Wednesday, July 6, 2016


“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
                                                                                          Muhammad Ali

He was “the greatest”, no question. Self-motivated, prideful, consistent in his self-confidence; this man of conviction challenged the hypocrisy of America’s sense of patriotism. He was a force in and outside the ring amid the turbulent transition from the human stain of slavery to the civil rights movement of the 60s. There was Martin and Malcolm, Stokely, Leroi Jones (Amari Baraka) and then there was Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. (his birth name, after the Kentucky abolitionist) aka Muhammad Ali. 

Ali proclaimed his right to his belief system and never faltered, willing to risk everything for his truth. He was a true hero in the black community, a leader, role model and man of conviction. He dared to vocalize the anxieties of a people whose ancestors built America through free labor, yet were denied the true perks of American citizenship.

The Greatest with Sam Cooke in 1963

He was the first to start a Black Lives Matter movement just through his commentary.  The first to publish his own version of how "bad" he was in 1974 when  Michael Jackson was just 16 and barely realized the pinnacle of his success. Ali was the first self promoting heavyweight boxer. He was a rapper of the real school who promoted himself through his rap. What to some may have appeared to be an over inflated ego was nothing more than unadulterated self-confidence:

"Last night I had a dream, When I got to Africa,
I had one hell of a rumble.
I had to beat Tarzan’s behind first,
For claiming to be King of the Jungle.
For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.
I’m so fast, man,
I can run through a hurricane and don't get wet.
When George Foreman meets me,
He’ll pay his debt.
I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree.
Wait till you see Muhammad Ali."

During those times, Muhammad Ali was an enigma and a force to be reckoned with. He was poetry, pretty and passionate in his belief system; a self-made man. He was the stand-up guy that many of us thought never existed. But in looking back through my memories of him and the many hours of footage, he was truly larger than life and held to the kind of role modeling that generations to come would honor with the ultimate in respect. The first biggest fight of his life was his objection to being drafted. His win was a huge victory with a total knock out bell that tolled throughout the country.

Muhammad Ali was a legend in and outside the ring. There has not been a fighter since who held his astute magnetism. He took on America and blasted her for her hypocrisy, in and outside of the military, which was riddled with racism. He had integrity and polish, though he may appear to have been raucous and raw. He wasn’t. He was real. He was undeniably, a man of peace, love and truth. A champion in the ring and a champion of the people.

Ali lived extraordinary. His first introduction to the ring came when his red and white Schwinn was stolen and the young, furious Cassius Clay at age 12 vowed to deliver a serious can of whip ass to the thief who stole the bike that his dad had given him for Christmas. Police officer Joe Elsby Martin, also a boxing trainer encouraged Clay to re-channel  his anger in the ring and train to fight. Ali recalled in his autobiography:

With Joe Elsby Martin
''I ran downstairs, crying, but the sights and sounds and the smell of the boxing gym excited me so much that I almost forgot about the bike,'' Ali wrote. ''There were about 10 boxers in the gym, some hitting the speed bag, some in the ring, sparring, some jumping rope. I stood there, smelling the sweat and rubbing alcohol, and a feeling of awe came over me. One slim boy shadowboxing in the ring was throwing punches almost too fast for my eyes to follow.''

Six weeks later, Clay won his first bout in a split decision. 

Ali defeats Liston
Muhammad Ali's story and history are fascinating. The day after I turned 8 years old in 1964, Clay's new  name was Cassius X,  he was a confirmed follower of the Nation of Islam. He had stunned the world at age 22 by defeating Sonny Liston just a little over a week earlier. Almost 50 years to the day after Ali won his first  heavyweight championship,  an anonymous buyer purchased the gloves he wore to defeat Liston in the seventh-round technical knockout for $836,000. Ali only earned $630,000 for the victory itself.

1960 Summer Olympics

After his high school graduation in 1960, Ali went to Rome and won the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics. In his 1975 autobiography he wrote that he threw his gold medal off of a bridge into the Ohio River to protest the racism he still encountered in his hometown in Kentucky. There have been disputes with regard to this account. During the 1966 Summer Olympics where he lit the cauldron at Opening ceremonies, he received a replacement. 

Ali's refusal to submit to the draft in 1967 resulted in him losing his title and  he was blacklisted from boxing for three years. Hw was sentenced to five years in prison but remained free on appeal.   None of the roadblocks he encountered because of his belief system would deter him.

He opened on Broadway in Buck White and performed an excerpt on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. Though the production's run on Broadway was brief in New York's John Abbot Theatre (only 7 days), Ali would receive decent reviews.

 He also did a spoken word album in which he covered Ben E. King's Stand By me.

In 1971, he would lose a fight to Joe Frazier. Called "The Fight of The Century" the defeat never hindered Ali's drive. He would fight Frazier and defeat him two more times, one match known as "The Thrilla In Manila". He defeated Joe Frasier (1974) in the iconic "Rumble in The Jungle." He regained his title from Leon Spinks in 1978 and made history as the fist World Heavywight champion to the title 3 times. But 1980, Ali had come out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes. Sadly, his defeat to Holmes showed evidence of the last fight of his life with the beginning of Parkinson's Disease.

Still, a man of purpose and humanity, Ali saved a distraught veteran  ready to jump to his death in 1981 in Los Angeles, was saved by Ali. When Ali's PR manager asked police if Ali could be of help, he was told no. But the PR manager alerted Ali anyway and he was able to persuade the vet from jumping to his death.

November 1990, Ali met with Saddam Hussein  to negotiate for the release of Americans held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. By December, Ali would accompany fifteen freed U.S. hostages out of Iraq.

Ali was the first boxer to grace a box of Wheaties in 1999.

On his visit to Ireland back in 1972, he was not aware of his Irish roots. His great-grandfather, Abe O'Grady, a white Irishman who immigrated to the US in 1862  married a freed slave, (the daughter of Lewis and Mandy Walker of Todd County, Kentucky)  shortly after the civil war. The son of this union, John Lewis O'Grady  was Ali's maternal grandfather. Ali's mother was born in 1917.  In 2009, Ali would return to his great grandfather's ancestral home of Ennis Ireland and meet members of the O'Grady clan.

The 2009 return to his mother's roots in Ireland.


Billy Crystal gave a moving and heartfelt eulogy.
Here's a toast to a most remarkable human being. A most remarkable legend. Never to be forgotten. Father, grandfather, husband, brother, hero. Muhammad Ali created such a walk down memory lane for so many of us. We saw the irony of his life and his steadfast determination as he moved forward, an true undefeated champion and here.  He talked the talk and walked the walk. What an incredible life story, a real legacy among legacies. He was a treasure to the real school. We were fortunate enough to grow up with such a hero. 


Video memories


Thanks for sharing the journey...

Thursday, April 28, 2016


"Freedom is a beautiful thing."-Prince

Still stunned? So am I.  I believe that this is one of the few times the world is in harmony with the color purple and grief. Prince Rogers Nelson was beloved by everyone. He was a subliminal mediator of the generation gap, an electric real schooler with passion. He was an absolute masterpiece of his own design.

We all can say, he has gone too soon. And the reality of “this thing called life” is leaving it. If anyone should have gotten a pass for immortality, it was Prince. He had a style that was uniquely his and was loved for his dedication to funk, rock, pop, classical jazz or anything else he wanted to play. 

Both of his parents were musicians. John L. Nelson (nickname Prince) a keyboardist and Mattie Della Shaw, a vocalist met at a Minneapolis Jazz show in 1956. They would soon start to work together in Nelson's band, The Prince Rogers Trio before they married. 

A very young Prince
Prince, their first born, was born with epilepsy and struggled with seizures in his early childhood. By age 7, he had written his first song. 

In 1977, 18-year-old Prince signed with Warner Bros. Records. He was given full creative control. Back in the day, those kinds of deals were rare. His first album debuted in 1978, the year I had moved to Los Angeles. I marveled at the album and considered Prince uniquely ahead of his time. This thought proved itself to be true. And eventually the rest of the world caught up with him.

What made him extraordinary is that he didn’t follow trends, he set them. Many thought he was a little odd and weird and were somewhat dismissive when he was in the infancy of his career with Warner. But you have to be outside of the box in order to pave the prairie of your own originality.

Prince at Flippers in 1981
A couple of weeks after my 25th birthday in 1981, I went to a  private party where Prince was being showcased. The venue was Flippers Roller Boogie Palace in West Hollywood, (The Studio 54 for roller skaters).  He was wearing little more than briefs, a trench coat and high heel boots. 

It certainly drew attention. But as with any new artists on the fringe of their careers, the crowd didn't know what to think of him. I observed celebrities and established musicians who seemed somewhat cool and dismissive while Prince forged on. I'm sure for those of us who were there and thinking back on that performance, it has become our Prince memory.

Prince: the personification of “to thine own self be you.” It was something about his style—very visual.  It  would take a while for his persona to stick. No one in that audience at Flippers, many entertainers themselves, could not fathom at that performance, even if they peered into the crystal ball in Prince's future how profound he was. Because quite honestly, Prince was always profound and the world had to discover it. Everything that he was going to be when he made his commitment to being a musician as a child was lined up and ready to take its rightful place in time.

In the early 80s,  artists were safer as copy cats in looks and style. But Prince, came with his "A game" and whether you caught on to his visual seemed less important to him than  bringing the ultimate performance from his soul. His message was loud and clear: You may not get me, but you’ll get the groove.

Prince had respect for artistry and fought for his independence as a creative energy and the right for equitable treatment. He fought for rights as an artist and songwriter, hence his historic break with Warner and seeing himself as a slave to the rhythm of the record companies.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1996 he explained, "People think I'm a crazy fool for writing 'slave' on my face, But if I can't do what I want to do, what am I?When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave. That's where I was. I don't own Prince's music. If you don't own your masters, your master owns you."


When it came to who “got the look” Prince’s presence saw several wardrobe statements. 

Toward the late 80s it was as if he was  re-purposing the flare from the real school 70s Eleganza and Flagg Bros catalogs.

He stayed in an interesting place when it came to fashion and set trends continuing to remain true to himself. It’s evident that being true to himself won him respect. 

His presence before the still  camera is undeniable. It was  his cognizance and  deep understanding of the elements of the artist/performer and songwriter in the plane of artist imagery and idol appeal that was awe inspiring.

He had a face that was  all people and both genders. His eyes- soft, hypnotic, and beckoning. He was pretty and he worked it.

Prince: the brother like no other. A blend of so much from the real school from James Brown to Jimi Hendrix to Little Richard and at the piano, you could even see Beethoven. He was funk, rock, R&B, soul, blues, bubblegum.

It was the way he took the impressions of the icons before him that were inclusive in his growth as an artist and showed his interpretation of them through his work. It may appear that his stage persona was meshed with androgyny, What Gemini doesn’t have 2 people within them but on different planes?  His alter ego:  a female named Camille who sang on the song "If I Was Your Girlfriend."

Cordial, humble and very likable, Prince nurtured his audiences with his talent.  He was respectful in his humility for the fans who loved him. And at the news of his death, the whole world reeled at the news of his passing. 

Never before have I seen an artist more beloved. He was able to be that messenger musically that was not outcast by any generation. 

While everyone has the curiosity as to how he lost his life, it is honorable that such a beloved icon of the real school who kept it real, was celebrated in a private memorial. While news media and media rags continue to build story upon story to sensationalize his private life, it will never trump his stellar contribution to music and performance. This is where we must all keep his life and legendry in perspective. He gave and gave of his soul through his work and performance. His down time was his own personal space. 

Prince Rogers Nelson worked tirelessly as a songwriter and musician. Many don't understand the addiction that comes with this kind of work. Musicians are by no means utilities, but human beings with the courage to share their souls.





Monday, November 9, 2015


"My music philosophy is simple, “one” is the sum total of one’s experiences and most of what I live is at some point in my life  translated into music I write or play."
                   Marlo Henderson

At 1:15 in the morning, on Sunday, October 25th Marlo Henderson passed away.There are some people  you wish were blessed with the gift of immortality and Marlo was just that person. Through his 50 years in the music industry, he was prepared for the next 50 years and even further into the future.   How could one of the greatest musicians whose work was at the core of the real school timeline, not have been legitimately acknowledged? 

There are so many of us who worked with this producer, songwriter, guitarist, and arranger---did I leave anything out? Of course. His musical fingerprint was on practically everything that any of us listened to back in the day and in the present.


Marlo was an original member of the group Maxayn,with Maxayn Lewis, Andre Lewis, and Emiry Thomas. The group,  was a unique brand of cutting edge funk. They were innovators who paved the landscape for those who followed. And to this day, their recordings and contributions to solid, real groove continue to inspire.

When the group's first self titled album, Maxayn was released in 1971, Marlo and Andre were still with the Buddy Miles Express.

To say that Marlo had 50 years in the music industry as a 360 degree musician is not enough. He wrote music in every musical genre. He should be praised with every accolade possible. 

He was a humble, easy going human being. I remember one day we got together on some musical tech stuff. We’re sitting in my studio and he asked about my grand-kids---- it ended up with both of us, pulling up pics from our devices talking about our grand-kids and kids. We knew that the music was important, but that moment was about life.

His son, Palo who is also musician and DJ is continuing the legacy. He shared an interesting trivia about his dad : He was named Leroi Mario Henderson, but the Mario was misspelled on his birth certificate as Marlo.

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"It's so surreal. The men I grew up admiring are now hitting me up and telling me how my father inspired them to play guitar. People from all over the world are posting stories of him, and it's pretty rad. His fans have contacted me and it's been really cool. I'm doing my best to get back to everyone who has reached out but, there are so many of you lol!...  I'm overwhelmed but, I owe it to him to make sure his friends, family and fans get updated. Thank you all for what you've done and what you continue to do. Though I feel injured I still weld my sword with extreme force."

Marlo with sons Lance (left) and Palo (right)
Verdine White shared a memory in his expression of condolences:

"I wanted to send my deepest condolences this evening to the family, friends, fans and loved ones of the incomparable and late guitarist and composer Marlo Henderson.

He recently made his heavenly transition and we send him love, peace and blessings.
Marlo received a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Music and did amazing work with Earth Wind and Fire in our early days.

We are pictured here together at (The Beatles) George Martin's Air Studios in Montserrat, West Indies working on the FACES LP. An amazing studio George built there after falling in love with the island.

I first met Marlo at a party in the early 70s that my brother Maurice took me to! He was performing with Buddy Miles and Jimi Hendrix!

Marlo has worked with almost every major artist in the industry and has performed on more than 60 gold and platinum albums. 

Thank you Marlo for your oustanding myriad contributions!! The arm behind the army and we celebrate his life!!

You are respected and revered by all, and will truly be missed!!
Job well done my friend!!"

Because  of his endless catalog of work there is no way you can truly use “Marlo was”and it's painful to refer to him in the  past tense.  With that said, I am making a compromise in reference to him: Marlo Henderson was, is and always will be at the core of the real school tapestry of music. Top 40 bands back in the day played his signature riffs. He's the authentic "guitar hero". 

With Buddy Miles Band 1971 Finland
He can't be recognized in a blurb the size of a want ad. He was bigger than that. As a human being, he was bigger than that. As November of this year marks the 8th Anniversary of Real School People(tm), it deepens my clarity as to why it is so important to celebrate the profound legacies of our generation.

Wornell Jones, wrote and worked with Marlo and speaks of him as "One of the architects of modern black music." Jones, Maxyn Lewis and Marlo wrote So Much More performed by Ramsey Lewis which went to #5 on the Billboard Jazz charts,

When asked in an interview about why soul and blues continues to have a devoted following, Marlo explained.

"The emotional expression derived from the most unique human experience in modern history: slavery… From that human experience was born a unique sense of emotional expression, rhythm and timing. 

For example, “we” , the mainland American slaves, created a different rhythm emphasis of the “2” and the “4” in a four beat bar, this is unique even among other blacks in the world who accentuate the”1” and the “3”. Because of that fact, all modern pop music is a derivative of those “slave beats”. It uses that very “2 and 4” principal foundation rhythmically and the pentatonic scale, which is an original African scale in basic “funky” melodies.  All that to say…it’s an original American musical art form. It will always be so."

Marlo, is the musician that you've always heard, that your ears befriended. I “knew” Marlo from reading album credits before working with him in the 80s. Little did I know, reading his name on innumerable albums in the east coast home where I grew up, that years later we'd be working together and become friends.

Even for the listener who may not have met some of the most celebrated musicians of our time, there is a subtle familiarity that abounds when one continually sees names credited on some of the most notable music memories immortalized on wax. Especially when more than 50 of this wax went gold and platinum!

I called his world, Marlo-land, because there were so many layers of depth to it. Everything in it was meshed with music, peace and the joy of creativity. He was a polished producer. He fined tuned every element of his production like a sculpture made of rare glass. 

Talking with and working with Marlo, you would never know the extent of his resume. He was never a vocal billboard of what work he had done. He would acknowledge it if you brought it up.

Marlo with Buddy Miles- Finland tour 1971

Continually working and innovating was his day to day life. His support to many in the music industry, from the new musician, songwriter/performer to even the veteran in the industry with legacy was monolithic. He warmly embraced innovative musicians, songwriters and performers, sharing a wealth of experience and history with humility and grace. Each day remaining current with the technology that had changed the face of the music industry as he knew it 50 years ago, he used the tools of the new music technology and created his work with enthusiasm. 

Once at his studio, he shared this beautifully ethereal song explaining how he produced it as he heard it in his sleep. The song was Reflections. He also shared a CD with me of music he had written for the 12 months of the year that was a work in progress.

Marlo played with Stevie Wonder's band, Wonderlove back in '74. 

Bass: Reggie McBride
Lead Guitar: Michael Sembello 
Rhythm Guitar: Marlo Henderson
Drums: Ollie. E. Brown
Vocalists: Shirley Brewer, Lani Groves and Deniece Williams

Live performances like this are a gem. This performance brings us back to the time when musicians really played music. It was when the concert was the jam. There's no school like the real school. 

Marlo gave some of the most eloquent and easy going interviews. He truly had a comfort zone when talking about his history and career in the music industry. 

A must hear interview 2010

What is most significant and many will agree is that he touched the lives of many in a myriad of ways. His melody as a musician and creative soul were interwoven in the patchwork of our lives. What is important for me is that I was able to tell him what a remarkable individual he was; how the love and respect I had for him as a friend and fellow musician would always remain in my heart.

I am honored to have had the experience of knowing Marlo. Of celebrating him as a friend and colleague, a true treasure for the soul. While he may be gone from us in the plane of the physical, his immortality reigns in the innumerable bodies of work where he gave of himself with his whole heart.

If legacy is wealth. He was the richest.

Some of many that Marlo worked with.

  • Ahmad Jamal
  • Bette Midler
  • Billy Preston
  • Booker "T" Jones
  • Brenda Russell
  • Buddy Miles
  • Cher
  • Deniece Williams
  • Diana Ross
  • D.J. Rogers
  • Dr. John
  • Dusty Springfield
  • Earth Wind & Fire
  • Eddie Henderson
  • Eloise Laws
    Evelyn "Champagne" King
  • Gato Barberie
  • Gil Scott-Heron
  • Janet Jackson
  • Jean Carn
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Joe Sample
  • Johnny Mathis
  • LaBelle
  • Lamont Dozier
  • Lenny White
  • Mandre'
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Maxayn
  • Maxine Nightingale
  • Michael Jackson
  • Minnie Riperton
  • Nancy Wilson
  • Norman Connors
  • Patti LaBelle
  • Patrice Rushen
  • Paulinho De Costa 
  • Phyllis Hyman
  • Quincy Jones
  • Ramsey Lewis
  • Ray Charles
  • Reggie Dozier
  • Rene & Angela
  • Rita Coolidge
  • Rodney Franklin
  • Rufus/Chaka Kahn
  • Seals & Croft
  • Sly Stone
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Syreeta Wright
  • Tata Vega
  • Taj Mahal
  • Teena Marie
  • The Dells
  • The Emotions
  • The Gap Band 
  • The Jacksons
  • The Jones Girls
  • The Pointer Sisters
  • The Temptations
  • The Whispers
  • Tom Jones
  •  Van Morrison



Sherry Pruitt

I met MarloHenderson around 2005 at KPFK Radio Station, Bobbee Zeno’s Blues Power show. Marlo had a strong kind sweet spirit with the mind of God. He was a Genius! His mind was like a computer… He was so optimistic, hopeful, positive, bright, cheerful, enthusiastic and confident. “That’s why he was so loved.” He had rhythm like an expert drummer, who knew how the beat should go. He had melody like the horn player he was. He played the guitar like no other! He’s the hit maker you never knew! Marlo Henderson treated me with compassion and understanding, he brought out the best in me, musically and spiritually! He was, my Producer, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a real FRIEND…I as many, was truly blessed, to have had this man touch our lives. He’s truly paid some, great musical dues in his life time! But as life itself, now he’s in God’s hands. The last time that I talked to Marlo, he was out and about with his wife Susan. He told me that he was feeling better that day, and “he would talk to me later.” I never got a chance to say good bye. The signs of the time is in everything! As simple as a short conversation… My heart is sadden but gladden at the same time, because his body was invaded with sickness, but now he’s flying over the rainbow. Talk to you later Marlo. “My Real True friend”…


Calvin Berry

"Marlo Henderson was an incredible artist and friend. I always loved his humor, his stories with John Lennon and Paul MacCartney, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. The early morning calls that would go on forever. I miss you my man!"


Leon Abner

"Marlo and worked on many projects together I will miss his presence. RIP, brother."


Wornell Jones

"One of the architects of modern black music! R.I.P., Marlo."

Maxayn Lewis

"... like a bolt of lightening out of blue, we lost a vital member of the Universal Musical Force. Marlo Henderson, Guitar Giant, has left the planet. To my shock and utter dismay, this news brings me to tears, as I reflect on the longstanding musical kinship we shared through many years. Through laughter & tears, hardships & victories, we remained true friends. 

His musical genius graced and enhanced the productions of many well-known artists, who would become some of the most sought after performers in the world. Surely, there is a disturbance in the Force. His departure leaves a void that will remain. Marlo Henderson's place will not be duplicated. He was an original and one of a kind. He will be sorely missed. Soar on my "brother", we celebrate your time with us."


Leroi Marlo Henderson 


For all that you gave to the world of music. Truly an original and extraordinary individual.You are very present because of the body of work and the legacy of brilliance you leave to the world...Legacy is wealth.