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Cheers, D(uane) Michael

CHEERS, D(uane) Michael

PERSONAL: Male. Education: Boston University, B.A., M.S., and M.A.; Howard University, Ph.D.


ADDRESSES: Offıce—University of Mississippi, Department of Journalism, 331 Farley Hall, Oxford, MS 38677. E-mail—[email protected]


CAREER: University of Mississippi, Oxford, currently assistant professor of journalism; has taught at Auburn University and Wayne State College. Editor for Ebony magazine.


AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholarship.


WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Eric Easter and Dudley M. Brooks) Sylvester Monroe, Songs of My People: African-Americans, a Self-Portrait, introduction by Gordon Parks, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.

(With Hugh Masekela) Still Grazing: The MusicalJourney of Hugh Masekela, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2004.


Work has appeared in newspapers and magazines in the United States, Africa, Asia, Caribbean, and Europe.

SIDELIGHTS: D. Michael Cheers, a professor of photojournalism and magazine journalism at the University of Mississippi, is the coauthor of a widely reviewed memoir about South African horn player Hugh Masekela. He has also coedited a book of photographs called Songs of My People: African-Americans, a Self-Portrait. Including the work of some fifty photojournalists, it illustrates the lives of celebrated African Americans such as Miles Davis and Colin Powell, as well as those of the poor working in cotton fields and unemployed individuals in East St. Louis. Writing in People, Richard Lacayo commented that "the visual poetry in Songs gently corrects our vision" of its subjects.


Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela is an autobiography written with Cheers's help. The internationally famous musician made his talents known at a young age, despite the oppression of apartheid in the 1950s. Louis Armstrong sent Masekela a trumpet while he was still at school, and when he escaped from South Africa, Masekela went from musical student in Manhattan to chart-topping recording artist with his "Grazing in the Grass" within a decade. While Masekela developed a fusion style that has been widely influential, his personal life was troubled. Sex, drugs, and alcohol often took precedence over family, friends, and music. The horn player addressed his substance abuse problem not long before his memoir was written.


The drama of Masekela's life and career is a fascinating subject, according to reviewers, though some found the telling of it unbalanced. In the New York Times Book Review, Eric Weisbard suggested that "There is a titanic story beneath all this, where the aspirations of postindependence African nationalism are sidetracked by personal hubris and competing notions of art and culture. Masekela cannot fully tell it. But he lived it . . . and it keeps the story of a wastrel somehow emblematic." A Publishers Weekly critic commented that the book "too often pauses to detail the constant womanizing and nonstop drug and alcohol abuse from which he recently recovered. But it also offers excellent descriptions of his musical accomplishments." Other commentary on the book came in Black Issues Book Review, where Herb Boyd and Regina Cash-Clark advised that "like his unmuted, passionate solos on flugelhorn, Hugh Masekela hold nothing back in this lengthy autobiography." Library Journal critic Bill Walker concluded that the book is "a fascinating, well-written yarn, ripe for the big screen."

Cheers told CA: "I credit my parents for instilling in me the importance of reading. From an early age I found myself lost in all kinds of novels, biographies and autobiographies. As a teen I remember I Am Third, the Gale Sayers book, as having a particular impact on my life. Authors and books such as Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man), James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain, and The Fire Next Time), and Richard Wright (Black Boy) also impressed me. In 1971, I met Life magazine photojournalist Gordon Parks in St. Louis at the premiere of the movie Shaft. He gave me his New York telephone number. I've cherished our relationship ever since. Parks influenced me like no other photographer or writer I've studied. My career at Ebony and Jet magazines was similar to Gordon's at Life magazine in that I wrote and photographed the majority of my stories.


"When I began researching the Masekela book in 1995, I first worked for several years at sifting through and correcting the mountains of misinformation that had been printed as 'gospel' on the trumpet player, and then through my years of interviewing Masekela, stay true to Hugh's voice, much the same way Quincy Troupe accomplished with this style of collaboration with Miles Davis's autobiography.


"Working for a magazine for so many years taught me the discipline of writing under pressure. Now that I moved to writing books, I still keep to daily, weekly and monthly deadlines. Writing is something that just comes naturally. Writing Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela was so pleasurable because of the continuous changes in rhythms and beats that made up Hugh's life. I'm working on another collaborative effort. I'm searching for the chords and harmonies of my subject's life. I'm not there yet, but it coming. I can feel it!"


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Black Issues Book Review, September-October, 2004, Herb Boyd and Regina Cash-Clark, review of Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, p. 27.

Ebony, February, 1992, review of Songs of My People:African-Americans, A Self-Portrait, p. 20.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of Still Grazing, p. 259.

Library Journal, April 1, 2004, Bill Walker, review of Still Grazing, p. 96.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 2004, Eric Weisbard, review of Still Grazing, p. 7.

People, May 4, 1992, Richard Lacayo, review of Songs of My People, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, April 19, 2004, review of StillGrazing, p. 54.

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