Monday, April 22, 2019

Music Video Monday Special Edition: RIP Omar Higgins

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 12:58 PM

click to enlarge Omar Higgins
  • Omar Higgins
The Memphis music community was emotionally crushed this weekend as news spread of the death of Omar Higgins. The bassist and bandleader was universally admired for his talent, his activism, and, as he would have put it, his vibe. We'll have a more detailed story about Omar — who, like Elvis, Isaac, and Alex has achieved "first name" status in the Memphis music community — in the near future, but for now, let's celebrate some of his life's work.

He might have not sold as many records as the other first-namers, but Omar made an indelible impression on everyone who saw him. He grew up playing punk rock in Brooklyn, but the first exposure Memphis had to his genius was with his reggae band Chinese Connection Dub Embassy. Here they are in 2011 on the Live From Memphis 60 Seconds web series, doing a haunting, stripped down version of "Heavy Meditation".

CCDE has been one of the most prolific and best-loved live bands in Memphis, a city not usually associated with reggae.

Omar understood that, like soul, reggae is secularized sacred music. They could be crowd pleasers without pandering, as you can see in this clip. Who else is going to play Steel Pulse's call for revolution "Tyrant" in front of thousands of basketball fans?

But Omar knew a great pop melody when he heard one. Here's CCDE doing their most famous reinterpretation, "Take On Me" by A-Ha, at the Beale Street Music Festival.

Recently, Omar returned to his punk roots by forming Negro Terror, an anti-racist hardcore band. Their first statement of purpose was covering "Invasion" by the notorious skinhead band Skrewdriver. In the documentary Negro Terror, which debuted at Indie Memphis 2018, Omar said he wanted to rock the song harder than the racists who wrote it.

Negro Terror was chosen for Beale Street Caravan's "I Listen To Memphis" video series. This fierce performance was recorded live in a Memphis skate park.

We'll have more on Omar's life and legacy in the coming days. 

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