Traveling with singers Gloria Loring, Rene Marie and Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr.
Enjoy travel melodies with three extraordinary musicians as we hear about their personal and cultural journeys. Also learn what Rio de Janeiro is doing to prepare for the Summer Olympics.
First, singer/actress/author Gloria Loring joins World Footprints to talk about her music collaboration with son, R&B artist Robin Thicke, travel and her book, “Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous”. Gloria also dishes on her life past life as Liz Chandler on daytime’s Days of our Lives.
Jazz artist Rene Marie credits many women, including Eartha Kitt, for her life’s direction and musical influences. After her abusive husband of 23 years gave her an ultimatum to quit singing or leave–she chose to leave and begin her professional music career at the age of 42. Rene reflects on her own life journey and how travel; in particular a trip to Germany, helped her acknowledge humanity’s common bonds.
According to Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., a person who doesn’t feel the rhythm of Zydeco has no soul. We revisit an interview we did with Dopsie, Jr., aka the “Mick Jagger of the Marsh”, during one of our many broadcasts from New Orleans’ French Quarter Festival.
You’ll also hear what Rio de Janeiro is doing to prepare for the Olympics and what the area has to offer to travelers at all other times.
Rio 2016 Olympics & Paralympics
Ian: Singer-actress Gloria Loring says that having R&B songbird Robin Thicke, as a son and musical collaborator, is not a coincidence, but just God’s way of remaining anonymous.
Gloria Loring: “As I was telling the story of how I raised a million dollars, and the benefactor coming into my life, the person I was speaking to said, ‘Oh, well, but you know, coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.'”
Ian: Jazz artist Rene Marie credits many women, including Eartha Kitt, for her life direction and musical influences.
Rene Marie: “It’s always been a desire of mine to sing songs of the women from whom … I guess you’d say, inspired me the most, musically.”
Ian: The King of Zydeco, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., says that you aren’t human if you don’t feel the rhythm of Zydeco.
Rockin Dopsie: “You’re not dancing to Zydeco music, then you got a hole in your soul.”
Ian: Enjoy the melodies of travel with three extraordinary musicians, as we hear about their personal and cultural journeys. And hear what Rio de Janeiro has to offer on our Destination Spotlight, on World Footprints Radio, with Ian …
Tonya: … and Tonya Fitzpatrick.
Tonya: Later in the hour, we’ll revisit our conversation with the King of Zydeco, also known as the Mick Jagger of the Marsh, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. We spoke to him during one of our many trips to New Orleans, during French Quarter Festival.
Tonya: Also coming up on World Footprints, we will speak to jazz artist Rene Marie, about overcoming challenges to find her true voice in music, and about her decision to create a tribute album to Eartha Kitt, an artist who had tremendous influence over her style.
Tonya: We will also hear what Rio de Janeiro is doing to prepare for the Olympics, and learn about Rio’s gastronomy, cultural, and natural gems.
Tonya: But first, Days of Our Lives watchers will know our next guest … singer, actress and author Gloria Loring. Gloria played Liz Chandler for seven years on the popular daytime drama. And she can be heard on the theme songs to the NBC sitcoms, The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes. Gloria recently wrote a spiritual autobiography called, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous, which we featured on a World Footprints Book Club show. She has starred in various theatrical productions, and she continues to advocate on behalf of juvenile diabetes awareness. If that isn’t enough, Gloria has an active blog, and recently released a new CD titled, A Playlist, that includes a duet with her R&B baby, as she calls him, singer Robin Thicke.
Tonya: Gloria, welcome back to World Footprints.
Gloria Loring: Well, thank you so much. I’m happy to be here.
Tonya: Well, you know, it’s been a while since we last chatted. I’m looking forward to catching up with you, in your travels. But for those who did not hear our Book Club interview, tell us a little bit about your book, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.
Gloria Loring: Well, I call it a memoir with a message. I had a series of extraordinary coincidences that happened to me, that were just the perfect thing for me at the right time. And along the way, I was recounting one of those stories, about how a benefactor stepped in to help me raise a million dollars for diabetes research, after I made a promise to my son that I would do something to try to end his diabetes. And as I was telling this story of how I raised a million dollars, and the benefactor coming into my life, the person I was speaking to said, “Oh, well, but you know, coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” And in that moment, I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait. Say that again? What? Coincidence is what? God’s way of remaining anonymous? I got to write that down.”
Gloria Loring: So, I wrote it down, and I started to think about it. And you know, these ideas that we repeat to ourselves … and sometimes, they’re not very fortunate ideas. But they become like mantras, words that infiltrate our heart and our understanding. And for me, it was this saying about coincidence and God. And I started to notice, as I thought about this idea and repeated it to other people, because I thought it was very cool sounding … that I was experiencing over a period of years, these coincidences. These things, these…meaningful events that were appearing in my life.
Gloria Loring: I started to wonder, “How could I tell people my stories, and make them meaningful for them in a way that would not just say, “Oh, look how lucky I am.” But, “Here’s how lucky I am, and you’re just as lucky. These things are happening to you, but you may not notice them. You may not have an understanding within which to hold them.” So, I started a long journey of reading every book I could find about coincidence and synchronicity. And also, I found out that the quote about coincidence and God was said by Albert Einstein.
Tonya: I know that you’re still acting and singing, but are you finding a new voice as an inspirational speaker? Because, I think you’ve been very inspiring, in just this short time that we’ve had on the show right now.
Gloria Loring: I do that, occasionally. I’m still singing. I did a couple of movies this year. I did a play that was great fun. Talk about inspiring, Nora Ephron. Nora and Delia Ephron have been bringing us a comedic look at ourselves in life for so many years. And Nora passed, I guess it was two years ago, now. And I got to star in her play, Love, Loss and What I Wore. And it was so much fun to do comedy. I want to do more comedy. And then, I just did a Christmas movie that was on at Christmas time, called Back to Christmas. It was kind of a little Christmas fantasy, and that was fun.
Gloria Loring: And then, I just finished filming a short film, about a 12, 13 minute film, called Heavenly, that two young filmmakers are making. They actually … I was so honored. They wrote the role with me in mind, and I was really honored by that. I’m not sure, on the surface, it might not look like that was a compliment. Because it’s about a woman who’s drug-addicted and alcoholic, none of which I am.
Gloria Loring: What John, one of the writers, said was, that he had always sensed in me a combination of vulnerability and strength. And that’s what he wanted this character to exude, even in the midst of her difficulties. So, that was a lot of fun. We did that in December. So, I’m doing lots of things, and I continue to do some writing, and live my life. You know, I live in the mountains where it’s so beautiful.
Tonya: On your latest CD, you guys actually did a duet of one of my favorite songs. And it’s so loved by my husband and I, it appeared on our wedding CD. We created a wedding CD. It’s called The Prayer. I was thinking about that, and that piece actually seems to have a complicated arrangement. So, I’m curious about any creative differences you two might have had, and if you pulled rank as Mom.
Gloria Loring: No. Absolutely not. I recorded the track. Robin has both a deeper voice, and he also sings in that higher falsetto, tenor-y, kind of … you know, light voice. So, I knew that he and I could sing it in the same key. And I checked with him, and I went ahead and produced the track. Then I put on a scratch vocal, and then he put on his vocal. He sang his part, where he was singing the melody. Then I went in later, and matched his vocal with my harmony. That was fun, and our voices, of course … coming from the same lineage-
Gloria Loring: … just blend beautifully. And then, one of the nice things was Carole Bayer Sager, who’s one of the composers, along with David Foster … evidently heard our version somewhere, and sent me a lovely note saying that she felt it was the prettiest version she’d ever heard. I was so honored by that. Because being a songwriter, when someone says something like that, I really take it to heart. So, that was very nice.
Tonya: Yeah, indeed.
Gloria Loring: Yeah. And you know, my CDs … anybody’s interested, are available on iTunes for download. And they’re also available on my website, GloriaLoring.com. And my book is available on, I think, Barnes and Noble and Amazon, online. And I’ll be interested … I mean, if somebody reads it and wants to send me an email, I’m pretty easy to find. I’m Gloria@GloriaLoring.com. And I’d love to hear from people who’ve read it and found value in it.
Tonya: Absolutely. And of course, we have a link to your website, and your book on Amazon, on your guest page on our website … page will pop up.
Ian: This is World Footprints Radio. I’m Ian Fitzpatrick, with my wife Tonya. And we’re talking to singer-actress Gloria Loring about her book, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous. We are also learning about her musical collaboration with her famous R&B son, Robin Thicke.
Tonya: So, I wanted to just talk real, real quickly about your travels. We’re a travel show, so we knew we were going to go see where you have been, and live vicariously through some of your travels.
Gloria Loring: Oh, my gosh.
Tonya: Where have you been recently?
Gloria Loring: Recently, I haven’t been doing as much traveling. Oh, no. But let me just say … Okay. The places that I have been, that were eye-opening, that I just loved … Places that I would love to live, certainly would be in Paris. Oh, I want to go [crosstalk 00:10:26]. I want to live in Paris for a while, even for a couple of months.
Gloria Loring: Vancouver is absolutely beautiful. I would go and move to Vancouver if it worked with my life. Some travels I want to take … I come from Irish, Scottish and English heritage, and I would very much like to take a trip up into Ireland and Scotland. Maybe that would need two trips, really. I have been to Norway and Denmark and loved being there, just enjoyed that so much. And another place, just a couple of years ago, we went on a Baltic cruise through the Baltic states, winding up in St. Petersburg. That was amazing.
Gloria Loring: The place that really touched our hearts was Estonia. Estonia’s a small … Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia … those countries bordering on Russia that Russia took over for so long. And just so many atrocities, people just disappearing, and sent to Siberia, and their homes taken over, et cetera. So, Estonia, there’s an extraordinary documentary called The Singing Revolution. They used to have this singing festival. And they’d have as many as 20 thousand people, or thousands of people … I don’t want to get it wrong, doing the choir singing. And then they’d have like 100 thousand people would show up, and they’d all sing together.
Gloria Loring: Well, when the Russians took them over, they forbade them to sing any of their traditional folk songs, or their traditional Estonian anthem. They put up with it for a long time, because it was pretty brutal, and they were scared. Then one time, at one of the festivals, some people in the choir started singing their national anthem, the Estonian National Anthem. And the Russians had never heard it, and they didn’t understand the language. And by the time they finished, everyone in the place was singing together. except of course, the Russians.
Gloria Loring: And it was the beginning of a really, fairly bloodless, transfer of power. It was sort of part of a time that Latvia, Lithuania … the Cold War was breaking up, et cetera. But the courage of those people just touched our hearts. And we were at the grounds where they’d hold the singing festival. The woman who took us on the tour had been in the choir as a young child, 20-some years before. So, that was a place that I really feel an enormous heart kinship with. I just think the world is such an amazing place. And I love hearing about how people live, and grow and prosper. And the foods they eat, and the songs they sing, and the dances they do. So I look forward to a lot more travel as the years go on.
Tonya: You know, we try to foster the concept of global citizenship here. But it means different things to different people. And listening to you talk, just about the experience, and what you see, and what you feel in some of the places that you’ve been … I’m curious. What does the concept of global citizenship mean to you?
Gloria Loring: Well, when you’re the citizen of a community, if you’re engaging in right-thinking and right-living, et cetera … you try to contribute positively. You respect your neighbors. You work together with people. You’re friendly, you’re welcoming, you have good manners. And I think that’s what a global citizen is. That no matter where you go, you approach people with respect and kindness. And I mean, it really comes down to the Golden Rule. And all the major traditions around the world have that basic tenet of treat others as you would like to be treated, in one form or another. They have different words for them. So when we travel, to be kind and gentle, and use our best manners. The French are very fussy about manners. It has to be [French language 00:14:37]. You don’t snap your fingers, and say, “[French language 00:14:41]”.
Tonya: Oh, geez. Yes.
Gloria Loring: I think, before you go into a community or a country, to familiarize yourself with the way they do things. I remember when I traveled around the world with Bob Hope on the USO Tour, and we went to Vietnam. But we stopped for a fueling stop in the middle of the night, in Saudi Arabia. And we were told to be sure not to cross our legs, so that the bottom of our feet were pointing up. Because the bottom of your feet is considered very lowly, and it’s an insult to point the bottom of your feet at somebody. That was good to know, you know. Because you want to present yourself in a way that is an opportunity to connect with others. So, if somebody has a little issue about something, like, “Okay, whatever. Big deal.”
Tonya: Right, right. Right.
Gloria Loring: I mean, in China, it’s acceptable to burp and make all kinds of noises. And here, we would consider that incredibly rude. So everybody’s got their own way. It just shows that there are lots of ways to live a life.
Tonya: I really do hope to see you here in D.C. in the near future.
Gloria Loring: I would love that. Well, if I get to D.C., I will be sure to send you an email, and we’ll try to connect.
Tonya: Please do. Please do. All right, my dear. Take care of yourself. And thank you so much again, for joining us on World Footprints.
Gloria Loring: Absolutely. My pleasure.
Tonya: To follow Gloria Loring’s career, visit GloriaLoring.com. And visit this show page on WorldFootprints.com, for a direct link to purchase her book, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.
Ian: In this Destination Spotlight, Michael Nagy, from the Rio de Janeiro Convention Bureau, sits down with us at the New York Times Travel Show, to share the city’s preparations for the Olympic games.
Michael Nagy: Rio’s being redesigned, if you like. We’ve been under construction for the last four years. The City’s redesigned itself. We’re very excited about the Olympics coming up now in August. And with all the change … We had the World Cup two years ago, now we’ve got the Olympics. Rio’s really become four destinations in one. Rio today as a destination, you can spend 15 days, and you won’t do the same thing again. We’ve got over a hundred new tourism products, and tourists have developed into the City. We’ve doubled the number of rooms in the City. We’ve got all the big American brands.
Michael Nagy: I don’t know if this is a good one, but Donald Trump’s there. The Trump Hotel’s … your next president, opening on the first of June. You’ve got the Sheraton, you’ve got the Marriott. The Marriott’s actually going to be in the Olympic Village. They have a hotel there. You’ve got the Grand Hyatt’s opening up soon, as well. So, all the big brands are there now. It’s ready to receive all your clients. I mean, we’ve got … downtown Rio’s now 9000 rooms. Just inaugurated the Museum of Tomorrow, which is a fantastic masterpiece which they’ve done. It’s a walking destination, [inaudible 00:19:04] gastronomy, the night life is fantastic. Then you go to the iconic Rio … Ipanema, Copacabana, LeBlon. Those places everybody knows about, but it’s still the same, and still they’re as great as always.
Michael Nagy: You’ve got Barra de Tijuca, which is a new destination, just west, 15 minutes, from downtown Rio. And literally, 18 kilometers of pristine white beaches, shopping malls, restaurants, sports. And that is basically where Rio’s going to stage the Olympics, is going to be in Barra. So, all of your [inaudible 00:19:35] now, and whoever’s going to watch the Olympics, you’re going to see a lot of Barra de Tijuca in Rio. And obviously, the Christ the Redeemer, with his … We have a saying that the architect so much liked his job, he left his only son to take care of it. So, we’re looking to receive all clients with open arms.
Michael Nagy: Plus the fact, the visa’s been … We’re going to have the Visa waiver as of first of June, for Americans and Canadians, Japanese and Australians. No more requirements for visas to Brazil. So, get ready, come and see Rio before the Olympics, or come at the Olympics, or even come after. Rio is Rio, but there’s the whole of Brazil to see, as well, which is a fantastic country. And we’d like to see as many people there as possible.
Tonya: Rene Marie is a singer, actress and writer, who uses her energetic and dynamic voice to raise awareness about social issues, share our common history, and honor those whose shoulders we stand on. Over the years, as her career flourished, Rene found commonalities and inspiration through one of the most iconic figures in America, Eartha Kitt. Rene, who has just released a tribute album honoring Eartha Kitt, believes that success means shining attention on important issues in America, and on bold artists like Eartha Kitt, who helped change America’s landscape for the better.
Tonya: Anytime you do a tribute album or you redo songs from other artists, it’s always kind of risky. Because you find people comparing you, fairly or unfairly. So, what inspired you to take on this type of risky project?
Rene Marie: Well, you know, I was thinking. We were sitting in the offices of Motema Music label, and thinking about what the next thing I wanted to do. And it’s always been a desire of mine to sing songs of the women, from whom … I guess you’d say inspired me the most, musically. So, that would include Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, because they both sang and played the piano. And also, there was Phoebe Snow. There’s Bonnie Raitt, Miriam Makeba, and Eartha Kitt.
Rene Marie: So as I was naming the different names, when I said “Eartha Kitt,” somebody said, “Ooh.” I said, “Yeah. You know, I do several songs that Eartha Kitt also did.” Of course, at the time, I had never heard of I Want to be Evil or I’d Rather be Burned as a Witch. I was thinking more of, My Heart Belongs to Daddy. There’s another one, Peel Me a Grape … something else. But then I thought, “Oh, what about a tribute album?” And before I could stop myself, I had said that. Because I swore I would never, ever, ever do a tribute album. And it’s not really a tribute to Eartha.
Rene Marie: My viewpoint was, “Let’s do a tribute to the music that she used to sing.” Not to Eartha herself, because I thought, that’s the last thing I want, is people comparing me to Eartha. Because there, in my mind, honey … there ain’t no comparison. You might as well … They broke the mold. Or she broke the mold, I should say. So, I was a bit afraid of that, and yet, I knew that from a marketing standpoint … might as well be honest, here. To try and market it like that was a good idea. So there was a lot of back and forth, of me wanting to maintain my creative purity, what I saw as my creative purity. And then also, seeing the benefit of putting Eartha Kitt more to the forefront. Once they decided that, that they wanted to put, With Love to Eartha Kitt on there, it just seemed to behoove me to find out more about Eartha Kitt’s life. That’s where the gold was.
Ian: You’re listening to World Footprints Radio, with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick. We’re talking to jazz artist Rene Marie about overcoming challenges, her tribute album to Eartha Kitt, and transformational travel. Visit this show page on our website at WorldFootprints.com, to read more about Rene Marie.
Tonya: And speaking of her life, she lived a very inspiring life. And I think, just reading about you, and the things that you’ve done, you’ve … I was going to say channeled her. But you have your own inspirational story, and teaching moments throughout your life’s journey. About courage, faith, and tenacity, and really, philanthropy. I love that commonality that you share with her and other artists, but we’re talking about Eartha here, right now. Talk a little bit about your life’s journey, from before 40 years old, or 42, when you started your singing career, until now.
Rene Marie: Okay. Well, the first 40 years of my life … Well, I got married at 18. And I had my first son about a year and a half later. Then my second son about another year, two years later, or more. My husband and I were very religious. We belonged to a strict religious organization, I’ll call it. And I was in that group for 20-some years. Prior to that, prior to joining that group, my husband and I met in a band.
Rene Marie: He plays keyboards, and he plays other instruments as well, too. And I was singer. That’s how we met. But we stopped when we joined this group. But we continued to play music at home and among this group of people that we worshiped with. I worked at the bank. I loved being a mom, and I loved working at the bank. I started off as a teller, and then over the next nine years, moved up to training customer service reps. I developed a booklet for the bank, to train the customer service reps with. And I conducted classes, and trained the trainers.
Rene Marie: So, it was very enjoyable for me. And the whole time, Tonya, I’m singing. I’m singing at work. I’m singing in the car, I’m singing everywhere. So, my oldest son, one day when I was 42, he encouraged me to come to a restaurant, and listen to a woman singing with a trio. And said, as a way of convincing me I should do the same, he says, “She’s singing the same songs you’re singing, Mom. But she’s not doing anything with them. They’re just boring and dead.” And I remember sitting there thinking, “Wow. I can’t believe she’s getting paid to do this.” It was really a travesty. So we went home and talked it over as a family, my two sons and my wasband, and decided that I would call a friend who had his own quintet, and ask him if I could sit in with his group.
Rene Marie: I didn’t think there’d be not even a week would pass, before I went down there. And that’s where it started. I started singing, and I forgot how much my own personality is embedded in my singing. And how this whole other language and way of being comes out for me, that’s not … I haven’t done an outlet for any other way. I’ll put it that way. So since then, I started singing. And within a year, I had my own band. Because I was tired of singing only the songs that musicians, instrumentalists, want to play in their key. So, I had to get my own songs in my own keys, and I got my own band. And my husband, he gave me an ultimatum. And told me I either had to stop singing, or move out. Which was quite keeping in line with the way men typically dealt with women in that religious organization. After some physical violence that accompanied the ultimatum, is when I got up off the floor and I walked out the door.
Tonya: Music was Rene Marie’s first love. But when she married at the age of 18, and subsequently had two children, she left music behind. Years later, she tried to return to her craft, but was met with resistance by her husband of 23 years. She was issued an ultimatum, to stop singing or leave. She chose to leave, and began her professional music career at the age of 42. In 2008, Rene faced a different type of adversity, when she was invited to sing the Star Spangled Banner at a civic event in Denver, and substituted the song’s lyrics with those from Lift Every Voice and Sing. Despite a violent and oppressive marriage, and road bumps beyond the Denver event, Rene has continued to fine tune her voice.
Ian: You’re listening to World Footprints Radio, with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick. Coming up, we will continue our conversation with jazz vocalist Rene Marie. And we’ll learn how a trip to Germany forced her to admit a painful truth to herself. We will also revisit a conversation with Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., from one of our many trips to New Orleans, for French Quarter Festival. If you want more travel experiences beyond this radio show, we invite you to visit our website, WorldFootprints.com, where you can peruse our library of award-winning radio shows, articles, and more. You can also find links to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Tonya: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That is how Rene Marie faced adversity. Rene also realized that you are never too old to reinvent yourself, or face your own truths, no matter how unflattering they might be. As we continue our conversation with Rene Marie, we learn what really happened when she was invited to sing the Star Spangled Banner at the Denver Mayor’s State of the City Address, and the backlash that followed.
Rene Marie: Well, it was the mayor’s State of the City Address, and it was held in City Hall. They had asked me … Well, maybe three months before that event, I had been asked to sing at the Colorado Prayer Luncheon, which is what all the mayors of Colorado State get together in Denver, as well as the governor, and … You know, it’s a real big hoity-toity thing. So I sang Lift Every Voice and Sing lyrics with the melody of the Star Spangled Banner at that event three months prior.
Rene Marie: Afterwards, the governor came up to me, and gave me this big hug. He says, “Do you know what you just did? Wow, that was great.” And people from the mayor’s office … the mayor was not there, the mayor of Denver wasn’t there. But people from his office came up and told me how much they enjoyed that. And one of them gave me his card, and then I got an email about a month later, saying, “Would you sing at the mayor’s State of the City Address?” Since I had done that song there, previously, I thought, “Well, this should be cool.”
Rene Marie: But as the date got closer, I was filled with some apprehension and fear. I didn’t know what a mayor’s State of the City Address was. I just felt this sense of “Ooh, this is going to be something.” So much so, that I called a dear friend of mine, Dr. Vincent Harding, who was a contemporary of Martin Luther King. He worked with him, and wrote some of his speeches. He was living in Denver at the time, and I asked him, “What do you think I should do? What would Martin Luther King do? Or, based on your knowledge of Martin Luther King, do you think I should go on full head with this, or … ?” And he said, “Absolutely.” He said, “It’s your decision, but it would be the course of courage to take.”
Rene Marie: So, when I went to the event … The next day was the mayor’s State of the City Address. When they called my name to sing, just for a split second, I said to myself, “Now, you know you don’t have to go through with this. You can just go ahead and do it the regular way.” But then I thought about my dad, and other African American men who had served in the military, in World War II. And when they came back, they were faced with acts of racism, and still, Jim Crow laws in the South. And I just couldn’t punk out on. …
Rene Marie: I just couldn’t punk out. I just had to go through with it. So, that’s what I did. A disgruntled member of City Council was there, asked his intern, who was an African American, young woman … He asked her, “What was that song she sang, anyway?” And the young woman replied that it was the Black National Anthem. And what he heard was Black National, and translated that into Black Nationalism. And went to the local conservative radio show that same day. And within two hours, I got a phone call from that radio station, wanting me to come down to be interviewed. And after a few questions, I figured out, “Oh. So this is what this is about.”
Rene Marie: It’s like, “No, I’m not going down … I’m not going down in no lion’s den.” I’ve listened to that radio program. So I decided I’m not going to do that. Then I got more and more calls, one right after the other. And I thought, “What in the world is going on?” It turned out that people were listening to the talk show. They called the mayor, and the mayor called me, and asked me if I would please apologize for having sung that song the way that I did. And I said, “I do not apologize. I’m not going to apologize for singing those two songs. Both of them were written by Americans. Both of them are about love for this country. Only difference is that one is black and one is white. So, I’m not going to apologize for that. No.”
Rene Marie: “But I tell you what,” I said to the mayor. “If you’re getting emails and phone calls, you give them my email address. And give them my cell phone number, and I will respond. You guys shouldn’t have to be trying to answer for me, for what I did.”
Ian: This is World Footprints Radio, with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick. We are speaking to jazz artist Rene Marie, about her music, travels, and the road bumps that foster personal growth. Visit WorldFootprints.com to find a direct link to Rene Marie’s website.
Tonya: As an artist, you travel all over the world singing. What and where has been the most transformative experience you’ve had as an artist?
Rene Marie: Oh, boy. Well, this is not going to be the answer you expect. But I think the most transformative experiences I’ve had on the road is when I have been faced with my own prejudices, while traveling. I didn’t realize that I have this viewpoint that, as an American, my way of thinking is right. Or, our way of thinking is right, the American way is the way. I didn’t know that it was embedded in me, until I started traveling.
Rene Marie: I discovered this because people do things differently in different countries. And I would find myself thinking about, as I would observe them doing their certain things differently, that it was … I would be disparaging in my own thoughts about these people. As an example, I traveled to Germany for the first time. And unbeknownst to me, I had absorbed a lot of the German stereotypes that I’d seen in cartoons since I was a kid, up until now, in movies of Germans, Nazis, et cetera, et cetera.
Rene Marie: I was shocked to discover that when I heard people, especially men, speaking in German, I automatically assumed that there was something … I’m just being totally honest, here. That there was something bad about it. Because it’s always shown that way in the media. Not always, but the majority of the things I’ve seen in the media, reflect this thing about Nazism and Germans. But my personal experience, while I was in Germany, which was for over a week … My personal experience didn’t reflect any of that. All of it was positive and great, that I had with Germans.
Rene Marie: But the stereotype was a huge thing, that was already embedded in my heart, in my thinking. And I didn’t know it until it came out. And I was so dismayed to discover that I had this inside me. I mean, I was almost in tears at the thought, like devastated. Like, “Oh, my goodness. What in the world?”
Tonya: To see where Rene Marie may be performing near you, visit ReneMarie.com for her tour schedule. Or search this show page at WorldFootprints.com, for a direct link.
Ian: In this Destination Spotlight, we continue our focus on Rio de Janeiro, with Michael Nagy, at the New York Times Travel Show, where we learn how Rio’s social, cultural, and natural treasures enhance a traveler’s experience.
Michael Nagy: Today, you can go to Rio. Obviously, everybody does the Christ the Redeemer and the Sugarloaf. Which must be done, because it’s like coming to New York and not going to see the [inaudible 00:39:56] or Statue of Liberty. But Rio’s much more than that. Our culinary in Brazil, our gastronomy’s so, so rich. You can actually try foods from all over Brazil. In Brazil, the regionality of Brazil is in Rio, in our gastronomy. Then you have obviously our music. Frank Sinatra, Tom Jobim sang The Girl From Ipanema together. But also, downtown Rio, where the birth of Musica Popular MPB was [inaudible 00:40:25] place like the Rio Scenarium. We can actually go back and can see what we say, Choradfinho is the real Samba.
Michael Nagy: Then obviously, our favelas, our shanty towns, they all are tourism products. So, you can actually go into the favela. You can have lunch in the favela. You can actually get married in the favela, now. So, the integration of all social segments of the city together, involve tourism more available for people to see. Then you go to somewhere like Bahia. You can actually go on a riverboat cruise for three hours, and you swear you’re in the [inaudible 00:40:56], or you’re in the Everglades. You’re seeing alligators, you’re seeing the wildlife. And you don’t realize you’re in Rio to do that.
Michael Nagy: If you like sports, all sports … Rio’s a very, we are very sporty people. So, whatever time of day, you’ll always see people running or walking on the beach. And the integration, if it’s kite surfing, if it’s rowing, if it’s bicycling, now we’re going to have a cycle park that you can go from downtown Rio, for 43 kilometers along the beaches, all the way to Bahia. So, you can actually, if you like, bike. You can actually see Rio by bike now. So, there’s so much more, obviously. I was shopping today. With the dollar, and exchange rate the way it is … I’ll give you an example. I paid for a glass of wine yesterday, $15 and almost had a heart attack. But then I did the equation to Rio. You’d pay $3 for the same glass of wine in Rio. It’s that cheap.
Ian: What do the following people have in common? Britney Spears, president Bill Clinton, B.B. King, Tina Turner, The Neville Brothers, Cyndi Lauper, Jimmy Buffet, Pat Sajak and Bonnie Raitt? That’s a long list of an eclectic group of people. But one of the common denominators they share is Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. Each of these people have either performed with, or have been entertained by, Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters. Described as the Mick Jagger of the Marsh, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. has traveled to more cities than a Greyhound bus, or a Delta airplane.
Rockin Dopsie: It’s good to be here. Welcome to New Orleans.
Ian: Oh, thank you, man.
Tonya: Thank you.
Ian: You are one of the baddest dudes on the planet. You know it.
Rockin Dopsie: Come on, man.
Ian: Oh, you know that’s true.
Rockin Dopsie: I appreciate that. I’ll take that as a huge compliment.
Ian: Honestly, I saw you last year at the Hornets pep rally. And I thought I saw James Brown performing. It was so bad. I mean, bad.
Tonya: Well, you know what? And you did a move, and I thought, it hurt me. Because I thought, “I don’t do splits anymore.’ I’m pretty sure I saw you going down-
Rockin Dopsie: Well, I still have a few years [crosstalk 00:43:08]. I’m all right.
Tonya: Well, I feel like I’m, that we’re in the presence of royalty. So I’m going to curtsy to you.
Rockin Dopsie: [inaudible 00:43:15] no. You all are so kind.
Tonya: Well, you’re kind to join us. And thank you so much for stopping by.
Rockin Dopsie: Thanks for having me.
Tonya: Yeah. It’s our pleasure. I want to ask, you know … The list of people you’ve performed with just goes on. I could have spent the whole 15 minutes really talking about the people you’ve performed with. Not including Paul Simon and James Brown. And the shows, Kathie Lee and Regis, or Regis and Kathie Lee. I would have gotten in trouble on that one. Gayle King. And all this really started, I understand, when you got an accordion at the age of nine.
Rockin Dopsie: Yeah.
Tonya: Which was later followed by the most critical instrument in a Zydeco band, the washboard.
Rockin Dopsie: Right.
Tonya: Tell us about your start, and just your [crosstalk 00:44:03].
Rockin Dopsie: Actually, as you know, my father Rockin’ Dopsie Sr., was one of the pioneers of Zydeco music. He was playing, they started Zydeco music back in the 50s. But back then, it wasn’t called Zydeco music. It was called la-la music.
Ian: La-la music.
Rockin Dopsie: Yeah. And Zydeco music really didn’t start to be called Zydeco music until the late 70s, like ’77, ’78. And Zydeco, in French, is a snap bean. You know, like the green man in the can. Like, “Where you’re going tonight?” “I’m going to the Zydeco.” And when my father first started, it was just him and a cousin of his called Chester Zeno. And they played accordion … my dad was accordion player, and Chester was the washboard player. And when they play a la-la on a Saturday night, they’d go to somebody’s living room, take all the furniture out, and charge a quarter to get in.
Rockin Dopsie: That’s how it all started. They … growing up, growing up in my father’s household, there were guys that came around, like B.B. King would come and visit my father at the house. The late great Gatemouth Brown, and Charles Brown, a whole lot of them. And I guess growing up, I was a young kid that was so influenced by rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. Which some of my biggest influence was, you know of course, guys like James Brown and Wilson Pickett.
Rockin Dopsie: Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson. All your great entertainers, you know. And of course, then came Michael Jackson and Prince. And I try to collaborate what they do into my show.
Ian: You do it so well. And as I said, I was just mesmerized. There are very few people I’ve been mesmerized … I’ve seen Prince live. That’s where you took me, and I just said, “Wow-
Rockin Dopsie: Ah, thank you.
Ian: … that man is amazing.”
Tonya: You know, and I’ll just forewarn you … Ian might try to emulate you, because he-
Ian: Oh, no.
Rockin Dopsie: I wish he would come out to the show tomorrow night.
Tonya: Oh, but you know, I’m telling you. He will sing after a few glasses of something, he will get on the stage at a karaoke, and try to do James Brown. Now, it’s a little bit embarrassing for me. But, you know.
Ian: It’s embarrassing for me, but hey, you know.
Rockin Dopsie: I bet they spike the drinks. He got his [inaudible 00:46:22].
Ian: I can only hope and pray.
Rockin Dopsie: There you go.
Tonya: Now, now … out of all the different people that you’ve performed with, and considering their different genres of music, Zydeco music has really broken out of its Southern Louisiana breeding ground, to become very universal. How did that happen?
Rockin Dopsie: Well, you know, Zydeco music is … kind of started off like reggae. Reggae had a slow start, and it was all the reggae followers, and then it broke through. But then Zydeco music, you start having the guys like the Paul Simons and the Jimmy Buffetts, and all these cats listening to Zydeco music. They come down like … There’s a lot of places I go around California, New York City, where you’ll have either Billy Joel or Dennis Quaid or somebody, get on stage and come rock out to Zydeco. If you’re not dancing to Zydeco music, then you got a hole in your soul.
Tonya: Yeah, dude.
Rockin Dopsie: You know, we try to get a crossover to different rhythm and blues style with the Zydeco stuff. And as you can hear, there’s a lot of Zydeco music in a lot of national commercials. So that’s working real well. But one of the greatest influence with my career, for me, was being home on a Saturday morning, and getting a call from my manager. And Beyonce was in town doing the B’Day CD-
Tonya: Oh, my.
Rockin Dopsie: … and she wanted some Zydeco flavor on her CD. And she goes, “How soon can you get to Oak Alley Plantation?” And I’m like, “In 10 minutes.” You serious? He said, “Beyonce wants you.” I did not perform on the record, but she wanted a Zydeco look. She wanted accordion, the washboard. So, if you got the B’Day CD, it got like 15 pictures of us together on the inside of the CD cover. So, it was pretty cool.
Ian: You’re listening to World Footprints Radio with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick. And we’re revisiting a conversation we had with Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., at New Orleans’ French Quarter Festival. We have a link to Dopsie’s show schedule on this show page, at WorldFootprints.com.
Tonya: Is there anybody else that … You’ve performed with everybody. But is there anybody out there that you’re dying to perform with?
Rockin Dopsie: I’d like to do some stuff … actually, I’d like to do some stuff with Mick Jagger. And I’d like to do some stuff with Usher, Chris Paul, those young guys. Show them that this old man still got a little fire in his [crosstalk 00:48:50].
Ian: Man, you got more than fire. You’ve got an inferno.
Tonya: So smooth, so smooth..
Rockin Dopsie: I appreciate that. I like this guy. He’s a keeper.
Ian: Well hey, you know, one of the things then, just talking about Zydeco music, it’s that all of these different instruments … You’ve got music, and then, you’ve got stuff that my grandmother used to clean clothes with, a washboard. All of that stuff. Talk to us about how it just blends everything. Because I’ve seen musicians all over. I can remember being in Toronto when I was a kid, and some young boys grabbed some Rubbermaid trash cans, and were just jamming right there on Yonge Street. Just taking what’s there. And that sounds like part of what Zydeco is. You work with what you got.
Rockin Dopsie: Yeah. Zydeco … I mean, there’s no chart to put on, and go into the studio and do Zydeco. I remember when we were recording with Bob Dylan on the Oh Mercy CD. He had a chart, and I remember my father saying, “Look, just … Let’s go with what we feel.” Because Zydeco, you play Zydeco from your heart. It’s what you feel. I mean, you have a washboard, you have accordions, some have a harmonica. And I add elements to my group after the passing of my father, that he never had. I had a extra trumpet, kept the saxophone. I added keyboard player, because I wanted that big sound.
Rockin Dopsie: And Zydeco music, as you said, goes way back to the days, like the T-Bone Walker, the Slim Harpos, which, they call that rhythm and blues stuff. And Zydeco music … They say country music is like singing about a sad song. Zydeco music is like singing through poverty. It’s like working your way up to the top. Because, my dad growing up, my dad never had a high school education. Never got a chance to go to school. All he did was work in the field. Picked cotton and broke potatoes and stuff. That’s what Zydeco is all about. Talking about the life, how you growing up and that live through me.
Tonya: Speaking of your dad, he was honored … His crown was put on permanent display. I actually shared that with somebody here, who didn’t know this. But it’s on permanent display at the Smithsonian in our home town, in Washington, D.C.
Rockin Dopsie: Right.
Tonya: And you went there. You were honored, but you also performed. What was that like for you?
Rockin Dopsie: Actually, we went there. We performed. It was more than a honor to me. I think after the show, everybody loved the show. But I think when the show was over, the people at the Smithsonian wanted to … If they could have tied me up and had me locked up, they would. Because I was performing. And the crowd was sitting down. And you don’t come to Rockin’ Dopsie’s show and sit down.
Tonya: I know.
Rockin Dopsie: The guy informed me … He goes, “Look, we have no dancing in here. So everybody’s got to sit down and enjoy the show.”
Tonya: At the Smithsonian? Oh, no. Oh, no.
Rockin Dopsie: Yeah. And I’m like, “You all got to get up and come party. Have a great time, and-
Ian: You got to shake those folks up in D.C.
Rockin Dopsie: Right. Right.
Ian: Get them off their butts.
Rockin Dopsie: They got up, and they had a good time. It was a great honor for my father. You know, my father was left-handed. Of course, I’m left-handed. But the greatest thing about my father, he took a right hand accordion, and he turned it upside down, and he learned how to play the keyboards coming up backwards. Yeah. So my father was pretty much one of the only left-handed accordion players in the whole world. That was great. That was a great thing. And actually … I have to throw this in here. I’m getting honored.
Tonya: Oh? Hello.
Ian: Do tell.
Rockin Dopsie: I’m getting honored into the Tipitina’s Walk of Fame. So, when you go to Tipitina’s, I’ll have my plaque on the sidewalk. Not only am I getting honored, two Juniors are getting honored on the same day.
Ian: Oh, wow.
Rockin Dopsie: It’ll be Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., and Harry Connick, Jr.
Ian: Oh, fantastic.
Rockin Dopsie: I’m in great company, man. I’m in great company. This is great.
Tonya: Man. Well, congratulations. We need to throw a party up in D.C. [crosstalk 00:52:48]. When are you coming back?
Rockin Dopsie: Hey, holler. I’m coming. I’m ready.
Ian: Now, one of the things that you talked about is just Zydeco and how it’s spread. We’ve got a guy up in D.C., you probably know about, Chuck Brown and Go-Go. It’s got a lot of that in it. You guys are just so connected. It’s just interesting how all of this music just bridges so many people in so many places.
Rockin Dopsie: Well, you know, it’s a beautiful thing. Because guys like Chuck Brown, who’s very … I think he’s a very talented guy. They come to New Orleans, and they see a lot of different stuff, and they hear a lot of different music. And they take what we do and collaborate it into what they’re doing. And it takes it around, and say, “Man, where you heard that from?” [inaudible 00:53:24] Rockin’ Dopsie.” I’m coming to D.C., and I’m going to get you all the real deal, so that’s a great thing.
Tonya: To follow Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, visit RockinDopsieJr.com. Rockin’ is spelled without the G. We also have a direct link on this show page at WorldFootprints.com.
Tonya: I love sharing inspiring stories, and those are stories that we heard from Gloria and Rene. And we probably would have heard some from Dopsie, had we had more time with him at the French Quarter Festival. The stories about overcoming challenges, about following that still, small voice. We’ve done that in our own personal lives. And it’s something we’ve been preaching forever. But it’s so wonderful to hear actual successful stories from these women. I mean, Rene started her career at the age of 42. In many people’s minds, that’s too late to reinvent yourself. And both of them have indicated that it’s never, ever too late to reinvent yourself. And again, that’s something we’ve been talking about.
Ian: Reinvention is something that we all have to do. Because change is the one constant in life, whether or not we accept that. And to Rene Marie’s credit, she’s a fighter. She comes from a hardscrabble part of Virginia, where people put their nose to the grindstone. And she is tenacious. She never gave up on herself, and never quit believing in new possibilities for herself. And she’s gotten in places where, I’m sure have taken her far, far from where she grew up. And even overcoming a tough marriage, and a really tough situation. And dealing with a really political situation which was not of her making, but really, something she was kind of pulled into, and deceived by those who looked favorably upon what she did, only to turn on her. So, she showed tremendous courage and stood up for herself against some pretty powerful forces.
Tonya: And in terms of Gloria, Gloria has had to reinvent herself. She stopped acting on television when she worked as a daytime soap star on Days of Our Lives. This industry, the entertainment industry, beats you down, and tells you, “You’re too old,” or “You’re not good enough.” So for her to keep going, and finding new ways to communicate her message, and share her voice and her craft, is wonderful.
Tonya: And you know, Dopsie just wanted … I just wanted to get up and dance with him. He’s one of the most colorful but beautiful people I think we’ve had on our show. And I really wish we had more time with him.
Ian: Yes. And if a guy could ever excite me, he is the guy, obviously. And the thing that I like about him is his energy, and I appreciate him as an entertainer, as a consummate entertainer. A guy who reminds me of people that I’ve loved, like James Brown, Prince, and so forth. He evokes that in what he gives in every performance. And that’s what I love about the guy. I mean, he’s a master showman, and he delivers every time. I think this is why he has such a strong ability to bridge with so many folks in the industry, so many musicians who appreciate what he does, and what he brings every single time, to the table with one of his performances.
Tonya: And I just want to touch on the travel that both Gloria and Rene talked about. But particularly, Rene, her trip to Germany. And how that caused her to face her own prejudices. And she was honest enough to admit that she had that character flaw. And really sought to overcome that, and embrace the German people that she held some contempt for at some point.
Tonya: Speaking of travel, let’s talk about Brazil. Brazil’s coming up. The Olympics are coming up. I hope that the country is ready for the onslaught of visitors they’re going to get. I’m actually looking forward to going beyond the Olympics, and getting to know the people. And going into communities, maybe going into the shanty towns, just to see how real Brazilians live.
Ian: I think Brazil will be ready. This always happens before every Olympiad, and it’s just one of these things that we go through. And I think the bigger question, really, for Rio, is … and for Brazil, is will this investment pay off in a way that Rio needs this. And I’m not so certain that a city of its global stature really needs an Olympiad.
Tonya: Well, fingers crossed. But in closing, we’d like to leave you with a quote from Benjamin Disraeli. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”
Tonya: Thank you for traveling with us today. We appreciate you inviting us into your life. We’re Tonya and Ian Fitzpatrick, and we look forward to sharing another amazing journey with you on World Footprints Radio.
Recording: World Footprints Radio, with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick, is a production of World Footprints Media, Silver Spring, Maryland. The multi-award winning radio show can be heard around the globe on iHeartRadio, Stitcher, iTunes, and more. Visit WorldFootprints.com, for a complete list.
Recording: World Footprints Radio is a leading voice in socially responsible travel. At WorldFootprints.com, you’ll find an archive of past broadcasts, travel news, reviews, and information you can use to deepen your travel experience. Listen, learn, and live it, at WorldFootprints.com.