Vaughn Harper’s “Quiet Storm” Evoked at His Homegoing


Vaughn Harper“He came with game,” media master Imhotep Gary Byrd began in his eulogy of Vaughn Harper Saturday afternoon at Riverside Church, “he knew how to play his position, whether on the court or in the air, he moved with inner vision.  At 64, he had an altitude but was gifted with a voice of raptitude…and all the accolades and platitudes, all have brought us here today.”
This was his opening and the closing of a lengthy tribute to his fallen comrade that was part prose, part poetry, and all heartfelt love and fellowship.  When he proclaimed that Harper’s wife, Sandra, was the “MVP” of his life, there was an extended, standing ovation.
And yes there was an abundance of accolades and platitudes, all of them genuine and from family members, colleagues, and lifelong friends such as Lloyd Williams, who knew Harper most of the dj’s remarkable life and it was he who called out the names of Dave Bing and Earl Monroe, two basketball immortals in attendance, symbolizing Harper’s own prowess on the court.
At Boys High School in Brooklyn, Harper was a standout, leading them to a city championship in 1962.  He was equally proficient at Syracuse University, where he amassed more than a thousand points during his career with nearly 10 rebounds a game.  Yes, he came with game.  Harper was 70 when he died July 9 after a long battle with diabetes.
But it was another lifelong friend, Sam Penceal, who put Harper’s broadcast days in perspective, particularly Harper’s “Quiet Storm” show that made him such a legendary figure on WBLS.  “One of the reasons Vaughn was so good at quieting the storm was because he had a lot of experience in raising the storm,” he recalled.  “When we were kids, Vaughn was the youngest and the wildest and probably the most self-centered of all of us.”
Penceal went to grade school, high school and college with Harper, and remembered him as being an exceptional person at each stage of his development.
That development reached its pinnacle at BLS where he was the ultimate team player with a roster of notables, many of whom Johnny Allen ticked off during his moment at the podium, including G. Keith Alexander, Vy Higginsen, Eddie O’Jay, Jocko Henderson, Harold Jackson, Champagne Palumbo, and Frankie Crocker who was instrumental in bringing Harper to the station.
References to Harper’s show were inevitable and it began with Rev. Al Sharpton who said that “Vaughn had a voice that matched the name of his show.” He said that through the turbulence and chaos of those days, Harper “was our seatbelt. He strapped us in and let us know we could make it through the storm. And the music he played did the same thing.”
Much of that music that accompanied his deep, melodious voice was there in performance as though he had dropped the needle in a groove himself.  Valerie Simpson at the keyboard began the ensemble of sound, followed by Gerald Alston’s luscious baritone; and powerful, emotional renditions from Melba Moore and Alyson Williams.  Regina Bell topped off the musical selections and her voice was not exactly a quiet storm as she celebrated in song Harper’s homegoing.
Before the Rev. Dr. Amy Butler closed out the services there were brief remarks from Assemblyman Keith Wright, Charles Warfield, Debi Jackson, Bob Lee, and two Harper family members, Ashley his great niece and his daughter, Dionnee.
Whenever Harper closed his show, Allen said, he would say just one word, “Bye.”
And that final bye resonated across the sanctuary as the audience filed out of Riverside Church to a broadcast of “Quiet Storm.”