A fine farewell to Helen Cash Jackson
HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 6/14/2013, 12:35 p.m.
Between the renditions of "Blessed Assurance" at the beginning of the memorial services for Helen Cash Jackson by trumpeter Joey Morant and the collective voices of the audience of the great spiritual toward the end, Jackson's remarkable life was vividly recalled by a number of notable entertainers and community leaders last Wednesday at Benta's Funeral Home in Harlem.
"She understood and cared for us," Woodie King Jr., the legendary theater director and producer, said of Jackson, who joined the ancestors on May 27 after a long battle with cancer. King interwove lyrics from "Any Day Now," the song popularized by her husband, Chuck Jackson, into his speech to summarize her importance to the arts community and said how her passing has left gold and "blue shadows all over town."
Barbara Ho, who worked with Jackson for more than 30 years, recounted her tremendous contribution to the arts. "She was a dynamic woman ... beautiful and very smart," she said.
"I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her," said Linda Earle of the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA). "She advised me in my professional, personal and spiritual life."
Jonelle Procope, CEO and president of the Apollo Theater Foundation, began her remarks by thanking Chuck Jackson for taking her under his wing as she began her leadership at the Apollo. "But his greatest gift to me was Helen," she said. "There was a strength about her, and as the great Duke Ellington used to say, 'I love you madly, Helen!'"
Deputy Director of the NYSCA Al Berr was at NYSCA when Jackson arrived there in 1974. "She valued her profession," he said, "and she will never be forgotten, and her contributions are woven into the fabric of the Council." Several speakers would reiterate and expand Berr's comment about Jackson's astute and "advanced sense of fashion."
Arts maven Voza Rivers, who emceed the services, read a letter from Rep. Charles Rangel and his wife, Alma, expressing their heartfelt sympathies and noting how inseparable the Jacksons had been over their years together.
In an earlier interview with the Amsterdam News, Chuck Jackson remembered the circumstances under which he met Helen. "At first it didn't click for us, but 20 years later, it did, and we were never apart anymore," he said. "And once we were together, I never took another performance date without her."
Rhythm and blues legend Lloyd Price told the packed parlor that Chuck and Helen Jackson were the greatest couple he'd ever seen. "He's my hero because I've been married three times," he said to a burst of laughter. "Tell me how you did it?"
"Helen was an incredible woman in every sense of the word," remembered singer Dionne Warwick. "She conquered our hearts and our minds."
Smokey Robinson exuded similar sentiments. "She was awesome," he began. "We talked about spiritual love all the time, and I know she's OK now."
When vocalist and composer Valerie Simpson was handed the microphone, she sang "Walk Around Heaven All Day," but toward the end of her powerful performance, she added that Jackson's walk in that celestial place would be done in "high heel shoes."