Dear Culture

Tru’ish Black Stories: Coming to America’s Randy Watson

Episode 34

Is Randy Watson’s rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” better than Whitney’s? It’s the pop culture debate you didn’t know you needed, as Dear Culture continues to analyze classic Black films that changed the culture.

TORONTO, ONTARIO – MARCH 12: <> on March 12, 2021 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images for Amazon Prime Video Canada)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio is Black Podcast Network Black Culture Amplified.

Panama Jackson [00:00:06] When I think of iconic performances, I first think of Michael Jackson at the Motown 25 television special. This is where he performed Billie Jean hit the infamous moonwalk, a dance that would change the game for me and you, your mama and your cousin, too. Then I think of 2018 at Coachella, where Beyoncé famously shut the game down so thoroughly that they started calling it Beychella, where Beyoncé took Frankie Beverly Maze before I let go and made it her own. So much so that when you hear that song now, it’s probably hers that you’re listening to. But when I think of the most iconic performances of all time, the one that really sticks to your ribs and makes you feel something, well, there’s only one man, one band and one song that comes to mind.

Randy Watson [00:00:56] Because I’m the greatest. Love of all. Inside of me. Sexual Chocolate

Panama Jackson [00:01:08] This is Dear Culture and these are significant moments in Black history.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:23] How do I actually know Randy Watson? I’m actually from Queens.

Coming to America [00:01:29] Queens.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:30] So I’m not from Jackson Heights. I’m actually from Hollis, Queens. But anybody who’s from Queens knows who Randy Watson is, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of That’s My Mama.

Reverend Brown [00:01:40] That you all know is Joe the policeman from the West Going Down episode of That’s My Mama.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:45] But I did see him in the What’s Going Down episode of That’s My Mama. I do love Whitney Houston. So obviously when we have a Black awareness rally, I’m going to be there. And the fact that he, you know, did such an amazing job with Whitney Houston’s, I Believe the Children are the Future, I’m glad that I could be there, represent Queens and support my boy, Randy Watson.

Michael Harriot [00:02:05] I was raised in a home by Randy Watson fans. You know, my grandmother used to tell me about the time where she was in a juke joint and heard somebody singing with the band. And this was before he joined Sexual Chocolate. And she heard this golden voiced, silky haired man singing like an angel. And she asked who it was, and someone told her his name was Randy Watson. And since then she was like a Randy Watson stan. And so I was raised in a home where, you know, we listen to some of his early recordings on Dell Tone Records. You know, I know a little bit more about Randy Watson than most people.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:00] I’m Doctor Christina Greer. I’m an associate professor of political science at Fordham University. I’m also the host of The Blackest Questions at theGrio.

Michael Harriot [00:03:08] My name is Michael Harriot, and I’m a columnist at theGrio.

Aloysius [00:03:12] My name is Aloysius. One name they say I got Brazil, you know, my family, former bass player for sexual chocolate. What do I think of Randy Watson? Listen, Randy Watson, he cool. You know what I’m saying? He cool saying a little bit. You know what I’m saying? Got a little styling flair, too, but I’ll tell you the truth. Sure, the mother can sing, but that mother owes me $47. And until I get my money ain’t gonna be too much sweet talking around here, know what I am talking about. Sexual Chocolate mic drop that.

Panama Jackson [00:03:55] Where were you when you first heard his rendition of The Greatest Love of All?

Michael Harriot [00:04:00] First of all, if you look at his recordings in the early seventies, he did a demo of that, like the actual song, The Greatest Love of All. He sang the demo. One of the things that I always point out is I think that Randy Watson should get writing credits for that song, because in the demo it says, I believe the people are the future. And then Randy Watson said, What if we put Shearer in here and you can hear them telling him, explaining how to see children?

Randy Watson [00:04:37] I believe the children are our future. Thank you.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:40] I think the first time I heard it was probably on like New York Hot tracks, you know, Sting recording it. And then I’d watch it on Saturday mornings. And, you know, Whitney Houston is such an icon. And, you know, when you take someone’s artistry, you don’t want to recreate someone’s song if you can’t do it better than the original artist. And here we are. We’ve got Whitney Houston who just sings that whole song down. But then you’ve got Randy Watson, who takes it to a whole new level. I mean, in ways that Whitney couldn’t have even done.

Randy Watson [00:05:12] Teach them well and letting him lead the way.

Aloysius [00:05:15] We rehearsed the greatest love of all for, I don’t know, two, 3 minutes, tops, before Randy went out there and was like, Hey, we got to do this, you know what I’m saying? And I got to say, I have got to say, as much as I enjoy the Whitney Houston version of I Believe the Children Are Future Randy, what Randy did, I don’t think anybody else can do it. He just need to pay me my money. But nobody else can do what Randy Watson could do. You know what I’m saying? Randy Watson is a one of a kind.

Randy Watson [00:05:50] Show them all the beauty they possess inside.

Panama Jackson [00:05:55] Who are the greatest singers of all time in the top five greatest singers of all time.

Aloysius [00:06:00] You know, when I think of the great singers of all time, you know, I typically think of a you know, there’s there’s Marvin, there’s a this is young fellow out of Atlanta now Jacquees. He got himself in a little bit of trouble one time because he called himself the king of R&B. But you know what? He might be right. Keith Sweat, definitely one of the greatest singers of all time. Janet Jackson. Absolutely. You know, me and Janet had a little you know what? I won’t get into that. This ain’t about me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:31] I mean, he’s on the Mount Rushmore, you know, obviously, being from Queens, I’m a little partial. Right. So, you know, if I’m going to have Randy up there, I’m going to have Rick James up there because he’s also, you know, he’s from Buffalo, New York. So we got to represent the Empire State. And then, you know, I guess I could put Michael Jackson and Prince up there. But, you know, when you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways, it’s, you know, I would say of my four Randy Watson’s my number one.

Michael Harriot [00:07:03] Okay, top five, I’m going to have to say Aretha, Luther, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, because God Whitney could sing. And I want to kind of go off book, but there’s really no way that you can be a legitimate music critic or even have any kind of be taken seriously, really, in the world If you don’t put Randy Watson at number one, Randy Watson, the GOAT.

Panama Jackson [00:07:37] Can you talk to me a little bit about the band Sexual Chocolate?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:41] You know, you always think about who the greatest bands are. You know, you hear like, oh, it’s the Beatles or like, it’s The Temptations or there’s always that Mount Rushmore conversation. What’s the greatest band? What’s the greatest, like, hip hop group? You know, when I think of great bands that have come together, you know, and I love a lot of like the Hairspray bands from the eighties and, you know, you can even think about like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and, you know, other other bands that I think, you know, are really great and have contributed to music in a lot of fundamental and foundational ways. But they can’t hold a candle to Sexual Chocolate.

Randy Watson [00:08:20] I’d like to give a big round to my band. Sexual chocolate.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:26] You just can’t. I mean, when you look at them and how they ride a beat with Randy in lockstep while he’s talking to the audience, while he’s singing, while he’s, you know, communicating, even with the models offstage, you know, even with the pastor, he’s communicating while he’s singing. He’s in the moment. He’s at once present and future thinking. And the band can anticipate that they know sort of the energy of Randy Watson. You can’t find that in any other band. I defy you to try and find that any other band, past, present or future.

Michael Harriot [00:09:00] Sexual chocolate as a band, most people know it as, you know, one of the great bands of all time. You know, you have Prince and The Revolution. You have Sexual Chocolate. I think what separates Sex Chocolate is their connection to the people. Like would Prince be at a Black awareness rally in Jackson Heights? Nah. I mean, I love Prince, but, you know, I haven’t seen footage of him at one Black awareness rally. You know, George Clinton was, you know, strung out on drugs. And that’s one thing you can say about Randy Watson. You know, there was that. Everybody knows about that brief period in the late seventies when, you know, some people say that he had an addiction problem with Jheri Curl Juice.

Robin Harris [00:09:57] I should’ve known you were in here. I saw the drippings from the driveway.

Michael Harriot [00:09:58] But other than that, Sexual Chocolate is one of the great bands of all time. And unlike, you know, other bands with similar talent like Shalamar, they never broke up. Right. You never once heard about Sexual Chocolate not wanting to go on tour because they couldn’t stand to be around each other or needing separate tour busses. They are the definitive R&B Black Awareness rally in a suburb sponsored by a fast food bootleg franchise. They are the definitive band of that John.

Aloysius [00:10:43] Man, Sexual Chocolat four years ago. I want to say, was 1979 or so, something like that. You know, we we used to hang out Jackson Heights. You know, I’m saying he was out there hanging out. I’m gonna be honest with ya’ll, I really was the star of the group, you know. But Randy just wanted to have the little fame and stardom. So we let him have it. We let him cook. You know what I’m saying, we let him have it. But really, it was my ideas, my group, if you know what I’m saying. If you if you can feel me. And I also want to put this out there. I was the stylist for the group. I did most of that thing, you know, putting that thing together. You know what I’m saying? And you know, you know what I’m saying? It’s. I just want my money. $47. He owes me $47 for that last show that we did. He did not pay me my money. 47. It’s (bleep) you, Randy. I want my.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:36] Is he a style icon? I mean, literally, you can think about the tuxedo, the blouse, the hair, the shoes. Anything that this man puts on is it’s like he’s representing past, present and future simultaneously in one outfit.

Michael Harriot [00:11:55] People say that Randy Watson was the first one who wore a powder blue tuxedo. But, you know, if you know the back story, if you read his autobiography, I Chocolate am Sexual. If you read that autobiography, you see that that, you know, Sexual Chocolate was on tour and they had played, I think, like 20 or 30 dates. And those tuxedos had begun to stink. Stink. And they were originally Royal Blue and Randy Watson, because he was so privileged because of his sexuality, he always had a woman around to wash his clothes. He didn’t know that he was supposed to put bleach in colored clothes. He accidentally bleached royal blue tuxedo. And the rest is fashion history.

Panama Jackson [00:12:50] Is Randy Watson’s version of the Greatest Love of All the definitive version of the Greatest Love of All.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:57] Well, that’s the only one that I recognized. You know, I love Whitney Houston. You know, I had her album. But honestly, when I heard Randy’s rendition of Greatest Love of All, I mean, the staccato, you know, the poetry in it. It’s almost Shakespearean in his musicality.

Randy Watson [00:13:13] I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:19] And so you think about like, you know, the influences you hear, like Quincy Jones, you hear Miles Davis in it. You hear a little bit of Beethoven in it. You know, it’s one of those things where you just have to sit and let it wash over you, almost like the wave of an ocean in a way that I think Whitney tried. And she came close. But I think, you know, when you listen to Randy’s rendition of it, especially in the end when he gets passionate, I think that just kind of changed. I think you’re forever changed.

[00:13:48] If I fail, If I succeed. You can’t take away my dignity.

Michael Harriot [00:13:57] So Randy Watson’s version of I Believe That Children are the Future of what people call the Greatest Love of All.

Aloysius [00:14:05] You know, I do believe that the Randy Watson version of I Believe the Children are our Future, and I actually believe that is not the name of that song. The name of that song is actually something like the Greatest Love of All. You know, and I believe that his version is the definitive version because, well, I don’t really quite know what definitive means, but if you ask me if I’m going to listen to any version of that song, I’m going to listen to the Randy Watson version. Because let me tell you a little something. I believe that children are our future and when Randy sang it. And I was up there playing, you know, I was the bass playing, you know what I’m saying? When he was up there saying I believed in him and I was saying, you know what, The children are our future. Will we have a future if Randy Watson doesn’t sing this.

Randy Watson [00:14:51] Because I’m the greatest. Love of all. Inside of me. Sexual Chocolate.

Panama Jackson [00:15:20] Next week on Dear Culture’s Tru-ish Black Stories.

Kyla Pratt [00:15:24] I was spelling my butt off. I was enunciating each letter and each word, and I bite me. But it’s cool.

Damon Young [00:15:32] I feel like that is the greatest impact that Akeelah has had on me is introducing that concept of co-winning because I was like, Yo, what? What she. I thought, Wait, what? How that. How does that work? Where do you do that? A co-winner of a spelling bee.

Maiysha Kai [00:16:08] We started this podcast to talk about not just what Black writers write about, but how.

Ayana Gray [00:16:13] Well, personally it’s on my bucket list to have one of my books banned. I know that’s probably bad, but I think,.

Maiysha Kai [00:16:19] Oh, spicy.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault [00:16:20] They were yelling N-word go home and I was looking around for the N-word because I knew it couldn’t be me because I was the queen.

Keith Boykin [00:16:27] I am telling people to quit this mentality of identifying ourselves by our work, to start to live our lives and to redefine the whole concept of how we work and where we work and why we work in the first place.

Misty Copeland [00:16:43] My biggest strength throughout, throughout my career has been having incredible mentors and specifically Black women.

Omar Epps [00:16:49] I’ve been writing poetry since I was like eight. I’ve been reading Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and Maya Angelou and so forth and so on, since I was like a little kid.

Rhiannon Giddens [00:16:58] Like the banjo was Blackity Black, right? For many, many, many years everybody knew.

Sam Jay [00:17:05] Because sometimes I’m just doing some Sam that because I just want to do it.

J. Ivy [00:17:11] A honored to be here. Thank you for doing the work that you doing. Keep shinning bright and like you said, we going to keep Writing Black.

Maiysha Kai [00:17:18] As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.