TIME remembrance

Quincy Jones: Why B.B. Was the King

The legendary producer remembers the king of the blues, their work on a Sidney Poitier film and B.B.'s relationship with Maya Angelou

Everything B.B. ever did, I loved — just the way he’d bend his notes. Everything. He represented all the different stages of blues, and I don’t think anybody resonated more emotionally and spiritually than B.B. He took the essence of the culture of what blues and R&B was, and he brought it around the world — until he was 89.

I first met B.B. King working on the film For Love of Ivy, starring Sidney Poitier. I did the score to that, and Maya Angelou, who was in her 30s at the time, wrote the lyrics. She wrote two songs, “B.B. Jones” and “You Put it on Me,” and B.B. recorded them. They were hits! That was a great trio, the three of us. I think they had a little romantic relationship, there, too — she didn’t tell me until about four years ago. I said, “Honey, if you’d talked to me first, I would have told you that blues singers don’t get the blues, they give the blues!”

B.B. was the king because he took the blues from dirt-poor, smoke-in-the-air juke joints all the way to the big concert halls. He started out picking cotton — he was all the way back in the dark side of our country. And his music came from the dark side — it’s a positive way of escaping that darkness.

When I was studying with Nadia Boulanger, the legendary composer and teacher, in Paris, she used to say, “Your music can never be more than you are as a human being.” And B.B. King was a great human being. It’s painful to know that he’ll never answer the phone again.

Quincy Jones is a producer, composer and philanthropist.

TIME Culture

This Maya Angelou Stamp Has a Quote From Another Poet and Won’t be Reissued

First lady Michelle Obama participates in the unveiling of the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at the Warner Theater in Washington D.C.
Jacquelyn Martin—AP First lady Michelle Obama participates in the unveiling of the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at the Warner Theater in Washington D.C.

The U.S. Postal Service was made aware of the error earlier this week

The U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it would not reissue a recently released Maya Angelou memorial stamp that prominently features a quote from another author.

USPS spokesman David Partenheimer told the New York Times that the quote — “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song” — was often cited by the late poet during interviews, but it was written by Joan Walsh Anglund in 1967. (Angelou never took credit for the quotation.)

“The sentence held great meaning for her, and she is publicly identified with its popularity,” Partenheimer told the Times.

The USPS was made aware of the error on Monday by the Washington Post and told the newspaper they had not known the original, which appears in Anglud’s volume of verse A Cup of Sun.

The 89-year-old Anglund has taken the mistake in her stride. “I think it easily happens sometimes that people hear something, and it’s kind of going into your subconscious and you don’t realize it,” she told the Post.

This is not the first such mistake. President Obama falsely attributed the sentence to Angelou during the presentation of the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.

The stamp was released on Tuesday during an event in Washington D.C. that included First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, activist and poet Nikki Giovanni and Angelou’s grandson Colin Johnson.

[New York Times]

TIME celebrities

TIME Remembers: In Memoriam 2014

Looking back at those we lost this year

From iconic comedian Joan Rivers to Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, and legendary Washington Post newsman Ben Bradlee to former Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, here’s TIME’s look back at some of the famous faces we lost in 2014.

TIME Culture

Meet 10 Famous Artists Who Won the Medal of Freedom

On Monday, President Barack Obama will award Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, and Tom Brokaw the 2014 Medal of Freedom. Take a look at past years' famous winners


Maya Angelou Almost Had a Talk Show

US poet Maya Angelou reads a poem during
TIM SLOAN—AFP/Getty Images U.S. poet Maya Angelou reads a poem during a ceremony to present South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town the William J. Fulbright Prize for International Understanding on November 21, 2008, at the State Department in Washington.

Television writer and producer Norman Lear on his biggest regret: that the poet, who was godmother to his twin daughters, didn't get a nightly forum to connect with Americans.

At 91, I like to think I have no regrets. Not that I never wish I hadn’t said this or done that. Not that I haven’t made a slight mistake here and a more calamitous one there. But my basic philosophy is, if I’m happy in this moment — and I am — then I have to be at peace with everything that happened that got me to this moment. Then Maya Angelou passes on and suddenly I’m alive with a regret.

I met Maya in 1994 in New Orleans, where we were both speaking at a media conference. I immediately recognized her as one of the most spiritual people I’d ever encountered. As I watched her envelop and swallow her audience, I had an idea that instantly became an obsession: Maya Angelou should be the host of a late-night talk show. Not another show where guests would come on to plug their latest movie, diet book or fragrance, but rather one where they would talk about what gets them through their days.

Maya loved the idea, as she shared my belief that America was losing touch with the best of its humanity and felt that our spiritual lives were exciting fodder for a talk show. We worked on it for over a year and came close to bringing it to fruition, but ultimately it did not come to pass. And therein lies what may be my single true regret. If this spellbinding woman had been available to TV audiences five nights a week — in conversation with people with whom she wished to connect, discussing all of the “What’s it all about, Alfie?” questions — what a profound contribution to the culture that could have been.

Dr. Maya Angelou was a force of nature. Tall, elegant, precise and regal, with a voice that could roll back storms of distress and words so eloquently spiritual that unintended poetry would often fall out of her mouth. She walked into a room robed in her history, not just a caged bird that happened to sing, but a child who had been forced into that birdcage and, despite her circumstance, was determined to sing. “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot — it’s all there,” Maya wrote. “Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

We are all the beneficiaries of Maya’s efforts in this regard. What she called her “positive experience” was a gift of inspiration and understanding for whomever she shared that experience with. My wife, Lyn, hit it off with Maya immediately, and when our twins Madeline and Brianna were born, Maya insisted on being their godmother. I mention this because nowhere did I see her desire for meaningful experience and connection expressed more fully than in her relationship to our children. She wasn’t able to see them often, but Maya made every moment count. I’d seen her offer herself to hundreds of people in a number of audiences over the years, but when Maya reached out to my kids with a bit of her love and essence, it was, as they would say where she came from, too wet to plow.

We Lears are better, spiritually richer, perhaps even taller for having “familied” — if it’s not a word, it should be — with the extraordinary Maya Angelou.

Norman Lear is the creator of All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and the founder of People for the American Way. His memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, will be published by Penguin Books in October 2014.

TIME Music

Roberta Flack Remembers Maya Angelou: ‘We All Have Been Inspired’

Maya Angelou                                        1992
Doug Mills—AP American poet and writer Maya Angelou shown on Dec. 15, 1992 in Washington.

The acclaimed singer called Angelou a close friend as well as a collaborator — the two co-wrote a song for Flack's 1988 album, Oasis

R&B legend Roberta Flack remembers her close friend Maya Angelou, who died today at age 86, as a poet who inspired “generations [to] try harder and get up once more to fight for a better day, a better life and a better future.”

“Thank you for your wisdom, for your unfailing strength, your courage and your honesty which have moved people around this world to a better place,” Flack said in a statement provided to TIME. “We all have been inspired by you to not give up when we otherwise might have.”

The two artists weren’t just friends, they were also collaborators. Though Angelou is mostly known for her poetry, she had a brief music career as a singer-songwriter, releasing an album of calypso music in 1957, well before her writing career took off. For Flack’s 1988 album Oasis, Angelou co-wrote the song “And So It Goes.”

“Thank you Maya, my friend. Your steady heart, humor and humility have been a touchstone for me through our friendship that has spanned so much of my life. I appreciate the roads we have walked together as friends, as artists and as women sharing our hopes, dreams, defeats and sorrows. I will miss you, my friend. Good journey.”


Watch the World Thank Maya Angelou

This interactive shows how the world reacted to the death of Maya Angelou

Famed poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at 86. The poet’s inspiring prose spread quickly on social media, as her fans tweeted notes of remembrance with the hashtag #ThankyouMaya.

The interactive above shows how the reaction to Angelou’s death spread on Twitter.

The interactive above shows how the world shared photos of Angelou on Twitter.

TIME Music

A Brief History of How Maya Angelou Influenced Hip Hop

Common greets Maya Angelou at a garden party at Angelou's home in 2010.
Nell Redmond—AP Common greets Maya Angelou at a garden party at Angelou's home in 2010.

The late poet told TIME last year that rap music kept her optimistic about the future of poetry

The renowned poet Maya Angelou, who died at age 86 today, was a major inspiration to the hip-hop community — Wu Tang Clan, Mary J. Blige and mogul Russell Simmons are among the celebrities who mourned her death on Twitter today. But Angelou’s relationship with rap runs deeper than just a few memorial tweets.

Tupac Shakur’s posthumous 1999 release Still I Rise (released as 2Pac+Outlawz) borrowed its title from Angelou’s poem of the same name; the rapper and the poet met on the set of the 1993 movie Poetic Justice, an experience that brought him to tears, as Angelou once told it:

“Years ago I did a movie called Poetic Justice, and there was a young man the first day who cursed so, I couldn’t believe it. I walked around, behind him, tried to ignore him. But the second day, he and another young man, [a] black man, ran to each other and were about to fight. Hundreds of extras started to run away. But one black man walked up to the two young men, and I walked up, and I took one by his shoulder. I said, ‘Let me speak to you.’ … He finally calmed down, and I said, ‘Do you know how much you are needed? Do you know what you mean to us? Do you know that hundreds of years of struggle have been for you? Please baby, take a minute.’ … I put my arm around him. He started to weep. The tears came down. That was Tupac Shakur. I took him, I walked him down into a little gully and kept his back to the people so they wouldn’t see him, and I used my hands to dry his cheeks.”

“Still I Rise” was also the title of a track on Nicki Minaj’s 2009 mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty. Though the rapstress doesn’t name-check Angelou specifically, her lyrics about continually overcoming hardship match the themes of Angelou’s poem. There are plenty of others who do mention her explicitly, however: As XXL also points out, Angelou is referenced in a number of songs by Nas, Wale, Danny Brown, Lupe Fiasco, Jean Grae and The Roots.

Kanye West, too, has referenced Angelou throughout his career. The recently married rapper mentioned her on a 2002 remix of Talib Kweli’s “Get By” and on “Hey Mama” from 2005’s Late Registration. He also cited her as an inspiration alongside other greats in a 2010 blog post written several months before he released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:

“We will follow in the same footsteps Maya Angelou, Gill Scott Herron [sic] and Nina Simone. Their work improved with time. They documented what was happening in culture. That is our responsibility as the modern day artists and poets, to accurately represent what is happening now, so when the powers that be try to rewrite history you can always look at our works and find truth and sincerity in a world of processed information.”

Common took his appreciation of the poet one step further by collaborating with her on his 2011 song, “The Dreamer,” which features Angelou reciting a poem toward the end of the track. (Similarly, Kendrick Lamar uses a recording of her voice on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” from good kid, m.A.A.d city.) Angelou, however, wasn’t thrilled with Common’s final product: She told the New York Post that she was “surprised and disappointed” by Common’s use of the N-word on the song, which she hadn’t been warned about. “I don’t know why he chose to do that,” she said. “I had never heard him use that [word] before. I admired him so because he wasn’t singing the line of least resistance.”

Later, Angelou called into the BET program 106 & Park to clarify her feelings on the matter:

“I will not be divided from Common. By anybody’s imagination, he is brilliant and even genius, maybe. But certainly smarter than us to know that he’s in process. And next week, he might not even use the N-word or the B-word. It may even take two or three weeks, or a month. But I’m not going to be separated from him.”

Angelou believed that rap music was a portal for youth to discover poetry. As she put it in one old interview: “Take ‘A Negro Love Song’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Mr. Dunbar wrote this poem in 1892. It could have been written last week for Queen Latifah, or M.C. Hammer or L.L. Cool J or whoever they are.”

Last year, talking with TIME, Angelou said she was optimistic about the future of poetry.

“All I have to do is listen to hip-hop or some of the rappers.”

TIME Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s Arkansas: Dignity and Poverty in the Depression

African American Young cotton picker, Arkansas, circa 1935
Buyenlarge/Getty Images A young African American Young cotton picker in Arkansas during the Depression.

A Depression-era photo from Arkansas puts into extraordinary relief the life Maya Angelou led, and the distance she traveled in her time

Born in St. Louis, Mo., on April 28, 1928, the author Maya Angelou grew up in Stamps, Ark., witnessing the racial disharmony that defined the Jim Crow American South of her youth. There she cultivated the dignity and her own brand of quiet strength that would mark her writing and her activism for the rest of her life.

The picture above, of a young African-American cotton picker in an Arkansas field in the mid-1930s, is the sort of tableau that Angelou would certainly have encountered throughout her time in the South: namely, a child in rags, put to hard work at a tender age. The idea that this might well have been Maya Angelou’s fate — and that it was the fate of countless others — puts into stark relief the life she led, and the distance she traveled.


TIME Maya Angelou

In Memoriam: Celebrating The Life of Poet Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou died at the age of 86 in her North Carolina home Wednesday. The renowned author had been honored with more than 50 awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her collected works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, most notably her groundbreaking memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

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