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I have been influenced by many artists and situations throughout my life. I’ve been entertained and inspired by so many that counting them would be a task far beyond simply difficult.

First and foremost in memory are the hymns I sang in Palestine Baptist Church as a young child. The emotion with which the congregation would soar thru each tune pulled me along with a dizzying power that I have rarely found in any other music to this day. “Amazing Grace” sticks to my soul like a molasses that’s been reduced down to an amber and unbreakable stone.

I can still remember being kept away from the piano downstairs at that great church when I couldn’t understand why. Age has revealed to me that people were just protecting the instrument from an ignorant child.

The echoing refrains from the choir upstairs with all the familiar voices wafted down thru the ceiling and speakers in a quasi-stereo fashion. Often, it was my Grandmother on the piano or organ. Charlotte Dement could really play with emotion. Her keyboard renditions were without fanfare but truly exquisite every time. Soothed and inspired, I felt at ease, safe and content within those red brick walls.

Before too long the world came crashing in with styles of music far removed from inspirationals. A few of those first discoveries came via a cousin’s record collection. The Rolling Stones, Nazareth, Joe Tex, and others showed me the tip of the berg that was “music”. I leapt off into the deep end and swam in classics.

The foundation for a lot of what I was hearing turned out to be blues and jazz. It took many years for me to pick up on this but the enjoyment of just listening was paramount to me at the time. Where it was coming from was not as important as what it sounded like. Back then it was all ‘awesome’. Today, even with the overabundance of music in general I continue to find great things to listen to.

Early influences, after church, were the likes of George Clinton and Parliament. Bootsy Collins the Star Child, Joe Tex, The Eisly Brothers, and every Ohio Players albums that my Mom had a collection of were available to my ears. The Brothers Johnson, The Commodores, James Brown, Earth Wind and Fire, and many others got me going and never failed to keep me entertained.

When Rock and Roll hit me I failed to make the distinction between those early African American artists and the way they had influenced the likes of the Beatles and the Stones. B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and many other great Blues artists were the foundation of what became a new era of icons. Later I realized where these new superstars got the inspiration from and my love of all music became deeper and deeper. From a little child walking around with a small 9-volt transistor to the old man with an extensive CD collection, I have always loved music that moved me in any way, without prejudice.

‘Human beings’ may have a plethora of shortcomings but music transcends every single thorn and rises to the top of humanity by building bridges, crossing differences, and challenging the listener to open their minds to endless possibilities. Thru music, things such as love, hate, and every other emotion whip away at the soul. To this day it matters not what the song says to me. It matters not what the message might be in the end. No matter what the genre, I can never bring myself to hate any music in any form, or from any artist. Words of anger, derision, defamation, hate, crime, or even murderous intent might dissuade me to listen to any particular tune but if the music is good enough it’s easy to look and listen past all the evil written into it and enjoy the sonic feast.

True inspiration knows no bounds, and true muses don’t ever hold punches back. The bell rang long ago and the bout has never ended for me. Whatever inspires me is drug I am willing to indulge in to the fullest. Music is a drug worthy of the human condition. By the way, have a “Happy Black History Month.” With all the memories music has given me I have no problem with enjoying the heritage not only I, but the world, has been blessed with in music.