A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO LEON WARE

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO LEON WARE

It is with profound sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of my dear fellow Aquarian friend and colleague, the great Mr. Leon Ware. One of the most talented music men I ever had the privilege to interview and get to know, buy zanaflex normal dosage, Leon always provided great opportunities for conversations about life, sex and music.  When we found out that our birthdays were a day apart, that further cemented a bond that began back in 1976 when we did our first interview for Britain’s Blues & Soul magazine, reprinted here.

One of my fondest memories of Leon was watching him enchant an audience in Paris in July 2009, just a few months after I came back to live in London. He was simply magnificent, weaving his musical magic through songs from his then-latest album “Moon Ride” as well as doing his versions of songs that had been recorded by others, most memorably Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” the title track of the classic 1976 LP that Leon had originally recorded for himself (that he then produced on Marvin), “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” (recorded by so many
greats including Quincy Jones, The Average White Band and others), “I Wanna Be Where You Are” (cut by Michael Jackson and Zulema among others), “Inside My Love,” cut by Minnie Riperton and later revived by Trina Broussard. Leon’s work with contemporary soul man Maxwell resulted in the hypnotic “Sumthin’ Sumethin'” and there’s no doubt that Leon’s timeless recordings (think “Rockin’ You Eternally,” “That’s Why I Came To California”) impacted
later generations: his music was often sampled by rap and hip-hop artists who loved the sensual textures that were at the very heart of his art.

There is so much more I could say about Leon: he was funny, smart, naughty, spiritual, profound and yet always real. You can listen to a great inteview we did in 2013 that gives just a taste of the kind of conversations we had. My thoughts today are of the great times we spent together over many years, of seeing him in action on stage and the easy-flowing conversations we had. My deepest love, blessings and prayers go to his wonderful wife Carol and his family. His spirit lives on through his unforgettable work.
RIP, my Aquarian brother.

David Nathan,
Founder, www.soulmusic.com
February 23, 2017

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Motown’s Musical Masseur
By David Nathan, February 1977
(C) SoulMusic.com, 2017

Some guys get all the best album sleeve sessions! With his “Musical Massage” set, Leon Ware has come to the fore of Motown’s influx on new recording talent, to follow his success as a songwriter and producer with many of Soul’s favourite sons and daughters…

IN THEIR efforts to broaden their own musical horizon in the past eighteen months, Motown have certainly unearthed some dynamic new talent. Via his debut album for the company, Leon Ware has certainly proven to be one of them and although the “Musical Massage” album hasn’t exactly set the charts on fire, the critics have favourably reviewed it and that usually suggests that a new star is in its ascendency.

Despite this being Leon’s first actual recording success, it is neither his first recording experience and nor is it his first taste of actual success because he has been a prominent songwriter and record producer for the past decade.

“I’ve been involved in music for all but three of my thirty six years,” Leon points out. “Admittedly, it wasn’t until I was twenty three that I really became involved.”

The story really begins in 1954 when, in his home town of Detroit, he formed a little vocal group called the Romeos — and the group included Lamont Dozier and Ty Hunter, who is now one of the Originals of “Down To Love Town” and “Baby I’m For Real” fame. It seems that the trio had been at the same school together — along with, apparently, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson. However, after three years, the group split up — with Lamont going more into songwriting/producing and Ty into solo work.

Having finished school — and having met and turned down Berry Gordy — Leon signed with ABC and stayed there for almost four fruitless years. It left a sour taste in his mouth and he returned to regular commerce until 1964 when he finally accepted a post with the growing Motown company.

And it was during that one year stay that he had his first taste of success — as a songwriter for the Isley Brothers’ “Got To Have You Back” hit.

In 1965, he joined Groovesville Music in an independent production capacity and worked with the Holidays, Pat Lewis and Terri Bryant during a two year stretch. From there, he moved on to another disappointing spell — three years with Bell and many of the projects simply were not released.

It was at the end of 1969 that he started working with the Righteous Brothers — just before their split. He also was involved in some of the things on the MGM distributed Venture label on acts such as Johnny Nash and Kim Weston.

The year between summer of ’69 and mid-’70, Leon concentrated on writing and in 1970 he started to write with Bob Hilliard — until the latter’s untimely death in 1972. However, one of the songs that they wrote together was “Come L’Amore”, a song that did some business for Bobby Womack and that, incidentally, Leon is currently recording on an Italian artiste, Laura St. Paul.

Leon moved on to work with Ike & Tina Turner and wrote most of the material on their ‘”Nuff Said” album It was during this era that he recorded his own first album for U.A.

1973 saw him working for A&M and trams involved with Quincy Jones. Leon was involved in the “Body Heat” album, writing such songs as “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” and “Body Heat” itself. Leon considers that “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” is one of his best compositions yet and is especially proud of the way Donny Hathaway handled it on his “Extensions Of A Man” album for Atco.

But it wasn’t until 1975 that Leon came home to Motown and that’s really where it has all happened for him. His main claim to recent fame comes via his involvement in the Marvin Gaye album, “I Want You”.

“Some of the songs had been recorded for my own solo album but when Marvin Gaye heard it, he wanted them and I was more than pleased to turn it over to him completely,” Leon explains. “That’s really why there is such a similarity between the sound of my “Musical Massage” album and the “I Want You” album.

“It’s similar because it is my concept that was turned over to Marvin — and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about it, I can tell you. I think I respect Marvin as a man and a talent more than anybody else in the business. It’s certainly enhanced my career and I’m proud to add that it’s been the biggest album in Marvin’s career, too.

“It’s funny, too, because I was also heavily involved with Quincy Jones’ biggest album. I have just completed an album on Syreeta and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the trick can work for her, too.”

Although the “Musical Massage” album was begun in 1975, it wasn’t until the spring of 1976 that it was completed.

“I had recorded “I Want You” and “All The Way Around” for my own album and they were among the first ones we did. The co-producer, by the way, was T-Boy Ross, who is Diana’s brother and whose real name is Arthur. Anyway, at the same session, we cut “Instant Love” (a song that Leon had written in earlier years with Bob Hilliard and which had been recorded by the Main Ingredient earlier on), “Share Your Love” and “Body Heat”.”

One of the more interesting aspects of the album is its provocative sleeve — and you can see the full photo on this page and you’ll better understand my choice of words!

“Yes, it is a sensual concept,” Leon admitted gently. “But it says it all, doesn’t it? Love, hate, sex, religion. One reviewer called it the most motivated sleeve in a while.

“The model’s name is Azerzee Houri and she’s been on several other album sleeves in the past. She was a centrefold in “Playboy” last year, you know. And that’s me there, too — they are my hands! Yes, I guess they could persuade me to do a centrefold for “Playgirl” — I’m not the inhibited kind, you see!”

However, one of the lesser broadcast facts about the “Musical Massage” album is that it features guest spots by Marvin Gaye and Bobby Womack.

Currently, Leon is heavily involved in two projects. Firstly, there is the album that he has been recording in Milan, Italy on Laura St. Paul and that’s what will bring him to London during February. And he is just completing his own second album.

“It’s going to be called “The Whole World Is My Home” and it deals with the same basic realities,” he enthuses. “It should be out in April and by that time, “Musical Massage” should have died down.”

But his forthcoming trip to London will be his first and he is thrilled about the way that he has been accepted over here already. Given the breaks, Leon could certainly develop into being another of Motown’s new-wave superstars.

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Listen to David’s “Voice Your Choice” interview with Leon from 2008

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Click here for articles and features on LEON WARE in THE SOULMUSIC.COM VAULTS

The Leon Ware Page at SoulMusic,com

Motown Spotlight - December 2016

Motown Spotlight – December 2016

Tell me, why is it that colds, sniffles, coughs and sneezes last so much longer when Christmas Day is looming? Now in my third week, it really is a pathetic, sickly creature writing this but, hey, the show must go on – and Motown is the show! I know what I’ll do, play some Festive songs. “The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection” is just the job. In between some of the tracks like The Supremes’ “White Christmas”, Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas”, Four Tops’ “Merry Christmas Baby” and The Miracles’ “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, there’s spoken word greetings from some of the contributors. They’re all young voices of course, but the sentiment is there. A splash of tinsel on the grooves! Feeling better already…let’s TCB

The other day I decided to play the “Magic Lady” CD first released in the late eighties and was surprised to hear it’s stood the test of time. And the music reminded me of a chat with Linda Stokes during the time of its release, and the first single “Betcha Can’t Lose (With My Love)” which reached the UK top forty, following its American success. Sadly, it was the only one but, hey, for a new act, it was a brilliant result. So, I dug out that interview printed in Blues & Soul, thinking it might be interesting to re-visit my chat and also remind ourselves how the duo got together. Hope you’ll join me on our journey…

Michael Stokes, producer and composer, was the key to Magic Lady: he was also Linda’s husband. It appears his first break came when he was a mere thirteen years old because his mother’s restaurant was opposite Spector Records in New York, and its employees were regular visitors there. “It was part of my life” Michael told a 1988 edition of Voices From The Shadows magazine. ”One day Marvin Schlachter (owner of Prelude Records) came in and I told him I was working on some songs. He fobbed me off for a couple of weeks, but then decided to listen. He thought (they) were very good.” One thing led to another, resulting in Michael being offered a job writing material for him. Moving on to the late sixties, he moved to Detroit to hook up with Eddie Kendricks’ EJK Records, before returning to New York. Long story short, Michael had carved a niche for himself in the business and was subsequently in demand as a producer during the seventies and eighties. Now based in Los Angeles, he successfully worked with Creative Source, Shirley Caesar, Rose Royce and Smokey Robinson, among others.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Hailing from Palmer Woods, Detroit, Michael never knew his biological father because he was murdered while on a visit to the hospital where his son was born. However, as his mother owned a string of restaurants, their future was thankfully financially stable, helping to closet him from the racial tensions that plagued America while he was growing up. He mentioned this in the same interview with the before mentioned magazine. “I went to white schools, and I lived in a Jewish neighbourhood so people weren’t black and white to me. It was only my later education that opened my eyes to what was really going down. I decided my music was the best way I could give people something to alleviate their suffering in whatever small degree.”

Back to the plot. Magic Lady – Linda Stokes, Kimberley Ball and Jackie Steele – was Michael’s brainchild, first signed to Arista Records in 1980. From here they switched to A&M where they enjoyed a US R&B hit “Hot And Sassy”, and a UK specialist soul hit with “Hold Tight”. Then came Michael’s licensing deal with Berry Gordy via his MS International Productions set up, where Magic Lady, now minus Kimberly Ball, was one of several acts included in the deal.

I had in fact spoken to Michael prior to chatting with Linda, and he told me Magic Lady’s eponymous album was a women’s album for women. When it was in the embryonic stages, Linda, Michael and Jackie had actually discussed the project at length, as Linda told me “We have a democratic attitude when we work. Jackie and myself both think alike…it’s almost as if our brains are locked into each other.” When they all came up with identical ideas, they knew they were onto a winner. However, working and living with her husband must cause problems I thought, but not so, because they never took their work home and, she laughed, she let him win their arguments. “But basically, we think alike, so arguments don’t happen that often!”

Linda and Jackie are Detroiters. Linda caught the singing bug in high school, while Jackie’s father was a minister, so was raised in a gospel environment. However, both were avidly aware of Motown and dreamed one day of joining the company. “It’s such a great feeling being with (them). I believe we have a good union and hopefully that relationship will work for us both. Everything seems to be going to plan right now and we’re excited about what’s happening. Performing comes easily because it’s fun.”

So, let’s talk music, and the “Magic Lady” album which, she said at the time, was a different type of project for Motown which, she believed, would surprise a lot of people. They worked on it for over three months because the intention was to release a concept work that carried a theme throughout. “It’s a personal album and when we were turning it around it felt we were holding conversations with music. We wanted it to reflect today’s attitude about love and chose not to bring sex or drugs into it.” Sticking to romance was better, they believed, keeping their ideas ‘clean’ and acceptable. Preaching to listeners was also not on their agenda. “We wanted stories that touched the heart. It’s hard for us to write gimmicky lyrics because our songs have to mean something to us first if we’re going to effectively convey them to people.” Anyway, I think the result speaks for itself because apart from the terrific debut single “Betcha Can’t Lose (With My Love)”, I instantly fell in love with “Misty-Eyed” and “Summer Love”. In fact, there wasn’t a lot I didn’t like and that still holds strong today. However, what caught my eye was the album’s packaging – the piercing green eyes that appear on the front cover. You feel drawn to them because they follow you around. Or is it my cold medication kicking in?! Then I also noticed that Berry Gordy was credited as executive producer; not a cosmetic title either Linda explained, because his input was invaluable. “It was a daunting prospect working with him but he is so respected by everyone that I soon lost my nervousness.”

To round off this musical re-visit, I must mention that Linda was also a dress designer, and this would have been her chosen career if music hadn’t beckoned. An example of her work can be seen on the reverse side of the album sleeve. Wherever she went, so did her sketch pad, just in case. Oh lor, as always, I seem to have written more than I had originally planned but nonetheless, hope it’s of interest and, perhaps, re-kindled a little curiosity to play the ladies’ music again. It was just by chance that I spotted the CD in my collection and thought – why not?

Just one more item before leaving. As it’s now in the public domain, and as I made mention of this project last time, there was an exclusive luncheon presentation at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Beverly Hills, California, just recently to officially announce plans for the Motown Museum Expansion project due to open in 2019. Among the VIP guests was SoulMusic.com’s own David Nathan, who, as a member of the panel of experts, spoke about the profound impact Motown made on the world. “Motown is one of the best imports this country has produced,” he said in his speech. Hosted by company vice president Iris Gordy, she introduced her cousin Robin Terry, chairwoman and chief executive officer of the museum, after taking over the role from her grandmother (the late) Esther Gwen Gordy. Over time, Robin transformed Hitsville USA into a world-class museum attraction for Motown fans the world over. Although Berry Gordy wasn’t in attendance, many of the seventy or so guests spoke about him and the music empire he created, including members of his family, Suzanne DePasse, and other industry figures. Motowners in attendance included Scherrie Payne, Betty Kelley, Janie Bradford, Mable John, Mary Wilson, Claudette Robinson, Eddie Holland, Brenda Holloway and Charlene. So now you know. Fabulous, just fabulous!

Well, the Christmas CD has been re-played a couple of times since I started this and I must say it’s cheered me immensely. Marvin Gaye singing “Christmas In The City” to be followed by The Temptations’ “Silent Night”. No better way to close this last column of 2016 than with the beautiful voices of these guys.

So, all that’s left for me to say is a very Happy Christmas to you all, where I’m hoping you’ll spend time with your family and closest loved ones. For all those people who are working over the Festive period in a variety of jobs, keeping us safe, and tending to the sick and less fortunate, thank you so much for your dedication. To wish you a successful and healthy 2017 goes without http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/topamax/ saying, and I’d like to think there will be peace on earth for us all as well. Although it seems grossly inadequate, thank you for keeping the Motown faith this year; you really are a treasured bunch of people and it’s been a real treat for me to have met so many of you during the past twelve months.

Motown is yesterday; Motown is today, and Motown is tomorrow.