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VOL. 133 | NO. 163 | Friday, August 17, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Suburban Elections, Charter Changes and Aretha Franklin

By Bill Dries

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Almost there for the November ballot with Thursday’s qualifying deadline for the contenders in the five sets of elections in five of the six suburban towns and cities. Three mayor’s races – all contested -- in Germantown, Lakeland and Bartlett. 11 races decided at the deadline with candidates running unopposed. Something of a surprise in one of the Millington alderman races.

Some confusion about the initial reports of who was in and who wasn’t. As of three hours past the deadline, some on the Election Commission’s list were marked as not filing on one part of the chart but not included at the bottom as out of the running. A bit of a departure from the chart usually indicating the staff is still checking signatures. So our apologies for the confusion.

The process of Shelby County Schools sorting out charter school applications is usually a two-round process. It’s really tough to make the first round based on the recent history of the school system staff recommending against and then the board voting to reject most if not all of the applications. The second round comes after some feedback between the applicants and SCS on what was lacking in the first round. That’s what happened yesterday as the SCS staff recommended nine new charter schools. And the second round saw Compass Community Schools pare down the set of Catholic Jubilee schools it plans to convert into charter schools from nine to six.

Also in our story, SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson reacts to the school system’s TNReady rankings of student growth released Thursday in Nashville. The school system is a Level 2 out of five levels of student growth – five being the highest and best. Hopson reads the composite Level for grades 3-8 as Level 5. But he says problems with high school literacy pulled the school system down to a Level 2 overall. He also says the school system’s two-years of work toward intensive intervention up to the third grade on reading is showing signs of paying off.

Big River Crossing is the northern point of a new two-mile section of the Riverline that will connect to MLK-Riverside Park by the spring.

About a year ago when the city unveiled a concept plan for riverfront redevelopment, what we today think of as the riverfront got a lot of the attention but there was more territory south of Big River Crossing in that plan – all the way to Martin Luther King- Riverside Park. And as it turns out the Riverline – the riverside trail from Confluence Park on Mud Island’s north end to Big River Crossing will get a formal opening this fall. But the city is already planning for a spring extension from the crossing to MLK-Riverside. It’s called “The Big Jump,” which doesn’t just mean jumping Crump into South Menphis. It means a national grant program called The Big Jump. Memphis is one of the 10 cities getting that help with South Memphis being the part of the city picked for a goal of doubling or tripling bicycle use.

The bulk of the contracts for MEM’s makeover of its B concourse were approved Thursday by the airport authority. That is $161 million of the $245 million makeover after some allowances for the current construction environment and a goal of having this completed in early 2021.

Tim Mulqueen, the new coach of the Memphis United Soccer League team meets the press this week.

Riley Patterson on the Central Florida game kick and his faith.

The new coach of the Memphis USL team talks what else, basketball.

Another candlelight vigil at Graceland in the books.

Aretha Franklin died Thursday at the age of 76. While she was born here, her family moved shortly after that and the milestone music she made for Atlantic Records was not made here despite Atlantic’s close ties to all things Stax at that point. Her anthem “Respect” was written by Otis Redding, who made all of his enduring recordings, including that one, at McLemore and College. Redding had talked with his management about the possibility of a duet album just before Redding died in December of 1967, according to the recent biography “Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life” by Jonathan Gould.

Franklin’s recordings were … how to put this? Well, they were what we might call the Memphis sound or had a Memphis groove. If you are from Memphis, you identify with the sound, the sentiment and all of those elements that when combined are more than the sum of their parts. It says Memphis to you. But the reason Memphis music is known world-wide is that people who have never been here can also identify with it at the same level – a level that is more feeling that geography.

The life behind that sound was one that we know now was a fast moving life that went from Memphis to Detroit and was lived on a road of gospel music and recording studios and then secular music and recording studios. Same road, same studios, different music with a common connection.

A few references to source material:

“Sweet Soul Music” by Peter Guralnick:

Guralnick writes that Jerry Wexler of Atlantic offered to have Franklin record at Stax after her early secular albums for Columbia weren’t doing much despite a 1962 cover of “Try A Little Tenderness.” Jim Stewart of Stax turned it down because Wexler wanted Stax to cover the $25,000 advance Atlantic had paid Franklin to come over to the label. Otherwise the deal was the same deal Atlantic made with Stax for Sam and Dave – and the Sam and Dave deal was ultimately the undoing of Stax’s first era. But that was later.

Guralnick also writes in great detail of Franklin’s childhood, hiding from a piano teacher who wasn’t getting to learning tunes fast enough and a childhood of dinner guests that included Mahalia Jackson, Marion Williams and Clara Ward. Not to mention Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls. And on the road after quitting her formal schooling at the age of 14. “Aretha grew up lonely and repressed with little apparent emotional outlet save for the church,” Guralnick wrote – adding she joined her father’s church choir at eight and by 14 had recorded a live album at his Detroit church. “Gaining national exposure and a taste of celebrity from her father’s tours, while yearning most of all to be ‘a magnificent housewife.’”

“Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life” by Jonathan Gould:

Franklin had recorded 10 albums in six years for Columbia before what Gould calls “one of the great debuts in the history of American popular music” for Atlantic that began as a tumultuous recording session in Muscle Shoals that moved to New York – band and all. Gould wonders aloud about what a duet with Redding would have sounded like using the recording techniques in New York that gave Franklin’s voice full range on her recordings.

These are the things we wonder about – what happens backstage, recordings that were made and never released or sessions that should have taken place but never did. Life on the road. All that we hope will give us more insight to what produces such great talent. And much of that life in proportion to how great that talent is spent in preparation for pouring it all out on a stage with bright lights. What happens before and after that moment is not always a happy or pretty story. We often think it must be just as it is on stage and on the business end of a microphone. On the other hand, maybe that’s why we relate to it – because it comes with the same struggles we all have even if we can’t carry a tune.

Todd Richardson and McLean Wilson of Crosstown Concourse talk about the year since the formal opening of Crosstown Concourse on “Behind The Headlines.” The show airs Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on WKNO TV.

The cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News, is what could be some new movement on the old Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. plant in North Memphis. The PDF of the new issue is up now on this very website. The hard copies are in the racks and on the streets Friday morning. The online version of the cover story goes up here Friday afternoon.

PROPERTY SALES 62 288 2,619
MORTGAGES 52 197 1,783