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Richard A Dedeaux

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Member Since: Nov, 2007

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  Richard A Dedeaux

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My name is Richard A. Dedeaux. Original member of the Watts Prophets Poetry group. My family has lived on the Mississippi gulf coast for generations and is one of the oldest and most respected families in the state. In 1953 at age 14, after my mothers death I moved from New Orleans to California with my father and two brothers. I married at 19 and raised my family in Los Angeles.


Background Information

 


The Watts Prophets

The Watts Prophets: Father Amde Hamilton, Otis O'Solomon and Richard Anthony Dedeaux formed out of the Watts Writers Workshop. Which became a cultural laboratory for Black ideology created as a positive gesture in reaction to the 1965 Watts riots. The group's combination of performance poetry with percussive rhythms and improvisational jazz is credited as a forerunner of hip-hop music and has been sampled by rap artists such as Digable Planets, Coolio and Ice Cube.

They were all part of the Watts Writers Workshop. Then a guy by the name of Cassius Weatherby recommended we do our thing together. We entered the Inner City Culture Talent Show and won second place. That led to a 16-week gig at the legendary Maverick's Flat where people like Richard Pryor, Earth Wind & Fire and George Clinton performed. People loved us."

In the '70s, they recorded two legendary albums - Rappin' Black In A White World and In The Streets of Watts - which are nearly impossible to find. They made high-profile guest appearances on Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key of Life and Quincy Jones' Mellow Madness. But given all of their word-of-mouth acclaim, The Watts Prophets received little recognition in comparison to their East Coast counterparts, The Last Poets.

Things that we said on Rappin' Black frightened a lot of people. We were regarded as militants." Song titles like "There's a Difference Between a Black Man and a Nigger" and "I'll Stop Calling You Nigger When You Start Acting Like a Black Man" even put off members of the African-American community. In the early '70s, when President Kennedy was lauded as a saint, the Prophets mocked one of his most famous speeches on Rappin' Black by announcing: "Ask not what you can do for your country, 'cause what the fuck has it done for you?"

As one club owner put it  "You guys are going to make a lot of money. But not in this club." Such was the mixture of praise and rejection that would come to characterize the group's career. Excitement from record companies and near-recording contracts spiraled into missed opportunities, most notably a deal with Bob Marley's Tuff Gong label; Marley died before the scheduled recording.

The Watts Prophets believe the government was behind their demise - and they have proof. Darthard Perry, the resident videographer for the Watts Writers Workshop, admitted his work as an FBI informant in a Mother Jones article.

But even though the group was harassed, the members refused to let their message die. They continued to perform on special occasions during Black History Month and for the annual Watts festival, a remembrance day for the 1965 uprising.

The Prophets' misfortune changed in the early '90s when a European tour with Don Cherry reunited them with pianist DeeDee McNeil, a former Motown songwriter and one-time Watts Prophets member. (You can hear the fruits of their extended collaboration with Don Cherry on the 1994 Red Hot + Cool album, Stolen Moments.)

The subject of an Emmy-nominated documentary, Victory Will Be My Moan, The Watts Prophets are finally getting a chance to exhibit their lyrical skills en masse. Payday/ffrr just released When The 90's Came, a provocative mixture of poems written by The Watts Prophets in the '60s as well as more contemporary raps laid over dance and jazz rhythms. Many of the lyrics put the fight for civil rights in a historical context. The title track wails: "When the '90s Came... Malcolm had been reduced to a commercial X/ the Panthers to a movie/ The world psyched into an ethnic fight/ while gun runners grow in economic might."

With DJ Quik and US3 guest-producing a few cuts, The Watts Prophets will no doubt claim their rightful position as originators of West Coast spoken-word performance.

"Back then, it was hard for the public to accept us because we were young and dropping some hard powerful words about reality," says O'Solomon. "Now, we are grey, in our 50s and people believe our wisdom is due to our age. Our urge has always been to write and tell it like you see it no matter what."

- Major Jackson:

Birth Place
New Orleans, LA 
Accomplishments

The Watts Prophets have recieved dozens of awards over the last four decades for their work with at risk youth all over the country. Awards include: The City of Los Angeles, State of California certificate of appreciation. Inaugural Leimert Park Book Fair. For extraordinary contributions to the literary legacy of Los Angeles. June 30, 2007. Bernard C. Parks Councilmember 8th District Jan Perry Councilwoman 9th District and Herb J. Wesson Jr. Councilmember 10th District.
Certificates and awards from California State Assembly, County of Los Angeles, U.S. House of Repersentatives, Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, Nate Holden & James Kahn and many others.

Additional Information

Watts Prophets In-depth Biography: The West Coast's answer to the Last Poets, Watts Prophets didn't get quite the same recognition for their contributions to raising black consciousness and laying the foundations for rap. The group was formed at the Watts Writer's Workshop, an organization started by screenwriter Budd Schulberg designed to provide a creative outlet in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots. Father Amde Hamilton (an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, born Anthony Hamilton), Otis O'Solomon, and Richard Dedeaux met in the workshop circa 1967, and soon began performing together as Watts Prophets, setting their socially and politically conscious poetry to spare, often jazzy musical backing. They won second place in an inner-city talent show, which led to a residency at John Daniels' Maverick's Flat club in South Central L.A.; they also performed at fundraisers, in prisons, and around their community whenever possible. In 1969, Watts Prophets debuted with The Black Voices: On the Streets in Watts. Two years later, the group released Rappin' Black in a White World on ALA, with accompaniment by ex-Motown pianist DeeDee McNeil. The radical, incendiary tone of their work fit right in with the emerging black power movement, and attracted unfavorable notice from the government; the home of the Watts Writers Project was destroyed by fire in 1975 after having been infiltrated by an FBI informant. Record deals were hard to come by, and were continually falling through (including one with Bob Marley's home, Tuff Gong, that evaporated with Marley's premature death). Still, they remained sporadically active as performers, and were rediscovered by the hip-hop generation as their records were sampled frequently; additionally, O'Solomon's "Hey World" was covered by Ziggy Marley. In 1997, Watts Prophets released an album of new material with pianist Horace Tapscott, When the 90's Came, on Payday/ffrr, which also reissued their two original LPs. The Prophets remain dedicated community activists today, promoting creative self-expression and the arts to young people around Southern California and beyond. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide for more information check out the Watts Prophets on the Web.

Contact Information
The Watts Prophet's Poetry Group
614 N. 4th Street Apt. # B18
Shelton WA 98584   USA
Contact Author: Richard A Dedeaux
Favorite Links

Richard Dedeaux
This is myspace page with some interesting photos and information on me and the Watts Prophets

Watts History
The power of words to hurt or heal.

The Watts Prophets
Watts Prophets Projects

Everybody Watches but They' Eyes Don't See
My choice is Coffee I don't like Tea. It's time to take a stand and pick a side. I did.






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