My sister Jan always told me that she believed in me.
Growing up with Jan was a wonderful experience as she adopted everyone who got along with us to be like family. Always an encouragement to me. Jan and I never argued and never fought. Not even once! This year was the hardest year of her life. She lost her oldest son and her beloved husband to liver cancer. So our hearts ache as we miss them. I still tear up holding on to the memories we share. As we hold on to the hope of heaven to be reunited once more.
Hoping things would always stay the way we were then, the way I saw it – like it would always be. Christmas & New Years were Thanksgiving season. I lived a life full of imagination, prayers and dreams that would actually become a reality some day.
My heart’s story mainly tells of how I felt during our growing up years with all our family together. Bittersweet – hard to let them go. Yet the final years were glorious – that I had growing up with three-generations of hard, tough-love moments as well as the unforgettable tender times. Spats with dogs and cats, falls and fights and a love for relating to a racially mixed family. My fondest memories include the music that made celebrations happening – from birthdays to sad memorials, we sang and danced along with the songs.
It’s full of all my best years with my amazing, brave family life! From great-grandmothers’ house in Maryland, where there was a family of eight, a beautiful blend of ages – so lovely. Where all the symbolic formative years unfolded. I remember my great-grandmother who used marijuana from her herb garden for her aches and pains well before “medical use” became part of our cultural lexicon. Her garden was also rich with other herbs such as rosemary, mint, oregano, and she used to make delicious tea made from the roots of a sassafras tree!
My great-grandmother came to inherit this homeland since it was left to her when her husband died. She was born in Colorado, married very young, and came across on a covered wagon from Colorado to Maryland! She went on to have two children: my grandmother and her sister. She told stories to me of hunting deer and for years picked our wild turkey for our Thanksgiving dinners that were always so delicious – with vegetables from the garden. And when I say “picked”, I mean the deer or turkey she shot with her rifle every year for Thanksgiving!
My great-grandmother was a Native American woman – who married a Gibson.
Her daughter, my grandmother, gardened – she was our Martha Stewart! My grandmother went on to marry a Kinnebrew, who was multiracial – from a German family. It was her daughter, my mother, who fell in love with my dad. My dad’s mom always looked like a classy white woman to me. Her name was Consuela, and she came from both Spanish and Native American heritage. My name came from her Spanish roots, Linda, meaning “beautiful”.
As their legacy faded I began to miss, and still do, every moment they shared with our family. These moments were filled with love, and their home reflected quality and dignity. Oh we didn’t always agree, but it was nothing that a peach cobbler couldn’t fix, along with some home-made root beer and vanilla ice-cream that I dream was made from snow. Or a piece of fried chicken could cure any tears, since it was served with ‘let’s-make-up’ hugs.
During the holidays and birthdays of cousins who lived in what we called “Chocolate City” as well as in areas of Pennsylvania or Washington DC there was another piece of land left in a will to my granddad, so my dad grew up in DC because grandpa sold the farm and moved to DC during the 1940s. He worked as a chef on Capital hill.
My grandfather’s relatives lived in DC also, so I was very familiar with the ‘Town and Country’ lifestyle – a highlight of which was a tradition of trips to the Penn Relays each year. Another trip the grandfolks never missed was vacationing in New Orleans for Mardi Gras each year. They had no problems that were spoken of, but yet couldn’t get caught outside the home after dark without the concern of racial prejudice that existed. But Martin Luther King gave the situation hope.
My father’s mother loved fooling the prejudiced community by passing for white. Grandad did not pass for anything but what he was: a dark-skinned man of color. And was he a great cook too – who loved family time! The couple together could be perceived to be a woman with a town car driven by my grandfather who also worked as a chef and owned his own cab. They would laugh about it! They fit in with those Black Folks who were able to live in the city of Washington DC and who never once got harassed. My dad was a gifted carpenter and he was a land-owner too, from her parents. He did sell the land though and put its profits into into our home. So that my dad grew up in the campus area of Howard University never ceased to amaze me.
My daddy always wanted to be a carpenter. He was very talented and sold his furniture and also added extra rooms on our home as my mom gave birth to two sons and then I came along. He built on to their place in an area called Lincoln Park, in Lanham Maryland. As I grew up in those years, I watched a lot of TV. It was then that I secretly dreamed of someday being like Diana Ross.
The Capitol Building or the Library of Congress was where I did my homework at times while waiting for my mom who worked at the Department of Labor. Or I would work on my music on the steps of the Library of Congress I had been so inspired by seeing a series of Leonard Bernstein concerts for young people at Constitution Hall. Because I was devoted to music and art, when the Vietnam war broke out, I wished only that we would stop fighting. It seemed like so much hostility had taken over our world. To my grandparents, whom I owe my life, to them it seemed like the whole world had gone crazy.
Then Martin Luther King was killed and we, along with many in our nation, grieved that a great man had been taken from us much too soon.
Through the good times and the more difficult, I persevered and was kickin’ it with my beaded braids in Virginia Beach in my young 20’s….
And it was there that my roommate, Natalie (Cole) told her manager how talented I was. I was performing regularly, singing covers of the times with a local band. It was then that my sister Jan made the trip to meet Natalie in Virginia Beach where we had both been singing her father’s (Nat King Cole) fabulous songs. Then my sister shared the news with me that the singer Herb was looking for a new “Peaches” for his Peaches & Herb duo! Wow! So even at that moment, it was Jan that was instrumental in my being approached and ultimately in becoming the next Peaches!
And so my fairytale story took off. I began to tour and record, ultimately scoring top hits with songs like, “Reunited” and “Shake Your Groove Thing”. I began to meet my celebrity heroes, which I have written about here on CultureHoney.com!
In fact, with Peaches & Herb, I recorded seven albums, toured the world, graced many magazine covers, appeared on TV shows like Soul Train and American Bandstand, and made music history as the first African-American woman to perform in Mainland China. Our single “Reunited” was a crossover hit—topping both the Pop and Soul charts, and spending four weeks at number one on both the R&B Singles and the Billboard Hot 100 Singles charts. “Reunited” was also nominated for a GRAMMY for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo. Altogether, Peaches & Herb sold over 9 million albums!
And even at the height of fame, when I was spending time with Diana Ross and doing TV shows like the one I did with Olivia Newton John and Tina Turner (above), something I never tired of – and hold to this day – is that there is nothing as nice as being home with my people!
Home Grown Lovin’, by Linda “Peaches” Tavani
What happened to the days when we planted seeds in our own gardens?
I guess they went away with all those yesterdays now forgotten
Like the value of a dime, we all had to change with time
It’s our part of history
But let’s not sacrifice one more human price for home grown lovin’
The kind that never dies home grown lovin’
The roots of our own lives home grown lovin’
Home grown lovin’
And I hope to see the day when all mankind can say you’re my sister
You’re my brother
And we don’t have to fight
’cause we don’t have the right to hurt each other
There’s a change we have to make, oh yes we’ll make mistakes
But together we can end adversity
If we seek the way within
And let it all begin
With home grown lovin’
The kind that never dies home grown lovin’
The fruits of our own lives home grown lovin’
Something is baking in the oven home grown lovin’
Is home grown lovin’
I hope that when I pass away from this world, this love of home will be my legacy. A beautiful life story – growing up as a child who perceived lovely ways to make time unforgettable. My singing and work in communities of need with WowJam and raising my family, all done with a child’s eyes and heart.
Wonderfully so many dreams did come true.
Our family good times centered around the piano or listening to the Hi Fi. After listening to Nat King Cole on the radio and stereo, my dreams actually began to come true when I became roommates with Nat King Cole’s daughter Natalie. We both had began to believe entertainment stardom was a real possibility in our lives.
I never ceased to amaze me that my life’s path could lead me to the music business as a R & B Pop singer. Touring the world as “Peaches”. All the celebrities I hoped to meet and did meet. It was unbelievable.
But even still, nothing compares to coming HOME. After a long tour or a chance to see who was left of our precious grandparents, children, and their kids growing faster than we did was my biggest blessing!
We shared home-grown gardens and handmade furniture and baked goods – these were the things my family raised us on. It was a tribute to those who gave my life a rich glimpse of life as it was then and still could be. My grown up Christmas list.
I’ve always loved Christmas music – and one in particular, the song I recorded about all the ways we saw Christmas come to life in everyone’s hearts to share. I hope your holidays are merry, bright, filled with family and wonderful memories!
*Story Editing: Georgia Sanders