Let not the recent Deluge of Death overwhelm me so far it keeps me from saying a word about Bonny “Mack” Rice, who passed with little fanfare this week.
Rice was most famous for writing this…
That’s more than enough to warrant a shout-out for any man. But he made good records himself (his version of “Mustang Sally” was an R&B hit). And, while he wasn’t among the few who could match Wilson Pickett or Mavis Staples, his bone-dry, slightly off-key vocals were surely in the DNA of mighty strivers like Charles Wright and Arlester Christian. They went on to lead the great bands (Wright’s Watt’s 103rd Street Rhythm Band and Christian’s Dyke and the Blazers) who formed the part of the bridge between James Brown and modern funk that wasn’t built by Sly Stone–you might say the harder, more skeletal part. You can hear that voice put to its best use on his Christmas classic, “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’,” which he also wrote and inhabited like no other:
Credit “Sir Mack,” then, with being a small, but vital, link in a mighty chain. If we broke it, it wasn’t his fault.
Once in a while, I get an email promoting a book or cd for review. Mostly I have to pass for reasons of time and I’ll have to pass on the one I got today, promoting a new autobiography by sixties-era L.A. funk trailblazer Charles Wright. Wright, as leader of the 103rd Street Watts Rhythm Band, was one of those underrated figures who used to be called “band leaders.” He certainly had gifts as a composer, player and vocalist. But his great gift was for finding and shaping talent, which was why the men who left his bands tended to land with Hall of Fame acts like Bill Withers or Earth, Wind and Fire, or else backing his fellow L.A. funk legend Arlester Christian (of Dyke and the Blazers’ fame), all of which made Wright a semi-invisible shaper of a future we’re still living in.
But having said all that, I can’t say I’ve kept track of him, so news that he’s alive, kicking and working is certainly welcome.
Even more welcome was the realization, available through the video link his publisher was kind enough (or savvy enough) to include with the marketing campaign….which basically shows that he hasn’t lost a thing…Including his sense of humor: