MAKING A DIFFERENCE
By Darlene Donloe
Right around this time, David Linton, the chairman of the Living Legends Foundation, Jackie Rhinehart, the vice president of the organization, plus its officers and members of the board, would be knee-deep in putting the finishing touches on the foundation’s 29th annual Awards Show and Dinner Gala.
Due to COVID-19, the show could not go on this year.
“This would have been crunch time,” said Linton, a music industry veteran. “We’d be putting the finishing touches on ads in our booklet, getting the final head count, making sure we have enough tables, finishing the video presentation, securing the entertainment and walking through the show. We had already selected our honorees.”
“I anticipated this in February,” said Rhinehart, a former senior vice president for Universal and Motown and Universal Music Group, who also worked at Mercury, Arista and Uptown, as well as Hush Productions. “I told the organization we needed to look into canceling. Now, of course, we have everything on hold. It’s sad because we had a great lineup this year.”
Every October the foundation, with chapters in New York and Los Angeles, hosts an annual fundraiser to honor legendary music and radio industry professionals who have distinguished themselves through their contributions as trailblazers, trendsetters, teachers, and/or mentors, and whose efforts and contributions paved the way for many in the entertainment industry, especially minorities and women. Many of those opportunities are in the areas of recorded music, radio broadcasting and retail.
“This organization was started because we recognized a need to honor our heroes and sheroes in the industry,” said Linton, who added it’s important to recognize people for their good works.
“When it comes to entertainment and Black music, we represent the culture,” Linton said. “We create culture. It’s a Black thing. Everything we do is duplicated.
“There are people behind the scenes who make it happen. People would never know who they are or that they are even there. They are the unseen heroes. Without them, things wouldn’t happen.”
“Somebody has got to do it,” said Rhinehart, a music industry insider who has been with the foundation for 15 years. “All industries recognize the best or best practices in their industry. Why not us?”
Linton, a former executive at Warner Bros. Records, Reprise, Polygram, Island, Arista and Capitol Records, said there are a number of people within the music industry who don’t get the recognition they deserve.
“For example, think about that artist development person who helped style the image of a Whitney Houston, or a Toni Braxton, a Teddy Pendergrass or a Salt-N-Pepa,” he said. “No one would know their contributions or recognize them for their efforts. That’s why this organization was started.
“Everybody can’t sing and perform. If we don’t tell our story, who will? It’s important for us to honor each other. We have to tell our story and claim it.”
“These people are not unsung,” Rhinehart said. “They may not have received an accolade while in the biz, but they made an impact. They are not unsung.”
The organization, started in 1991 and incorporated in 1992 by music industry legend Ray Harris and record executives Barbara Lewis and C.C. Evans and radio programming executive Jerry Boulding (Urban Network), also gives out scholarships and provides financial aid to people in the industry who might be out of work for a time and having financial difficulties.
The foundation, funded primarily with corporate contributions and individual donations, has given away more than $100,000 in assistance. Some of the scholarship funds are raised through the organization’s second fundraiser — an annual golf tournament, featuring players from the NFL, NBA and music entertainers.
“We’ve helped people in numerous ways,” Linton said. “We want people who need help, to have somewhere to go to get that help. It could be for medical bills, or they could just be short of money. Some people are dying without insurance. We’ve even helped someone stay in their house.”
Linton said the organization never reveals the people they help.
“We help people in a dignified way,” he said. “We do it from a place of love and caring. We want everyone to keep their dignity. What’s important is helping someone when you can.”
“We are glad to be able to do it,” said Rhinehart, a New York native. “It can happen to anybody. It could happen by way of health, death, emergencies or something catastrophic. There are no pension plans or any kind of retirement plan in the music industry.
Most people are working under a contract. People think if you’re working in the music industry, you are making a lot of money. Well, you could be, but you can also be without health care, or life and health insurance or retirement funds. Hopefully, we can help in some small way.”
Linton, who has been chairman of the foundation for five years, said one of his goals when he became chairman was to establish a scholarship program to help students.
Although they didn’t raise money through the annual awards gala this year, Linton said they were still able to hand out $1,000 scholarships.
“It was important,” he said. “Sometimes a student’s ability to stay in school boils down to them being able to buy books. We didn’t want that to happen.”
This year all of Living Legends Foundation’s plans for what the organization calls a “legends weekend” were postponed due to COVID-19. All of the 29th–anniversary activities, including the Music Legends & Icons annual picnic, were put on hold until next year, which will be the organization’s 30th anniversary.
“We’re probably losing anywhere from $50,000 and up,” said Linton, the program director at Jazz 91.9 WCLK in Atlanta. “We help people throughout the year. This year, we’re taking a big hit.”
For Linton, the Living Legends Foundation is an organization that was and continues to be “rooted in a humanitarian spirit.”
“We continue to have that by the work we do and by the people who unselfishly volunteer their time,” Linton said. “I may be the chair but I work with people who are unselfish. People like our President Varnell Johnson, our Vice President Jackie Rhinehart, our Secretary Pat Shields, our Treasurer Cecelia Evans, our General Counsel Kendall Minter and all of our board members.
“All of these people volunteer their time and have the desire to help people. They participate in school career days. The bottom line is, we are a family and we believe in what we do.”
Linton said starting Oct. 13, the Living Legends Foundation will launch a vodcast/podcast hosted by journalists Monique Kelley and Billy Johnson Jr., that will feature music artists and industry professionals.
“It’s one of our new projects,” he said. “We like to stay current.”
Linton and Rhinehart say they were drawn to the industry because there is “something about music.”
“Our music is part of the total history of music,” said Rhinehart, who is now a consultant. “There is no music without Black music and us being a part and sole creator of that idiom. You can’t separate us from the general pool of music.”
“Music is emotions and memories,” Linton said. “When you hear a song it invokes an emotion or evokes a memory of something. It’s the soundtrack of our lives.”
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.