Two musicians find friendship during quarantine.
July started out with a spark and ended with a bang as celebrations were popping off everywhere. The Barbados Tourism Authority honored Dr. Irving Burgie with a 90th birthday celebration as a show of gratitude for his many contributions to the Bajan community. Invited guests poured into the official tourism office, located on Second Avenue, to get a glimpse of Burgie and have a plate of delicious Bajan cuisine.
Burgie has a long, illustrious career as a guitarist/songwriter, and it was a pleasure to be in the company of such an accomplished man. Burgie is a doctor of music and songwriting, as he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree from the University of the West Indies in 1987. It was a well-deserved honor for having penned music of the Caribbean that became popular throughout the world. Among the hit songs written by Burgie is “Day-O,” sung by Harry Belefonte, which, in 1956, was the first LP in history to sell 1 million units. Burgie’s talents didn’t stop there. He wrote the song “Island in the Sun” for the film of the same name, produced by Darryl Zanuck and starring Belafonte and Joan Fontaine. Burgie is credited for writing more than 34 songs for Belafonte.
Born in the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, in 1924, he joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and fought in World War II. He developed an interest in music and studying in general while serving in an all-Black battalion in the China-Burma-India theater. After returning from the war, he attended the Julliard School of Music, the University of Arizona, and the University of Southern California with the help of the G.I. Bill. In 1953, his music career began to take off, as he performed in various venues and clubs from New York City to Chicago. It would be another 10 years before he would write the music for the off-Broadway show “Ballad for Bimshire,” starring Ossie Davis. In 1966, he wrote the national anthem for Barbados, the birthplace of his mother.
In addition to the honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies, he received a Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from St. John’s University in New York in May 2008, and a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from York College of the City University of New York in June 2009. At age 90, he is vibrant, unassuming and affable and can still get the crowd going in a sing-along.
Happy birthday to Councilwoman Inez Dickens, who really doesn’t need a reason to celebrate, but because this occasion was special, she did it up Inez style. Gathering at Mist for a light summer fare of chicken and mashed potatoes (comfort food) were more than a few “we love Inez” supporters, such as Assemblyman Keith Wright, who also served as the evening’s MC, Rep. Charles Rangel, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Charles Hamilton, Esq., Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer, Michael Garner, chief diversity officer of the MTA, Lucille McEwen, Esq., Anthony Chilliest, Esq., Bill Thompson’s wife, Elsie McCabe Thompson, Daniel and Eloise Patterson, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Public Advocate Tish James, Shirley Scott and Anthony Rogers.
The big announcement for the evening was that former Harlem Councilman Robert Jackson has thrown his hat into the ring and is running for the state Senate. Expect to see his name on the September ballot as he seeks to snatch Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s seat right from under him.
If it is the first weekend in August, then it must be time for the Alpha Sigma Boule Foundation to host their signature weekend event in Sag Harbour. Looking to make the most of good food and good friends, all for a good cause, were all of the staunch supporters who braved the wind and the rain to gather under the tent set up on Haven Beach for the Caribbean Lobster fest. The food was tastefully prepared by A Place 2 Go, along with Lauren and Lowell, relatives of the founders of Golden Krust. So need I say more? Decked out in their rain gear was all of Sag Harbour and then some. Those such as Drexle and Robin Harris loved catching up with friends such as Carlton and Thelma Dye Holmes, who just returned from a three-week European tour with their two children. “At any stage, they are so much fun,” stated Thelma, and she should know.
Also braving the storm was Thelma’s sister, Janice Dye, who every time I see, I take the occasion to tell her how much I love Harlem Hospital, where she works as an administrator; the Hon. Cheryl Chambers, who most recently returned from an African safari and had great stories to tell, along with her husband, Seymour James; Bebe Granger; Geoffrey and Peggy Muran; Jim and JoAnn Skeets; and Earl Graves, who I didn’t recognize without his famous whiskers. When Earl flirted with me by saying, “I’ll give you a quarter for your lobster,” Jim came to my rescue with, “She’ll give you 50 cents to leave her alone.” Yes, it was that kind of party.
Susan Taylor and Khephra Burns were there, fashionably wrapped up to ward off the cold. Also under the tent were Ruby and the Hon. O. Peter Sherwood, Bob and Barbara Holleran and oodles of others, who made an otherwise wet and dreary day very cheerful and fun.
The next day, which was Sunday, was a tad better weather-wise, and the 75 revelers boarded a yacht, where the stern (or is it the bow?) was the perfect place to sit and talk with friends. But if you wanted to party, all you had to do was head to the opposite end of the boat, where people like Theresa Manning and hostess Gay Bullock rocked the dance floor. The food was delish and they just kept it coming. Mel and Debbie Jackson hosted a small gathering after the cruise around Sag Harbour Bay at their lovely home. All I can say is, do we have to wait a whole year before we do it again?
Until next week … kisses.