Posts Tagged ‘Daddy Am I Pretty?’

*A special thanks goes to Errol Anthony Wilkes for his contritution to the book “Daddy, Am I Pretty?”  The following is taken from the publication that went on sale Father’s Day of 2010.

Dear Priscia Liliane,

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of your Mom’s passing. Dec 11, 1999 started out the typical for us during the theatre season. I was supposed to have two shows and you had your dance recital to do that afternoon. Little did we know that our life as we know it would change, forever.

That day when I saw the remnants of the car that was once driven by the woman I pledged to love and protect, I prayed to wake up from the obvious nightmare. Alas, it was not a dream. Was it some cruel joke that God was playing? Why dear God did this happen a couple weeks before Christmas? And, on the day I was to buy the Christmas tree! Well, the deed was done. I remember Tony Baker and Mr. Astley telling me that the last thing I should ask myself was “why me”. Of course, that did not stop me from making that query. I was understandably pissed at God. We had just bought that house less than 6 months and we had just begun to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Now instead of planning for Christmas, I was planning a funeral. Ironically, I have gained more faith because you must use your trials and tribulations as opportunities to achieve successes.

The worst day was when all our guests finally left and we walked into that empty house. I looked at you, barely 12 years old and life had to suck for you at that time knowing that Mom was gone and never to return.  I made a pact with myself that day. I decided to live life to the fullest and to make sure that you grew up to be a great citizen.

I know some of the things I forced on you were not your cup of tea but I felt that in order for you to succeed, I had to remain vigilant. That’s why I insisted that you read Manchild In The Promised Land, Huck Finn and all those other great works of literature. That’s why I insisted that you listen to Coltrane, Bach and Vivaldi. That’s why I took you to all those Plays and Museums! That’s why I didn’t let “headaches” keep you from attending school. That’s why I taught you how to cook our native dishes and sang those folk songs you now have your friends call for me to sing to them over the telephone.

I felt that right or wrong as a Black person and a West Indian in this my adopted land, it is highly imperative that one has to be much better than others competing for the same job. I tried to instill in you that great study habits and hard work pays off.

It took me a year after Marie’s passing before I started to try to date. I kept my relationships away from you because as predicted most of them did not last long. Your aunt Maxine stated that I was too busy looking for another Marie. Well, there may be truth to that because your mother was a very beautiful and special lady. She was very passionate about her opinions and that lead to some of our most heated discussions that usually left me sleeping on that lumpy and unappetizing couch!

Sometimes I am haunted by the memories of that very last argument we had because she died before we made up. The lesson here is that we should always mend our fences and disagreements prior to going to sleep.

I remember that Sunday in August 2005 after you were installed at Dillard University, I cried on the way back to Houston. I was darn near Baton Rouge before I stopped crying. That was only because I could not see out of my extremely swollen eye lids.

Then came Katrina and you moved even further away to FAMU. The good thing is that you occasionally get to see your Mom’s family in Valdosta. Yes Prisca, that is a good thing. Family is family and I want you to learn their culture as well. It is what you are.

I want you to continue working hard. I know I preach a lot about grades and you get a bit testy whenever I do, but you know what? Tough. That is who your Dad is and I don’t suppose I am about to change now. I did not get where I am today by half stepping and as long as I am alive, I will not allow you to be mediocre at anything in this life. This is why you get frustrated when you call me for advice and I don’t tell you what you want to hear. My love for you just will not allow me to lie to you.

I know I normally write my letters to you with my trusted fountain pen but I am trying to evolve into the 21st century. Since it took me so long to write this one, look for my subsequent letters in your mail box.

You have grown into a strikingly beautiful young lady and as I have said to you many times before. The right guy will come along. After all, Mom and I found each other. Do not make any compromises with your life that will come back to haunt you. Everything and every choice you make in life has consequences. You have to learn that patience in the case of love is a good thing. There are some good guys out there and one day one will be yours. Right now your job is to finish your college studies and be a well-rounded individual. Real men dig smart women, trust me on that one.

I close now with this last bit of advice. It is my high school motto LABOR OMNIA VINCIT. It’s Latin and means “work overcome all difficulties”.

With All My Love,

Dad

A copy of the book “Daddy, Am I Pretty?” can be obtained at www.FootprintsBooks.com .

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4 tops

…Never dreamed that he would be gone from me
If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
‘Cause I’d love, love, love
To dance with my father again… (Luther Vandross)

Born in Detroit in 1936, Levi Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton, forming a singing group called The Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, after having signed with Chess Records, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The name change was meant to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers. The Four Tops began as a supper-club act before signing to Motown Records in 1963. By the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits. The most popular of their hits (all of which featured Stubbs on lead vocals) include “Baby I Need Your Loving”, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”, “It’s the Same Old Song”, “Reach Out I’ll Be There”, “Standing in the Shadows of Love”, “Still Water (Love)” and “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)”.

Levi Stubbs and his wife Clineice were married from 1960 until his death, and had five children. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, and later, after a stroke, he was no longer able to tour with the group. Stubbs departed his earthly body in his sleep on October 17, 2008 at his home in Detroit.

Over 20 years ago I attended Detroit St. Martin DePorres high school with one of Stubb’s five children. That classmate’s name is Kelly Stubbs.

Kelly is the youngest of the Stubb’s children who now has a family of her own.  It was not until recently that Kelly was able to discuss and share with others what the loss of her father means to her.

FF:  What is your favorite childhood memory of the man the world knows as Levi?

Kelly: I have so many great memories but I guess the one that I often think about was the family ski trip. He never made it off the bunny hill!

FF:  What was life like being the daughter of a genre icon?

Kelly:  I don’t know anything different.  I feel I had a normal childhood. Much like sports; the entertainers of the 60’s and 70’s weren’t millionaires – so we had a rather normal middle-calss existence. I assume ours was similar to other households: we got spanked for playing with the light switches (LOL)… we had chores and punishments!

FF:  Levi Stubbs is not just a household name to Detroiters, but to the world.  Is there something you’d like the FathersFootprints’ audience to know about your father that only his intimate family member know?

Kelly:  My daddy had the biggest heart ever! No matter how many miles away, states or countries apart, he called every day.  He often called us several times a day, just to say good morning, good night and to see what we did for the day. I guess the most touching part is even as we became adults and began to rear families of our own, he continued to call.

FF:  You are now a proud parent of 4 children.  What parenting traits have you inherited from you father?

Kelly: He said “In parenting, you don’t get a dress rehearsal, so he would do the best he knew how.”  I must say, he won an Academy Award! J  I, like my dad, try to be the best parent I can, each and every day.

FF:  The passing of a loved one is never easy.  What advice do you have for those who still having living parents?

Kelly:  Love them and enjoy them daily, you only get one mother and one father.  I would give anything just to dance with my father again.

FF:  Thank you for sharing, Kelly.  I’m sure our readers are looking forward to the details of the Stubbs legacy in the book, Daddy Am I Pretty?kelly grammy

While working as an urban revitalization specialist for the city of Detroit, I had the distinct honor helping to facilitate the naming of several streets in a newly revitalized community.  Four Tops Drive now don the street sign at Woodbridge Estates, formerly the Jeffries Homes projects.

The legacy of Levi Stubbs will live on forever, as long as music is a part of our core existence.  We look forward to Kelly’s detailed account of her relationship with her legendary father, Levi Stubbs, in our future publication, Daddy Am I Pretty?

Until next time,  damon-signature1