Little Richard, the screaming, preening, scene-stealing wild man of early rock ‘n’ roll with hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” died Saturday at 87, Dick Alen, his former agent, confirmed to CNN.
Alen said Little Richard died in Nashville with his brother and son by his side, and the cause of death is related to bone cancer.
He called the star “one of the legends, the originators” and said Little Richard had “been ill for a good while.”
The pioneer would have stood out in any era. But in the 1950s, when Little Richard came to prominence, he was like no other: a flamboyant, makeup-wearing, piano-playing black man who personified the “devil’s music” to establishment guardians.
Elvis Presley was one thing, but for all his pelvic thrusts and slicked-back, juvenile-delinquent hair, he was at heart a polite Southern boy who loved his daddy. Little Richard, though … well, he may have come from a big Southern family himself, but he represented something else.
“Richard opened the door. He brought the races together,” said arranger H.B. Barnum in Charles White’s 1984 biography “The Life and Times of Little Richard.”
“When I first went on the road, there were many segregated audiences. With Richard, although they still had the audiences segregated in the building, they were there TOGETHER. And most times before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together.”
Little Richard Fast Facts
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, no onstage slouch, was an admirer as well.
“There’s no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience. I couldn’t believe the power of Little Richard on stage. He was amazing,” Jagger said, according to White’s book.
Little Richard knew his power. “They saw me as something like a deliverer, a way out,” he once said. “My means of expression, my music, was a way in which a lot of people wished they could express themselves and couldn’t.”
He also made no bones about his status. Little Richard bristled when he was overlooked in favor of other early rock figures, telling SFGate.com in 2003, “I created rock ‘n’ roll! I’m the innovator! I’m the emancipator! I’m the architect! I am the originator! I’m the one that started it!”
He had made those boasts 15 years earlier, going off script while giving out the best new artist award at the 1988 Grammys.
Five years later the Grammys finally recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
It’s hard to argue with Little Richard’s stance. “Rock ‘n’ roll” was originally a euphemism for sex, and in his energy, his falsetto “woohs!” and pounding piano, Little Richard personified the life force.
His songs were about many things — ripping it up, ready teddies, girls who couldn’t help it — but above all, they were about “rocking and rolling” in its original, unexpurgated form.
He’d shoot thousands of jumpers in a ghostly gym after a not-so-great game.
In the dim light of a long flight, while teammates slept, he’d map out formations and tactics on a white board.
He studied cheetahs to improve his body control.
Several months after Kobe Bryant’s shocking death, along with daughter Gianna’s and seven others on a helicopter in Calabasas, Southern California, the world still mourns and celebrates his life.
Emotions waver, but his legacy is bronze-solid.
The Black Mamba moved us in many ways, but let’s start with this: He made us want to work harder. Prepare better. Learn more. Become more excellent at what we do.
He came straight out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia and made the NBA all-star team in his second season.
He won five championships, was named finals MVP twice, made 18 all-star teams, won a regular-season MVP award and led the U.S. hoops team to two Olympic gold medals.
None other than Magic Johnson called him the greatest Laker ever.
Kobe Bean Bryant, son of former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant, set out to be the greatest basketball player who ever lived, and he just might have pulled it off.
Act II of an extraordinarily purposeful life had just bolted from the starting gate with an Oscar Award for producing the Best Animated Short Film (Dear Basketball), big plans for girls and women’s sports, working to help the homeless, birthing a business empire and his most devoted role: husband and father.
Bryant lived to 41, but he packed a lot of living into those years.
He’ll very shortly be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
He’ll have a statue outside of Staples Center.
His two jerseys—No. 8 and No. 24—will forever hang in the rafters of what’s known as “The house that Kobe built.”
His wife, Vanessa, and his three surviving daughters will no doubt tells stories about him for the rest of their lives.
At a Celebration of Life service at a packed Staples Center on Feb. 24, Vanessa Bryant spoke about her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna (Gigi).
“He always knew there was room for improvement and wanted to do better. He happily did carpool and enjoyed spending time in the car with our girls. He was a doting father, a father that was hands on and present. He helped me bathe Bianka and Capri almost every night. He would sing them silly songs in the shower and continue making them laugh and smile as he lathered them in lotion and got them ready for bed. He had magic arms and could put Capri to sleep in only a few minutes. He said he had it down to a science, eight times up and down our hallway.”
Of Gigi, she said: “Gianna made us all proud and she still does. Gianna never tried to conform. She was always herself. She was a nice person, a leader, a teacher, wearing a white tee, black leggings, a denim jacket, white high-top Converse and a flannel tied around her waist, and straight hair was her go-to style. She had rhythm and swag since she was a baby. She gave the best hugs and the best kisses. She had gorgeous, soft lips like her daddy. She would hug me and hold me so tight, I could feel her love me, and I loved the way she looked up at me. It was as if she was soaking me all in.”
At the same ceremony, Michael Jordan cried his eyes out as he called Kobe, “My little brother.”
WNBA legend Diana Taurasi said, “Kobe’s willingness to do the hard work and make the sacrifice every single day inspired me.”
We’ll tell stories, too.
There was the NBA finals performance against the Indiana Pacers in 2000, when Shaq fouled out and Kobe, barely old enough to order a beer, saved the day, making big shot after big shot on his way to 28 points.
There was the time he outscored the Dallas Mavericks team through three quarters, 62-61. There was the 81-point game.
How about when he tore his Achilles tendon and limped back on the court to drain two free throws?
Kobe—NBA icon Jerry West said the one word suffices—indeed taught us about work and commitment.
He also taught us to be lifelong students.
Earlier this season, this superstar who spoke at least three languages was seen courtside at a Lakers game with daughter Gigi, playfully talking trash to the Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic—in Slovenian.
He devoured books.
He studied film like a technician.
He taught himself to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” by ear, as a special gift to Vanessa.
We were introduced to him when he was 17, in 1996, and we thought he was awfully brash.
But ESPN commentator Jay Williams said there was a reason.
“Some players are arrogant because they’re entitled. Kobe was arrogant because he worked harder than you.”
He was fierce.
He once said of himself: “A lion’s got to eat. You can either run with me or run from me.”
You have to be hard-core to win five championships. Kobe upbraided Shaq for showing up to camp out of shape. He scolded teammates when he felt they weren’t giving their full effort. He famously shook a finger at a player and called him “Charmin-soft.”
“I think he was more sensitive than me,” chuckled Kobe.
For sure, ACT II was off to a startling start. Bryant had put in the toil and sweat to become a high-powered businessman.
In the twilight of his basketball career, he began building an empire, which included a venture capital fund and multimedia production company.
Bryant teamed up with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel to launch Bryant Stibel & Co., a venture capital fund that invested in LegalZoom and Epic Games, among others. The two grew the company into a $2 billion business.
Bryant also formed Kobe Inc., which focused on investing in sports brands. The company’s first investment was in the sports drink BodyArmor, which was valued at $200 million after Coca Cola bought a minority stake.
His next creation was Kobe Studios (later renamed Granity Studios), a multimedia production company focused on podcasts, books, television and films. Bryant wanted to tell stories that educated and inspired. Granity is where Dear Basketball was sired.
In 2018, Bryant wrote The Mamba entality: How I Play. Everyone from fans to motivational speakers to CEOs read it for insight on what it takes to be great.
When he won the Oscar for Dear Basketball, was anyone that surprised? Maybe a little, but you knew he’d settle for nothing less even if he didn’t win that year.
He’d found a new love in business and storytelling. He was not interested in getting involved in basketball, other than helping young NBA players hone their skills. When asked if he would consider coaching, he said: “Absolutely not.”
But 13-year-old Gigi was obsessed with the game, and really, really good. Kobe did not push his girls toward the sport he’d mastered, but when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t help himself. He trained Gigi, who became the “Mambacita.” He could be seen courtside at Lakers and Sparks games with her, pointing out what he always focused on: details.
On the Jimmy Kimmel show, he said he was a “girls dad” and related a story with humor and pride: “It’s funny. People come up to Gigi and me and say, ‘Don’t you want to have a boy to carry on your legacy,’ and Gigi is like, ‘Yo, I got this. I don’t need no boy.’”
A big part of his legacy is championing girls and women’s basketball. He was one of the first NBA players to regularly attend WNBA games. He reached out to young women playing collegiate ball and gave them tips.
His latest venture was the Mamba Sports Academy, launched in 2018 with Sports Academy CEO Chad Faulkner.
“Mamba Sports Academy is a 100,000 square-foot facility that houses five basketball courts, five volleyball courts, two beach volleyball courts, a turf field, combatives and self defense dojo, a comprehensive sports medicine practice for medical therapy and rehabilitation, a biomechanics lab, a worldclass cognitive training lab, an e-sports training ground, batting cages and pitching mounds, a mondo sprint track, a learning center for academic tutoring and training, and a yoga/cycling studio,” Kobe said on his website.
Of course, it’s known primarily for its basketball programs for girls and boys. This is not your garden-variety stuff. It features intense camps, clinics, and leagues for 5–17-year-olds.
Kobe coached one of the girls basketball teams and quickly transformed it into one of the most elite units in the nation. Gigi was one of the stars, but Kobe’s staff said he coached all the girls as if they were his daughters.
In typical fashion, he told Sports Academy coaches not to take it easy on the girls, but in atypical fashion, staffers and parents describe Kobe as patient, even laid-back. He did not want to micro-manage his players. He wanted them to go through struggles and emerge stronger.
In the past couple of years, we saw Kobe evolving into a different man than the one who’d clenched his jaw, pumped his fist and torched opponents for 20 years. He was, as they say, paying it forward.
And instead of one obsession, he had five: wife Vanessa and daughters Gigi, Bianka, Natalia and Capri.
Those were our last images—a family man with his family.
The Mamba Sports Academy has been renamed Mamba & Mambacita Sports Academy. You get the feeling Kobe would have smiled at that.
Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of timeless songs, including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” died from heart complications on March 30, 2020. His music continues to provide healing and inspiration during the coronavirus pandemic as health care workers and communities around the world share versions of “Lean on Me” through social media.
“As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” a family statement read.
Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia.
He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract.
Though his songs often dealt with relationships, Withers also wrote ones with social commentary, including “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about an injured Vietnam War veteran.
In recognition of his service, the U.S. Navy Memorial Board will present Withers’ family with the Lone Sailor Award at the organization’s 2021 awards dinner. The award recognizes an impressive list of sea service veterans who have distinguished themselves by drawing upon their military experience to become successful in their subsequent careers and lives, while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.
His family shared their own view of a legendary artist, father, and veteran in a public statement, “…a solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.”
ORLANDO, FLA.—Pat Williams, when he was starting the Orlando Magic franchise from scratch all those years ago, was looking for a fun, friendly, famous face to get people excited about the push for an expansion basketball team in football-fanatical Central Florida.
Little did he know at the time that one of the most legendary basketball players on the planet — the great Curly Neal of the iconic Harlem Globetrotters — had retired and was living in Orlando.
“We were just getting the expansion effort started in June of 1986 when Curly approached me and said, ‘Anything I can do to help, just give me a call,’ ” Williams said Friday. “Well, we sure took advantage of that. Whenever we would have a public gathering or announcement, we’d roll out Curly. We eventually hired him as our first community ambassador.
“Curly was one of a kind. He could light up any room. Just hand him a basketball and he would go to work. He would put on an abbreviated show, a la what he had done for years as a Globetrotter. And it would absolutely delight people, get kids excited and he always left the place with people feeling good about themselves and feeling good about the Magic.”
Curly Neal, whose bald head and ball-handling artistry, made him one of the most famous members of the Harlem Globetrotters during their barnstorming heyday, died at his home near Houston earlier this week at the age of 77.
It was sad news for those of us who grew up in the 1970s when Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, the clown prince of basketball, were bigger celebrities than the NBA stars of the day. When you heard their upbeat theme song — “Sweet Georgia Brown” — we kids would whistle along, snap our fingers and giddily dance around the living room.
It was appointment television when the Globetrotters made their annual appearance on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and entire families would sit in front of the TV and laugh and laugh and laugh some more at their basketball slapstick. Even though we knew what was going to happen when the Globetrotters played their designated-stooge opponents, the Washington Generals, we howled every time they performed their fake water-bucket gag.
And, oh my God, how we would marvel at Curly’s ball-handling virtuosity. Part of every Globetrotters’ show featured Curly dribbling around and through the entire Washington Generals’ team; acrobatically sliding on his knees, never losing control of the ball or picking up his dribble even when he was on his back.
Continue on to The Star to read the complete article.
Black Enterprise Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves, Sr., the quintessential entrepreneur who created a vehicle of information and advocacy that has inspired four generations of African Americans to build wealth through entrepreneurship, career advancement and money management, has died.
According to his son, Black Enterprise CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., he passed away quietly at 9:22 p.m. on April 6, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Graves was 85.
Graves was widely considered to be the ultimate champion of black business, launching Black Enterprise in 1970 to not only chronicle the rise of African American entrepreneurs, but also provide the tools for African Americans to succeed in the business mainstream and “achieve their measure of the American dream.”
In his award-winning, now classic, business bestseller, How To Succeed In Business Without Being White, Graves stated his life-defining purpose for founding Black Enterprise in simple, direct terms: “The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community. The publication was committed to the task of educating, inspiring and uplifting its readers. My goal was to show them how to thrive professionally, economically and as proactive, empowered citizens.”
Driven by that mission, Graves became a trailblazing entrepreneur in his own right, building Black Enterprise from a single-magazine publishing company 50 years ago, to a diversified multimedia business spreading the message of financial empowerment to more than 6 million African Americans through print, digital, broadcast and live-event platforms. As such, Black Enterprise was one of two companies that would appear on the BE 100s—the publication’s annual rankings of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses—each of its 47 years. At one point, Graves would operate two companies on the list, including Pepsi-Cola of Washington, DC, one of the nation’s largest soft-drink distributors owned by African Americans.
Graves’ influence and reach also extended into the mainstream of corporate America. One of the few African Americans to serve on the boards of major corporations such as American Airlines, Daimler Chrysler, Rohm & Hass and Federated Department Stores (Macy’s), he was a staunch advocate for African American inclusion in the C-Suite and corporate governance. Graves was also a tireless champion of major corporations doing business with black-owned companies.
Beyond business, Graves was a force in politics, civil rights, and philanthropy. In fact, he played a pivotal role in galvanizing support for the election of the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama, through his endorsement in Black Enterprise and service as a surrogate campaigning on his behalf. Before that, Graves also championed the historic presidential bids of Rev. Jesse Jackson. Moreover, his fight for racial justice and economic parity earned him the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the organization’s highest honor, in 1999.
Graves was also known for his dedication to family, and especially to his wife Barbara Kydd Graves, who passed away in 2012. Together, they raised three sons, Earl Jr., Johnny and Michael, and were blessed with eight grandchildren.
Born in 1935, Graves reaches the pinnacle of power from humble beginnings in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. It was in that community where he learned the lessons of hard work and perseverance from his parents, Earl Godwin and Winifred Sealy Graves. After graduating from a Morgan State University with a B.A. in economics, he served two years as an officer in the Army, and held jobs in law enforcement and real estate. In 1965, he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy as his administrative assistant. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, he decided to start a publication that would provide blacks with the pathway to go into entrepreneurship.
He wrote: “Black Enterprise was just a modest magazine when I founded it—just me, a few brave advertisers like Pepsi, ExxonMobil and General Motors; and a small but spirited staff. And one other person who did just about everything there is to do to put out a magazine—my wife, Barbara.”
NASA: Katherine Johnson, a mathematician on early space missions who was portrayed in film “Hidden Figures,” has died.
Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died. She was 101.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter that she died Monday morning. No cause was given.
Bridenstine tweeted that the NASA family “will never forget Katherine Johnson’s courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world.”
Johnson was one of the “computers” who solved equations by hand during NASA’s early years and those of its precursor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Johnson and other black women initially worked in a racially segregated computing unit in Hampton, Virginia, that wasn’t officially dissolved until NACA became NASA in 1958. Signs had dictated which bathrooms the women could use.
Johnson focused on airplanes and other research at first. But her work at NASA’s Langley Research Center eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the nation’s first human space program.
“Our office computed all the (rocket) trajectories,” Johnson told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 2012. “You tell me when and where you want it to come down, and I will tell you where and when and how to launch it.”
In 1961, Johnson did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mission, the first to carry an American into space. The next year, she manually verified the calculations of a nascent NASA computer, an IBM 7090, which plotted John Glenn’s orbits around the planet.
“Get the girl to check the numbers,” a computer-skeptical Glenn had insisted in the days before the launch.
“Katherine organized herself immediately at her desk, growing phone-book-thick stacks of data sheets a number at a time, blocking out everything except the labyrinth of trajectory equations,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in her 2016 book “Hidden Figures,” on which the film is based.
“It took a day and a half of watching the tiny digits pile up: eye-numbing, disorienting work,” Shetterly wrote.
Shetterly told The Associated Press on Monday that Johnson was “exceptional in every way.”
“The wonderful gift that Katherine Johnson gave us is that her story shined a light on the stories of so many other people,” Shetterly said. “She gave us a new way to look at black history, women’s history and American history.”
Shetterly noted that Johnson died during Black History Month and a few days after the anniversary of Glenn’s orbits of the earth on Feb. 20, 1962, for which she played an important role.
The world is less generous and less welcoming because B. Smith, former model, entertainer and lifestyle doyenne, has left it.
At age 70, Smith succumbed to early onset Alzheimer’s, which she had been battling for years. She died Saturday at her Long Island home with family nearby.
Plenty of media have described Smith as the “black Martha Stewart.” And superficially, one could see why: Both women had been models (Smith appeared on the covers of several fashion magazines, the first brown-skinned black model to be featured on Mademoiselle’s cover in the 1970s). Both had a genius for cooking and entertaining. Both eventually built an empire based on their skills (food, decorating, entertaining, home keeping). And when people (mostly white people) called Smith the black Martha, they meant it as a compliment.
Smith saw it as well-intended but shortsighted.
“Martha Stewart has presented herself doing the things domestics and African Americans have done for years,” Smith told New York magazine in a 1997 interview. “We were always expected to redo the chairs and use everything in the garden. This is the legacy that I was left. Martha just got there first.”
True, but Smith made up for that by diving into everything she did with passion.
Born to a steelworker father and a mother who was a part-time housekeeper, Barbara Elaine Smith left her Western Pennsylvania hometown of Scottsdale for a modeling career right after high school.
Barbara became B. as her modeling career took off.
After a successful career with modeling agency Wilhelmina and several lucrative corporate contracts, Smith became interested in restaurants.
She married her second husband, Dan Gasby, in 1992, and together they created an empire that encompassed bestselling cookbooks, the weekly show and a lifestyle magazine that was briefly published by American Express. Eventually there were also housewares, bed linens and even an At Home with B. Smith furniture line.
Smith opened her first eponymous restaurant in Manhattan’s theater district in 1986. Two more B. Smith restaurants followed: one near her weekend home on Long Island and the other in the historic Union Station complex in Washington, D.C.
Smith had been showing signs of forgetfulness for a while. In 2013, after she lost her train of thought while she was doing a cooking demonstration on NBC’s Today, she sought a doctor’s opinion.
The devastating verdict: tests indicated she was in the beginning stages of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She and Gasby went public with the news in 2014. Smith put on a brave face and told the public she intended to live and enjoy life until she couldn’t.
The B. Smith who appeared in a public service announcement the following year was a woman whose wattage had dimmed considerably. Her disease was progressing swiftly. Her famously radiant smile flashed less frequently. Her sparkling eyes looked vacant, she forgot things easily and she once got lost in Manhattan for several hours.
Despite that, she and Gasby did several interviews to educate the public and destigmatize Alzheimer’s. They also wrote a book, Before I Forget, about dealing with the disease. They were determined to try to make a difference, as Alzheimer’s is known to be more prevalent in women and African Americans.
The interviews tapered off, though, as Smith’s condition continued to deteriorate. She lived quietly with Gasby in their weekend home on Long Island Sound. But someone else was living with them and seeking to control the narrative.
“I believe in the sanctity of marriage,” he told The Washington Post last year, but not in till death do you part. If the person you love, he said, is no longer mentally or emotionally present, he doesn’t believe “that you should sit there and watch your life shrivel up …” (He visited The View to face Hostin and explain his side of the story.
NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California according to ESPN . Bryant was 41.
Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter Gianna Bryant, who was 13, when the helicopter crashed, sources said. Those aboard the helicopter included another player and parent. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a news conference that there were no survivors, and according to the flight manifest, there were nine people on board the helicopter.
Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby said the Federal Aviation Administration is on the scene and will work with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the crash. He said authorities will not release the names of victims until they are identified and next of kin are notified.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was among the victims, his assistant, Ron La Ruffa, told the Orange County Register. Altobelli won four California community college titles in his 24 years at the school.
A source told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the Lakers found out about Bryant’s death while on the team plane flying home from Philadelphia.
“Everyone is in shock,” a team source said.
The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. As late as 10:39 p.m. ET Saturday, Bryant was active on social media, congratulating James on Twitter during the Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
All week, in the lead-up to the milestone, James was quick to laud Bryant.
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