African-American History Month - "Someone weeps eternally"
Etta James once called him “the greatest singer of my generation.” While Jesse Belvin was in the Army, he still wrote and mentored other songwriters. Belvin was already a veteran of the California music scene, having been discovered in the band Three Dots and a Dash and taking “Dream Girl” to number 2 on the R&B charts after going solo. He and two of The Hollywood Flames - Curtis Williams and Gaynel Hodge - came up with the absolutely stunning “Earth Angel.” Williams brought it to his new band The Penguins, who recorded it in 1954. Of course we know that life in the ‘50’s, especially for African-Americans, was not so angelic. Just two years later the same Army that had drafted Belvin was tasked with escorting nine children to school in Little Rock Arkansas. Of course blacks were blamed for violence against them that year and the Governor “solved the problem” by closing the schools. When the schools were reopened, the bullying and abuse continued. Meanwhile, Jesse Belvin recorded his biggest hit, “Goodnight My Love” and formed The Shields, which included Johnny “Guitar” Watson and recorded the hit "You Cheated."
While Little Rock schools were officially integrated, musical performances were still segregated, by separate times or seating. In that environment the first integrated show in the city was held, complete with white audience members taunting black fans and yelling at other whites to leave. The show was stopped twice because of the interruptions. After the show the performers - Belvin, Jackie Wilson, Marv Johnson, and others - were anxious to get out of town. Belvin, his wife (and manager) Jo Ann were heading west with their driver. There were reports of threats on the lives of all the musicians and some said their vehicles were possibly tampered with, as groups of whites were seen crowding around them during the show. Officially, however, the driver fell asleep at the wheel in the early hours of February 6, 1960 and hit another car head on near Hope Arkansas. All three were killed, taking the life of one of the great forgotten voices, his wife and sometime writing partner, and the driver. At 27 years old, Jesse Belvin and his wife left two orphaned children. They wrote this song together, which has been recorded by Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Righteous Brothers, Dean Martin, BB King, and, most recently, Marva Wright.