Willy Turner, everyone was relieved to learn last week, is still alive. After the news spread, some folks even started gathering music and boomboxes to give to the man known around 14th Street NW as Black Cat Bill.
Amid all the excitement, however, comes some bad news. Last Friday, Turner was moved from Deanwood Rehabilitation and Wellness Center to critical care at Prince George’s Hospital Center. Hospital staff couldn’t share any details about Turner’s illness due to HIPAA regulations, and I haven’t been able to get in touch with Turner’s family, but I did visit him yesterday. He was unable to speak, but could respond with hand and foot movement. It appears his condition, whatever it is, is stabilizing.
Luckily, he’s got a boombox in his hospital room, and staff have been playing some of the funk mixtapes donated by supporters. Andy Bowen, a local writer and activist, has been coordinating music donations and visits. (Email him at email@example.com to help out.)
When Turner gets back to his room in Deanwood, he’ll have some pretty cool stuff to listen to. Word of Turner’s condition and affection for James Brown reached the sister of the Godfather of Soul. Deanwood resident Sherice Muhammad found my original story on a local listserv, and reached out to her friend Fannie Brown-Burford, James Brown’s younger sibling. Muhammad writes: “When I read the email requesting the James Brown cassettes for Mr. Turner, I called Fannie because she has cassettes of James’ music. She was enthusiastic. So, she’s putting a special package together for Mr. Turner.”
Check back here for any updates on Turner.