Kanye West & A Capsoul Songwriter Named Norman

Published on October 18th, 2014

By Kevin Joy
The Columbus Dispatch

Norman Whiteside heard the familiar piano strains in prison.

A melodic backbone of the Kanye West single Bound 2 mimics the 1977 Whiteside song You Can Fly on My Aeroplane — recorded decades ago by the Columbus soul musician in a Sunbury Road studio.

“(West) could have used any one of a billion pieces of music,” Whiteside, 60, said from the Warren Correctional Institution, where he is serving a 37-year sentence for forgery and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

The connection is credited to the Numero Group, a Chicago label that reissues obscure soul.

In 2008, with the blessing of Whiteside, the company secured rights to the only album recorded by his former band, Wee.

West’s agents requested the song, said Numero Group co-founder Rob Sevier.

No surprise: The rapper has long embraced such sonic snippets — with past West hits showcasing Chaka Khan, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson and others.

Bound 2 also samples Bound, a 1971 song by Ponderosa Twins Plus One.

Sevier declined to elaborate but said Whiteside would receive compensation upon his release from prison.

The full-length Wee reissue, meanwhile, has drawn overseas buzz plus write-ups in Entertainment Weekly and Spin.

Whiteside leads a music ministry behind bars and last summer sang remotely with the Warren prison choir as part of the World Choir Games in Cincinnati.

His brother — Douglas Whiteside, 50, of the North Side — recalled his older sibling doing chores to earn practice time on his aunt’s piano and ultimately besting cousins who wouldn’t let him join their band.

The prisoner, though, has much to atone for.

Whiteside was convicted as the mastermind of a 1982 gang-related ambush in Columbus that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old passer-by, Laura Carter — a student at Denison University in Granville who was with her family in a car traveling on E. Broad Street.

The tragedy inspired Think of Laura, a 1983 Christopher Cross hit.

Whiteside, who oversaw the murder weapon’s purchase and ultimately led police to the shooters, faced a 50-year sentence that, on appeal, was halved.

“They painted me to be some mob boss,” he said. “God knows that wasn’t the case.”

Whiteside also ran an elaborate check- and ID-forging scheme after a bank error derailed plans for a Wee tour with Wild Cherry (Play That Funky Music).

He is up for parole in 2015, three years ahead of his scheduled release.

Earlier opportunities for a discharge were denied, Whiteside said, because of claims that he had acted as a “prison lawyer.”

His son, Delayne Whiteside, plans to conduct a Dec. 25 protest before the parole board.

[For ways you can support Norman Whiteside, visit: Parole For Norman Whiteside]

The 39-year-old hopes that the recent pop-music exposure spurs added attention.

For the moment, West’s song has people talking.

A music video for Bound 2 features the outspoken performer and his reality-TV fiancee, Kim Kardashian, riding a motorcycle in front of green-screen imagery of mountains and horses — visuals that the rapper on Monday said were intended to look “as phony as possible.”

A shot-for-shot parody of the racy scenes featuring actors James Franco and Seth Rogen went viral this week.

As for the Aeroplane notes on the hip-hop track, Whiteside drew parallels.

The Wee work, he said, was inspired by Thumbelina and Tom Thumb.

“I was into fairy tales — this little guy who couldn’t get off the windowsill,” Whiteside said. “ Thumbelina says to Tom Thumb: ‘Look, you can fly on my airplane. We’re going to get off this windowsill.’  ”




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