Clifton Coates
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Clifton Coates

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I Wish We All Could Be Together - 2008



Clifton Coates is a name that’s surely recognizable to many singers, songwriters, musicians, politicians, educators, parents and students in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Whether the memory stems from his time on radio at WOL, his experience as a teacher and administrator in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County public schools as well as principal of Coolidge High School or his powerful deliveries as a motivational speaker, many would consider that Coates has made his mark on the Nation’s Capital. Some may even remember him as the lead singer for a popular local Jazz group, Kashmir in the late 70’s and 80’s. No matter where the name strikes a chord of familiarity, Clifton Coates has returned. And he’s come back with a message of hope and unity through an inspirational musical project called I Wish We All Could Be Together.

With an incredibly impressive resume, Coates is now taking the experience as a singer, songwriter, educator and motivational speaker and melding it into a new sound and a universal, uplifting message that’s needed for these days and times.

The musical bug bit the Washington, D.C. native long ago, listening to his mother a blues and gospel singer and his brother John, who was part of the 70’s R&B group, The Ebony 4. His musical interests were ignited as he sang with various bands in the Washington metropolitan area. As an African American male, he initially honed his chops in the genre of R&B. But a chance meeting with a man named Steven Vitto, introduced him to the music of non-black artists such as Billy Joel, Sting, Elton John, Kenny Loggins and Barry Manilow. He discovered that their music possessed a more relaxed vocal style, which was more suited to his voice.

Clifton later met Eddie Hayter, a piano virtuoso, and began practicing songs closer to the jazz and pop standards and formed a group called “Kashmir.” The group secured gigs on the hotel circuit in such venues as the Fox Trap, the Mayflower Hotel and the Madison Hotel. The group quickly became well known and due to his affiliation with performing for the wife of the former mayor of Washington, Effi Barry, at the District Building, the group had the opportunity to perform as the opening act for McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie and Angela Bofill. In addition, performances were given at other local hot spots such as Wolf Trap, the Carter Barron Amphitheater, Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Cellar Door and Blues Alley. Coates, who considers himself to be a “classically-trained scat jazz pop vocalist”, has also performed with the Morgan Baer Gene Donati Orchestra.

After earning a degree in Broadcasting from Bowie State University, he served as an intern reporter and assistant news director for WOL Radio, where Radio One executive and founder Cathy Hughes tutored him through his first live news cast. Following his stint at radio, he worked for a number of years at Cedar Knoll and Oak Hill Youth Centers in youth corrections to gauge the enormous issues of urban African American males and afterwards became a certified as a teacher.

During his experiences as a Social Studies teacher in Baltimore, a teacher at Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland and as both vice principal at Greenbelt Middle School and principal of Coolidge Senior High School, he saw the plight of young black males. According to Coates, they were being “warehoused” instead of being educated. This was one of the impetuses for his stepping into the role of motivational speaking. He started giving motivational seminars and workshops aimed at helping African American young men to better their lives.

The title cut’s lyrics speak about how children play on a playground and have no concern of their friends’ hue. For them, the focus is the swing and the sliding board. It’s that message of worldwide unity and togetherness that permeates Coates’ entire record. Other songs like “It’s Time For Peace”, “This Side Of The Color Line” and “It’s Beyond Black And White” highlight the racial tension present in today’s society and beg the world to appreciate our God-given differences.

“Love’s Circle”, also, on the CD, talks about the circular effect of love. “It’s about how you don’t find the right person until you become the right person as long as you’re looking externally, the search will go on forever,” says Coates. “The search must start internally, then, you will attract the individual that you’ve been seeking to attract.”

Clifton’s sound is unique. Like the audience he attempts to reach, musically, the project is a melting pot of various genres. “The music is not R&B, country western, jazz, or pop; it’s just music,” Coates explains about his music. “The CD represents an effort to heal the world through song. It’s not anything unusual or different from the flower children or John Lennon with his song ‘Imagine’. “I want to create music to lift spirits that will inspire people to create dialogue, to make people think about