R&B at Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Telling it like it was
By Chris Richards,
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s “Rhythm and Blues: Tell It Like It Is” programming aims to tell it like it was. Over 10 days, an array of legendary R&B veterans will grace the Mall, including Motown session band the Funk Brothers and Fred Wesley and the New JBs.
Festival organizers hope to illuminate the significance of the genre — and they want you to dance too. Highlights:
l “Soul Train” panel discussion and dance party: During its 35 years on the air, “Soul Train” forged a truly magical bond between R&B music and the fans who adored it. Discussing the television show’s legacy will be Kenard Gibbs, chief executive of Soul Train Holdings, and Tony Cornelius, the son of “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius. After that, a quick dance tutorial and a DJ set from Questlove of the Roots. Thursday, June 30 at 6 p.m.
l Martha Reeves: As lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas, Reeves scored unforgettable hits in her heyday, including “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave” and “Dancing in the Street.” Prepare for a evening of dancing in the heat wave. Friday, July 1, at 6 p.m.
l Gamble & Huff: Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff founded Philadelphia International Records in 1971 to challenge Berry Gordy’s Motown and then nurtured the careers of artists including the O’Jays, Lou Rawls, MFSB and Teddy Pendergrass. A panel discussion with label heads will be followed by a tribute performance by the 2011 incarnation of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Sunday, July 10, at 6 p.m.
l Doo-wop and girl groups: The Smithsonian says its definition of R&B includes jump blues, soul, funk and, based on festival programming, doo-wop and girl groups. Performing: Sonny Til’s Orioles, the Swallows, the Dixie Cups and Washington-born girl group the Jewels. Various sets during the festival. For times, go to festival.si.edu .