Once upon a time, long ago, I was NOT a racist. Hard to believe, these days, isn’t it? But times change, and now with Obama being The Chosen One and his new breed of campaign managers and followers, it is clear that I am now out of step and have descended into the cesspool of racism.
Mick Jagger’s 65th birthday yesterday (July 26) took me on a trip down memory lane to those days when I was a proud non-racist.
My days as a non-racist actually go back quite awhile I was already enjoying the “black music” that was on Top 40 radio before and just after the “British Invasion.” Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, remember “Cry Baby?” in ’63? And Fontella Bass with “Rescue Me” in ’65? The Chiffons, the Crystals, the Shirelles were part of me. And Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding–who can forget?
Oh, my, I even owned records by black singers! I still have my 45 rpm of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” which is almost completely worn out from playing. These days the local oldies station plays it occasionally, but it’s a different mix, and the ending fades out abruptly without the punch of the original.
I have so many great discs…There’s Dionne Warwick, who teamed with Burt Bacharach for songs like “Don’t Make Me Over” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” in a really unique pairing, cool and classy. And the amazing Chuck Berry on Chess Records.
My mid-60’s collection includes Sam and Dave, The 4 Tops, Little Stevie Wonder and grown-up Stevie Wonder, and The Supremes, when Motown ruled! Aretha Franklin demands “Respect,” and reminds me that I’m a “Natural Woman,” one of my all time faves. Can’t leave out Jr. Walker and the All-Stars (Shotgun) and Booker T. and the MGs. Then, there are the Scott Joplin rags and the smooth sounds of Wes Montgomery. From the early 70’s, before Donna Summer and disco, I’ve got Sly and the Family Stone (integrated!) and groups like The Spinners. George Benson is cool with “This Masquerade.” (And years later I choose “Breezin” as the background music for my fabulous slide-tape program on the Dewey Decimal System–no kidding!)
But it was around 1965 that you, Mick, and the rest of the Rollings Stones introduced me to a whole new angle. You did cover versions of an amazing number of classic blues and black rock ‘n roll artists. I was even inspired to order an EP from England which had your fantastic cover of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode on it. You covered a load of material from the Mississippi Delta; remember the incredible sessions at Chess in Chicago in ’64 & ’65? “Little Red Rooster,” still gets me every time…and “Down the Road Apiece” and “You Can’t Catch Me” are just phenomenal.
I think I wore out my Muddy Waters album “Electric Mud” and who else owns a copy of “Blues from ‘Big Bill’s’ Copa Cabana in Chicago” (“Home of the Blues”) recorded live and featuring Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson with Otis Spann’s Southside Piano?
My 14-year-old black soul even got hooked on the black radio station broadcasting from Newark, NJ. I remember the night I called the station to request Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.” I think the DJ almost dropped dead from shock when this teenage girl with the Italian name from Rutherford, a few miles up the road and distinctly “white,” got on the phone. He recovered enough, though, to get my name nearly right when he played my request…
And, Mick, do you rememer how The Chiffons opened for both the Stones’ and the Beatles’ very first concerts in the U.S.? (And how George Harrison unintentionally plagiarized “He’s So Fine.” doo lang doo lang doo lang?)
You know, Elton John helped remind me of what things sounded like in the ’60’s and ’70’s. As disco wound down he recorded the Thom Bell Sessions (released in ’79) and brought back The Spinners to sing with him. “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” has to be one of his best and a great tribute to some of the fine black sounds of an earlier time.
Around that time I actually took to the stage for a “Rock of Ages” concert put together by my brother and some of his fellow teachers in Bound Brook. Yup, there I was singing lead with about 600 kids going wild as our “girl group” did “Chapel of Love,” made famous by the Dixie Cups. (The Crystals and Ronettes had actually recorded it before the Dixie Cups made it a huge hit.)
But I have to admit, Mick, that one song from 1966 still gets to me. Remember Jimmy Ruffin and “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted”? Jimmy was the older brother of David Ruffin, lead singer of the Temptations, and the song was actually meant for The Spinners, but Jimmy got a hold of it and the rest is history:
As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
Love’s happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion,
What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
Mick, I know your birthday must have been a great one, but you’ve brought back that song to me and it’s sort of sad. Because, like so many others, I’m trying to cope with being tabbed as a racist. And we’re upset and searching for some peace of mind. There are a lot broken-hearted PUMAs out there now…
But, Mick, how are we going to find peace of mind if things go on the way they are going now? Just because we see through Obama, does that mean we’ll never shake the racist label?
Mick, you and the Stones opened up my eyes to the roots of black music and I thank you for that and wish you many happy birthdays. I think I need some cheering up, though. I’m going to put Chuck Berry on the turntable and listen to “Johnny B. Goode” again and maybe “Sweet Little Sixteen.”
Maybe that will help a little bit…
Over at Alegre’s Corner, New Hampster has a snarky review of Obama’s sartorial image, including a comment about the “S” curve in Obama’s icky-pinky tie which he wore at 10 Downing Street. It reminds me of the Stone’s “Lapping Tongue”!
7/30/08–Another note…I saw in my blog stats that someone had searched “bound brook rock of ages.” Curious, I did my own search and came up with a couple of posts on the subject. Apparently, the kids put on a “Rock of Ages” show and it has been going on for years. It seems that what the teachers started the year I participated, the first ever “Rock of Ages” has turned into a long tradition which now involves student talent!! There’s even a video around from the one staged in June of 2007!
Filed under: Current Politics, Life | Tagged: Aretha Franklin, Barack Obama, Booker T. and the MGs, Bound Brook NJ, Chess Records, Chuck Berry, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Down the Road Apiece, Elton John, Fontella Bass, Garnett Mimms and the Enchanters, George Benson, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Ruffin, Johnny B. Goode, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, Little Red Rooster, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Mick Jagger, Motown, Muddy Waters, Newark NJ, Otis Redding, PUMA, Sam and Dave, Scott Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Sweet Little Sixteen, The 4 Tops, The Beatles, The Chiffons, The Crystals, The Dixie Cups, The Rolling Stones, The Shirelles, The Spinners, The Supremes, The Temptations, Wes Montgomery, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, Wilson Pickett, You Can't Catch Me |