Wednesday, October 22, 2008

R.I.P. Rudy Ray Moore...Long Live Dolemite!!!

Rudy Ray Moore

Watch: Dolemite! The Signified Monkey

'Dolemite' Comedian Rudy Ray Moore, Inspiration To Hip Hop Culture, Dead At 81 Years Old


Tuesday, October 21st 2008,

Rudy Ray Moore, the comedian, singer and actor who inspired rappers like Snoop Dogg and whose Dolemite character was one of the great street culture figures of the 20th century, died Sunday night at a nursing home in Akron, Ohio.

The cause was complications of diabetes. He was 81.

Moore never cracked mainstream culture like his early colleague Redd Foxx, but he inspired the same level of respect and admiration on the streets and behind the counters of record stores, which is where Moore records had to be kept because the covers tended to feature busty, naked or near-naked women.

This correctly suggests that Moore's comedy was built on adult material. Like Foxx, he made "party records" that went into wide circulation without so much as a nod of acknowledgement from radio or other mainstream media outlets.

Ironically, Moore in real life was fastidiously religious. He was a frequent speaker in church, and each year he would take his mother – who at 98 survives him – to the National Baptist Convention.

He explained this split by saying he created stage characters the same way any performer creates characters, and that the stage characters had nothing to do with the man off-stage.

His best-known character was Dolemite, who started as a player on Moore's comedy records of the '60s and migrated to a series of low-budget movies in the mid-1970s.

Dolemite was a pimp, kung-fu expert and all-around bad-man hustler with a subtle sense of self-aware humor, a less polished cousin to Shaft and other black stars of the era.

By any traditional cinema standards, the Dolemite movies were crude stuff, and Moore was no Sidney Poitier. But the films had a raw energy that drew a strong street following, not unlike the cults that follow martial arts or low-budget horror films.

Moore was also a quadruple-threat influence for rappers – music, visuals, comedy and attitude. Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew has said Moore was his primary influence, and Snoop Dogg said there would be no Snoop without Moore's first "Dolemite," which Snoop said he saw "like 300 times."

Moore maintained throughout his life that he and Foxx were the true seminal black comedians and that Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, Steve Harvey and others were simply later derivative generations.

Some of his material still sounds raw and crude today, in an age when it would seem all lines in those areas had been long since obliterated.

In a way, that's a tribute to Rudy Ray Moore. Many of his fans never wanted him to become a gruff, lovable old codger on a TV show, because so much of his appeal stemmed from the fact he was never acceptable in polite society.

Like the covers of his albums, the ones that record stores sold only to people who knew to ask for them from the lowest shelf behind the counter, Moore remained a little dirty.

Did he never sell out because he decided against it or because he never found a buyer?

Who knows? It doesn't matter.

He did it his way.

No comments: