My Black History
Joseph B. Livingston
Joseph Bernard Livingston (August 23, 1935 – April 19, 2003) was an African-American Singer, song-writer and vocalist in the 1960’s belonging to groups such as The Pheasants, The 3 Notes and famously known The Sapphires. As my Grandmother would say “If it wasn’t for The Beatles bursting on the scene and topping the charts in the 60’s, your Grandfather would have been a STAR”. In the 60’s it wasn’t easy for many African-American artists and musicians to make a name for themselves let alone be successful due to racial tensions and the lack of music business knowledge during that time. Not only did black artists have to have talent and know how to sing they also had to be able to cross over to white audiences to even be considered good enough to be GREAT! The Sapphires started off strong with their famous hit “Who Do You Love”
In 1964 The Sapphires stared off strong with their first big hit “Who Do You Love” written by Philly legend Kenneth Gamble of Gamble-Huff Music best known for that “Philly Sound”. Growing up I would catch my Grandfather from time to time jot down lyrics here and there in his note-book, singing around the house as if he was preparing for a gig. He never talked about his journey much but my Grandmother would always share with me from time to time her experience and how it was to be a musicians wife. You can see the excitement in her eyes as she talks about her beloved “Josey”. She would sometimes accompany them on gigs when she wasn’t home with her 5 children Anita, Jerome, Ealice, Delphine and Lamar (My Father). She prepared meals for the bands when they would rehearse at the house and book shows. While my Grandfather was on tour he would always make sure to send home money he made from his gigs for his wife and children.
She also shared with me her fears of not only her husband but also her children getting into the industry with its many temptations and racial conflicts. On one occasion she shared with me her experience in New York her and a lady friend were asked to move and that they were not serving African-Americans at their venue. Once my Grandfather got hold of the message him and his band decided not to play there after all. I guess he figured if his wife wasn’t good enough to be patronized at their venue then he and his band wasn’t good enough to play there either.
For more information on Joseph B. Livingston and The Sapphires visit billboard.com
As I grew older I became all the more interested in the legacy he left. I always wanted to know where I got my humourous spirit and my ability to DREAM! SING! and WRITE! from. All those untold stories and unsung song’s he left behind and I wonder why…