Kashif–An appreciation

Singer-songwriter-producer Kashif died Sept. 25 at 59. He had only recently resumed performing after a long absence from the concert scene—and was working hard on a documentary series about the history of R&B.

But outside of his self-published 1996 book Everything You’d Better Know About the Record Industry, little had been heard from the multi-talented R&B artist, who was such a major force in the 1980s.

“He was turning everyone’s head around about the electronics of R&B,” says music researcher/historian and former Billboard columnist Brian Chin. “That was when his song ‘I’m in Love’ by Evelyn King was sold out in every record store, and I was hearing it several times in one afternoon–on every radio station I was monitoring.”

That was 1981, when Evelyn “Champagne” King’s recording of Kashif’s “I’m in Love” topped both soul and dance charts in Billboard—and reached No. 40 on its Hot 100. Also in the ‘80s, he recorded his own albums—as Chin notes, heavily employing electronics and synthesizers—while working with the likes of Melba Moore, George Benson, Meli’sa Morgan and Kenny G. He produced Whitney Houston’s first big hit “You Give Good Love” for her self-titled 1985 debut album and duetted with her on its “Thinking About You,” which he also co-wrote.

He scored, too, in the New Jack Swing era of the late ‘80s, with his own hit “Personality.”

“Kashif was so impeccably qualified top-to-bottom that his how-to book inevitably was titled Everything You’d Better Know About the Record Industry,” says Chin. “He remained accessible for three decades of hit-making, and that’s why I know I’m always going to feel his loss personally.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations focus on 1970s and beyond

It’s been 10 years at least since I and a number of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee members were let go, ostensibly, the form email firing us said, to bring in younger ones more conversant in 1970s rock. Then a couple years ago there was a final bloodletting ridding the committee of virtually all nominators—many of whom had been on since the RockHall’s launch—who had any knowledge of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when rock ‘n’ roll really was rock ‘n’ roll.

Well, with today’s announcement of the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees, the turnover is pretty much complete. First time nominees Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur, both in their first year of eligibility, are most certainly shoo-ins, with the other 17 nominees also coming mainly from the ‘70s and after.

Looking at the nominees from my g-g-generation, I’m happy to see The Zombies back on the list—one of the few ‘60s artists who sound just as good today as they did 50 years ago, when they broke artistic ground in the British Invasion. The MC5 are back, too, and also deserve to go in—though neither are no-brainers for RockHall voters with fading memories or who are just too young to remember. Other pre-‘70s nominees are first-timers Steppenwolf and Joan Baez—both deserving but likely too far back in the past, and five-time nominee Joe Tex, who will likely have to wait at least for his sixth.

The two other ‘80s acts—Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode–are both first-timers, and thanks to short-term memories would seem to have a good shot at going in unless Pearl Jam and Tupac cancel them out. That leaves 10 nominees—all from the ‘70s–which it’s been determined that I know little about, no matter that I wrote the first book on The Ramones.

Starting with punk/new wave, then, first-time nominee Bad Brains are worthy, but probably too obscure for a more mainstream electorate, who might prefer The Cars, back with their second nomination. On the R&B tip, I just don’t feel it for Janet Jackson and Chaka Khan (both second-timers), though disco’s Chic, with their record-setting 11th nomination, just might turn the trick this time, if only to put them out of their misery—plus Nile Rodgers and his late Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards just went into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Chicago went in last year, which may bode well for the softer ‘70s rock of Yes, now on its third nomination, and first timers Journey and Electric Light Orchestra, with ELO getting the nod here on merit.

The final two nominees—Kraftwerk and J. Geils Band—are significant, for sure, but probably also limited in the glitz factor that is now such a major part of awards recognition, even by what should be such a credible organization as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But credibility, as everyone knows, disappeared from the RockHall long ago.