Thursday, September 29, 2022

Larry Buford: ‘Sorry Is A Sorry Word’ for R&B Legends

The Temptations1
The Temptations (L-R) Paul, David, Otis, Eddie and Melvin

*The Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame’s call to action!

Much has been said and documented about the evolution of black music in America, so I won’t go into much detail about it.

Today, artists of all popular genres of music pay homage to black music as having a great direct or indirect influence on them. I say indirect because while black music was labeled “race music” in America, the British invasion of the 1960’s introduced America’s white audiences to what they thought was fresh new music when in fact, a lot of the music was right in their own backyards – covers of songs created by southern black blues artists that became popular on the other side of the Atlantic. The Rolling Stones even took their name from a song title by blues great Muddy Waters.

A testimony of how infectious black music was becoming in America, in 1960 Val Shively, the white owner of what’s known today as “the world’s greatest record store” was recently quoted in Smithsonian Magazine about the day he happened to turn his radio dial and landed on a black radio station for the first time:

“It blew my mind, hearing Etta James, Baby Washington, “Valerie” by Jackie & the Starlites,” he said. “I like a lot of white music, I love old country, but for me, black music has more force, more originality and more longevity. And once I got into the black harmony groups, that was it. Nothing else ever sounded so good to me.”

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R&B legends - Getty
R&B legends – Getty

We know the history of how disadvantaged, underprivileged black artists were cheated out of songwriter credits, publishing royalties and other rights. We know that generations of white families are still receiving residuals that otherwise should have gone to the heirs of the black artists who died penniless. People acknowledge the wrongs of the past with retorts like “that’s just the way it was in those days,” or “I feel sorry that those artists didn’t get their due.” To that I say – on behalf of all those who contributed so much and received so little – “Sorry Is A Sorry Word” – the title of a tune written by Motown’s Eddie Holland and Ivy Jo Hunter; made popular by The Temptations featuring David Ruffin:

“Remember me the one who heard your cries
Reached out and dried your eyes
Remember me the one who found you and wrapped all my love around you”

National R&B Hall of Fame - ghows-GA-200709823-7b15dd66To honor and preserve the legacy of pioneers and lesser-known artists like Ellie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton – who originally recorded “Hound Dog” which later became a major hit for Elvis Presley – the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame® (NRBHOF) has been doing just that. A press release announcing its 10th Class of NRBHOF Inductees states in part, “In the Black Community, we have always complained about not having our own. We have always realized that seeking validation from non-black institutions is a slippery slope that often leads to marginalization and heartbreak. Despite history being the best teacher, the R&B community finds itself struggling to be recognized for being the most sampled, most groundbreaking, most innovative, and most influential genre ever produced. Legendary R&B artists are constantly begging for scraps to fall off the table of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only to be patted on the head and told to wait. Why beg for scraps from somebody else’s table, when you can pool your resources and not only buy your own table, but also your own food?”

“When you were all alone and all your dreams were gone
When you had nothing but a tear-stained face I took you in
Now your broken wing is mended and your need for me has ended
Now you say you must be free, you wanna fly away from me
You were lost yesterday I gave you my tomorrow
Now you’re leaving me in sorrow and you’re telling me you’re sorry, but baby
Sorry is a sorry word after all I’ve done for you
Sorry is a sorry word when I need a love that’s true”

Founder and CEO of the NRBHOF, LaMont Robinson, who will soon be announcing a permanent site location, is challenging those who say how great R&B music influenced them, and those who say they are standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, to put their money where their mouth is. He says, “There is so much wealth out there and if R&B is going to be honored, it’s going to first take a push from the black community; and second, donations from everyone who has benefitted from R&B music including artists, corporations, and record companies. We are also calling upon civic leaders/activists like Reverend Al Sharpton – who was a close friend and onetime tour manager for James Brown – to partner with us. This is a call to action!”

“How can sympathy be all you feel for me
After all the sweet love I’ve given you (given you baby)
Girl you walked away with the best of me
And the love I gave to you you’ve given to someone new
And sorry won’t end this misery…”

During the civil rights era, black music played such a significant role in the black community. Those artists wrote and sung about love in such a way that it inspired people, energized them, and moved them to want to step up to the plate and make a difference. Men, women and children were all singing songs together and communicating with one another. It’s been said as preachers were preaching from the pulpits, soul singers were preaching from the studio. Having a living sanctuary – on par with the rock ‘n’ roll, and country music hall of fame foundations – would ensure recognition of an everlasting legacy and appreciation for all the years of discrimination, “Jim Crow” laws, violence, and persecution that our R&B artists had to face.

“Remember me who took your hand held you up and made you stand
Remember me the one who loved to share the one who really cared
Now you’ve turned away from me, saying you’re sorry
That it had to be baby…sorry it had to be, but
Sorry is a sorry word after all I’ve done for you
Sorry is a sorry word when I need a love that’s true”

Robinson says the proposed site will be located in an urban area so that there will be job opportunities, and tourism revenues that will spill over into the local economy. He says the NRBHOF foundation will also provide music lessons and training for young people, adding: “If we can put a musical instrument in a child’s hands, maybe they won’t pick up a gun.”

For further information contact:

LaMont “ShowBoat” Robinson
National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame
(313) 936-2040

Larry Snip2
Larry S. Buford

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based contributing writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon); two insightful books that speak to our moral conscience in times like these. Email:

Larry Buford
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, and author of Book/CD titled "Things Are Gettin' Outta Hand" (Steuben Pub.) He writes Human Interest articles and entertainment reviews for various newspapers across the country. He is also an editor, and provides services for press releases, interviews, business letters, resumes, etc. A native Detroiter, he is a former Motown songwriter.




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