When the climate changes, there are certain things about New York City that you appreciate more. With spring in full swing for Mother’s Day weekend, many viable options were available for your entertainment dollar. The prerequisite dinner, flowers and candy aside, we had the Yankees, an intense playoff series with the Rangers, Broadway and off-Broadway plays and museums at our disposal–but again, that’s just about any weekend.
What makes New York what it is are things like the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival, along with an evening of spoken word with Ruby Dee that took place at the Apollo, Blue Lovett and Gerald Alston leading the Manhattans at B.B. Kings and Fantasia and Charlie Wilson at the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx. All those activities on one day?! That’s a good month for most cities in the country. Hope you moms enjoyed yourselves.
Fortunately, the fun’s not over yet. A somewhat new tradition will be upheld on Saturday, May 19 as the Whispers grace the Beacon Theatre stage for their Mother’s Day concert.
After 49 years in the business, the Whispers’ music has affected people’s lives. Folks were conceived and many emotions were shared with their songs as a backdrop, and that has bred a kinship with their fans few in music can mirror.
“I’ve been truly blessed in my life to have our music received this way. People come up to speak, shake my hand and embrace me and I know them–probably not by name, but I can feel them when I look in their eyes,” said group member Nicholas Caldwell.
On the outside, Caldwell, with his distinguished beard and towering height, was perceived as the giant member of the quintet. True fans of the group, however, know that Caldwell is a man of many dimensions. In fact, some steadfast fans would go as far as to say a Whispers’ album isn’t complete without a composition by Caldwell.
It’s guaranteed that one of your favorite songs by the group emanated from his pen. “Chocolate Girl,” “Do They Turn You On,” “Give It to Me,” “Lady” and, of course, their showstopper, “Say Yes.” Classics all.
Caldwell described the key ingredients to each. “The music is very honest–about love and not lust; there’s always commitment and I hope intellect–something that would arouse and stimulate people to share themselves with the person to whom they’re committing.”
As much as his songs are revered, it’s a wonder that he doesn’t have a catalog riddled with artists performing his work. He explained, “I’ve never really written for anyone else, and when I look back sometimes, I think that it wasn’t a good thing for me. I could have possibly done more, but all artists can’t sing everything.
“What I look for is what I call character. The way they approach a song, the melodies in which they sing, their inflections and key to the voice; all those things add up to their character. As a writer, that’s what I look for in a vocalist. I would have loved to have worked with Marvin Gaye or Luther Vandross because they have those same sensibilities.”
He continued, “But the important thing was we started out as a group, and anything that I could do to elevate–to be successful–is what mattered most. Other voices probably could sing my songs, but that intangible thing that happens when people are in tune with each other might be missed. If I can sing, I want to sound like Walter and Scotty. They deliver it the way I hear it.” That’s teamwork!
Adding to the evening at the Beacon is the return of Miss Valerie Simpson. An all-time great in her own right, it might be her first area performance since the passing of her life and songwriting partner, Nick Ashford.
Caldwell spoke of the billing glowingly. “The songs she and her husband composed were era-altering songs. That pushed writers to try to meet those standards, but to be honest, I never paid too much attention to her vocals until lately. We did a show together recently and I actually got a chance to see her show and I asked myself, where was I all this time? I’m sorry I’m so late to acknowledge her vocal gifts.
“I would love to do a project with her because, as much talent as she has, she is a much better person and that’s what means the most,” he said. Don’t make the same mistake! Show starts at 8 p.m.
I’m out. Holla next week. ‘Til then, enjoy the nightlife.