One Of Music Row’s Most Influential Leaders, Jo Walker-Meador, Has Died At 93

Jo Walker-Meador, one of the most important behind-the-scenes advocates of country music, has died. Walker-Meador, who led the Country Music Association as its executive director from 1962 to 1991, died Tuesday night in Nashville at age 93 after suffering a stroke. Her death was announced by the Country Music Association and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Born February 16, 1924 in Orlinda, Tennesee as Edith Josephine Denning and raised on a farm, Walker-Meador began working in 1958 as the first paid employee of the Country Music Association, which hired her as its office manager.

When first hired, Walker-Meador had a very steep learning curve, as she told CountryZone.net in a 2008 interview: “I knew nothing about country music,” she said. “I had never been to the Grand Ole Opry. I’d heard of Minnie Pearl and Roy Accuff, Ernest Tubb and I’d heard of Hank Williams but I didn’t delineate the different types of music… they had a board of directors just been elected several weeks before I was employed. They didn’t want to hire someone who wanted to be a singer or who wanted to be a songwriter, but someone who would be an administrator.”

Within four years, she became CMA’s executive director, after the resignation of the organization’s founding director, Harry Stone.

It’s hard to overestimate the growth of country music as an industry over the course of her tenure, as the Country Music Hall of Fame pointed out in its remembrance: “One year before she took the helm at the CMA, full-time country radio stations numbered fewer than 100 nationwide. By 1995, there were nearly 2,400 such stations.”

During her time leading the organization, the CMA became a country music industry powerhouse and, for other “niche” music genres, an important model for self-advocacy. Those activities included establishing the Country Music Hall of Fame (which launched in 1961), the annual CMA Awards (begun in 1967 and televised nationally beginning the following year), and the CMA Music Festival (originally known as Fan Fair), which was created in 1972.

Walker-Meador was herself elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

Kehlani, And R&B’s Women Of Color, Struggle To Be Heard In Pop Market

The singer, who was raised in Oakland and currently lives in Los Angeles, makes a winning sweet-and-sour blend of contemporary R&B. She can strike a confident yet self-aware pose. On her single “CRZY,” she boasts, “If I gotta be a b—— I’ma be a bad one,” then adds, “I kill ’em, I kill ’em, I kill ’em with compassion.” Her music hearkens to the honeyed melodies typical of ’90s stars like SWV and TLC, homage-paying references to past hits like New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love” and Akon’s “Don’t Matter,” and the ecstatic flights of melisma that suggest unfettered joy. Kehlani is a capable and surprisingly strong singer, too, though she often sticks to a strident middle range. When she professes her love, she tends to look for a roundabout way to do it. When she asks, “Do you want to be a distraction, baby?” on “Distraction,” her seduction doesn’t necessarily roll off the tongue. But it’s appealing all the same.

Courtesy of the artist

Yet months after the January release of her retail debut SweetSexySavage, Kehlani has evolved into a critic’s darling who can’t quite breach pop radio. Sean “Puffy” Combs has said that Kehlani “saved R&B.” When Solange accepted the Centric Award at the 2017 BET Music Awards, she shouted out the new wave of women in R&B. “I love Syd, and Kehlani, and SZA, and Kelela and all the new-school girls who are out here,” she said.

However, none of Kehlani’s singles have cracked the Billboard top 40 so far. “Gangsta,” a trap-inflected number where she channels Harley Quinn from last year’s Suicide Squad, came closest, earning a RIAA platinum certification yet paradoxically stalling at No. 41.

The moderate success of SweetSexySavage has reignited conversations about whether the music industry is devaluing R&B artists and, specifically, talented women of color. Kehlani’s not alone: Sevyn Streeter, SZA and Mary J. Blige have also released superior major-label projects this year, only to find a muted reception on the pop charts.

The irony is that, as a genre, R&B has never been healthier. It teems with variety, whether it’s the neon-hazed, synthesized romance of H.E.R., the sun-dappled hip-hop funk of Anderson .Paak, the gauzy teenage fantasies of Khalid, or the airy, baroque star-gazing of Chloe x Halle. No longer limited to the binary debate between “jiggy” urban pop and earthy neo-soul that dominated at the dawn of the millennium, today’s R&B world is as diverse as any other.

However, it seems like it’s the women who are truly expanding the genre’s vocabulary. Many of them have evolved into musical diarists. No longer limiting themselves to the endless tumult of love and sexual relationships, they write about their fears with disarming vulnerability. You can hear that inner voice take hold on Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage. On “Piece of Mind,” she bravely discusses a highly-publicized suicide attempt, which she has said was triggered by trolling over her complicated love life. “Trying to forget all of the unnecessary thoughts from my head / Man it was pretty scary,” she sings. “At least I learned a thing or two / About me and you / What we went through.”

The successful June release of SZA’s Ctrl came after long label delays and her own creative anxiety.

Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for HBO

Sevyn Streeter’s just-released Girl Disrupted opens with “Livin,” where she discusses her issues with depression. In an interview with Billboard, she noted, “All these artists at the top of the pop charts are dressed like R&B artists in their videos. They’re singing lyrics and melodies from R&B songs of the past. We’re a very influential genre, and I’m not mad at it. I just want people to accept it no matter who it comes from. I can’t say that that’s always the case.”

There are a few men who take a hyper-personal approach to songwriting, namely the incandescent Frank Ocean, who writes in rich, complex metaphors. But it seems like most aspire to the aesthetic masculinity of rappers. They talk-sing boasts in a wavy voice that threads the needle between melodic pop-rap and clubby, hard-edged trap music. It’s no surprise that listeners occasionally refer to the likes of Chris Brown, Bryson Tiller, and the Weeknd as rap stars — sometimes they dispense with singing altogether and spit actual bars, if only to underline their unbeatable virility.

But generally speaking, men dominate rap music — at least its most visible variant. So R&B women have subtly developed values and thematic ideas that contrast with corporate rap’s muscular displays of material wealth, opiate consumption, casual violence, and the necessary ability to steal your girl for a one-night escapade. It’s a compelling package that has yet to receive the industry support it deserves.

Tinashe’s controversial comments on colorism in The Guardian overshadowed her critique of an industry where space for black women’s success feels limited at best.

Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

Tinashe has also tried to split the difference between artistic and commercial dictates, with uneven success. Her early, electronic-fused mixtapes had a wonderfully hermetic feel, as if she were singing quietly into a microphone on her laptop. On her 2014 major label debut Aquarius, she leavened her dense, whispery meditations, like “Cold Sweat,” with swaggy and accessible confections, like “2 On,” a delirious celebration of over-drinking that climbed the upper reaches of the Billboard top 40. But despite critical acclaim — Jon Caramanica of the New York Times called Aquarius “one of the most inventive R&B albums of recent years” — she hasn’t been able to score anything on the scale of “2 On.” Meanwhile, her long-delayed follow-up Joyride remains unreleased, leading her fans to protest with the hashtag #FreeTinashe.

SUMMER MUSIC CONCERT 2018

Falmouth School students dazzled the audience with a sparkling set of performances at the recent Summer Music Concert. The sheer talent of those performing blew the crowd away in a show that was packed full of diverse and exciting acts.

The packed crowd were introduced by student compere’s Millie Revel and Theo Fleming, who introduced the first act of the night on a jam packed bill. The Brass Group opened proceedings with a rendition of the Rocky theme and Somewhere Over the Rainbow, before a beautiful violin piece by Zoe Osmond.

Tia Head and Eloise Williams performed a lovely duet version of Gabrielle Aplin’s ‘Panic Chord’, before Jordan Lanyon played ‘Esmerelda’ by Ben Howard – a difficult piece made all the more impressive by the fact Jordan is only a year into playing the guitar. The flute group put on a bright and sparkly version of the Tchaikovsky classic, before the boys choir had the audience singing along with ‘Little Eyes’ and ‘Angels’.

Theo Fleming took a brief break from his compere duties to perform a piece on the flute, before later taking to the drums and the piano in a busy night for the new Head Boy! There was a foot tapping, jazzy number from the clarinet group and the talented Abiah Wyatt performed her own composition on the acoustic guitar.

The girls group consisting of Millie Revell, Daisy Easterby-Sands, Mabel Radmore and Niamh Miller performed an excellent version of ‘lovesong’ by The Cure (probably now better known for Adele’s cover), before Minnie Harrop gave an excellent solo performance on the piano to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Even My Dad Does Sometimes’.

There was an upbeat number from the sax group, before Lewis Naisey (a recent recipient of the most promising young pianist at the Junior Music Awards) played a superb piece. The pop choir stripped things back with their version of Birdy’s hit song ‘Wings’, before Falmouth College A-Level music student Anna Freeman sang a crowd pleasing rendition of Elton John’s classic, ‘Tiny Dancer’.

The show wound down with the final two acts, firstly with school band ‘Green Aliens and Blonde Girls’ playing the Red Hot Chilli Peppers new single ‘Dark Necessities’ and some impressive slap bass from Tadhg Cullen that Flea would be proud of! Finally the Jazz Band closed an excellent and enjoyable evening with ‘Smooth Operator’ and ‘Watermelon Man’.

Music Teacher at Falmouth School, Mr Fox said “The students have worked extremely hard preparing for tonight with busy schedules and their performances were superb. We thank everyone who came along to support the students and the music department, for making it such a great night.”