I start off here with a quote from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” track. Yes, words from another music icon who died so soon. I learned about Billy Paul’s passing Sunday night. Immediately afterwards, I said to myself, “Okay, enough. This is Jazz Appreciation Month. It’s time to write and pay tribute to these great artists.”

Hearing about Prince passing away set me back a bit. I was still reeling over the passing of Denise Matthews (better known as “Vanity”) just a few months ago.

When I heard Prince’s first album, the very next thing I learned from a friend of mine about his music was that he played all the instrumentation. When I heard his song “Sexy Dancer” on his next album, I thought then (and I still think so now) that this is one of the funkiest tracks ever! I hoped one day that I would get the chance to try the same thing – to record all the tracks of my record by myself. This is exactly what I was after when I recorded my latest EP “Colors Of Soul” – I recorded instrumentation on most of the tracks myself. Thanks, Prince for the inspiration!

It’s been amazing to see so many superstars leave this life as we know it. Just to name some of them that quickly come to mind:

George Duke, Keith Emerson, Natalie Cole, Glenn Frye, Maurice White, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Patty Duke, Luther Vandross, and now Prince, and Billy Paul.

I remember doing shows with Billy Paul. After a performance while I was in the dressing room, I could hear the women sighing and hollering while he sang. My friend, guitarist Kevin Chokan performed on tour with George Duke and worked with another friend of mine – maybe not a superstar celeb, but still a well-known recording artist who also passed away at a young age… Mr. George Howard. I spent a little time with drummer/percussionist Carlos Vega a couple months before he passed away. Michael Jackson and his family lived just a few blocks away from me when I lived in California. And, I was truly a fan of Maurice White, after sharing the stage with Earth, Wind, and Fire and meeting his brother bassist Verdine White and fellow band member, keyboardist Larry Dunn.

I thank God for the memories of these and many other music giants that have passed and the great music they created and left behind. Every day we get older. Please remember to live today as if it’s your last. Make the best of this day for yourself and for others. Support our great artists who are still with us.

V.