Another Christmas is in the books and we are on our way to 2012. It sounds like a time and place that is so far in the future but it is right here at our door.
Looking back at 2011 we lost a lot of important people. One of the deaths that hurt me was the death of Heavy D, Dwight Arrington Myers. He passed on Nov. 8. When I heard that “the overweight lover” had passed I was sick. I loved his music, he had become a strong actor and I’ve always loved his look. When he passed I had to take a look at some of his earlier videos, one of my favorites, “Now that we Found Love What are we going to do with it” and “I Ain’t got Nuttin but love for you baby.” The latter featured now Housewives of Atlanta reality star Cynthia Bailey and a lot of beautiful Black models.
Earlier in the year rapper Nate Dogg, Nathaniel Hale, passed away of a stroke and vocalist Vesta Williams died at the age of 53. I met Williams many years ago when she was in Pittsburgh, during that meeting she was kind and very open to the many people that asked for her autograph and for pictures that night. I didn’t know until I read her obituary that she did some acting as well. She had a role on Sister, Sister, where she played the best friend of Jackee.
Heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier passed, as well as Gil Scott Heron. He should know that the revolution has been televised over and over again. Heron’s obit was also very interesting. He struggled for years with a crack cocaine addiction and was reported to be living with HIV. Did you know that Heron was a novelist at age 19 before he was a musician publishing a murder mystery titled “The Vulture”?
Derrick Albert Bell Jr. was born Nov. 6, 1930, in Pittsburgh to parents who had come north from Alabama. His father had a trash-hauling business. Mr. Bell graduated in 1952 from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and served in the Air Force during the Korean War. In 1957, he received a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the only Black member of his class. I had Bell on my talk show and I have two of his books that he signed for me. If my memory serves me correctly Alma Speed Fox introduced me to Derrick Bell. In 1971, Mr. Bell became the first African-American faculty member to gain tenure at Harvard Law School. He was one of the school’s most popular professors, regularly received prestigious grants and, in 1973, published “Race, Racism and American Law,” which has gone through several editions and has become a standard text in law schools. Bell died on Oct. 5, of cancer. He was 80.
Talented writer and singer Nick Ashford died on Aug. 22, at age 70, of throat cancer. He was married to Valerie Simpson and was one half of the very popular Ashford and Simpson. This duo wrote great songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Found a Cure,” “Your Precious Love” and “Solid (As a Rock).”
These talented people will be missed. Fortunately we have their music, books and poetry to remember them by.
(E-mail the columnist at email@example.com.)