Clarence Carter returns

2012-07-26 12:58

The jazz legend is coming back to SA. Could he be looking for The Girl from Soweto? Peter Feldman quizzes him

Clarence Carter remembers that on a visit to South Africa in the 80s, he was carried on the shoulders of fans through the then Jan Smuts International airport arrivals hall.

“I never forgot that. It was just marvellous. I’ve never had that happen to me,” he says.

While he doesn’t expect this over-the-top grand return, he looks forward to making more memories.

The legendary musician of the sexually charged Strokin’, I Got Caught (Making Love To Another Man’s Wife) and Take It All Off fame comes back as part of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival, taking place in Joburg’s Newtown from August 23 to 25.

Carter will be one of the star attractions at the event, which includes Grammy Award-winner Kurt Elling, who has been hailed as the male jazz vocalist of his generation; trombone master Wycliffe Gordon; Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh; as well as an appearance by the world-famous Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Carter is one of music’s longest-serving performers, having released his first album, This is Clarence Carter, in 1968.

But the spirit and the energy remain and, at the age of 75, he spends six months a year on the road, performing.

“It’s been quite a while since I came out to South Africa,” he told me, his clear, well-modulated tones coming through the telephone wires, “but I do remember I had a fine time while there.”

His connection to this country runs deeper than just the display of affection his fans showed at the airport. He has even recorded an album titled Live in Johannesburg.

The seven-track album includes the hit The Girl From Soweto.

His message to fans is: “It may be a cliché but be ready to clap your hands and stomp your feet.”

Talking about the concert, he said he’ll be hot on the guitar with his tried-and-tested backing band, and they will be performing a selection of popular tracks from his 40-odd-year career.

“There is a song called Don’t Bother Me. But I am going to reach back and get some of the old ones, but then you know I’ve got quite a lot of new ones, now, that I’m going to play for you.”

His latest album, Sing Along With Clarence Carter, which reflects the kind of music for which Carter is known, came out last year.

He says: “It’s a rather nice album and it kind of sounds like I always sound.
I’ve got one strong number on it that I particularly like called I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were You.”

After five decades in music, Carter still has passion, he says, and is driven to continue.

“I have a song called I Ain’t Ready to Retire and in the song I say ‘If I retire what am I going to do?’ Like, if I retire I won’t be talking to you.

I’ll keep going as long as people still enjoy my music and as long as my health is good. And my health is real good as long as I can get out on stage and have a good time!”

When relaxing away from music and touring, Carter is a big sports fan and has been a Los Angeles Dodgers fan since 1947.

Asked what advice he would give someone wanting to make music a career, Carter said it is difficult now because the music industry has changed so much.

“In America we don’t sell nearly as many CDs as we used to. We’re getting a lot more people into the business now so as a result it gets quite crowded.

“But I believe where there is a will there is a way. Even when I was coming along there were a lot of people I went to to get advice and they told me I would have to find my own thing.

“But if you don’t know what your own thing is you have to search until you find it.”

» Carter performs at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz music festival on August 24 and 25

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