Melvin Sparks Allowed His Music to Transcend Race and Religion
I attended the funeral of Melvin Sparks Hassan today, in Mt. Vernon, New York, 20 miles north of Manhattan. Melvin was a devout Muslim. He passed Tuesday, March 15th. suffering a heart attack at home, he was 64 years old.
It was a very interesting learning experience for non-Muslims like me. I learned about some aspects of the Islamic faith that were unfamiliar to me , particularly regarding sacred burial customs. America is a remarkably diverse place. Our nation’s diversity is its strength. As global citizens we must actively pursue experiences that broaden our individual and collective understanding of one another . Sadly many of our citizens balk at learning about others customs and beliefs. It therefore becomes easier to demonize and cast those not sharing the majority’s beliefs and practices as so called “others” even when the “other” represents over a billion human beings on the planet. Many great musicians and friends paid their respects to the Texas born guitarist. They represented every creed : Jews, Muslims, Christians, race, gender and nationality. Melvin's new band consists of young white musicians whose love and devotion for this gentle soul was apparent, Sparks is regarded as one who helped pioneer the genre known as Acid Jazz. Band members attempted to hold back tears of grieve when sharing memories and amusing stories of long hours traveling on the road together. The guitarist and band leader’s impact on his young charges was highlighted in terms of his being caring but stern father figure. He was described as a wonderful mentor, teacher and wise disciplinarian. Recalling their leader as one infused with a joy for life, love of music and friendship proved too over whelming . Their tears flowed as the audience listened but ceased after a vibrant musical jam session and repast in celebration of Melvin’s remarkable life .
Melvin never seemed to wear his faith on his sleeve, he lived it with a generous and buoyant spirit. Having known and gigged with Melvin over the years, I’m hopeful and believe that racial and religious tolerance are achievable. He left a fine example for his fellow Muslims, and Non- Muslims alike to immulate in terms of learning to respect and value others solely on the basis of the content of their character.
At the repast, I was privileged to sing with Nathan Lucas the wonderful Hammond B3 organist and a fine trio anchored by drummer, Jessie "Cheese" Hamin before an appreciative gathering of family, artists and hosts of friends. It was a beautiful home going celebration. RIP