Essence Music Festival Still Going Strong 17 Years Later

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    white feather hat, white feather pants with a silver bejeweled belt doing hand stands on tall speakers on stage. Doug E. Fresh (who has a dance named for him), and Clinton have devoted followers who know every word to every song performed.

    Trey Songz, no longer an opening act on the big stage, graduated to sophomore status Saturday night, following opener Detroit’s amazing singer/keyboardist Kem, who teamed up with vocalist Ledisi to perform “If It’s Love” from his new album “Intimacy.” New Orleans native and Oakland resident Ledisi said Essence put her on the map. “Everyone now knows me” she said.

    Crooner Charlie Wilson, a perennial favorite, mixes old school and contemporary music with such ease no wonder longevity is his to behold. The high energy, fedora hat-wearing legend with the dazzling coordinated glittery outfits has still got it; his show is not a performance but an experience.

    Whether dancing to the upbeat “You Dropped A Bomb On Me” his hit with the Gap Band, or his recent sing-along ballad “There Goes My Baby,” “Uncle” Charlie puts on an engaging must-see show that is headed to Chastain Park Friday, July 15.

    While Mary J. Blige did a great job as closer of the fest on Sunday, Frankie Beverly and Maze, who haven’t appeared here in the last few years, are missed.

    Other weekend highlights included performances by Usher, Kanye West, El DeBarge, Chaka Khan who is working on a new album due out this year, Jennifer Hudson and Jill Scott, who sang tunes from her new chart-topping  album “The Light of The Sun.”

    Kanye West took everyone by surprise by coming up on a riser in the center of the arena among the fans and walking through the crowd on his way to the stage, shaking hands like a politician. There were lots of visual effects with sparks and smoke

    Coca-Cola’s 125th anniversary celebration rolled out a huge designer cake in the shape of a Coke bottle to the oohs and ahhs  of the guests enjoying dinner and dancing.

    Actresses Ruby Dee and Angela Bassett were at McDonald’s 365 Awards luncheon on Friday with honoree Dee reciting poetry. TV One founder Cathy Hughes was also honored along with Mary J. Blige and others.

    Verizon Wireless sponsored a tribute Sunday to Gospel Greats BeBe and CeCe Winans with a tribute by Kierra Sheard singing tunes from her new CD “Free.” TV One was the official broadcast sponsor of the 2011 Essence Music Festival for the third year.

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