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NAJEE’S NOTES: Summer road trips that entertain

It’s summertime and that is usually the time to take a vacation from activism and take road trips. This summer is no different.

Last month I was part of a caravan of several dozen South L.A. residents and jazz fans who attended the sold-out San Diego Jazz Festival hosted by Kimberly and Oz Benoit of Rainbow Productions.

This weekend another road trip is planned with a large segment of South L.A. residents who caravan and attend the 35th anniversary of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which will take place July 20 and 21 at the Industry Hills Expo Center.

This rodeo is one of a kind and always a great family event. The rodeo is a unique opportunity for our youth to see black cowboys and cowgirls compete in the nation’s only touring black rodeo. I bring my family every year and on July 20 we plan to be front and center enjoying the thrilling performances and contests. I encourage those South L.A. residents who have never attended this must-see experience. There are still seats left so hope to see you there.

On July 21, the caravan continues  as I, along with dozens of South L.A. music fans, drive back down to San Diego to attend a performance by Larry Dunn’s Anthology of Earth Wind & Fire.

Whenever anyone asks me who’s my favorite group or band I immediately respond with Earth, Wind & Fire. In my humble opinion, Earth, Wind & Fire is the greatest band in history.

This performance by Dunn is one that I’m anxiously looking forward to. Dunn is a musical genius who played the organ, synthesizer, piano, keyboards and clavinet with Earth, Wind & Fire from 1972 until 1983.

Dunn also held the position as the band’s musical director. In this key role, he contributed a great deal to the group’s international success. In addition, Dunn rehearsed Earth, Wind & Fire for live stage performances, and wrote many of the musical segues and medleys.

I had the honor of meeting Dunn at an awards event a couple of years ago and we hit it right off and exchanged contact information. I have met everyone from Michael Jackson to Luther Vandross, but I had never met anyone from Earth, Wind & Fire or gotten close to them despite all the concerts I attended over the years, so meeting Dunn and his beautiful and talented wife Luisa, who are two of the nicest and most humblest and spiritual people you’ll ever meet, for me was a thrill of lifetime.

While Dunn was a key member of Earth, Wind & Fire, the group achieved sales of more than 100 million albums worldwide, six Grammys awards, Four American Music Awards, 32 Gold and Platinum/Multi-Platinum records and albums, a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2000). Dunn is also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2010).

Dunn had major creative influence on such Earth, Wind & Fire classics as “Shining Star,” “Spirit,” “Be Ever Wonderful,” “Runnin’,” “See The Light,” “Let Me Talk,” “And Love Goes On,” “Jupiter,” as well as other hits I grew up dancing too and I have every CD that EWF has ever made in my collection.

Dunn’s production and performance credits include the Emotions, Level 42, Ronnie Laws, George Duke, Lenny White, Paulinho Da Costa, Foley, Ramsey Lewis, Caldera, Hubert Laws, Stanley Turrentine, Dianne Reeves, Brian Culbertson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stanley Clarke and Deniece Williams, just to name a few.

To further his talent of producing and composing for other artists, Dunn has been immersed in sound engineering, technology and synthesizer programming for the past 20 years. The Dunns and Darrell S. Elliott have formed a production company, Source Productions.

Dunn’s music has touched the world and the inside of my soul since I first heard Earth, Wind & Fire perform their “Shining Star” when I was a child. If you want to join our South L.A. caravan, we leave July 21 at 4 p.m. from Leimert Park. For ticket information. visit

Hope to see my South L.A. family the entire weekend at the Bill Pickett Rodeo and Larry Dunn’s Earth Wind and Fire Anthology performance, these are both these great events.

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