GLORIA NAYLOR, WHOSE HONORED NOVEL WAS SET IN A HOUSING PROJECT
Gloria Naylor, whose debut novel, “The Women of Brewster Place,” won a National Book Award and was adapted into an acclaimed mini-series that starred and was produced by Oprah Winfrey, died on Wednesday near her home in Christiansted, V.I. She was 66.
The cause was heart failure, her niece, Cheryl Rance, said.
Ms. Naylor’s novels addressed social issues including poverty, racism, sexism and gay rights, usually through intricately drawn black female characters.
“The Women of Brewster Place” (1982) presented seven interlocking narratives, each centered on a different woman living in a decrepit housing project. The women struggle together against an indifferent and hostile world, surviving in the face of rape, homophobia and a child’s death.
“Just as she went to reach for the girl’s hand, she stopped as if a muscle spasm had overtaken her body and, cowardly, shrank back,” Ms. Naylor wrote of a neighbor trying to comfort the dead child’s mother. “Reminiscences of old, dried-over pains were no consolation in the face of this. They had the effect of cold beads of water on a hot iron — they danced and fizzled up while the room stank from their steam.”
Critics praised “The Women of Brewster Place.” “Even if Gloria Naylor’s first novel were not the emotionally satisfying and technically accomplished book that it is, her decision to set it on Brewster Place, a one-street ‘ghetto,’ would have been courageous,” Susan Bolotin wrote in The New York Times in 1982. “What is marvelous, however, is that she doubled her own dare by leaving in the predictable landmarks, the archetypal characters, the usual clues, and made the whole thing work.”
“The Women of Brewster Place” won both the American Book Award and the National Book Award for first novel in 1983, the same year Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” won the National Book Award for best novel.
It gained further attention when Oprah Winfrey adapted it for ABC in 1989 as a two-part television movie, in which Ms. Winfrey starred with Robin Givens, Mary Alice and Cicely Tyson. It got high ratings but drew some criticism for its negative depictions of black men.
“Viewers may find themselves wondering how black society has ever managed to produce any men deserving respect,” John J. O’Connor wrote in The Times in 1989. But, he added, “Despite this nagging imbalance, ‘The Women of Brewster Place’ provides a good many moments of remarkably affecting television.”
Her honors also include National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships.
Gloria Naylor was born in Manhattan on Jan. 25, 1950. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brooklyn College and a master’s degree from Yale University. Before she became a successful writer, Ms. Naylor held several jobs, including telephone operator.
She later taught at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania and other colleges.
She is survived by her sister, Bernice Harrison; her niece; and a nephew.
JOAN MARIE JOHNSON, OF THE SINGING TRIO THE DIXIE CUPS
Joan Marie Johnson, a founding member of the musical trio the Dixie Cups, whose hit “Chapel of Love” unseated the Beatles from the top of the Billboard 100 in 1964, died on Sunday at her home in New Orleans. She was 72.
The cause was heart disease, other members of the group said.
The Dixie Cups began when Ms. Johnson invited Barbara Ann Hawkins to sing with her in a high school talent show in New Orleans. “I was on my way to the grocery store and she stopped me and said, ‘I heard you sing,’” Ms. Hawkins said.
Barbara Ann’s sister, Rosa Lee Hawkins, soon joined them. Ms. Johnson later discovered that the Hawkins sisters were her cousins. All had grown up in the city in the Calliope housing project.
The group did not win the talent show, but their harmonizing made an impression on a talent scout in the audience, Ms. Hawkins said. Soon they were in New York signing a recording contract.
The trio found almost immediate success with “Chapel of Love.” It reach the top of the Billboard 100 chart in June 1964, unseating The Beatles’ “Love Me Do.”
It remained there for three weeks and was later covered by the Beach Boys and featured in the soundtracks to the movies “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and “Father of the Bride” (1991). The group produced other hits, including “Iko Iko” and “People Say,” but none were as popular as “Chapel of Love.”
Ms. Johnson, ill with sickle-cell anemia and frustrated by the trio’s manager, left a few years after the group was formed, Ms. Hawkins said, though in later years they reunited to perform on special occasions.
Going to the chapel, and we’re gonna get married;
Going to the chapel, and we’re gonna get married
Gee, I really love you
And we’re gonna get married,
Going to the chapel of love.
Words you never hear anymore in so-called music/songs of the last two decades.
Gone are the times when men loved women and showed it in their songs of love. Showed it by not calling women bitches and whores. Showed it by pledging their undying love, devotion and respect.
Shacking up with.
Hooking up with.
Laying up with.
The institution of marriage that benefits both men and women has been under siege for decades.
Standing before the preacher and uniting in matrimony once upon a time was the highest form of saying “I love and care for you.”
As far as I am concerned, on a large scale, those days are gone.
The time when the words commitment, loyalty and consideration meant what the words defined.
The Dixie Cups were of a generation that still said “I do”, with all the travails and joys that came with creating a life together.
Ms. Johnson was a part of that bygone era and I am so happy that I lived during a time when I could hear her and so many other singers sing of truly wanting to make a life together with someone they would love through all that life could throw at them.
Rest in peace, Ms. Joan Marie Johnson.
Rest in peace.
ROD TEMPERTON, WHO WROTE ‘THRILLER’ FOR MICHAEL JACKSON AND ‘BOOGIE NIGHTS’
Rod Temperton, who wrote the 1970s disco classic “Boogie Nights” and went on to compose some of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, including “Rock With You” and “Thriller,” died last week. His family gave his age as 66, though many sources indicate he was 68.
Jon Platt, the chairman of Warner/Chappell, his music publisher, said the cause was cancer. He did not give the date or location.
Mr. Temperton, a British-born keyboardist and songwriter, was a member of the disco-funk group Heatwave when he caught the ear of the producer and composer Quincy Jones with “Boogie Nights” and other songs on the group’s debut album, “Too Hot to Handle,” released in 1977 in the United States.
When Mr. Jones began working with Jackson in 1978 on his first solo album in four years, he invited Mr. Temperton to submit songs. Mr. Temperton responded with “Off the Wall,” which became the title track of the album, released in late 1979, as well as “Rock With You,” which reached the top of the pop and R&B charts and became one of the biggest hits of 1980, and “Burn This Disco Out.”
“He had his finger on the trigger for knowing what group of notes to put together that everybody could remember all over the world,” Mr. Jones’s engineer, Bruce Swedien, told Paul Gambaccini, the producer of “The Invisible Man: The Rod Temperton Story,” broadcast on BBC2 radio in 2006. “It was uncanny.”
“Originally, when I did my ‘Thriller’ demo, I called it ‘Starlight,’” Mr. Temperton told The Sunday Telegraph of London in 2007. Mr. Jones sent him back to the drawing board for a better title. After coming up with several hundred alternatives, he settled on “Midnight Man.”
“The next morning, I woke up, and I just said this word,” he continued. ”Something in my head just said, this is the title. You could visualize it on the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as ‘Thriller.’”
Rodney Lynn Temperton was born in Cleethorpes, a seaside resort in Lincolnshire, England. Although his family has said that he was born on Oct. 9, 1949, many sources give his birth year as 1947.
“My father wasn’t the kind of person who’d read you a story before you went off to sleep; he used to put a transistor radio in the crib, right on the pillow, and I’d go to sleep listening to Radio Luxembourg, and I think that had an influence,” he said on the BBC documentary.
He began playing drums while attending the De Aston School in Market Rasen and later turned to keyboards. After leaving school, he worked in the office of a frozen-fish factory in Grimsby while trying to start a musical career.
In 1972, answering an advertisement, he traveled to Worms, in West Germany, and, with the guitarist Bernd Springer, formed Sundown Carousel, a group that performed cover versions of soul hits in clubs around Germany. Two years later, responding to an ad in Melody Maker, he teamed up with two Americans, Johnnie Wilder Jr. and his brother Keith, to form Heatwave.
That band also initially performed covers, but Mr. Temperton soon started writing his own material. Heatwave’s first album, “Too Hot to Handle,” consisted of nine songs, all written by Mr. Temperton. The infectious “Boogie Nights” rose to No. 2 on the pop charts in the United States, and the slow ballad “Always and Forever” reached the Top 20.
After writing most of the songs on the group’s second album, “Central Heating” (1977), which included the hit “The Groove Line,” Mr. Temperton left Heatwave to concentrate on songwriting.
Often working with Mr. Jones, he wrote hits in the late 1970s and early ’80s for Rufus and Chaka Khan (“Live in Me”), the Brothers Johnson (“Stomp!”), George Benson (“Give Me the Night”), Donna Summer (“Love Is in Control”) and Patti Austin and James Ingram (the duet “Baby, Come to Me”).
“Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister),” which he wrote with Mr. Jones and Lionel Richie for the film “The Color Purple” (1985), was nominated for an Academy Award as best original song.
In 1986, Mr. Temperton composed the score for “Running Scared,” a police buddy film starring Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal, and wrote five songs as well, including “Sweet Freedom,” performed by Michael McDonald, and “Man Size Love,” performed by Klymaxx.
Two of his songs were recorded by the British soul singer Mica Paris on her album “Whisper a Prayer,” released in 1993.
Survivors include his wife, Kathy. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.
KASHIF, R&B SINGER, SONGWRITER AND PRODUCER
Kashif, whose contributions as a singer, producer and songwriter were vital to the post-disco development of R&B in the 1980s, and who played a crucial role in the creation of Whitney Houston’s earliest recordings, died on Sept. 25 at his home in the Playa del Rey neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 59.
A spokeswoman, Jalila Larsuel, confirmed the death but said the cause had not been determined.
In the 1980s, Kashif was in the stylistic vanguard of R&B, a deft musical experimentalist who undid the soul-band luxury of the disco era with a dance-floor-ready approach that leaned heavily on synthesizers. He rode that sea change as a solo artist and as a writer and producer for others, leaving his mark on a wide swath of the era’s black pop.
He was born Michael Jones in Harlem on Dec. 26, 1956, and at 4 months old entered the foster care system after his mother was incarcerated. He shuttled among several host families, enduring years of physical and emotional abuse.
Encouraged by a middle school music teacher, he was playing in New York nightclubs by the time he was 12; he was sometimes sneaked in beneath his teacher’s wife’s fur coat, his feet atop hers.
In his teens, he joined the funk outfit B.T. Express as a keyboardist. After a few years, he was fired from the group, but not before he decided to take a new name as a way of signaling a new start in life. He chose the first name Kashif, which means discoverer and inventor, and the last name Saleem from a book of Islamic names given to him by a member of the group who was Muslim. (He went on to perform professionally using only the first name.)
After a stint producing and writing for others, Kashif was signed by Clive Davis to Arista Records in the early 1980s. His first three solo albums, “Kashif,” “Send Me Your Love” and “Condition of the Heart,” were full of sprightly R&B indebted to electro-funk. His trademark was his fluency with synthesizers, and he was an early adopter of the Minimoog.
At the peak of his 1980s success — he received a total of six Grammy nominations — Kashif bought an estate in southern Connecticut that had previously belonged to Jackie Robinson, and built a recording studio in the basement.
Apart from his own recordings, Kashif collaborated on hits by Evelyn (Champagne) King, Melba Moore, George Benson, Meli’sa Morgan and many others. He wrote and produced tracks on the smooth-jazz saxophonist Kenny G’s first albums to go platinum, “G Force” and “Gravity.”
After Mr. Davis took him to see Ms. Houston, who was then still honing her chops singing in nightclubs. Kashif set out to find songs for her debut album. “You Give Good Love,” which he produced, became Ms. Houston’s first major hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 3 on the pop chart in 1985 and setting the table for her crossover megasuccess. (He also sang a duet with Ms. Houston on that album: “Thinking About You,” which he produced and co-wrote.)
By the late 1980s, the hard, hypersexed offspring of R&B known as New Jack Swing was on the rise. Kashif attempted to play along — he had a Bobby Brown-esque hit, “Personality,” in 1989 — but he largely retreated to behind-the-scenes work in the 1990s. In 1996, he wrote and published a book, “Everything You’d Better Know About the Record Industry,” a business guide for aspiring performers that reportedly sold over 300,000 copies.
He was also active in securing mentorships for foster children.
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
Over the last year, after a long quiet spell, Kashif had performed several concerts in Los Angeles, his first there in almost three decades. At his death, he was working on a planned 10-part documentary series about the history of R&B, for which he had already conducted some 200 interviews around the world.
TRINH THI NGO, BROADCASTER CALLED ‘HANOI HANNAH’ IN VIETNAM WAR
Trinh Thi Ngo, a soft-spoken radio announcer known as Hanoi Hannah who entertained American forces during the Vietnam War while trying to persuade them that the conflict was immoral, died on Friday in Ho Chi Minh City. She was believed to be 85.
Nguyen Ngoc Thuy, a former colleague of Mrs. Ngo’s at Voice of Vietnam, the state broadcaster where she worked for decades, confirmed her death in a telephone interview on Tuesday and said she had been treated for liver ailments.
Mrs. Ngo, who broadcast in English, was a propaganda weapon for North Vietnam as it battled the United States and the South Vietnamese government.
Her work was in the tradition of Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally, whose radio broadcasts were intended to damage the morale of American troops during World War II.
Mrs. Ngo was born in Hanoi, the capital, in 1931, when Vietnam was a French colony. (Her exact birth date could not be learned, nor was there information on survivors.) She learned English from private tutors in the early 1950s — partly, she later recalled, because she loved watching Hollywood films like “Gone With the Wind.”
“I always preferred American movies to French films,” she said in an interview with The New York Times in 1994. “The French talked too much. There was more action in American movies.’’
Mrs. Ngo began broadcasting for Voice of Vietnam in 1955, a year after Vietnamese revolutionaries defeated France at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, forcing the French from Indochina.
Early in her career she used the name Thu Huong, or Autumn Fragrance, because it was easier for her non-Vietnamese listeners to pronounce, she told The Times.
“Fewer syllables,” she said.
Her broadcasts aimed at United States forces began in 1965, and she was still on the air in 1975, when North Vietnam captured Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, and renamed it Ho Chi Minh City.
As part of her programs, each 30 minutes long, Mrs. Ngo would announce the names of American soldiers who had died in battle the previous month.
Her listeners included the Navy pilot John McCain, the future United States senator, who was a prisoner of war in Hanoi for five and a half years after his plane was shot down in October 1967.
On a visit to Hanoi in April 2000, Senator McCain said he had listened to Mrs. Ngo’s broadcasts on loudspeakers that hung from the ceiling in a cellblock illuminated by a single bulb.
Mrs. Ngo’s broadcasts included music by Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and other antiwar American folk singers, and she took a friendly approach to her listeners, Mr. Thuy said. But beneath her gentle tone, he added, was a steely confidence in the North Vietnamese cause.
Nguyen Van Vinh, a Vietnamese cameraman who filmed Mrs. Ngo’s meeting the actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda in Hanoi in 1972, said Mrs. Ngo had “talked in a whisper to the G.I.s.”
“Soldiers used a gun, but in Hanoi, in North Vietnam, she used her voice,” he said.
Mrs. Ngo acknowledged as much in the 1994 interview with The Times.
“My work was to make the G.I.s understand that it was not right for them to take part in this war,” she said. “I talk to them about the traditions of the Vietnamese, to resist aggression. I want them to know the truth about this war and to do a little bit to demoralize them so that they will refuse to fight.”
She said the Americans had called her Hanoi Hannah for a simple reason: alliteration. “The Americans like nicknames,” she added.