Noting the passing of a celebrity is like celebrating a pennant win in the bottom of the seventh; there will be two more, according to the self-fulfilling maxim. So when Solomon Burke died at the Amsterdam airport two weeks ago, I held my breath, hoping the next one would be more prepared to go. Someone like Eddie Fisher or Tony Curtis. I didn’t get my wish. Eyedea and Ari Up were gone within two weeks.
Most people online will see photos of Ari Up, née Arianna Forster, read a few lines and assume she was just another screamer in a punk band—especially if they see the cover photo for the Slits’ album, Cut, which shows Forster and her bandmates topless and covered in mud. But the Slits couldn’t have been further from the bedraggled screams of punk, or of X-Ray Spex, who they were often compared to. Juxtapose the roughshod reggae-disco of Cut against records by the Rapture and M.I.A. and it’s clear Forster was really, really ahead of her time.
Eyedea, from the Minneapolis hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, was just 28 when he was found dead last week. I did the math, discovering he was still a teenager when his massive statement of purpose, First Born, was released. The triple-album is essentially Exhibit A in the case for the personal/political torch of punk being rekindled in indie hip-hop. Naturally compared to Atmosphere due to geography and pigment, Eyedea expressed a pensive examination of the world and the individual’s place therein with humor, cleverness and heart.
And then Solomon. I was among a few hundred people who once waited over an hour while Solomon Burke was stuck in San Francisco traffic. It was 2005, a free show at Amoeba, and his fans were adhering to the title of his recent record, Don’t Give Up On Me. Patience was rewarded when Burke was led to his red velvet throne and began singing—the huge store was silent while he commanded the afternoon. At one point, a front-row fan shouted a request for Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and in a lightning-fast move, Burke pointed in their direction and immediately went in: “I was boooooorn…”
If there’s any good to come of all this, it’s that you now have three masterpiece records to check out: The Slits’ Cut, Eyedea & Abilities’ First Born, and Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up On Me. It’s rainy season. Enjoy.