As much as I’d like to, I can’t be aware of every single happening in pop culture. There’s just not enough time in the world. That’s why I’m glad that I have a virtual network of kindred souls-eyes and ears that can turn me on to things that I wasn’t previously aware of.
A while back, my friend, Jeff Giles, sent me an email featuring a trailer to a film called A TASTE OF HEAVEN: The Heartbreak Life of Raymond Myles, Gospel Genius of New Orleans. I took a look, and was not only floored by the talent of Raymond Myles, but felt some identification to his story.
If you watch even five seconds of Raymond in performance, you will be quite aware of the talent this man possessed. You will probably also, very quickly, realize that any sort of commercial success-whether in an overarching pop realm or the gospel music realm- would have probably been out of the question. As a big, colorful, openly gay black man performing spiritual music in an even less enlightened age than today, there is just no way. It would be the hardest of sells in 2013. One can only imagine the amount of “are you crazy?”s that dotted the music industry landscape when presented with Myles in the mid-Nineties.
None of that should-or should have-distracted anyone from his talent and his message. Whether the message was of a man from the projects of New Orleans finding salvation in music and teaching a younger generation that there was a way out, or the message was of a man who could lift spirits with a few notes played on the piano and the clearing of his throat, this man should have been a big freaking deal. The fact that Raymond put himself in danger by flaunting his material wealth in the projects and put himself in even greater danger by cruising for sex adds layers to an already complex story. The struggle between the sacred and profane is nothing new in music, but the story behind A Taste of Heaven would lay all these struggles bare and deal with them in a manner that most music documentaries avoid.
You can view the teaser here.
The documentary is currently in production, and is being spearheaded by Leo Sacks, whose name you might be familiar with from his background with many a music publication (and a compiler of excellent reissues for Sony Legacy.) Leo has financed it himself so far, and is actively searching for the finishing funds to film interviews with Raymond’s most ardent admirers, including Allen Toussaint, Harry Connick, Jr., Dr. John and the Neville Brothers. Big fans like Harry Shearer and David Fricke will also connect Raymond to Little Richard, Elton John, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.
As many of you know, Jazz Fest is coming up in New Orleans (one day, I’ll get down there. I swear it!) The film teaser (which you can view here) will be shown on May 1st at the New Orleans Museum of Art as part of “Synch Up” entertainment business conference. If you’re down in N.O., not only will I be extremely jealous of you, but you’ll also be able to meet up with Leo Sacks himself (as well as Raymond’s protege, Davell Crawford) to present the teaser.
While the details of our stories are significantly different from one another, I can attest in firsthand fashion to the fact that being gay and black in a world that doesn’t fully accept either is a trial within itself. When you add in Raymond’s vocal talent and his religious bent, you’ve got a hell of a story. A Taste of Heaven would allow for that story to be told, and might result in a lot of eyes being opened. Please feel free to
Check out this review (from Popmatters) of the A Taste of Heaven album. Also make sure you check out raymondmylesmovie.com, where you can get some background info on Raymond, and get in touch with Leo to ask any questions you might have about how you can assist!