*More often than I choose to remember, I’ve witnessed performers attempt to craft a career in the shadow of a famous parent. No shade intended, but usually, those performers are closer to Lisa Marie Presley than Natalie Cole. So when I read about the February 19 “Daughters of the Rhythm and Blues” performance at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, I did so with trepidation.
The performance will feature Robyn Charles, daughter of the late songwriter and vocalist Ray Charles; Carla Cooke, the daughter of R & B vocal titan Sam Cooke; and Rhonda Ross, daughter of entertainment legend Diana Ross and Motown mogul Berry Gordy.
While Charles, Cooke, and Ross are an A LIST if ever there was one, when I read that Rhonda Ross was on the bill, I breathed a sigh of relief. Having witnessed her gift firsthand, and having interviewed her a couple of years ago, I knew that the February 19 audience was in for a treat.
“My mother was pregnant with me as she prepared for her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Billie Holiday in ‘Lady Sings The Blues,’ Ross said, “so I was literally listening to Billie’s jazz (and my mother’s rendition of it) from the womb. Her music is not just in me through biological DNA, but through my pores — through each of my five senses. I have a beautiful sense memory associated with each song she’s ever performed.”
Conversely, Cooke became acquainted with her father’s music years after his death in 1964.
“What I can say is that his music inspired me, and his voice mesmerized me,” Cooke says. “When you hear a Sam Cooke song, his voice just moves you.”
Cooke speaks the truth. In my opinion, Sam Cooke stands along with Nat “King” Cole” as the two greatest male vocalists ever.
Contrastingly, Ray Charles’ voice was never the draw — it was his delivery that made him a true master. His daughter says her dad’s music helped unite her family.
“My good memories are being able to relate to how others related to his music (i.e. “The Cosby Show”)…episodes of the [Huxtable] family lip-syncing my dad’s songs,” Charles says. “My father gave me “…a lil rhythm, a lil soul, and a LOT of attitude.”
Anyone who’s seen the younger Ross perform knows that she’s also inherited more than a little “attitude” from her mom.
“When my mother burst onto the music scene in the ‘60s, no one was looking or sounding like her,” Ross asserts. “She…changed the image of what America and the world heard on their radios and saw on their televisions. It’s always important to honor that type of courageous originality and remind the world that that kind of artistic bravery is as needed today as it ever was.”