In Memoriam: John “Ecstasy” Fletcher

Ecstasy of Whodini performing at the Old School Hip Hop Fest
Ecstasy of Whodini performing at the Old School Hip Hop Fest

Have You Heard The News, Oh Boy…

The news of the passing of John “Ecstasy” Fletcher on yesterday at the age of 56 hit hard. There are those of us of a certain age that know [because we were there] what it sounded like and felt to experience this pioneering group, the pioneering sound, the pioneering look. The word fresh comes to mind. That fresh brim that Ecstasy sported. The fresh clothes and shoes. The look of videos like “One Love” and that voice, that voice that Ecstasy had that commanded the microphone and your attention.

What Ecstasy and Whodini represented to a kid like me who was a tween when “Haunted House Of Rock” dropped in the Fall of ’83 was the wonder and excitement of seeing what the older cats on the block were into. It was exciting to watch and to emulate (out of view) the swagger, the confidence – the entire aesthetic. Again, these brothers were fresh – not Lee Jeans and Addidas Fresh(that always had its time and place) but dress pants, dress shoes and dress shirt fresh: outfits. That’s what I saw… I saw my future through these guys who were just a little older who inspired me to in some ways take up the mantle of a Smooth Operator in Training.

Before We Go Any Further

It goes without saying that life is precious. It truly is and everyday is a gift and so what I’m about to say is not out of arrogance, there is no ego here I’m just moved to say it because it’s in my spirit. I don’t need to look up anything when it comes to the music of Ecstasy/Whodini because I lived it. I’m proud to say I lived it and I think all of us benefit from sharing our lived experiences. Let me say that again: We all benefit from sharing our lived experiences. I often talk to my mother who is close to ninety about her lived experiences.Listen to someone who was there who had an actual visceral experience with the sights, the sounds, the smells, the language.

That’s my long way of saying how can you accurately talk about the impact of Ecstasy/Whodini without ever having been the recipient of getting some dap with your mans or woman friend saying what you had on was “Fresh” and you reply with “Word?” and they might reply with a “Word Up!” The mid-80’s was a different time ladies and gents. This music that so many take for granted (as it has been mainstream for decades) was the furthest from mainstream when Whodini ruled the Airwaves, Boxes and Walkmen. No, I didn’t say Boombox in that last sentence because where I came from we just said “Box”.

His Contributions To The Jam

Another way that I want to honor the memory of John “Ecstasy” Fletcher is to let you know that his contributions to this music and culture was more than enough. More than enough. There’s no need to look for co-signs of the famous, no need to try to relate his worth by saying yeah you know who sampled his voice or that Whodini song in this or that. All of that is great and I’m not being dismissive, but what I’m saying is all you/we need to do is listen to the music, that voice, those lyrics and we will understand in short order that Ecstasy gave so much to us, so much of himself and for that we honor his memory.

Far from hyperbole, before I type any last words(If it’s alright with you, it’s alright with me…)Ecstasy contributed to an incredibly vibrant and uplifting soundtrack to my generation of kids. He was a teacher and we were eager students. Let me walk over to the board before I take my seat…

“Haunted House Of Rock” – Taught us about having a good time. Why would you go to a party to hold up the wall? Go home Roger!!!

“Friends” – Taught about the value of friendships. Existential before I even had a clue as to what that word was or meant.

“Five Minutes Of Funk” – Brought the Funkdafied concept of release of Funk to a whole new generation. Have you ever rode a bus full of teenage athletes on their way to play a basketball game and everyone had the same song rockin’ in their headphones preparing them to do battle? I have. Whatever we had pent up got released on the court that night thanks to that song.

“Big Mouth” – Your Dad’s old car. Your school desk. The cafeteria table. What these things have in common is if you didn’t try to play the beat to “Big Mouth” on them, I don’t know what you were doing with your life if you lived during those times. Big. Facts.

“Freaks Come Out At Night” – The doggone Anthem. You betta ask somebody and when they started showing the video on BET, that video filmed on The Fresh Festival Tour with a young Jermaine Dupri? Again, you betta ask somebody.

“Funky Beat” – Ooooooo Weeeeee. “Nuff said.

“One Love” – Big Brother advice in Full Effect Right Here. This was the one that you just had to sit down and understand Ecstasy was letting us young cats know what was in store for us around the corner. That’s what a good and real big brother does for you. We had those. We really had those. In the music. In the messages and all around us.

To the family, to the fans this is only a small token of flowers from all of us here to honor the memory, the magic and the music of John “Ecstasy” Fletcher.

May he Rest In Peace and his memory be blessed and a blessing.

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