Sound Bites: A Benefit For Tracy Littlejohn, with Okra, Greenville Symphony Orchestra Presents “A Musical Valentine,” featuring Edwin McCain, Marvin Gaye Valentine’s Party hosted by The Jamie Wright Band

Arts & Culture | Feb 8, 2018 | Vincent Harris

Sunday, Feb. 11
A Benefit For Tracy Littlejohn, with Okra (featuring Jamie Wright & Leisha J), Michael Blythe & Conspiracy, Zataban, 5th and York, The Shane Pruitt Band, Gaffney Allstars, Java, The Work, Marcus King & Friends, and The Craig Sorrells Project
200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville
2 p.m.
$20 (General Admission), $100 (VIP tickets, including guaranteed seating and a souvenir poster)

When drummer Tracy Littlejohn, a staple of the Upstate music scene for decades, died unexpectedly of a heart attack, the scene lost a true professional who could handle everything from blues to pop to jazz and beyond. Fellow drummer Tez Sherard, who is just as skilled a percussionist, lost a friend of 20 years. “Tracy was a helpful, genuine, honest guy,” Sherard says. “He’d do anything for you. He was very accountable and very trustworthy. If he said he was going to do it, he did it. That’s why he had the friendships he did on the music scene, because you knew if you called him, he’d be there, and he’d give you 120 percent.”

Sherard, who also praises Littlejohn as an experimental, boundary-pushing player, says that it only felt right to gather many of the musicians Littlejohn played with as a tribute, but the show grew into something more. “Initially, the goal was to have a night to pay homage to Tracy with the music he’d been part of or inspired over the years,” he says. “Then it became about raising funds for his burial expenses and creating a college fund for his daughter.”


Wednesday, Feb. 14
Greenville Symphony Orchestra Presents “A Musical Valentine,” featuring Edwin McCain

Peace Center
300 S. Main St., Greenville
7:30 p.m.

Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Edwin McCain is already responsible for at least two hugely popular love songs: “I’ll Be,” from his second album, 1997’s “Misguided Roses,” and “I Could Not Ask For More,” from 1999’s “Messenger.” So it stands to reason that he knows a good romantic tune when he hears one. McCain also has one of the more powerful voices in South Carolina music, an emotional, full-throated cry that he will be using to great effect at the Peace Center’s presentation of “A Musical Valentine.”

McCain and his band will be a welcome addition to a performance by the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and maestro Edvard Tchivzhel. The GSO will present an evening of classic and contemporary love songs, including standards of the jazz and Broadway songbooks and modern-day pop classics. In their previous performances on Valentine’s Day, the program included songs from “West Side Story,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Porgy and Bess,” as well as the music of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin.


Wednesday, Feb. 14
Marvin Gaye Valentine’s Party hosted by The Jamie Wright Band
200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville
9:30 p.m.

Playing a set of Marvin Gaye love songs for a Valentine’s Day show is both a great idea and a challenge; few writers or singers could evoke both physical and spiritual love like Gaye, but that’s quite a catalog (and a voice) to tackle. That’s the task that Jamie Wright has created for herself with her show at Gottrocks, which will include one full set of Gaye’s songs and another of classic R&B love songs by various artists.

“We thought it would be pretty cool to do a Marvin Gaye tribute that evening, because who better to choose?” Wright says. “When I first heard his music, it felt like he had gone through what he was singing about. A song like ‘Distant Lover,’ I felt like he was so emotional, even in his ad-libs. You can really connect to his music. So I definitely have my work cut out for me!”

Wright says the only way she can truly pay tribute to Gaye is by making sure her singing isn’t just about imitation. “I’m going to have to be true to the music and respect him but sing these songs in my own way,” she says. “That’s the way I have to present it. … I could never express his music the way he did, but I love the challenge of taking on his music as a vocalist.”

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