On this gloriously gloomy Fall afternoon, my mind has been consumed with three artists: one who passed on to the cabaret in the sky long ago, and two more recently departed. Though in pleasant news, no member of this inspiring triumvirate will soon be forgotten, for they created some truly dazzling new sights and sounds . . .
While exploring Yale University's Beinecke Library of Rare Books online, I discovered some wonderful rare photographs of performer and activist Josephine Baker (by photographer Walery of Paris c.1926), that knocked me off my Art Deco t-straps . . .
And I bid a deeply heartfelt adieu to Ari-Up (also known as Madussa), vocalist for the legendary '70s punk band The Slits, and one of my early musical heroes. And if you haven't heard their funky version of Heard it Through the Grapevine (or rather as she she sings "Heard it Through the Bassline"), allow me to enlighten you. I'll always cherish memories of dancing around in my room while wearing torn-up vintage prom dresses, to their whimsically sarcastic song Love and Romance. Here is a fabulous series of interview and performance clips of the band as well.
The sound Ari created with The Slits forever changed my ears, with their disjointed, punked out tribal jam style, eventually leading me to love reggae and dub, through reading about friendship with DJ Don Letts and adoration of Rasta culture. Before The Go-Go's or The Runaways, there was The Slits, and they single-handedly inspired me to get involved with the girl power movement (I was the organizer of the San Fernando Valley Riot Grrrl chapter), not to mention, had me wearing underpants on top of my tights (see the Caroline Coon's iconic photo of Ari's underpinnings c.1977 below), much to my parents chagrin. Much love to you Ari, up in Rastafari Heaven.
Above photos: John Tiberi from England's Dreaming, Ray Stevenson scanned from my prized copy of Vacant: A Diary of the Punk Years 1976-79, Caroline Coon's famous knickers pic, and Ari with Nina Hagen by Anton Corbijin
Ari will be in good rhythmic company, being that one of the most velvety of all Reggae voices has joined her today . . . beautiful Gregory Isaacs, also known in Jamaica as The Cool Ruler and The Lonely Lover. Here is a sampling of his suave sound and debonair look.