wax Poetics

Cecile Grier

“Don’t Quit”

Released 1985
record label LesLan Records
Written by Jon Kirby

Cecile Grier "Don’t Quit"
Cecile Grier "Don’t Quit"

To the average neighborhood bully, this is the stuff of dreams. Each of Cecile Grier’s children can attest—it was not uncommon to disembark the school bus, only to be bombarded by their mother’s modern-soul oddity, “Don’t Quit.” “They’d be waiting for us,” recalls Lajuan Simmons. “They’d have the speakers in the window, turned all the way up—and they’d just start blasting it.” The prank’s intended target was primarily older sister Lana, who made her short-but-sweet kindergarten rap debut in the single’s opening stanzas. Playground lampooning aside, history, coupled with the European record market, has proven that Cecile Grier’s musical legacy is no laughing matter. “You can go to Staten Island, and people still know that record,” remarks Lajuan, who as Lotanerv has expanded the family business to include rap. “I had a mailman stop me about a year ago like, ‘You got to be a Simmons! You look just like your mother! And I still got that record!’”

“I guess the people at the post office do know me, ’cause I did a lot of shipping!” adds Cecile Simmons (née Grier), who, with her husband Leslie, comprised the entire LesLan Records staff. Named for firstborn Leslie Jr. and Lana, the label’s lone release made its initial splash in East Coast record pools, rippling down to DJs and independent retailers from New York to Florida. “Record pools used to call me up frantically—‘You didn’t send me those—how could you forget about me?’ And I’m like, ‘Who are you?’”

Recorded at Blank Tapes in Manhattan, the sonic texture of “Don’t Quit” is consistent with left-field triumphs by studio alums Arthur Russell and Patrick Adams, while compositionally more comparable to skate-savvy productions by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. With the vocal reverb set to Diva, producer Roger S. Keay laid a generous foundation of feverishly panned drum programming, latticed by synthetic strands of cascading harpsichord and faux pan flute. In the eleventh hour, Eddie Van Halen’s stunt double performs the guitar solo from “Beat It” atop Frankie Smith’s “Double Dutch Bus.” Beat Street for the music, Sesame Street for the message, positivity prevails on this home-cooked ode to persistence. On the back cover, Lana gets special thanks for doing the rap so well. “We’ll go far together,” the author assures.

Cecile remains involved in music, writing and singing, and continuing to foster the careers of her children. “My goal is to constantly help others; that’s what I was born to do,” concludes Cecile. “And if I can do it in a song, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

this is part of "Women in Music: Artists & Writers" Story

Featuring selected articles that display women’s important and versatile contributions to music, from the artists to the writers.




Feature

The Ladies of Chic

Chic created sophisticated dance music draped in mystery and anchored in the unison singing of a rotating cast of female vocalists.


Written by A. D. Amorosi

The Ladies of Chic






Feature

Coco Maria

Coco Maria took a roundabout route from child musician in Mexico to Worldwide FM DJ based in Amsterdam.


Written by Bret Sjerven

Coco Maria


Feature

Nina Simone

Nina Simone had no filter. She spoke with candor about civil rights when many in her position didn’t dare. She sang about uncomfortable subjects.... 


Written by Michael A. Gonzales

Nina Simone







Feature

Earth, Wind & Fire

Willed into being by one man, Earth, Wind & Fire became one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. 


Written by Ericka Blount Danois

Earth, Wind & Fire



Feature

Aaliyah

On the heels of her best-selling debut, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, fifteen-year-old Aaliyah was rocked by a sex scandal that would have crushed a lesser talent. 


Written by Michael A. Gonzales

Aaliyah

Feature

Bobby Caldwell

Blue-eyed-soul brother Bobby Caldwell took over the pop and R&B airways with his massive hit “What You Won’t Do for Love” in the late ’70s. With a smooth, soulful...


Written by Marisa Aveling

Bobby Caldwell





Feature

The Internet

Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians have emerged from production, engineering, and DJing roles within the Odd Future crew to claim their own stake in the movement of Black musical expression. 


Written by Andre Torres

The Internet



Feature

Daymé Arocena

Daymé Arocena is a burst of light energy—an interstellar body in the constellation of Afro-Cuban world music.


Written by Tamara P. Carter

Daymé Arocena











Having a Party
Re:discovery
Pointer Sisters %Having a Party%
Pointer Sisters Having a Party

United States,


Oo-La-La
Re:discovery
<i>Oo-La-La</i>
Sarah Dash Oo-La-La

USA,



Light of the World
Re:discovery
Light of the World <i>Light of the World</i>
Light of the World Light of the World

United Kingdom,


Sweet and Nice
Re:discovery
Marcia Griffiths - Sweet and Nice
Marcia Griffiths Sweet and Nice

Jamaica,



Kimiko
Re:discovery
Kimiko Kasai <i>Kimiko</i>
Kimiko Kasai Kimiko

Japan,






Feature

The Roots

The Roots first hit the national spotlight as a live hip-hop act with their 1993 indie debut, Organix...


Written by Ericka Blount Danois

The Roots






Feature

Little Dragon

Little Dragon’s brand of electronic future funk and fractured pop-soul was delivered the old-fashioned way, through nonstop touring.


Written by Allen Thayer

Little Dragon