw things changing. When I started to live inside the change I was having a hit record, so I never got the brunt of it, because I started to travel. Nothing teaches you more than experience and travel. I got to see different things there and I didn't get that feeling because I was a teenage idol and all kinds of people were coming to see me.

MR: You've led so many enterprises, what elements of the change in race relations did you notice as you moved from career path to career path?

LP: Actually, you always knew you were the black guy in the room. I don't know how that happens, but it always happens. You can always feel it, in the bank or anywhere you sit down, you seem to be the other person or the other thing in the room. I think it comes from the way you've been talked to or what you're hearing, sometimes people being over-nice, extending their arm a lot farther than they should just to see if you're comfortable. I don't know what it is but it's always something there where you can sit at the table and instead of just feeling like being equal it's always something extra. I grew up in the white world, so I cannot say that I felt it was a black thing, I just felt like something had happened natural, or I suspected that I would be this guy or this other thing in the room. I felt that not only here in America but I felt it in Japan, I felt it in Africa, in Germany, in Europe, just everywhere. For some reason you've got that feeling of being the other person in the room. Now, every man is from somewhere. The Frenchman is from France, the German is from Germany, the Cuban is from Cuba, and so on and so on. Why do I always have to feel like the outsider? "Here is the colored man, here is the black American, here is the African American, here is this, here is that." We don't speak another language. The only language I know is the one I've been taught here in the country I was born in and I've been here for almost five hundred years. I know no other country but America.

I guess what I'm saying, Michael, is why can't I feel like I am a true citizen? What reminds me every ten years or so that I'm not: There is a civil rights bill, one that they're about to talk about right now, there is a special voting bill, everything's got to be special. I've been here almost five hundred years! There's not a drop of blood of me left in my pigmentation other than the color of my skin that is "other." Why can't I just be an American citizen? Nobody is from here but the Indians. I guess that's the question that's been on my mind forever. I've never been able to explain it, so I tried to put it in this book as denial. Why do all of us in the country live in the shadows of denial when somewhere here we're all relatives? How can it be three hundred and twenty million people here when five hundred years ago it was nobody but the people who landed at Plymouth Rock? You understand what I'm saying, Michael? I'm just saying it's denial. I think the best friends in the world should be the black men in America and the white men in America. Those who call themselves white and those who call themselves black. Everybody else speaks another language. The only ones we can turn to are each other. If there was an enemy coming they're killing all Americans. They're not killing African Americans or white Americans, they're killing Americans. So we've got to find a way to be together here. That's what the book is about. The book is about, "Let's come together, because we are all relatives in this country. We are related. We are cousins." If anything should ever happen to this country we have to turn to each other. We know each other real well, and we have nobody else we can turn to. That was the whole point.

MR: As you were writing the book, did you come to any big rationalizations? Did you start thinking about anything in a way you hadn't before?

LP: Eh, I don't know. I had always thought about it but I don't think I rationalized it. Maybe.

MR: Would that "maybe" have to do with resolving things between where we are now as a country and how you grew up?

LP: Well, let me be very clear about that. Today, I think we have come so far from where we were, it's just mind-blowing. I never in my life envisioned that there would be a black president in my lifetime. When I was a kid, I remember when we had our first black policeman, and he was not allowed to even carry a gun. He was not allowed to ride in the he same car with the white policemen. In that sense it's a world of difference from where it came from. The generation of people now, even just before the millennium could never imagine the distance that has closed between black and whites in this country.

MR: Still, on the back of your book, the quote ended with, "And we don't get lynched quite as often." Though race relations and equality are coming under more scrutiny as awareness increases thanks to technologies like videos, phone cameras, etc., isn't it unbelievable we haven't had more progress by this point?

LP: The difference now, Michael, like you said, there's all kinds of video now and camera phones and social media that they just can't hide them all. I don't think the lynchings ever slowed down. The difference is they don't have to put on sheets on their heads anymore to do it, they do it with a gun and a badge. If I told you thirty five years ago in Detroit, Michigan that ninety eight percent of the police department were members of the Ku Klux Klan, would anybody of color have gotten justice? What's happening now is I guess they're more bold with it. Instead of going behind some shed now or in the alley and beating them up what they do now is just shoot them. The thing is as I said in the book there was a cop in Louisiana who killed a man because the guy talked back to him. That's how simple killing was and probably still is. In my own experience I've gotten stopped on a New Jersey turnpike and the guy asked me to open my drunk. I told him, "You've got the keys, why don't you open it?" and he told me, "Don't get smart with me." I said, "I'm not getting smart with you, but you have the car keys, you open the trunk!" He told me, "I'll take this stick and beat your black head off." On the New Jersey turnpike. Not long ago.

What I'm saying is I don't know if it's gotten bad or worse, but it's never, ever gotten good. That's why #blacklivesmatter. Now everybody's starting to chime in and it seems like it's going to get better, but my whole point is we're killing each other. The race makes no difference, we are cousins. There's no way that if you checked every American in this country who has been born here for the last two centuries you'll find out that the DNA matches. I'm almost certain of it. When I say a guy is lynched because his skin is black or dark or brown, there's a guy lynching one of his cousins. He probably don't know it's his blood relative, but it is! That's why the book is called Sumdumhonky. It was more to try to get people's attention to where we all are in the country. This is America. We all have to be Americans in America. I resent the fact of being called an African American because the Africans didn't call me that after living there in and out for twenty years! They never called me an African American. They called me the black American.

MR: So do you think it gets better with generations?

LP: Yes, you definitely can see it. Absolutely.

MR: It seems like in this country, Latinos, blacks, people in the LGBTA communities, women, Native Americans, and sadly, many more historically have been marginalized as "minorities" even though, like you said, we should treat each other as Americans and cousins.

LP: I imagine it's because of the politics in the country. Politics plays a great role in separation. I noticed that even in Africa, the smaller tribes are the minorities, they get treated the worst. The same thing in China, the same thing in Japan, the same thing in Italy. It's just something about politics that separates the people. Now the powerful have never given the powerless nothing but more trouble. So I guess that's the basis of the confusion: The big guy in the big house wants to keep the little guys down at the bottom separated. This gives them all the power. One man separated all his slaves, put the good hair ones over here, put the light skin over here, put the nappy heads over there and so on, and he guaranteed separation for a thousand years. Well he was right, because the separation of the light-skinned guys against the black guys, the light-skinned guy thinks he's better than the dark-skinned guy. I don't know if it's just a black and white thing, is what I'm saying to you Michael.

MR: I think the unique thing here is that America introduced black people into the culture as slaves. I think it's the growth out of that perception and history in this country that's an important issue. That's a pretty large sin to absolve yourself of, and I think white culture needs to come to terms with that once and for all. However, it seems like we don't quite know how to do that effectively.

LP: You've got to allow for that as well, because the black and white guys never sat at the table as an equal. The black guy always was the minority and the white guy always was the superior mind. I had this particular conversation in Nigeria. I was sitting down with a couple of Generals and they were asking about why were blacks in America called niggers. I said, "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know." He said, "Is it because you're manufactured?" I laughed, but he said, "You know what I mean, you don't have a land. Every man must have somewhere to land. What goes up must have a land. You must have a culture, you must have a religion, you must have a tradition." He said, "Blacks in America don't have any of that, it's all from the white man." I said, "Well, that's not too bad." He said, "What do you mean, that's not too bad?" so I said, "It is very well known that the American white man is supposed to be the smartest man on this Earth. The American money is accepted in every language anywhere on Earth." He said, "That's right." So I said, "If he's supposed to be the smartest man with the best culture and the best everything in the world and I'm his servant, who do you think is the second smartest man in the world?" I know all about the white man and his traditions. I know his culture. I only know what he knows. Everything that he wants, I want. Every dream that he has, I have. Why? Because I'm his clone. He did an excellent job. The only place he missed a little bit was on the color, but that's why we're called "colored" people. There's nineteen to twenty-two different colors of brown people in this country, what we call African Americans. So yes, if he's that smart, we want to be smart, so that makes me smart because I'm here in Africa seeing you and you're not in New York seeing me. [laughs]

MR: Lloyd, I never heard the issue expressed like that before. Okay, we haven't talked about music at all, so let's bring that in. You became popular with songs like "Stagger Lee" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" during an era when English bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones understood the influence of black culture on music in America. But Americans mostly had Pat Boone and other white acts recording R&B, although it was Elvis Presley who first boosted awareness about you as a songwriter, right?

LP: Elvis recorded "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," and at every show, he played it. It's been recorded a hundred and seventy-eight times--from The Beatles, Paul McCartney, John Lennon--all the big acts who have ever recorded rock 'n' roll at one time recorded one of my songs. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" was the first rock 'n' roll song that made me a teenage idol with both blacks and whites. In 1952, it was called race music. When the Beatles got here in 1963, this music had been rolling, "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" was almost ten years old. Elvis had recorded it, Fats Domino, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Pat Boone, you name 'em. What opened the gate here in America for race music was white stars, that generation of young white boys and girls including Buddy Holly copying that sound that at that time was the New Orleans sound. Elvis got in and opened the door that much wider. The English never had a problem with the music, they still played it. All the chords are the same, they're not black and white, unless it's on paper. The music and melodies never change.

What is being called rock 'n' roll today, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, it's all the same as the stuff we did way back in the day. The only thing that's changed is the beat. You can get a whole drum set on your iPad. That's the whole difference in the music. That's why everything today sounds alike. It all sounds alike because there's no creativity, there's no invention, there's nobody stepping out out on a limb today except the English, and if it hadn't been for Joe Cocker and The Beatles and a few other who went out on a limb--even Tom Jones--to make our music as world acclaimed as it is, but nothing changed, nothing brought the people more together on Earth than that music, what we now know as rock 'n' roll. It was before Martin Luther King, it was before Rosa Parks, it was before any of this stuff, but what made all that possible was the sound of the music that brought these people together. The youth. That's why I like to call it a youth movement. Without that music there never would've been a youth movement. When I was a kid, young white kids and young black kids used to cross the street without walking past each other. That's how bad it was in Louisiana. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" was the initiator of that change.

MR: So you helped promote change through the song "Lawdy Miss Clawdy."

LP: That's exactly correct. I have produced thirty-eight records on Billboard. I see and understood not just how important this music was to America, not just to a people, but to the world. It was able to bring people together worldwide.

MR: You were developing a musical called Lawdy Miss Clawdy with Phil Ramone up until he died, right?

LP: That is correct. That is now finished. Jeff Madoff is a great videographer and writer, he wrote the story for Lawdy Miss Clawdy. At the end of August we're going to have a table reading and in October we're going to have a full house. I think it's about twenty eight actors, we're going to have a full reading in New York for the first time. That play will tell the story of how this whole industry got to be what it is right now.

MR: And that also gets touched on in your book The True King Of The Fifties: The Lloyd Price Story.

LP: That is correct. That is about "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." If I did not write "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," there would not be a Lloyd Price story.

MR: What do you think about how black music penetrated so deeply into the culture and made it such a tool for learning?

LP: I don't know if it's just the simplicity of the music. It's just a twelve-bar or eight bar blues, that was rock 'n' roll. You could even play it without one lesson, it's just that simple. But I think our biggest contribution, when Muhammad Ali was a good friend of mine when we were twenty years old. When we were able to produce the Rumble In The Jungle I think it was a major contribution to the music and to sports and entertainment. The reason was no entertainer and no athlete had ever made the kind of money that the Rumble In The Jungle produced for the two fighters. George Foreman got five million dollars and Ali got five million dollars, all plus expenses. When that happened I think Mickey Mantle was only getting a hundred and ten thousand dollars a year, and Willie Mays with the giants was only getting about ninety thousand a year. Right after that fight in 1974 when Ali got five million and George Foreman got five million, all the contracts for recording and all the contracts for sport were then being renegotiated. We built the management industry, we built a whole new record industry in terms of market payout, none of these things happened before that, and here's why: Because if you could pay two people five million dollars for one hour of participation in entertainment, it's got to be in baseball, it's got to be in basketball, it has to be in all these other things. We opened that whole industry wide open with sports and entertainment, and of course the Thrilla In Manila was the same thing, where these fighters made millions of dollars and Don King productions in forty years I don't know how many millionaires he made in the fight business. Michael Jackson, for the first time ever when he died he was in four hundred million dollars worth of debt to Sony. Before that artists were getting three percent no matter what they did, if they wrote the song, produced it, or did everything. When you got ten you were Phil Spector. So we opened up that industry much wider, not just for Americans, but for the world. In terms of sports and entertainment I think the big dollar signs came from the Rumble In The Jungle.

MR: And you were a participant in that as well, right?

LP: Yeah, I produced the film. It got an Academy Award, but I didn't get the credit because the guy hid the film for twenty years. The whole "When We Were Kings" thing, I produced all of that. There was a guy called Leon Gast as my producer and he hid and stole the film. I sued him but I lost it in court because he made all kinds of different claims, "he couldn't find me because I lived in Africa," he had his technical things, but Don King and I did that whole nine yards. We didn't get the credit, but it's our work. We know who did it.

MR: When you look back on your career, the contributions to culture through music and other endeavors, how do you feel about them?

LP: I need to tell you too that I had the first black nightclub on Broadway. I had Birdland, which I turned into The Turntable, on 52nd and Broadway. Another way to integrate people into this music. I feel like my contribution really was being able to take the black artists that played nothing but the Apollo Theater. When I built this club downtown on Broadway, the whole New York Scene opened up for black acts. For Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Jackie and Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, this had never happened before. James Brown came to the Turntable at my nightclub at 52nd and Broadway, right in the heart of Times Square. My contribution was really much more than just records, it was making a big change in how the business itself was done in terms of race. Before that a black act could not go past 110th street unless his name was Louis Armstrong, or Nat King Cole, who we called maniacs.

MR: So your mom gave you the gift of knowing good music and how to market it?

LP: Yes, she did. She was my hero. She had a big family and she had a little fish shop where she sold sandwiches on the weekends. I'm one of eleven children, there were eight boys and three girls. Even though I'm the eighth child I was always the oldest at home besides my two older sisters. I was with my mother a lot and I saw how the world worked even then when I was a young teenager.

MR: And I guess your mother gets credited for all your good tastes in every sense of that phrase!

LP: I would think that's fair! [laughs] My father wasn't a bad guy either, I did a lot of stuff with him as a teenager, I worked with him as well. The first time I ever heard my playback...I had never heard "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" because there was no playback. I heard it on the radio for the first time and I didn't recognize myself as that being my voice.

MR: Lloyd, what advice do you have for new artists?"

LP: Well, to be yourself and continue to be creative, because if you want to do anything that resembles what you are, it's got to be through your own creativity. No matter what anybody says to you, if you believe that there's something, even if it's flying airplanes or taking missiles to the moon, do it! We don't have long years of life, we've got such a short time of doing it. If it's wealth, you have to inherit it, you have to create it, or you have to take it. If you can't inherit it you certainly can't take it, so you've got to create it, and the only way you're going to create wealth is being creative! I will continue to be creative and advise all the young kids, if there's a dream you have, go after it with all force.

MR: I wish you a lot of luck with this book. Are you going to tour to support it?

LP: Yeah! I love talking about it and I hope people read it and understand it for what's in it. That's the whole idea.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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NESTA!'S "BETTER NOW" EXCLUSIVE

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photo credit: Joshua Malik

According to Nesta!...

"'Better Now' is based on my own experience and the realization that love is complicated. Even when there is so much love, relationships can be difficult and it is about asking yourself the question if you are willing to do what it takes to keep your love alive. It is about digging deep inside your self to allow that love to flourish and to hold on with all your might when you find that once in a lifetime love. It is about doing the work necessary on both yourself and the relationship in the hope that love can survive. More than anything it is about the very basic human experience of love and finding a way back to it, even when it seems hopeless because love it worth it...every time..."

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THE TURNBACK'S "FIVE DAYS A WEEK" EXCLUSIVE

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photo credit: Edward Charrette

According to The Turnback's Kenny Sherman...

"'Five Days A Week' is a song about and for anyone with hopes, dreams and aspirations, which kind of means it's pretty much about everybody. How many people are going to school or working at something not of their choice so they can eventually do what they're best at and what they enjoy doing? How many people work two or three jobs to pay the bills and provide for themselves and their families? So when we sing 'Once in a while, I feel like a child, who finally reaches the last day of school before summer arrives,' I think everyone can relate to that joy and relief you feel on those few days when you don't have to work and deal with having to do exactly what everyone else expects you to do. And the song is upbeat and powerful, with some biting guitars and big vocal harmonies, so hopefully it pumps people up a little bit too."

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WHEN IN ROMES II'S "EVENTIDE" EXCLUSIVE

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photo credit: Travis Hodges

According to When In Rome II's Michael Floreale...

"There were times when I thought we'd never get there. Finally, the When In Rome II album is out. It's been a long journey. I moved from Manchester, England, to Dallas, Texas, back in the nineties after the original When In Rome broke up. I reformed the band in 2006 with new singer-songwriter Johnny Ceravolo, and we toured all over the US and South America. I always felt there was unfinished business with the my original band. The hit song from the first album, The Promise, had become a cult hit over the years but I felt there was still more great music to come. I believe we have delivered so much more with the new album. Johnny Ceravolo's amazing voice and songwriting skills completed a true musical partnership. We recorded and mixed the album at Swinghouse Studios in LA with producer Warren Huart. Victor Indrizzo made wizardry happen on drums. Stephen Marcussen mastered the final tracks. The completed album was ready to go. Our new manager, Tracy McCormick, believed in us from the beginning. She got the album funded, produced, and mastered. She got us signed to Spectra Music Group. She never gave up. We were set release the album in 2011. It was pure bliss.And then it happened."