2003   APRIL 1   #091

Louis Farrakhan - Is She Is, Or Is She Ain't?

It"s hard to picture the leader of the Nation of Islam singing a calypso song about a sex change operation but the cheery singer is none other than Louis Farrakhan.

He was originally known as Gene Walcott, a kid who grew up with a passion for the violin and Caribbean music. He used his love of music to form a nightclub act where he was known as The Charmer, an alternative version of Harry Belafonte. His nightclub act was so hilarious that it led to a recording career. "Is She Is, Or Is She Ain"t', a song which Farrakhan wrote himself, was featured in a compilation of Caribbean music called Calypsos from the West Indies on Monogram Records. The song was also featured on another Monogram compilation called Calypsos Too Hot to Handle. Farrakhan also released a solo album on Monogram called The Charmer.

In 1955 while The Charmer was on tour he was invited to a rally to hear Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. The young Gene Walcott heard Muhammad talk about the lack of well educated African Americans leaders and told Walcott that "the black race had enough entertainers, but needed were more thinkers.' And asked Walcott to choose between entertainment or the Nation of Islam. Walcott then joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Louis Farrakhan.

It"s a shame that Farrakhan ended his calypso career so early. Who knew where he could have been today! But his musical shenanigans didn"t end when he joined the Nation of Islam, he released two more singles! One of them was "A White Man"s Heaven is a Black Man"s Hell' (released on the A Muslim Sings label) and the other is "Let Us Unite' with "Benefit of Unity (released on Monogram Records). And on his birthday celebration Farrakhan wowed the audience with a violin performance of Mendelssohn"s Violin Concerto with the New World Orchestra.

I was lucky to find this record at a thrift store in Waco, Texas. But for those out there, who can"t get enough musical Farrakhan pleasures, be on the look out for a CD reissue on the defunct Bostrox record label. Or you can listen to all of Farrakhan"s music at the Sing-a-Long with Farrakhan website (http://www.fadetoblack.com/farrakhan/index.html) where you can play the songs, watch the "Is She Is, Or Is She Ain"t' music video, and find out what your African name is with the Farrakhan African Name Generator. My name is Muhamid! As Salaam Alaikum everybody!

- Zeb Navarro (znavarro@cox.net), Host, "Oldies and Oddities', KKSM, San Diego, CA

TT-2:28 / 3.4MB / 192kbps 44.1khz
from "Calypsos From the West Indies" (Monogram Records, 834)