With a gorgeous voice and five-octave range, exotic beauty and an intoxicating stage presence, Angela Bofill took the music world by storm. A native New Yorker who grew up in Harlem and the Bronx, she was a trained musician and sophisticated singer who invested ballads like “This Time I’ll be Sweeter” and her ode to heartbreak, “I Try” with palpable emotion. She could belt out hot dance numbers like “Too Tough,” and gospel-inflected inspirational hymns like “I’m on your Side” with equal aplomb. But after a run of hits in the 1980s, she faded rapidly from view, as record labels trained their sights on a younger generation of video vixens.
Bofill soldiered on for two decades, only to be literally silenced by two devastating strokes. Yet she refused to give up her dream and is gradually returning to the stage, while sharing her inspirational life story with hard earned wit and wisdom, on the latest episode of “Unsung”. In anticipation of the documentary, Bofill said, “I am a little bit nervous, and excited at the same time.”
In January 2006, Angela Bofill suffered a massive stroke that left her partially paralyzed and impaired her speech. Like millions of Americans, Bofill was without health coverage at the time. Currently, the vocalist is at home in California recovering. She is able to lift her leg slightly, and with the help of a leg brace is able to take a few steps. She is beginning to have some feeling in her shoulder but still has no mobility in her arm.
The singer continued to share about the life she now leads as a stroke survivor.
“After the stroke, I can not talk a long time, and also I’m wheelchair bound. But now walking around, cane still, and when I get to a wheelchair, that’s good. Also, I'm talking a lot — my daughter says too much.”
With that, Bofill let out a hardy laugh, revealing a solid sense of humor. “I have to laugh; crying not fun, you know? Not fun. But am able and glad to be able to tell my story. Maybe that will help a lot of people and others.”
According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S., and Bofill credits Philadelphian Davida Godett — a three-time stroke survivor — with helping her recover. During the interview, Bofill’s speech is slightly impaired, but she pushes through the words. She explains that she is far better now than even a year ago and is determined to sing again.
Bofill recalled her times performing at (the now shuttered) Bijou Cafe and Zanzibar Blue, and lamented that nowadays she can only sing “Happy Birthday.” The singer then beamed while describing happy sing-a-long moments with her one-year-old grandson.
The award-winning recording artist (American Music Award nominee, Bammy Award and Blackbook Award recipient, to name a few) continued to reminisce about her earlier career. Bofill wowed audiences across the globe and her stellar sold-out performances are only equaled by the love and enthusiasm bestowed upon her by her many fans and colleagues, including Denzel Washington, Mary J. Blige, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz, Danny Glover, Prince, Santana, the late great Ray Charles and her godfather, Tito Puente.
Bofill says that while singing may be a struggle for her, she still feels the power and exciting in the music. “A chill ... I feel the chill, and that means a good thing, you know,” said Bofill, as she reflects. “That spirit, it helps me to heal. Every day.”
Angela Bofill premieres on TV One’s series “Unsung” on Monday, July 2 at 9 p.m. The episode repeats at midnight.
For the first time ever, the King of Funk is bringing his one-of-a-kind, high-energy show to the legendary Resorts AC’s Superstar Theatre stage. Known for their music and soul performances, Morris Day and the Time is set to blow the roof off the theater tomorrow night, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m.
Day’s career has spanned almost 30 years, and he says there’s never been a time he didn’t want to make music. “Ever since we got our first TV set, and I watched “American Bandstand” and the guys of Motown and all that stuff, I was fascinated with the whole idea of becoming a musician.”
And that dream went even further when his mother bought him a drum set when he was about ten years old. It wasn’t long after that that Day got into a band, originally named “Champagne.”
“I never thought seriously about playing music until I got older and ended up in a band in high school with Prince and Andre Cymone,” Day recalls. “Those guys were serious-minded musicians and music was about all they ever talked about. So I got serious at that point myself.”
Later, the band broke up and Day moved away as Prince went on to get his own record deal. Day worked at different odd jobs, trying to save as much money as he could. Eventually, he moved back to Minneapolis, met up with Prince again, who offered to put together a band for him.
“I took him up on his offer. We wrote a couple of songs together and before long, we were up and running,” Day says.
An early stand-out performer, Day played an essential role in the development of the Twin City dance/club sound of the 1980s. He was a founding member of Prince’s band, the Time, in 1981, bursting onto the public scene with the group’s self-titled album, “The Time,” which included “Get It Up,” “Cool” and “Girl.”
“Those days with Prince gave me and other young talented musicians in the area a chance to shine,” Day says. “It was such an innocent time. We were just doing our own thing, being ourselves and trying to be good artists. I’m proud of where I came from musically and the things we’ve done, and look forward to bringing both the old and the new to Atlantic City.
In 1984, Day struck out on his own, and released successful albums that sold millions. His latest CD was released just last year, and combines classic old school sounds with new music featuring hot new artists. And although he admits it didn’t do as well as might be expected, it did well enough to keep his music in front of his fans.
And when he wasn’t making music, Day tried his hand at acting, although he admits it wasn’t exactly for him. He says, “On film and on television I almost broke the surface, but I found out that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I didn’t enjoy being thrown into [a] shark pit with all these people who did this for a living. I never felt secure going into a room full of people looking at me and saying they’d get back to me. I didn’t like the feeling I got. But if someone came to me with a part that was perfect for me, I think I might try it again.”
In the meantime, Day continues to make music and watch his children play as well. “My youngest is just five years old and already playing the drums quite well. It’s almost as if I was living through my kids and happy that my sons are talented and happy. So they will always keep the music alive for me.”
For times and ticket information, call (800) 736-1420.
French-born Frédéric Yonnet, best known for his on-stage collaborations with music icons Stevie Wonder and Prince, has been described by Rolling Stone magazine as Prince’s “killer harmonica player.” Yonnet’s musical skills and stage presence crush every preconceived notion you’ve ever had about the harmonica. For decades, it has primarily served as the instrument of choice for street musicians and loners who express themselves through country or blues. However, in Yonnet’s hands, those stereotypical walls come tumbling down with each note he plays. He presents the harmonica in a refreshing and modern context — as a lead instrument in a supremely tight 8-piece band throwing down urban jazz, funk and R&B. Yonnet, who is featured on the title tracks of Philly-based Kindred The Family Soul’s current top-charting release, “Love Has No Recession,” has also performed with Erykah Badu, John Legend and India.Arie.
In 1998, while performing at the Cannes Film Festival, Yonnet met several Americans who encouraged him to showcase his talent in the United States. In 2001, Yonnet moved to Washington, D.C. where he performed in area festivals and clubs, quickly developing a reputation as a “genre-bending” harmonica player. After hearing Yonnet’s music, comedian Dave Chappelle invited him to make guest appearances during Chappelle’s 10-city Block Party Concert tour in 2006. Later that year, Yonnet, along with Erykah Badu and Goapele, were invited to Ohio to perform at the AACW Blues Festival hosted by Chappelle.
During Chappelle’s introduction of Yonnet at Bluesfest, he tells the story of how he introduced Yonnet to Stevie Wonder when they were backstage at the 2006 Grammy Awards. “[Fred] pulled his harmonica out of his pocket in front of Stevie Wonder and I said ‘Damn,’ and he started playing that harmonica — I was scared for him… and Stevie started doing like this, [swaying back and forth] — now they hang out every Tuesday and Thursday.”
While the pair may not be hanging out twice a week, Yonnet and Wonder have performed together numerous times, always teasing the crowd with a competitive rendition of Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” “Every time (Wonder) comes to town, or if we are in the same city, we try to connect as much as possible,” said Yonnet. “When we do get together, the harmonica is definitely a language that we have in common.”
It was during a Stevie Wonder concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden when Prince first saw Yonnet perform. Several months later, Yonnet was invited to record and ultimately tour with Prince. “Dave Chappelle actually brought us to Prince’s house that night, and Prince recognized me after a couple of plays,” recalled Yonnet. ”He then started calling me to work with him.”
Yonnet’s star-crossed path began with his birth in Normandy, France. His paternal grandfather, Jacques Yonnet, was the noted French artist, writer and author of "Paris Noir” — a memoir that explores the dark heart of the “City of Lights.” As a child, Yonnet and his father performed as a comedy duo in small theaters across France. By the age of 14, he started playing drums and after demonstrating considerable promise as a drummer, he was selected to perform at the Marciac Jazz Festival. However, throughout his childhood, Yonnet suffered with asthma. By 19, he decided to revisit an instrument he had as a child, the harmonica. After dedicating time to mastering the instrument, he noticed a significant decrease in his asthma attacks. Today, he carries a harmonica instead of an inhaler and his past experiences as a drummer influences his rhythmic and percussive style of harmonica playing.
“My attraction to the instrument comes from so many different perspectives,” explains Yonnet. “First, I do have asthma. I realized later on, after practicing the harmonica for a little while, that it helps me in managing my respiratory deficiencies. Also, I have a love of music. I wanted to be a drummer, but as I was playing the drums I realized I could not really take the lead, and I was limited in certain ways harmonically. So I go from playing the drums, to something that fits in your pocket. And that’s the other side of the harmonica that really, really made me fall in love with it. It is very friendly, it fits in your pocket, it’s inexpensive, it’s you lose one it’s easy to get it replaced. All your creativity can really go into something that is almost like a toy. But the real lesson I got from it is that it is limited in a way that forces you to extend your perspective to the instrument, and bring things to the instrument that is in your own mind.”
Frédéric Yonnet will open the 42nd season at the Painted Bride Art Center with two shows on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and feature works from his new project “Reed My Lips: The Rough Cut.” Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 day of show. Patrons with proper ID are welcome to BYOB for this special event. For concert-goers and nightlife seekers alike, a pre-concert reception takes place at 6 p.m., before the 7 p.m. show; an after-party, sponsored by GPTMC’s Philly 360, will take place immediately following the 9 p.m. show. Patrons will enjoy cabaret-style seating and free range over the Bride’s café and spacious bi-level gallery while DJ Joey Blanco of Soul Travelin’ fame provides an eclectic mix of classic soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (215) 925.9914, or visit paintedbride.org. The Bride is located at 230 Vine Street on the northern edge of Old City.
Prince Rogers Nelson was born at the right time, into a home and city that shaped him perfectly to command the attention and deep respect of millions.
Born in 1958, Prince is technically a baby boomer, but he falls close to the tail end of that cohort. From the start of his career, he demonstrated a thorough appreciation for the R&B that older listeners knew and loved.
“Jesus ministered to the least, the last, and the lost — He sat with prostitutes and lepers. In a way, Prince did the same by taking his spiritual message to the pop world, to the uninitiated” — so writes Touré in “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon” (Atria Books ). In his latest book, America’s preeminent journalist and chronicler of culture makes an elegant and electrifying argument that by virtue of his reach, his seductive appeal and his artful archness, Prince is not only a master many times over of pop, soul and rock music, but also one of history’s most significant religious artists.
Of the spiritual component of the artist known as Prince, Touré said, “That’s part of the reason why it’s a big section of the book. You know, I was really trying to grapple with how much spirituality was a part of his music, and how much it’s been a part of his life, and did he think that he was the Messiah. I think that’s one of the main quotes in the book, and it is impossible to fully answer without actually speaking to him, but I think perhaps there was some thought of it, maybe. When I found out about the added third verse of ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘I Would Die 4 U’ and some of the other things. For example, his first movie (‘Purple Rain’) was going to be called, ‘The Second Coming,’ so it’s like either (Prince) really believes this or (he’s) working it, activating it in us so that we see him in that way. I think that there have been other rock stars who have try to present themselves as Jesus figures. I don’t think anyone has tried to take it as far as he did.”
But at the same time, as even a cursory knowledge of his lyrics reveals, Prince has long been a reverent Christian. Ministering to the least religious generation in American history, he expressed his faith under the radar, though no less potently for it. By teasing and intriguing his listeners with his shameless sexuality, he broke down their defenses and drew them in, so they would be receptive to the more traditional messages that followed. Moreover, by so fluidly fusing sex with religion, Prince helped introduce a popular vision of God not as tyrant but as a spirit of inhibited, joyful ecstasy — “Let’s Go Crazy,” by his own admission, to that song’s diabolically repressive “De-Elevator”.
“Well, that’s what he always wanted to do, to combine those two things and to sort of link them and not have a big gap between the spiritual and the sexual, and wondering why can’t they exist in the same body and in the same life? That is a classic trope in Black music going back to the ’50s, and perhaps before, mixing the spiritual and the profane. Along with Marvin Gaye, nobody takes it more seriously and higher and harder then Prince does,” Touré said.
As a Black musician who refused to be pigeonholed, and as a native of Minneapolis — a hotbed of racial and sexual diversity — he fit superbly into the younger multicultural worldview. His experiences made him into a natural wise older brother and mentor for the kids of Generation X, who flocked to him.
One of those admirers is Philly’s own Questlove, drummer and co-founder of The Roots — who is also known as music professor Ahmir Thompson at New York University. Not only has he studied Prince, but has performed a number of times with the artist.
“Questlove is the best interview in the hip-hop generation as the sort of hip intellectual,” said Touré. “I couldn’t have come this far without Questlove’s persistence and his brilliance — not just as a person that knows Prince and has played with him, but as a musicologist and somebody who can and has made it his business to explore deep into his records, and also someone who has a background in Christian music and can speak on the commonalities of secular and Christian music. He was beyond perfect for this subject in terms of studying the music, knowing Prince, knowing people around him. … I could not have done this if he had not wanted to participate for some reason.”
Touré, who lives in Brooklyn, is a co-host of MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” a Time.com columnist and the author of four books, including, “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?,” a New York Times and Washington Post notable book. While there are few writers who could ably grapple with just one of these subjects, Prince or God, Touré tackles them both with his trademark effortlessness. Prince might still be right when he sings, “I am something that you’ll never understand.” But this biography will bring readers far closer.