The fact that Sananda Maitreya, the artist formerly known as Terence Trent D’Arby, was not considered for Jheri Curl June until our fourth year is surprising. Of course, his music isn’t Jheri Curl proper–few artists were, by the end of the ’80s–but the influence of Michael Jackson and Prince is particularly obvious.
Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby is a debut album with a title as cumbersome as you would expect from the man who once claimed that it’s the most important album since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. I will neither support nor dispute that claim, but I will say that for a late ’80s R&B album, Hardline has certainly held up–and while we’re making comparisons, I’d much rather fuck with D’Arby’s album in the background rather than “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” I doubt even the most devoted Beatles stans can argue with that.
Anyway, Hardline also garnered D’Arby’s several hit singles, including “Wishing Well” and “Sign Your Name.” But it was the lesser known track “Let’s Go Forward” in which D’Arby was at his most Jheri Curl. The sad robot-like atmosphere of the song sounds like a more mature version of Jesse Johnson’s “I Want My Girl.”
We’re nearing the end of Jheri Curl June, but there are still a few posts left; meanwhile, check out the playlists below!
This month is of course not only the holiest month on the Dystopian Dance Party calendar, but also Pride Month for the LGBT community, commemorating the Stonewall uprisings of June 1969. So I thought today was as good a time as any to talk about one of our favorite LGBT Jheri Curl artists (LGBTJC?), Jermaine Stewart.
Stewart is best known for his 1986 hit “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”–which is, for the record, the fucking jam–and for having quite possibly the most iconic blowout-and-thin-moustache combo in the game. But he had an illustrious career behind the scenes, as well: starting out as a dancer on Soul Train, then just missing a place in the group Shalamar, for whom he went on to dance and sing backing vocals; he can also be heard singing backup on Culture Club’s 1984 hit “Miss Me Blind.”
It was the Soul Train/Shalamar connection that led to “Jody,” Stewart’s second-best-known solo song, inspired by his close friend and former Shalamar frontwoman (/previous JCJ profilee), Jody Watley. It’s also a jam, with a dark electro-funk vibe reminiscent of 1999-era Prince.
Sadly, Jermaine Stewart’s life ended in a way his ebullient spirit didn’t deserve: he died of AIDS-related liver cancer in 1997, at just 39 years old. His passing echoes that of many other gay men who came of age before treatment and prevention of HIV were widely accessible–a reminder of one of the many reasons why Pride Month is important. Which, I realize, is a bummer of a way to end this post, but hey: if listening to Jermaine Stewart can’t put a smile on your face, what else can? You can hear him, and the rest of this month’s artists, on the playlists below.
We’ve talked a fairamount on this blog about the, ahem, interesting similarities between Rick James’ Mary Jane Girls and Prince’s Vanity 6: a concept James always maintained he came up with first, only for the Paisley Bandit to swoop in and summarily bite it. But if other stories are to be believed, Prince was actually biting from someone much closer to home: his first bass player and one-time surrogate brother, André Cymone.
The rocky relationship between Prince and Cymone is another thing we’ve discussed in Jheri Curl Junes past, and it should be noted that Prince had a history of “borrowing” from his friend and collaborator: “Do Me, Baby,” among other early songs, was by all accounts an André Cymone joint. So it wasn’t exactly a shock to hear that Prince got the idea for a girl group after catching wind of Cymone’s own side project, creatively named “the Girls.” At some point, according to the excellent (and sadly out of print) biography Dance Music Sex Romance, André and Prince even combined their ideas for the group, then known as “the Hookers”; André, however, walked away after realizing that Prince wanted him to do the work without taking any of the credit. And the rest was history: the Hookers became Vanity 6, who became Apollonia 6, and Cymone’s “Girls” released their debut album in 1984, to commercial and critical indifference.
Penny Ford (a.k.a. Pennye Ford, for reasons unknown) began her musical career as a backup singer for Zapp in 1979 and went on to become a session singer at Motown in Los Angeles before signing to Total Experience Records, home of Gap Band and Yarbrough & Peoples. So, needless to say, her Jheri Curl credentials were set when she embarked on her solo career in 1984. But, holy shit people… not even a résumé like that could prepare us for this video:
If anyone ever asks me what Jheri Curl June is all about, this is the video I will show them. The mirrors, the outfits, Penny’s unfaithful boyfriend is a blatant ripoff of the Kid in Purple Rain... But, most importantly, look at this fucking curl.
Just like we do every year, we’re dedicating one week this month to the women of Jheri Curl Music–see you tomorrow for more JCJ Ladies’ Week! Playlists below.
It didn’t take a stroke of genius to come up with the idea for this year’s Jheri Curl Junepodcast.Rick James may be the most important architect of the genre we call Jheri Curl Music who we hadn’t already commemorated with a long-term feature. He also has a hell of a story: one he told in not one, but two posthumous memoirs–2007’s Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Superfreak and 2014’s Glow–which makes him a perfect candidate for the Dystopian Book Club. A “habitual line-stepper” in both life and art, James was vital in bridging the gap between 1970s P-Funk and 1980s Jheri Curl; his later decline into drug addiction and imprisonment was unfortunate, but could only somewhat dampen his boundless talent and charisma. So join us on this most sacred of occasions as we celebrate Mr. Cold Blooded himself: a man whose artistic potential was the only thing bigger than his larger-than-life personality and appetites. Gimme some ganja!