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Billy Eckstine's Best of

By Maximillian Muhammad

Billy Eckstine was a man ahead of his time... bold, proud, bright, a genius who was not only romantic, but a strong Black man. His voice hasn't been fully appreciated like Sinatra's, Bennett's or Crosby's, or accessible like Nat "King" Cole's, Louis Armstrong's and Johnny Mathis'. Mr. B. had it all except the right shade and attitude. That's the painful blow, 'cuz even today, despite more success and wider views, the respect is hardly given.

But just because folks act ignorant that doesn't mean you have to stop doing your thing and Mr. Eckstine never did. Quincy Jones, who worked with him, understood this, then and now. Matter of fact, think of Michael Jackson: How much love does he really get for what he's done for music in this country? In addition to Q, Mr. Eckstine worked with Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington, among others, and left his mark.

This particular set reinforces that it isn't the voice that scared the powers that be but the shade and attitude he had. He wasn't gonna be nobody's good house Nigger. If folks dug him, cool, if not, cool (a lot of artists today could learn from him), 'cuz he was doing what he was born to do and that was to be the best he could. Included are such songs as "On Green Dolphin Street," "I'm Falling For You," "Fool That I am," "Everything I Have is Yours," "Prisoner Of Love," "A Sunday Kind Of Love" and "My Foolish Heart." A tour-de-force medley is also featured, which takes on the most important composer of this century, Duke Ellington, and his standbys "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Lucky So and So," "Caravan" and "Sophisticated Lady." The gem ends with "I Wanna Talk About You."

African-American singers should always acknowledge this man, 'cuz he is a reminder of a not-too-distant past. He is one of the few people that no matter what he did, he could look fear in the eyes and deal. He was a pioneer and leader.

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