August 5th early morning, I heard George Duke passed away. I had just listened to his Prepare Yourself but was not ready for this news. George is one of the artists I’ve been closely listening to since my teens. Along with Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Prince, Chaka Khan and others, I have gained profound inspiration from their music for more than 40 years.
One of my fondest musical memories is listening to Mr. Duke’s artistry for the first time. I was in the living room of my trumpet playing high school band mate Ufouma (DeWayne) Wallace. He told me to sit in the good chair and get ready for my mind to be blown. Ufouma knew of my affinity for the funky and couldn’t wait to put the needle on the record. The album was Feel, the first cut was Funny Funk. 5 seconds into the song, I was entranced. I knew I would be listening to George Duke for the rest of my life. I bought all of his albums and the ones he played on or produced.
I was working at the Music Tree in Detroit selling records and blue jeans when the Reach For It album came out. The owner of the store balked at opening a new album unless he knew he could to sell it, but I convinced him to let me crack it open. People would come in and start dancing any time it played.
Y’all must quit the sit
Cause when the ship hits your hip
You better not try to fight it
Cause the grip is strong and mighty
I suggested we use that tune for a store radio commercial.
In the 90’s, as George moved into the smooth jazz realm, my preference ran toward the earlier albums and his work with Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham. His last several albums have cuts that harken back to the old funk days. Everyday Hero, Is Love Enough? and Ten Mile Jog have that stink that reeks of pleasure.
Several years ago I emailed a fan letter to his website expressing how much his music meant to me. I didn’t get a response, but I feel good knowing I sent it. With time being what it is, I guess I’d better find websites of the others.