Did John McCain and Gabby Giffords earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom each is getting?

Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, a gun violence survivor and activist, standing among vases of flowers that made up the Gun Violence Memorial near the Washington Monument on June. 7.

President Joe Biden chose former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and the late Sen. John McCain to be among those who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award that now seems to rank somewhere between “the nation’s highest civilian honor” and a peewee soccer league participation trophy, depending upon who is receiving it and who is handing it out.

The award was initiated by President John F. Kennedy at a time when there was no public disagreement about the worthiness of the recipients.

Kennedy presented the medal to a group that included writer E.B. White, painter Andrew Wyeth and celloist Pablo Casals. Others included individuals who aren’t household names. The scientist John Franklin Enders, for example, known to some as the “father of modern vaccines.” And Annie Dodge Wauneka, a Navajo tribal leader credited with greatly improving health care conditions in the Navajo Nation. And Ralph Bunche, a diplomat and the first Black American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

There wouldn’t have been any argument in Kennedy’s day – or now – that the group of medal recipients JFK chose are, as a government description of the award says, “individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.”

Politics crept in to the Medal of Freedom

More than 600 others have received the medal since Kennedy’s days, however, with varying degrees of “exemplary contributions” to the nation or the world.

Politics crept in, of course.

More and more.

Biden said in his announcement that the 17 individuals to whom he’ll present the medal “embody the soul of the nation.”

To a degree, that holds true for every group selected over the years, either in spite of the era’s politics or because of them.

Family feels betrayed:Kari Lake keeps attacking Sen. McCain’s legacy

President George W. Bush awarded the medal to Mr. Rogers and to the late baseball hall-of-famer and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. And to author Harper Lee. And to the great Aretha Franklin.

But he also gave a medal to actor and National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston.

President Barack Obama gave medals to his predecessor’s father, former President George H.W. Bush. He also honored Arizona’s Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. And Bob Dylan. And Steven Spielberg. And also civil rights leader and Rep. John Lewis.

The worst recipient ever was …

President Donald Trump awarded the medal to Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley. But he also gave one to conservative radio host and big Trump supporter Rush Limbaugh.

And in what may be the worst and most shamelessly political selection ever, he awarded the medal to Rep. Jim Jordan, a Trump sycophant, election denier and former Ohio State University assistant wrestling coach who remains under a dark cloud over sexual misconduct complaints about a team doctor that wrestlers say Jordan must have known about.

Then again, perhaps a grotesque and unwarranted selection like that does, in an awful way, “embody the soul of the nation.”

It doesn’t always work that way, however.

Then there are those who deserve it

Also embodying the soul of the nation is one of Biden’s award recipients, Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who lost a son in the Iraq War and spoke so eloquently to Trump’s Muslim bias during the 2016 presidential elections.

Then there are Giffords and McCain.

Politics and personal agendas being what they are these days there are some individuals in America – even some I’ve heard from in Arizona – who say that neither Giffords nor McCain have made “exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States” and therefore don’t deserve a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Those individuals are wrong.

Reach Montini at ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com.

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Demonstrator grabbed officer by throat after vandalizing monument, police say

Asheville demonstrator grabbed officer by throat after vandalizing monument, police say

David Paul Erickson faces several charges

I WILL HAVE A CHECK ON THE FORECAST IN SEVEN OR EIGHT MINUTES. PATRICK: THANK YOU, BRO. — PARELLA. INVESTIGATORS IN ILLINOIS SAY THE MASS SHOOTING THAT KILLED SEVEN AT A JULY 4 PARADE IN HIGHLAND PARK WAS PLANNED FOR WEEKS. DESTINY: OFFICIALS ALSO SAY THE MAN ACCUSED OF OPENING FIRE ON THE CROWD LEGALLY BOUGHT 5 WEAPONS, INCLUDING TWO HIGH-POWERED RIFLES EVEN AFTER PREVIOUS RUN-INS WITH THE LAW. MASS SHOOTING SUSPECT 21-YEAR-OLD ROBERT CRIMO THE THIRD HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH 7 COUNTS OF FIRST DEGREE MURDER. >> WE ANTICIPATE DOZENS OF MORE CHARGES CENTERING AROUND EACH OF THE VICTIMS. DESTINY: POLICE SAY CRIMO FIRED MORE THAN 70 ROUNDS INTO THE CROWD AND BELIEVE HE DRESSED AS A WOMAN TO TRY AND CONCEAL HIS IDENTITY. POLICE SAY IT HELPED HIM ESCAPE BY BLENDING IN WITH THE CHAOTIC CROWD FLEEING THE SCENE. INVESTIGATORS NOW REVEALING LAW ENFORCEMENT HAD TWO RUN-INS WITH CRIMO IN 2019. ONE FOR A SUICIDE ATTEMPT IN APRIL AND A CONFISCATION OF WEAPONS FROM HIS HOME IN SEPTEMBER. AT 6:49, POLICE IN ASHEVILLE SAY TWO MEN ARE ACCUSED OF TRYING TO BLOW UP THE REMNANTS OF THE VANCE MONUMENT. PATRICK: THIS IS RIGHT IN DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE AND OFFICERS SAY TWO MEN ARE FACING MULTIPLE CHARGES, INCLUDING POSSESSING A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION. ACCORDING TO OFFICERS, PEOPLE SAID THEY HEARD ONE OF THE MEN SAY DURING 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATIONS, THAT HE WAS GOING TO BLOW UP WHAT WAS LEFT OF THE MONUMENT IN PACK SQUARE. AT THE SCENE, OFFICERS SAID THE BOMB SQUAD FOUND REMNANTS OF AN EXPLODED IED. NO ONE WAS HURT. POLICE SAY THEY ALSO FOUND A BAG WITH ZIP TIE HANDCUFFS, GLOVES, A GAS MASK, A BALLISTIC VEST, A FLARE GUN, A PISTOL, AND AMMUNITION ALL ALONG THE TWO — ALL BELONGING TO THE TWO MEN. NOW POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR THE GROUP PICTURED HERE. THEY SAY THEY MAY HAVE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EXPLOSION. DESTINY: TAKING A LOOK NOW AT VIDEO OUT OF NORTH MYRTLE BEACH. INTENSE STORMS HIT THE AREA CAUSING FLOODING AND IMPACTED BUSINESSES. THE CITY HAD TO CLOSE PORTIONS OCEAN BOULEVARD TO DRIVERS AND — OF OCEAN BOULEVARD TO DRIVERS AND PEDESTRIANS. OWNERS OF BUOYS ON THE BOULEVARD SAID THEIR RESTAURANT HAS ABOUT 1,000 CUSTOMERS A DAY BUT WERE EXPECTING ABOUT 1500 FOR THE HOLIDAY. THE RESTAURANT HAD TO SHUT DOWN. SO THAT REPAIRS COULD BE MADE. A SPECIAL GRAND JURY WANTS TO SPEAK TO SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM. THIS IS PART OF A GEORGIA PROSECUTOR’S INVESTIGATION INTO THE CONDUCT OF FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP AND HIS ALLIES AFTER THE 2020 ELECTION. THE FULTON COUNTY DA FILED PETITIONS WITH THE JUDGE. OVERSEEING THE SPECIAL GRAND JURY YESTERDAY, AND THE JUDGE SIGNED A CERTIFICATE OF MATERIAL WITNESS FOR SENATOR GRAHAM AS WELL AS FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FORMER ATTORNEY RUDY GIULIANI, AND OTHERS. IT SAID THEIR PARTICIPATION IS NECESSARY IN THE INVESTIGATION. PATRICK: FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATIONS TOOK A DANGEROUS TURN IN A MINNEAPOLIS NEIGHBORHOOD. SEVERAL PEOPLE WERE CAUGHT ON CAMERA SHOOTING FIREWORKS AT OTHER PEOPLE, CARS AND BUILDINGS. YOU CAN SEE PEOPLE RUNNING THROUGH THE STREETS FIRING ROMAN CANDLES AT EACH OTHER. OTHERS DROVE AROUND SHOOTING FIREWORKS FROM THEIR CARS. WITNESSES SAY THE CHAOS LASTED FOR HOURS. IT FINALLY ENDED AT AROUND TWO IN THE MORNING. THERE’S NO WORD OF ANYONE GETTING HURT. POLICE HAVE NOT RELEASED ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR RESPONSE. DESTINY: THE FDA HAS PAUSED ITS ORDER TO REQUIRE E-CIGARETTE COMPANY JUUL TO PULL ITS PRODUCTS OFF THE MARKET IN THE U.S. THE MOVE IS TEMPORARY. THE AGENCY SAID IN A STATEMENT AND DECIDED, QUOTES, “THERE ARE SCIENTIFIC ISSUES UNIQUE TO THE JUUL APPLICATION THAT WARRANT ADDITIONAL REVIEW.” IN 2020 THE FDA ASKED MANUFACTURERS OF E-CIGARETTE PRODUCTS TO SUBMIT APPLICATIONS TO KEEP PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET. THE AGENCY’S JUNE 23 DENIAL ORDER FOR JUUL CAME AMID ISSUES WITH CONCERNS ITS PRODUCTS WERE ENCOURAGING DANGEROUS HABITS AMONG YOUNGER AMERICANS. JUUL DISAGREED AND NOW JUUL PRODUCTS CAN REMAIN ON THE SHELVES WHILE A FEDERAL COURT REVIEWS THE FDA ORDER AND JUUL’S ARGUMENTS. PATRICK: 6:52. A GROUP IN OKLAHOMA IS WORKING TO PUT THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT. OKLAHOMANS FOR SENSIBLE MARIJUANA LAWS NEEDED CLOSE TO 95,000 SIGNATURES BY AUGUST FIRST. HOWEVER, THEY FAR SURPASSED THAT GOAL AND SUBMITTED MORE THAN 164,000 SIGNATURES TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE OFFICE. THE PETITION SEEKS TO ADD A QUESTION THAT WILL SAFELY LEGALIZE, REGULATE, AND TAX RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA FOR ADULTS WHO ARE 21-YEARS-OLD AND OLDER IN OKLAHOMA. SUPPORTERS SAY THE MOVE WILL GENERATE STATE REVENUE FOR SCHOOLS, HEALTH CARE, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. DESTINY: NEW NUMBERS FROM THE TSA, FOLLOWING A HOLIDAY WEEKEND WITH FULL OF FLIGHT DELAYS, AND CANCELLATIONS. THE AGENCY SAYS IT SCREENED NEARLY 2.5 MILLION PEOPLE FRIDAY. THAT’S THE MOST SINCE FEBRUARY OF 2020. FLIGHT AWARE REPORTS AIRLINES CANCELLED MORE THAN 2200 U.S. FLIGHTS, AND ANOTHER 25,000 WERE DELAYED OVER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND. THE DOT SECRETARY TELLS US THEY’RE PUSHING AIRLINES TO STRESS-TEST THEIR OWN SCHEDULES. >> TO MAKE SURE THAT IF THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO SUPPORT THE SCHEDULES THEY’RE SELLING, THAT THEY DEAL WITH THAT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER, SO YOU DON’T GET SURPRISED THE DAY OF YOUR FLIGHT. DESTINY: PILOTS ARE ASKING THE FAA TO STOP AIRLINES FROM PURSUING MAXIMUM SCHEDULES. THEY WANT THE TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT TO FINE THE AIRLINES WHO OVER-SCHEDULE. PATRICK: 6:54. ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST RECOGNIZABLE LANDMARKS IS BADLY IN NEED OF REPAIRS. THE EIFFEL TOWER IS RIDDLED WITH RUST DAMAGE. THE EIFFEL TOWER IS ICONIC AND THE COMPANY THAT OWNS THE TOWER IS RELUCTANT TO CLOSE IT BECAUSE OF THE LOST TOURIST REVENUE , RECEIVING ABOUT SIX MILLION VISITORS A YEAR. THE TOWER IS ALSO SLATED TO GET A $60 MILLION COSMETIC PAINT JOB AHEAD OF THE 2024 OLYMPIC GAMES IN PARIS. IT’S THE TOWER’S 20TH TIME BEING REPAINTED. THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE HAS ITS FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN GENERAL MANAGER, WHEN THE SAN JOSE SHARKS HIRED MIKE GRIER AS THEIR G.M. ON TUESDAY. GRIER PLAYED PROFESSIONALLY FOR 14 YEARS WITH 4 NHL TEAMS. AFTER RETIRING, HE WORKED FOR SEVERAL TEAMS AS AN OPERATIO

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Asheville demonstrator grabbed officer by throat after vandalizing monument, police say

David Paul Erickson faces several charges

An Asheville man is accused of grabbing an officer by the throat after pepper-spraying another person and vandalizing a monument, according to police. Police said the incident happened Monday night during a July 4 festival in the downtown area. David Paul Erickson, 64, was participating in the demonstration at Pack Square around 9:40 p.m. when he assaulted and pepper-sprayed another person, as well as vandalized the former Vance Monument. Police said an officer from the Asheville Police Department approached Erickson, identified herself as an officer and tried to detain Erickson. Police said Erickson resisted and grabbed the officer by the throat. He was then arrested.Erickson was charged with assault by strangulation, simple assault, assault of a government employee, resisting a public officer and damage to property. He was booked into the Buncombe County Detention Facility and has a $25,000 secured bond.If anyone has any further information about this case, you can send an anonymous tip by texting TIP2APD to 847411, using the TIP2APD app, or calling directly to 828-252-1110.

An Asheville man is accused of grabbing an officer by the throat after pepper-spraying another person and vandalizing a monument, according to police.

Police said the incident happened Monday night during a July 4 festival in the downtown area.

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David Paul Erickson, 64, was participating in the demonstration at Pack Square around 9:40 p.m. when he assaulted and pepper-sprayed another person, as well as vandalized the former Vance Monument.

david paul erickson

Buncombe County Detention Center

Police said an officer from the Asheville Police Department approached Erickson, identified herself as an officer and tried to detain Erickson.

Police said Erickson resisted and grabbed the officer by the throat.

He was then arrested.

Erickson was charged with assault by strangulation, simple assault, assault of a government employee, resisting a public officer and damage to property.

He was booked into the Buncombe County Detention Facility and has a $25,000 secured bond.

If anyone has any further information about this case, you can send an anonymous tip by texting TIP2APD to 847411, using the TIP2APD app, or calling directly to 828-252-1110.

Youth Camp Provides Cultural Enlightenment Between African American And African Immigrants

According to Ndudi Chuku, founder of the Mission Africa Organization, the camp introduces children to the sounds, smells, tastes and trends from countries throughout the continent of Africa, as well as introduce them to the tastes, trends, smells and sounds cultivated by the descendants of Africa who were born and raised in America.

“As an organization we serve the children and families of African descent here in the South King County communities,” says Chuku. “We focus on education, healthcare and poverty alleviation programs.”

“The one thing we love to do is partner with organizations, so when we got the opportunity through a grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) we partnered with Live Life Church to do a day camp this summer,” continued Chuku. “It was just natural for us to partner with [them] because they had a wonderful facility for us to use and they are very qualified to run the program for us.”

Jamina Smith, program director for the summer day camp and first lady of Live Life Church, is a firm believer in connecting people through culture and says that thecamp provides a plethora of classes and activities that are designed to unify the cultures of young African and African Americans through food, dance, history, traditions and language.

“The curriculum focuses on regions of Africa and Afro America and children of both are being able to experience each other cultures and have discussions,” says Smith. “This gives [the children] the opportunity to tear down barriers and dispel those stereotypes about one or the other. So, we are really digging into that.”

Traveling to Africa solidified Smith’s resolve to instill a sense of universal unity in both Africans and African Americans. Smith’s own experience gave her a sense of belonging and the desire to share that experience with others.

“I went to Kenya in 2018,” says Smith. “One of the biggest things I experienced as an African American going to the African continent was the immediate feeling of ‘wow’ this world was made for me here, I belong here.

“Immediately existing the plane, I was escorted from the back of the line to the front of the line as my white counterparts were left behind and this was the first time I ever experienced anything like that and the statement to me was welcome home,” added Smith. “And so, this idea of connectivity and belonging is so important and the very first thing I said to my husband was we have to let people feel this, let people experience this, people being African American.”

According to Smith, by giving children the opportunity to connect and play with each other they are able to learn more about each other in meaningful ways. It also allows them to escape the long indoor drought caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by getting outside, playing and engage their critical thinking skills.

The program offers special guest speakers from both Africa and America that come in and teach the youth about the beauty of their cultures, their respective continents and their histories. Students engage in many cultural activities, including cooking, dancing, and fashion design.

“We take Africa the continent as whole and we try to say, ‘hey you may be from the continent or not, but you don’t know everything about the continent and neither do we’, so it is complete exploration,” says Smith. “We take a region such as East Africa, we choose two or three focused countries that we are going to study during the week of East Africa study and we try to drill in some beginners’ readings, beginners’ languages, food, experiences, games and cultural dress. Whether we are bringing in speakers, whether we are using media to have that exposure and then also bringing authentic food caterers from around the city to bring in their influences.”

The importance or the why such a program cannot be understated or undervalued. Since George Floyd, Black awareness has risen to the top of Afro-centric thought as Black people, indigenous and immigrant demographics have been bonded by the collective reality that we are in this together.

“We have never seen or had a day camp that mesh the cultures of African American kids who are born here and kids whose parents immigrated from Africa,” says Chuku. “So, Jamina is doing a fantastic job with the program she created for the camp. Teaching the kids all about Africa, the different regions, they’re eating African foods, they’re learning a little bit of the languages, the games, the culture. This is what this camp is about and I don’t believe there has been anything of this kind.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, singer who inspired Elvis: one of many women sidelined from musical history

Elvis Presley is the perfect subject matter for Australian film director Baz Luhrmann. Not just because the opulence of Presley’s showmanship and Lurhmann’s trademark visual style are perfect bedfellows, but because the “Presleyverse” itself is not about Elvis Presley. It’s about the idea of Elvis, the great myth of Elvis – and Luhrmann trades in great myths.

What this particular myth is about is the inspirational story of a white man and how he changed everything – what it’s never about is the black women singers and musicians who forged the way.

We can summarise the conundrum by comparing two quotes. In Luhrmann’s screenplay, Elvis acknowledges: “Rock’n’roll is basically gospel and rhythm and blues”. Off-screen, the “godmother of rock‘n’roll” Sister Rosetta Tharpe spoke wearily from the flip-side of that truth:

These kids and their rock‘n roll is just sped up rhythm and blues. I’ve been doing that forever.

And indeed she had. Born in Arkansas in 1915 to a family of sharecroppers, Tharpe spent her formative years immersed in the musical world of the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination with a largely African-American congregational base.

Pentecostal churches generally were at the heart of the development of gospel music in the United States, most famously in black communities but no less so among white Pentecostals, actively encouraging the passion and fervour that music could arouse in a congregation.

It was in this context that young Rosetta learned to play guitar and inspire people through music. Tharpe swiftly earned a musical reputation among the religious community in Chicago, and at the age of 19 she moved to New York City, where her performances broadened out into the popular sphere. Throughout her career, she moved seamlessly between the sacred and secular musical worlds, enjoying high-level success in both.

Tharpe’s vocal performances dance the line between speech and song, clearly drawing from a lifetime of listening to charismatic preachers. It is exactly the vocal choreography on which rock‘n’roll was built. Her guitar performances pioneered distortion and string-bending techniques on newly emerging amplified instruments whose very use was championed in its earliest years by another woman, Memphis Minnie.

Black woman in an oval gravestone picture from 1930.
Memphis Minnie, another forgotten female blues musician. Wikipedia, CC BY

In Tharpe’s groundbreaking technique, we can hear the direct sonic ancestors of the canonical guitar players of popular music history, players whose lineage is far more commonly credited to male guitarists such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, or BB King.

The sidelining of women from musical history is nothing new. Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Mahler could testify to that – Anna Magdalena, Marianne, Clara, Fanny, and Alma – the wives or sisters of the more famous male classical composers, I mean. In the sciences, there’s even a name for the specific phenomenon to which Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta have been subject: the “Matilda Effect.

First described in 1870 by Matilda Joslyn Gage, it describes the tendency to attribute discoveries solely to the male colleagues of women working on particular projects. Consider, for instance, Rosalind Franklin, whose work was central to the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure, but whose name has long been overshadowed by those of Francis Crick and James Watson.

In music, it might be harder to point to specific moments of “discovery”, because identifying an exactly “new” thing is not always so straightforward. But still, we could talk of a “Rosetta Effect,” wherein a woman’s musical contributions are eclipsed by those of the men nearby.

Talented women

In 20th-century popular music, there is admittedly something of a canon of great women. Even a cursory interaction with pop history 101 would yield names like Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson. But these women are primarily remembered for their voices, not their musical innovations or instrumental technique.

Nina Simone sitting at her piano in a live concert.
Singer Nina Simone was also a civil rights activist. TCD Prod B/Alamy

In the grand narratives of popular music history, women have been carefully contained in particular roles and sidelined from others. Even Nina Simone, a classically trained pianist, is known as the voice of Civil Rights-era America, not its piano accompanist.

And even acknowledging that Simone’s exceptional piano playing is part of the overall brand, the instrument itself is notable. Female singer-pianists are easy enough to find: in addition to Simone, there’s Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, and Carole King. But Karen Carpenter was encouraged out from behind the drums, Delia Derbyshire’s technological wizardry on the Doctor Who theme was hidden behind the anonymity of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and Memphis Minnie’s name is nowhere near as well-known as that of her contemporary Muddy Waters.

Long overdue stories

The history of women in popular music is not as hard to trace as it may be for their classical counterparts, but the story (and indeed the reality) boxes them in to particular functions. Timeless, iconic voice is one of those functions – trailblazing musical innovator is not.

Luhrmann’s film faces head-on the musical debt that Presley – and by extension rock‘n’roll – owed to African American musical culture. It does so sympathetically to Presley, setting up black gospel music and the Beale Street music scene as his creative homes, sound worlds he shared with white America because he had been steeped in them since his childhood.

It’s not without its problems as a representation. Presley also sits in a long and complicated history of white artists’ relationship to culture outside of the white mainstream. This includes capitalising on musical styles with black origins (including Eminem in rap, or Amy Winehouse in jazz), making popular covers of songs by black artists (The Beatles’ Please Mr. Postman or Eric Clapton’s I Shot the Sheriff), or simply straight-up cultural appropriation (think Iggy Azalea’s Bounce or Justin Bieber’s dreadlocks).


Read more: Rosalía: raising reggaeton’s global cachet or robbing it of its roots?


The question of authenticity hangs heavy over Presley’s musical legacy, and it’s not a simple one to answer. The history of rock‘n’roll is inextricably linked to the long, grim history of racial politics in America, and telling it requires great care and sensitivity.

We may, though, be long overdue for an equivalent story on the subject of women like Sister Rosetta Tharpe in popular music history.

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‘Shark in the Water’ Singer V.V. Brown Talks ‘Degrassi’ Success

Jenna discovers that she’s pregnant and reveals it on “Next Teen Star,” a nationally televised youth singing competition. Fiona descends into alcoholism as a coping mechanism to survive the grips of her abusive boyfriend. Adam switches high schools, seeking refuge from transphobic bullying, only to die from injuries from a car accident.

This is the tip of the iceberg for the drama in season 10 of “Degrassi,” aptly referred to as “Degrassi: The Boiling Point.” Season 10 was split into two chapters: the first 24 episodes, dubbed “The Boiling Point,” adopted a telenovela format while the final 12 episodes of the season were called “In Too Deep.”

But one hit song from 2009 — and one carnival-themed music video — served as the backdrop for all of the drama: V.V. Brown’s “Shark in the Water.” Released on May 21, 2010, the promo for “The Boiling Point” was its own event in the “Degrassi” franchise. Annually, it circulates on Twitter as one of the most beloved and iconic promos in television history. However, the British voice behind it rarely gets her shine.

Born Vanessa Brown to two Caribbean educators in Northampton, England, V.V. Brown, 38, has been in the music industry since she was 17. With songwriting credits for the Pussycat Dolls, Sugababes and Fantasia under her belt, Brown has modeled, pioneered a lifestyle brand and more. Now juggling a family in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, the multi-hyphenate seeks to be a renaissance woman.

“People tend to know me from the period at which I did ‘Travelling Like The Light,’ which was the album that ‘Shark In The Water’ was on,” Brown said. “But I actually had a record deal before that, where music never saw the light of day. So between 17 to 23 or 24, I was grinding away trying to make it.”

When Brown made ‘Travelling Like the Light,’ she was at her wits end. She had been dropped by her label, she was losing money and was struggling in Los Angeles. “When I made this record, I think everything in me, especially that moment, went into this record,” Brown said.

As she balances forthcoming projects, Brown reflects on the legacy of “Shark in the Water” with fondness and awe. She never anticipated the single being such a “silent success.” At the time, the song just ticked a box for fulfilling her then-representative’s desire for a radio-ready pop track.

Released on July 6, 2009, V.V. Brown's hit track "Shark In the Water" was a single off her debut album "Travelling Like The Light." Inspired by her dating experiences as a young adult, the song was widely popular, thanks to the help of 'Degrassi.'
Released on July 6, 2009, V.V. Brown’s hit track “Shark In the Water” was a single off her debut album “Travelling Like The Light.” Inspired by her dating experiences as a young adult, the song was widely popular, thanks to the help of ‘Degrassi.’

Sarah Brimley

“He told me to go in and write with these amazing Swedish writers. When I was in the studio, we were obviously writing lyrics about the classic concepts: love, deception, boyfriends, betrayal,” said Brown. “But trying to come up with something that was a bit more ambiguous than the norm and find a sort of quirky type of lyric that was really original, unique and people hadn’t heard of. It was unassuming.”

Akin to Shakespeare’s wordplay, Brown said that the inception of the phrase “shark in the water” was an attempt to create her own lexicon and a tagline of sorts. A testament to the scheming, secrecy and scandal that transpired during Season 10 of “Degrassi,” it certainly stuck. The song reflects Brown’s lived experiences as a vulnerable, sensitive young adult navigating the callous world of dating.

“The whole album was actually based upon a guy that I used to date who was from Germany who moved to Los Angeles, and he was so mean to me. I remember the time he made me clean his bath,” said Brown. “The lyrics are open to interpretation as well. ‘Maybe there’s a shark in the water,’ could be about a loved one or a family member that’s hurt you, or if you’re at work and you’re finding that you don’t trust someone. It’s about trust in general, and you can kind of interpret it and project what you want onto it in whatever way works for you.”

Raised by two Caribbean educators in Northampton, the Grammy-nominated British musician got her start singing in gospel choirs. Years later, Brown would eventually open for Maroon 5 on tour & headlining at multiple venues.
Raised by two Caribbean educators in Northampton, the Grammy-nominated British musician got her start singing in gospel choirs. Years later, Brown would eventually open for Maroon 5 on tour & headlining at multiple venues.

Taylor Hill via Getty Images

Inspired by the reinvention of David Bowie, Brown is a genre-bender who resists being put into a box. She sees herself as an ever-changing musician. Oscillating between indie pop, R&B and soul, she said her albums serve as “sonic photographs of my life in those moments.”

But Brown’s earliest introduction to music was through her upbringing in the Pentecostal Church with her youth gospel choir.

At 14 years old, Brown was the lead of the choir, leading them in competition. Eventually, she sang for her choir director’s funk band. Her mother would drive her weekly to the studio for rehearsal and there, Brown honed her craft.

“I was getting more into my teens learning about different kinds of music other than just gospel and R&B,” she said. “I was ‘Afropunk’ back then … and feeling quite alone in that because in the U.K., there wasn’t a lot of Black artists wanting to step out of the box of what the industry was trying to put them into.”

Brown was discovered by a record label in the rehearsal room at that studio the following year. However, at age 15, her Jamaican mother, who was a headmistress, said that she was too young and needed to finish school first. Two years later, she completed secondary school early. So Brown, at 17, cut a deal with her parents: “Give me a year to try and get a record deal and if I don’t, I’ll go to university. I’ll go to Oxford.”

With three released studio albums “Travelling Like the Light,” “Sampson & Delilah,” and “Glitch” already under her belt, Brown has another on the way in 2023, which she describes as "unapologetically Black."
With three released studio albums “Travelling Like the Light,” “Sampson & Delilah,” and “Glitch” already under her belt, Brown has another on the way in 2023, which she describes as “unapologetically Black.”

Chiaki Nozu via Getty Images

Brown successfully did it, first signing with Polydor Universal Music Group in 2002. However, it was during her time at Universal Island Records that Brown’s crossover appeal grew, later connecting her to Capitol Records in the U.S. After years of label-hopping — and even recording a full album that was never released — she said that the success of “Shark in the Water” felt like an out of body experience.

“It was just so overwhelming. I’m from a small town in Northampton, and all these things are happening,” Brown said. “If I can be honest, I didn’t realize how iconic ‘Degrassi’ was because being a British girl, we didn’t have ‘Degrassi.’ I think I was more excited about the fact that Drake was a part of the previous series.”

“I loved and love Drake,” she continued. “I did some research, then I started to realize how iconic it was. Then I felt quite precious, and that I needed to be very respectful about that journey.”

At the time, Brown was living with a relative of her manager in Los Angeles. She recalls filming the Season 10 promo video in Toronto in March 2010, before the May promo was released on television. As a burgeoning 24-year-old musician, she was mesmerized by the set. Compared to the coldness of syncs, in which music is merely put over video, there was a warmth to the process, from the theme the “Degrassi” crew constructed to the cast members she met, Brown said.

(L-R) Luke Bilyk, Aislinn Paul, Alex Steeler, Melinda Shankar, Annie Clark, Jordan Todosey, Jahmil French and Munro Chambers were members of the ensemble cast of Season 10 of "Degrassi: The Next Generation."
(L-R) Luke Bilyk, Aislinn Paul, Alex Steeler, Melinda Shankar, Annie Clark, Jordan Todosey, Jahmil French and Munro Chambers were members of the ensemble cast of Season 10 of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

via Associated Press

“The set was just so beautiful. I remember walking on set and thinking, ‘Wow, they’ve done so much to accommodate the song.’ It was just so wonderful that they didn’t just create a promo and stick a song on top,” she said. “They’d actually really thought about the song and had such a dedication to the actual soundtrack. ‘Degrassi’ was unique, where they were creating the visuals with and for the song.”

In 2011, after a year of nonstop touring with Maroon 5 and other acts, Brown returned to London. The success of “Shark in the Water” — her first single to chart in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #67 — was steady, said Brown.

“Degrassi” served as a catalyst, propelling “Shark in the Water” across oceans and radio waves into the core memories of franchise fans. She said the opportunity was exactly what she needed at the time and allowed for consistency and longevity in her career.

In this chapter of her life, Brown said she doesn’t want to do anything unless she’s giving back, from supporting and teaching rising artists to the messages in her music. With three released studio albums ― “Travelling Like the Light,” “Sampson & Delilah” and “Glitch” ― Brown has another album on the way in 2023.

“This next record is unapologetically Black. I say that, meaning that I am talking about my experiences as a Black woman in a way that is way more open,” Brown said. “For me, I’m so excited about the sound. If I had to think of a word [to describe it], it would be ‘activism’ and an album that is unafraid.”

“I was getting more into my teens learning about different kinds of music other than just gospel and R&B. I was ‘afropunk’ back then," said Brown. "And feeling quite alone in that because in the U.K., there wasn’t a lot of Black artists wanting to step out of the box of what the industry was trying to put them into."
“I was getting more into my teens learning about different kinds of music other than just gospel and R&B. I was ‘afropunk’ back then,” said Brown. “And feeling quite alone in that because in the U.K., there wasn’t a lot of Black artists wanting to step out of the box of what the industry was trying to put them into.”

Sarah Brimley

Activism is not a hashtag or a fleeting moment in time for Brown. From the values her parents instilled in her, Brown’s entire life and upbringing has been about activism behind the scenes. Growing up, she remembers walking through the streets with her mother and singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” as neighbors hurled racist slurs at them.

In 2015, Brown released a video to accompany her single “Sacrifice” in which she was depicted as a white woman and took off a mask to reveal her true self: a Black woman. She said it was a commentary on the “double consciousness” Black people must invoke to survive and cope.

Her forthcoming album is a continuation of that journey, not merely reveling in Black pain but the depth of her experiences.

“I used to go to record company meetings and play them songs about my Black experience, and the label would turn around and tell me, ‘We can’t put that out.’ [‘Sacrifice’] was like you’re hearing a window into me trying to go down that road. This record is definitely that,” said Brown.

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Brown expressed immense gratitude and respect for the love fans have showed “Shark in the Water” and its video over the years — and hopes to replicate that in the upcoming “Degrassi” reboot that will air on HBO Max in the U.S. in 2023.

“I think it’s such a collective sense of shared happiness and joy that we all share together and it’s really, really lovely. I’m talking to someone at the studio that’s making the new series, and I really would love to do a revamp of it for the new one coming out,” she said. “I have reached out to them on email and had a lovely email back where they seem to think it could be a good idea, but they’re just waiting for a music supervisor to come on board to solidify. But I’m going to be quite persistent.”

Her message to “Degrassi” fans: “I’m fighting for you. I’m so grateful and so thankful.”

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