|The Tree of Hope|
The Apollo means different things to different people. For me it recollects a moment in history that was probably one of the most intense periods in my life and, most likely in the life of the world.
As I stepped through the doors of the Apollo, the names of important musical souls, their names engraved on plaques and set into the walk, I saw the name of James Brown.
James Brown Live at the Apollo. Arguably the most famous live recording, it sealed James Brown's life and career in the history books. It was a very busy night for the hardest working man in show business.
The night? October 24, 1962. For those of you who hadn’t been born, or for those of you who don’t remember, that was one scary night. Russian warships were heading towards Cuba with questionable cargo. America was on Defcon2 alert level, the highest we had ever gone (Defcon1 = nuclear war is imminent).
Meanwhile on the stage of the Apollo, James Brown was singing like it was his last night on earth, or so it seems now. Listen to it. Words he sang, “I wonder do you know what I’m talking about,” “I say it’s getting a little cold outside,” and “everybody needs somebody,” in the soulful way only James Brown could. But the most stirring moment for me was halfway through the 40 minutes recording when James Brown went into a long 9 second howl that recalled an air raid siren.
Did James Brown know? How could he not? But that night in the Apollo, all was still very much live and about the living. Thank you James Brown. Long live the music.
Billy Mitchell is a director at the Apollo; he’s been there for 50+ years. We spent an hour or so with Billy and he took us all over the place. To stand on the stage and imagine all the sweat, the soul, the heartache, the joy that this stage has seen. Sensitive types alert: when you step into the Apollo, hold on tight.
Red Rooster. The dream of Chef Marcus Samuellson, Red Rooster was hopping on a cold and wet Tuesday night. We were led downstairs to a private club. I must say I would’ve liked to stay above ground, not easy words for an introvert to say, considering the crowds. “Look, over there, Farrakhan,” one colleague whispered. I headed down the stairs, glad it was 2014, not 1962.
Ginny’s Supper Club, it’s called, and it’s a large expansive room capable of putting on live shows and filling up two rooms (and the very long bar) with souls. At the bar of the once speakeasy, Italian wines were laid out, Brunello, Barolo, Gavi, Chianti Classico Riserva. How bad could this be? Soulful food and Italian wine. I could do this.
Yard bird and Chianti Classico Riserva. And Brunello Riserva. And Barolo. Ok, I’m settling in nicely. And while fried chicken and Barolo wouldn’t have been my first thought, we’re in Harlem, downstairs, in a jazz lounge. I’m not complaining. We made it through Defcon2. We’re still live. And loving it. One the wine trail in
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