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One half of famous song writing duo to play CKJH

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Students at Central Kitsap Junior High School will be treated to a little something extra at the school’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly this Friday. That’s because students and guest speakers performing and appearing at the event will be joined by LeRoy Bell, one half of the famous Bell and James song-writing team.

“It is kind of a steal for us to get him to come to a school that he’s not necessarily connected to by family, but he’s connected by wanting to give a message,” CKJH Principal Franklyn MacKenzie said.

Bell will be on hand to perform his song, “Dream of Peace,” off his latest full-length studio album, “Two Sides to Every Story.”

This year’s assembly will be presented, as usual, by the CKJH Dream (diversity) Club and is titled after Bell’s song. CKJH School Counselor and Dream Club Adviser Sharon Goodman said the theme of the assembly will center around exploring what students can do to promote peace and diversity within their own ranks.

That message is what appealed to Bell in the first place and what prompted his visit to the school.

“It’s a subject that’s dear to my heart, as far as peace goes,” the Edmonds resident said. “It’s neat when young people get into it like that.”

Goodman thought of bringing Bell to perform at the assembly after attending one of his concerts recently.

“He’s just a very impassioned singer and sings a lot about peace ... and I just thought he’d be a good fit,” she said.

Bell originally made his mark on the music industry as a songwriter with Casey James. Billed as “Bell and James,” the tandem wrote for artists such as The Temptations, Lou Rawls and others before recording two full-length albums of their own.

Their 1979 single “Livin’ it Up (Friday Night)” peaked at No. 15 on the U.S. charts and was sampled on the Notorious B.I.G. album “Born Again” in 1999.

They also authored a pair of Elton John hits: 1979’s Grammy-nominated Top-10 cut, “Mama Can’t Buy You Love,” and 2004’s “Are You Ready for Love,” which was remixed by techno whiz Fatboy Slim and shot to No. 1 on the British charts.

More recently, Bell has been back in the recording studio, releasing two studio albums and a live album in the last four years.

The assembly also will feature student skits and guest speaker Cherry (pronounced SHER-ee) Rachal, who was involved in the civil rights movement.

“Our goal is that we’re not just doing a one-time thing because it’s Martin Luther King weekend or black history month,” MacKenzie said.

To preview LeRoy Bell’s song, “Dream of Peace,” as well as other songs, visit www.leroybell.com/music.html and click on the appropriate links.

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