This past week legendary NPR Program Director/Host & full-on music champion Rita Houston passed away. Back in the early ’90s we worked together at HMV in NYC where she was the store DJ. She was the coolest & I had a lot of fun nerding out with her over bands & exchanging mix tapes ( “you’ve gotta hear this !”). I was obsessed with singer John Martyn at the time & was so desperate for someone to get him like I did that I gave her my special mix cassette that I used to play before I went to sleep every night. But my main memory of her has nothing to do with the nerd stuff.
Another Bad Creation were an R & B boy band discovered by Michael Bivins of New Edition. And they were literally boys, with average age of about 10. They had a couple of hits with truly infectious bubblegum new jack swing songs “Iesha” & “Playgound” which you should absolutely check out on YouTube. We did a little in-store one day & Rita had to actually interview them, these 5 little kids in the DJ booth. There were a gaggle of similarly aged girls screaming as Rita was asking them questions. And she was unbelievably cool with these kids, didn’t talk down to them, asked them funny questions & it was literally the sweetest thing ever. At one point they spontaneously started singing “Iesha” over Rita’s DJ booth mike which prompted a singalong with the girl fans joining in ( “Iesha so glad to meetcha”, I can still hear it now ). But the best part came last. After they emerged from the booth, Rita came out smiling & almost emotional. Because she’d been so cool to them, these little kids, they all literally raced to hug her when it was done & it had totally taken her by surprise. “They all hugged me !” she said. They’d been so enamored with her warmth & kindness that it literally turned them from posing boy idols into little kids wanting hugs from DJ Rita who’d been so nice to them. I know it seems like such a tiny thing in light of all she accomplished but it was the first thing that popped in my head upon hearing of Rita’s passing & I’m telling you it was as sweet as it sounds.She was just the coolest.
And now I welcome you to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have crossed our path this week. They are gorgeous & wonderful to the last. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify. Hope you find a song to fall in love with. Rock on.
Listen on Soundcloud
Listen on Spotify