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 STEVEN IVORY: Gerald Levert's Other Legacy

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Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

MessageSujet: STEVEN IVORY: Gerald Levert's Other Legacy   Mer 22 Nov - 22:14

STEVEN IVORY: Gerald Levert's Other Legacy
November 22, 2006

Steven Ivory *History will be kind to Gerald Levert. The R&B singer, songwriter and producer who succumbed to a heart attack November 10 at age forty, will be heralded as a tried and true soul man. In an era of posers, lip-syncers and reality stars, Levert, both with the vocal trio Levert and as a solo artist, proved that, like his father, legendary O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, he was the real deal.

However, there is an ironic addendum to Levert's legacy that perhaps the late entertainer himself would have appreciated: the sudden, premature nature of his passing has caused people--black people in particular--to have national dialogue regarding their physical well-being.

The tragedy of Levert's death and that of CBS-TV "60 Minutes" journalist Ed Bradley a day earlier at 65, yet again shoves in our collective face the pesky reality of mortality. Despite progress made in this country by blacks academically, professionally and politically, black America still takes its cue from the famous--black entertainers, athletes and familiar celebrated faces.

Bradley, who worked throughout his illness, showed us that even while waging battle with leukemia, there can exist a dignified, productive quality of life.

Levert's death, on the other hand, jolted us so because he didn't have to die.

An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be a heart attack brought on by heart disease. This, combined with the fact that Levert had gained quite a bit of weight in recent years, did him in.

Despite his dynamic, impassioned way with a song, when not behind the mic, Levert was like much of a segment of America that overeats, seldom exercises and either doesn't heed the advice of a physician or shirks doctor's visits altogether.

Heart disease alone affects an estimated 62 million Americans, many of whom don't even know it.

Black America has contributed more than its share toward that figure. Our tradition of unhealthy eating goes back to slavery. We love our pork, fried foods and butter-drenched sweets. Accordingly, we have eaten our way into generational hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and stroke.

In the interest of full disclosure: As I write this--as I type this very line--I'm taking the last bite in a two day binge of homemade penoche pecan vanilla fudge (from Littlejohn's in Los Angeles' Farmers Market. The stuff is like crack).

If man's body is his temple, then many of ours are rundown dwellings of which we are negligent slum lords. These structures--our bodies--are often places where the plumbing, heating and other essentials barely work. Neglectful owners that we can be, we deny ourselves proper inspection and thus, vital maintenance required to keep our bodies in good shape. Even when things look fine on the outside, inside, there can be problems.

Of course, how we treat our body often reflects how we feel about ourselves. Putting off a meal or sleep to work those extra hours at the office is not a valiant act; it's you blatantly telling your body that lots of other things are more important than its needs. We deny our bodies, yet demand that they perform at optimal levels. It is a surreal, twisted notion, another kind of slavery, in fact, with us as both slave and master.

Time to break the chains. Running suits aren't for leisure. Sweats are for sweating. It's time for us all to make good health--exercise, eating right and routine consultation with a physician--a way of life. Or, there may not be much more living. Forget forecasting plans for your body as a New Year's resolution; it's gotta start now. Even if you don't believe you deserve it, you do.

Taking care of ourselves is one thing in life we don't have to wait for someone to give us. We can create it.

During his short but full life and career, Gerald Levert made music from his heart. Consider the irony that in the end, it was his heart that gave out. In Levert's misfortune lies a crucial message that should not be missed or ignored.

Steven Ivory's book, FOOL IN LOVE (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) is in stores now or at Amazon.com (www.Amazon.com). Respond to him via STEVRIVORY@AOL.COM or MYfeedback@eurweb.com

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