With her sweet soprano, long beaded braids and shoulder-padded ensembles, Patrice Rushen graced the Soul Train stage in 1982 to perform her soon-to-be smash hit “Forget Me Nots”. From her seventh album Straight From the Heart, the song went on to earn her a Grammy nomination and peak at #5 on the R&B charts despite being deemed by some at her label Elektra Records as a dud before it was released. Marked as the most commercially successful single of her career, “Forget Me Nots” was one hit that helped usher in a new sound of R&B music that was separating itself from disco and moving into a new world of pop culture that included BET Video Soul videos, synthesized beats and a music renaissance known as hip-hop. While not a hip-hop song in the slightest, “Forget Me Nots” was energetically different for the R&B genre while still retaining the instrumental strength of early R&B music. Mixed with an upbeat sensibility that tended to mark the 80s, “Forget Me Nots” became an instant classic that, even thirty years later, is still heavily sampled, remixed—think “Men In Black”–played in dance clubs, and sung joyously in a karaoke bar near you.
The bass line is probably what hits you first with this simple masterpiece of dance and R&B music so seamlessly intertwined. Next we hear the horn, manned by no other than the legendary Gerald Albright. Add Patrice Rushen’s playful vocals telling a wistful tale of long lost love and “Forget Me Nots” becomes a peppy step down memory lane with nothing but joyful hope as its outcome. You can bet that Patrice Rushen had something to do with the arrangement and invention of such a classic melody. While at Elektra, she was able to extend her artistic limbs on all of her projects.
“I had artistic freedom within those parameters,” Rushen told Blue Note in a 2007 interview. “This kind of thing would be completely unheard of today, where I can do the music I wanted to do, writing all the arrangements for strings and horns, conducting…you know I was singing, and certainly playing too.”
Rushen, now 57 years old, started her career at a very young age, considered a child prodigy before starting college. Even as her career in front of the camera cooled in the past twenty years, she has still worked heavily as a musician, building an accomplished directing career behind-the-scenes as musical director for televised events–from the Grammy and Emmy Awards to the NAACP Image Awards and People’s Choice Awards.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Patrice Rushen’s hit “Forget Me Nots” in our Soul Train Turning 30 series, let us not forget that behind the great songs of our past stand the talented people who are still making great art even if we’re not always aware of what they’re up to. It is in true irony that Patrice Rushen’s hit “Forget Me Nots” has ensured that, regardless of what she may up to artistically at any given moment, we, her adoring audience, will certainly forget her not when appreciating her gift of this delightful song.
-Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman
Khadijah Ali-Coleman can be found on http://www.KhadijahOnline.com.