Most Wanted! Rotary Connection – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (Cadet Concept Records)
Two periods – the early 70’s, then the mid 90’s – and, as a result, two generations. Two groups (Rotary Connection and Nuyorican Soul). But one song: ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’. With the latter generating the same magical effect on those to whom quality music has a meaning. And how could it ever be different when havin’ a listen to it?!? And by that here, to its original version by the likes of (The New) Rotary Connection….
Taken from their 1971 released ‘Hey Love’ album. With the The latter being the last in a series of 6 by the likes of this Chicago-based psychedelic Soul/Jazz band featuring Minnie Riperton. With production work by the late Charles Stepney equally renown for his work alongside Earth, Wind & Fire and Deniece Williams.
Ironically, what stands as Rotary Connection‘s most famous cut never saw the light as a single. Louie Vega and Kenny Dope repairing the injustice 25 years later though with their cover version of it. Meanwhile teamin’ up with Disco diva Jocelyn Brown as a part of their Nuyorican Soul album.
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I guess what I love about the 60’s / 70’s is the fact that music was into the hands of people who first and foremost had a vision. And this as opposed to nowadays with record execs most likely speculating around trends. A drastic difference which led to a diversity with no equal back at the time.
As a matter of fact, I wonder how a group like Rotary Connection could ever see the light today. But hopefully back then, we had people like Chris Blackwell, Richard Brunson (later on)… But also Mel Cheren (West End Records), Marvin Schlachter (Prelude Records), Sam Weiss (SAM Records) or the brothers Cayre (Salsoul Records) who had a clear view as to what they wanted. With Chess Records founder Leonard Chess‘s son – Marshall – makin’ no exception…
Aiming to focus on other directions than Blues and Rock, Marshall Chess turned his attention to the burgeoning psychedelic movement. And for that, he recruited Charles Stepney, a vibraphonist and classically trained arranger and producer. But also Rock musicians in addition with session cats who’d already worked for Chess such as guitarist Phil Upchurch and drummer Morris Jennings. Not to mention a then receptionist at the label back then by the likes of Minnie Riperton.
Rotary Connection quite made their name, eventually working as a backing band with Muddy Waters. And so did Charles Stepney productionwise in the meantime. Expanding his work to other label’s signed artists such as Marlena Shaw or Terry Callier to name a few. And eventually producing the memorable ‘Les Fleur’ for Minnie Riperton. This before coming to collaborate with Maurice White of the Earth, Wind & Fire fame. Their association givin’ birth to countless gems. From ‘Sing A Song’, ‘Getaway’ or ‘Can’t Hide Love’ for E,W&F. To ‘Free’ for Deniece Williams or ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love’ for The Emotions to name but a few…
Turning their name into The New Rotary Connection, the band would score their biggest success with their final album, ‘Hey, Love’, back in 1971. The aforementioned featuring the memorable ‘I Am The Black God Of The Sun’ which Nuyorican Soul revamped 25 years later.
Charles Stepney sadly died of a heart attack in Chicago, IL back on Apr 17, 1976. He was 45.
Minnie Riperton sadly died 3 years later after battling against cancer. She passed on, aged 31, while lying in her husband’s arms on Jul. 12, 1979 at 10:00am at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA, her epitaph is the opening line of her most famous song… “Lovin’ you is easy cause you’re beautiful.”