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When Merry Clayton recalls the song most dear to her, “After All This Time” – one of many Carole King-written tunes on Clayton’s self-titled 1971 solo album – she starts to recite the words: “Oooh, I get a feeling every night when you come home that life is sweet, yeaaaah, baby.”
But then, she can’t help herself. Clayton breaks out the song full force, her voice swooping into a belt. It’s in this moment of impromptu vocal prowess you wonder why Clayton never found the solo success she so deserves.
That mystery is documented in 20 Feet from Stardom, a film that finally puts background singers – including the renowned Darlene Love – center stage. And life from there, well, it really is sweet.
When you first saw the documentary, and all that footage they’d compiled, what was going through your mind?
Merry Clayton: That film … it took me to another place. Let me say it this way: It took my breath away. I could hardly breathe. I made it through the whole film until they showed myself and my late husband and my band doing “Southern Man,” and then I lost it. I mean, totally lost it. I was crying. It just got to my heart.
Darlene Love: I didn’t even know it was gonna touch me, but I was very emotional watching it. A lot of my friends who know me personally, and family who’ve seen it, actually cried during the movie. There were friends who didn’t even know I went through that (career) struggle, because I wasn’t the type of person to ask for help. They were really surprised that I had gone through that and had never said a thing about it.
Darlene, when this project first came to you, what were your initial thoughts?
DL: I was the first person involved in it. (Producer) Gil Friesen went to Lou Alder, who is a very old friend of mine, and Dick Donner, who is the director of the Lethal Weapon movies, and he said, “I have this idea to do a story on background singers, but I don’t know where to start.” They told him, “Well, if you’re gonna do a story on background singers, you’re gonna have to get in touch with Darlene Love first.” And that’s what he did, because I’ve been doing background singing full time since 1958.
Was this a trip down memory lane for you?
DL: It was. They filmed it off and on for two years, so the director (Morgan Neville) had to do some digging, because there is no information on background singers … unless you talk to background singers! What he did find, like The Blossoms (the vocal trio led by Love) singing with Tom Jones back in 1971, I was like, “Wow, how did they find that? We have never seen that.”
MC: It was really something. It took me back to the years out on the road with my husband and my band. I didn’t have to do anything; my job was to just do my craft, and he took care of the band. He had his career. He had done eight or nine albums. So he wanted me to have a great career – and he worked very closely with me to see that that happened. But they only wanted one queen, and it was Aretha at that time. And there was only one Diana Ross. That left me as the Merry Clayton who was basically almost unsung.
It just wasn’t your time. But now is your time.
MC: I really believe that. And listen to me, I am soooo ready for it. I’m in good health. I’m in good spirits. I look fabulous, honey. And I got it going on.
Did you ever think of yourself as an underdog?
DL: Oh, no, I never did. I never felt that way, because once we got so big at doing background singing, people waited on us. People were just as excited about us being on their records as we were excited about doing them. I don’t think that anyone who was doing background ever felt bad about what they were doing.
MC: No, I don’t think I’m an underdog. I think I’m an after-dog. I think I’ve been totally recognized, if for nothing else but for the people I’ve performed with. You can’t be more recognized than being recognized for “Gimme Shelter” (Clayton sang on the 1969 track with The Rolling Stones). That’s been all over. By presidents, queens and kings, I’ve been recognized. The thing is, you get recognition, but not the recognition you think you should have.
You gotta know that the gay community always puts our divas in the spotlight, right?
MC: That’s right, baby. And I mean, when you got the gay community under your feet, you really don’t have too much of anything to worry about.
How would you describe your relationship with the gay community all these years?
DL: If it weren’t for them in my audience, I wouldn’t have one. They’ve always supported me over the years. Ninety percent of my audience is white – it’s not black – and gay. So, you know, thank god! They know more about the background singers than anybody. They saw how we looked, they saw how we dressed, they saw how we moved around. They were looking at that too. A lot of people have come up to me, even before the movie, saying, “I saw you when you sang with Dionne Warwick” or “I saw you when you were with Tom Jones” or “I saw you with Elvis,” so they watch that. They don’t just watch the lead singer; they watch the whole thing – the whole performance in front of them.
MC: They’ve always loved me. They always loved me and adored me and have allll-ways supported me! When I needed clothes, when I needed things to wear for shows, I’d call my queens, baby. They’d be like, “Don’t you worry; we got you covered.” The children, they’d be there to see me, protect me. I looooo-ve my gays, baby. (Laughs) I love the children and the children love me. But it’s always been that in my career. Always.
A diva doesn’t go without her gays.
MC: Ever. Ever! From 5 years old. What I’m saying is, when you start singing, there’s always a wonderful gay friend in your family – not a part of your family, but always a friend your parents know or somebody knows – and they’re always very protective of you. They make sure you have what you need, they make sure you get to where you’re supposed to go on time and they make sure you’re cool. I mean, when I first started singing, please … there were wonderful gays who were like, “Oh, you need a gown for baby sister, for Merry? Let’s make her a couple of dresses, honey.” And I’d look good! We didn’t come with silver spoons in our mouth, so they would sit down and make me a dress, make sure my shoes matched my dress, that my hair was done and that I looked cute. So yes, I love my gays, baby.
What’s your fondest memory of recording “Cornflake Girl” with Tori Amos?
MC: That’s my baby. I haven’t talked to my baby in a long time. I’m gonna have my co-manager find Tori because I haven’t heard from her in quite a while.
But she calls me in the evening: “Merry, what are you doing?” I said, “Hey, who is this?” “Tori.” I said, “Hey mama, what’s going on?” She says, “I need you to come and sing on this song with me.” I said, “OK now, you gotta pay me the lunch money.” So we did it and had a great evening.
Tori was with me when I did the song for Dirty Dancing, “Yes.” Her ma and dad were in town and she called me and she said, “Well, what are you doing?” I said, “I’m going to the studio, girl; I got this thing for something they’re doing called ‘Dirty’ … something.” She says, “I want you to meet ma and dad.” So they came to the studio where I was and hung out while I did “Yes.” We had a wonderful time.
Darlene, in the movie you talk about cleaning houses to make ends meet when singing wasn’t cutting it. Tell me about the worst house you had to clean.
DL: (Laughs) My own! To this day, I always say, “Lord, please let me make enough money for somebody to clean my house.” And so far, it’s been working out.
After doing this film, do you feel like the star you always wanted to be?
MC: I feel that I am absolutely the diva that I’ve always wanted to be. Not necessarily the diva, but just the woman who has paid dues and had fun in the process and has had, basically, a wonderful life. I really feel blessed to have been a part of this. Honestly, it feels like I’m in a dream and I’m waiting for someone to pinch me and say, “Girrrl-friend, wake up. Come out of it, suga.” It really is just a phenomenal dream, and I hope to stay in it until I close my eyes for the last time.
DL: Between getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this, this kind of seals it because now, with this movie, my career will go on and on and on. This movie is doing for us what superstars’ records do for them. It has given us a voice. Now we have a voice.
photo credit: Radius-TWC
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.