Former Sen. ‘Hollywood’ Hendon Drops COVID-19 Song, ‘Rona Money’

CHICAGO — Flamboyant former state Sen. Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon can’t stop, won’t stop living his best life, pandemic be damned.

You might remember the West Side Democrat for political theatrics and controversial rhetoric — he once stirred up trouble for calling himself the Black Sarah Palin, and wrote a book called "Backstabbers" about his life in Illinois politics.

Now, I’ll never for get him for the catchy chorus of the coronavirus-inspired anthem, "Rona Money," that Hendon wrote with Chicago house music legend Farley "Jackmaster Funk" Williams.

A buddy sent me the YouTube video that begins with a grinning Hendon holding a fat stack of dollar bills, driving in a white convertible and dancing on a fishing boat as he belts the song’s catchy hook that I can’t stop singing: "I need my money. My ‘rona money."

Tell the FBI there’s nothing to investigate. Hendon told me he wants nothing to do with the federal coronavirus grant money he sings about in "Rona Money," inspired by the financial struggles of West Siders as pandemic lockdowns shuttered shops, killed jobs and emptied wallets.

Hendon, once known as the West Side’s "King of Grants," resigned from the senate in 2011. A year later his campaign treasure pleaded guilty to charges related to a kickback scheme related to federal grants. The former senator was never charged with a crime, and plans to keep it that way.

"Some people were going after [paycheck protections loans] the right way. Some were not," he said. "But me? Hell no. I stay away from government money and grants. … Even though I had to shut down my store [CBD Chicago] and needed the help."

Hendon wrote "Rona Money" with Williams after suffering through dark times earlier this year. He survived a hellish bout with coronavirus in February, and had to shut down his small business. His daughter, a Detroit hairdresser, died in a car crash the day after Michigan’s stay-at-home order was lifted. To get through it all, he wrote songs from self-quarantine.

"My family, we’re creative and trying to be happy. Writing and comedy gave me an outlet to grieve. In honor of losing my daughter, I started writing like crazy," Hendon told me. "This was during the time when people were talking about getting needing that coronavirus money from the government. And you know, Black folk always need to shorten something to slang. That’s how the idea for "Rona Money" came about.

Williams, the legendary house music producer, brought to fruition the former senator’s vision for a song about real life pandemic struggles that wasn’t a complete bummer.

"Rickey ain’t your typical senator. He’s a character. That’s why they call him Hollywood. He’s also an actor. We wanted to capture that, and do a song that wasn’t to be taken seriously," Williams said. "Something that brings cheer to people, makes them smile through the music even though we’re living in is in a depressive state, with people living on a prayer who don’t see a way out."

That spirit comes through in the "Rona Money" video, which features Hendon’s daughter, Los Angeles-based singing and actress Skye Raquel, and a cameo by Williams, in a series of comedy skits based on lyrical depictions of real-life scenarios, including a lover’s dispute over how "’rona money" should be shared.

With a vocal style Williams says reminds of funk-music singer George Clinton, the 67-year-old former senator tells of the frustration of being denied cash at an ATM and even the shady "hustle" to score federal coronavirus cash to Williams’ electric dance groove.

"We live in an untrue and uncertain time when we’re counting on the president and government to be honest, but they don’t want the world do descend into a panic, so they’re not giving us the fullness of the truth," Williams said.

"This record reflects some of that and at the same time allows us to laugh at them. Because if we don’t laugh, we’re going to cry about our problems. And it’s a better idea to laugh."

And the "Rona Money" video delivers at last one belly laugh.

About halfway through the song, while grooving on a fishing boat parked in a vacant lot, Hollywood Hendon lifts his polo shirt to let the world see his mid-section jiggle.

Courtesy of Rickey Hendon

via Chicago, IL Patch

December 25, 2020 at 06:56AM

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