Friday, April 14, 2006

The Age Of Madness

So, I was over at Crunk + Disorderly recently (or was it Concrete Loop?) just minding my own business when I was struck by a comment from one of the posters. To paraphrase:
Toni Braxton is aging so well.
Uh, come again? Since when is it a miracle that a 38-year-old black woman is "aging well?" I don't care what Hollywood people do or don't do, most thirtysomething, not to mention most eightysomething black women look damn good! Please, I'll be 37 this year and people (mostly twentysomethings, natch) are always surprised to learn that I am "older" than they thought.

Chile, please.

I was also stunned by the lame comments on the death of June Pointer by many posters who clearly had no idea who The Pointer Sisters were (and are) and the role they played in paving the way for the Destiny's Childs of today. Like many of the best singers, The Pointer Sisters, preachers daughters, grew up singing in the church. They sang pop songs and topped the pop charts. They sang R&B songs and topped the R&B charts. They were the first black female group to sing at the Grand Ole Opry. And that's not to mention that they've been nominated for over a dozen Grammy Awards in the pop, R&B and country categories (Hel-lo!) Now, it's a given that black artists will be on MTV (heck, black artists are MTV in a lot of ways) but it wasn't always that way. It took Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston blazing through the pop charts for the "powers that be" to say, "Uh oh, we're missing out on big money here!"

As a teenager, I didn't think, "Hey, The Pointer Sisters are old, I don't want to listen to them." When Tina Turner made her phenomenal comeback, I didn't think, "Tina Turner is older than my mother! She's too old to be on MTV!" Please!

This obsession with age has got to stop. Beauty is great (Love it!) Youth is great (Love it!) but they are not everything. The idea that someone is just about "over the hill" after 25 is beyond ludicrous and I'm tired of it. That is one of the problems with hip hop (to say the very least, I'm not even going to go there...) Rappers, even if they are good, either have to portray a perpetually youthful party image ala Snoop Dogg, or they lie about their age. LL Cool J notwithstanding, they are not allowed to mature and have a real career past 30, much less begin one. Ridiculous.

Artists like The Emotions, Phyllis Hyman, Gloria Gaynor and Thelma Houston? They would not have careers if they were starting out today, they would be backup singers. Maybe. They were all pushing thirty or were older when they had the biggest hits of their careers. Ditto for the men. Teddy Pendergrass was in his late twenties and early thirties when he had his biggest hits and Marvin Gaye was 32 when What's Going On was released.

I'll never forget Phyllis Hyman complaining about Pebbles of all people and essentially falling apart and believing the hype before her suicide eleven years ago, just weeks after her 46th birthday.


I have never in my life heard a song on the radio and thought, "Hey, that sounds like Phyllis Hyman," because nobody sounds like Phyllis Hyman except Phyllis Hyman! Nobody sounds like Chaka Khan except Chaka Khan. Nobody sounds like Gladys Knight except Gladys Knight. And yet none of these people could get a major record deal today without being 100 pounds soaking wet with a blonde weave and a belly ring! ^&%*#@!!!!!

I must say, I really admire the late, great Dorothy Dandridge. She was beautiful and talented and she didn't take anything for granted. She knew that she was not a great singer, (check her out on iTunes to hear for yourself) but she also knew that singing in nightclubs was the only consistent way she could keep a foothold in Hollywood in between acting jobs, which were always years apart. In Donald Bogle's wonderful biography of Dorothy, her sister Vivian said: "She really loved dignity and elegance. Almost to a fault. This is the thing that she abhorred about the nightclub scene... that she had to get up there and just be strictly a sex symbol." Dorothy herself told her best friend Geri Branton:

"Ella Fitzgerald is one of the most talented people in the world, and it embarrasses me that she cannot work the rooms that I work. The reason for it is so horrible. She's not sexy. The men in the audience don't want to take her home and go to bed. And yet she's up there singing her heart out for one-third of the money they're paying me. And I resent being in that category."

Ms. Branton said, "I liked Dottie for saying those things." Same here. I like Dorothy Dandridge because she "got it." She wasn't passing herself off as some great singer - and she was 33 when she was nominated for her Oscar. Oprah was 32 when her show was nationally syndicated. Toni Morrison was 39 when her first novel, The Bluest Eye
was released. Tina Turner was 45 when she won 3 Grammy Awards for her Private Dancer album. Dr. Mae Jemison was 36 when she landed on the moon.

I wish more people would get a clue and stop limiting people based on age - especially some younger people who swear their generation did everything first (*eyes rolling*) Some of us "old" people are gonna "do the do" anyway, so you may as well get over it.

And what are you going to do when you turn 30?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

preach!!! it seems like any lil teenager can get a record deal these days as long as they have a "clive davis" or "def jam" backing them. and if they are half decent with an instrument or can dance, then they are made out to be the next greatest thing since sliced bread. where are the real singers with talent?!?! btw, just discovered your blog and i really like it, bookmarking it now.

April 14, 2006 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

Cool, thanks Dareal. Welcome!

April 14, 2006 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Glib Gurl said...

*applause* Nichelle, I couldn't agree more with your thoughts. It's even worse today in the video age. As Leela James says, "it's all about the video . . . ." It's amazing how much looks impact just about every aspect of women's lives. I remember reading once that when asked if she had any regrets, Eleanor Roosevelt - one of the most influential women of the 20th century - said yes, she "wished [she] had been prettier." WTF?!?!?

April 15, 2006 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

I know, it's just outrageous. I just had to get it out after reading that mess. I think it's time for grown folks to make a comeback!

April 15, 2006 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Cocoa Girl said...

Applauso! I'm still in my 20s, but can see what you're talking about.

I was at home last night imagining how I would like to one day have a wedding reception where most of the songs played where old school...e.g. Earth Wind and Fire, Sly and the Rolling Stone and other groups that were earning accolades before I was even born.

The knowledge base and breadth of these kids' minds today just do not that's very narrow and shallow.

April 17, 2006 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

The knowledge base and breadth of these kids' minds today just do not that's very narrow and shallow.

To say the least...

April 17, 2006 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Juicy77 said...


"Toni Morrison was 39 when her first novel, The Bluest Eye was released."
Wow, I didn't know that. And here I was bummed out because I have yet to reach certain personal goals at age 29.

April 17, 2006 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

29? Girl, it's just beginning for you...

April 17, 2006 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Miss Ahmad said...

great post. i'm so jaded after working damn near a dozen years in entertainment though. i've seen teenagers making a mid six figure incomes, emancipating themselves at 14 to pursue their careers, no education to speak of.

i've seen 18 year old girls have nervous breakdowns because they thought they were over the hill...and they were right.

Boys whoring themselves in Milan in the hopes of landing an Italian Ad Campaign.

It's the pits...power to the writers!

April 18, 2006 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

I feel you Miss Ahmad... I'm a lot jaded myself as you can see.

I'm not saying that younger people have to be geniuses, but dang! Have some clue about what came before you -- and respect it!

April 18, 2006 at 2:19 AM  
Blogger Sangindiva said...

Gurl!!! If you didn't tell it like it T-I- IS!!
This was such a FANTASTIC POST!
You are so right on so many points
ANNNNNDDD you're an EXCELLENT writer!
I heart your blog!!!

April 18, 2006 at 5:28 AM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

OMG thank you Diva! That's so sweet!

April 18, 2006 at 11:04 AM  

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