Monday, April 13, 2009

Singing Horn Parts, Baselines Like Thunder

While I can be just as romantic as the next woman—roses and all have their place—over the last five years, or so, I am completely jaded by music artist whose main objective is always to love me down, massage my toes, “lick me up and down ‘til I say stop,” (there was actually a song that says that), get me pregnant, take off my clothes, and well, you know the rest. Sometimes after driving home from work having my ears and sensibilities musically molested, I often want to call the DJ on my cell phone and ask if it was as good for him as it was for me, then smoke a cigarette.

Maybe it’s just me, but what happened to songs that documented what was going on in the world? Curtis Mayfield’s 1972 album “Back to the World” was essentially a commentary on men coming back from Vietnam facing the hardships of no job, dealing with the stress and memories of the horrors they’d seen in war, drug abuse encouraged by war, and even worse, coming home and learning that your woman cut out on you. His “Super Fly” soundtrack, while some say the movie glorified the life of a drug dealer, balanced if not negated that life by exposing the detriment of the drug user (“Freddy’s dead, that’s what I said”), and the lost souls of friends as in “Eddie You Should’ve Know Better”:

Eddie you should’ve know better,
Brother, you know you’re wrong,
Think of the tears and fears
You bring to your folks back home,
They say where did he go wrong, my Lord?

We all remember James Brown’s “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and in 1978 the Whispers lamented the plight of many young girls who succumbed to the streets and slick talking men,

“…a wolf in lambs clothing came,
Blew her mind and changed her ways,
And now she’s turned out…”

Or, Dion’s 1968 classic “Abraham, Martin and John”:

"Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed lotta people but it seems the good they die young
I just looked around and he's gone".

Still, a beautiful song.

Where is our “What’s Goin’ On?” album for the 21st century? In an interview, Smokey Robinson discusses a conversation he had with Marvin Gaye about the making of that album in which Gaye reveals that it was in fact God who was writing the lyrics for that masterpiece. I believe him. Gaye’s soulful plea to “Save the Children” makes me shutter in light of the children in today’s world who are suffering needlessly.

So, where’s our Marvin Gaye?

Where’s our Parliament/Funkadelic, Chicago or Earth, Wind and Fire? Where are the bands, I mean, real bands with 20 members, two drum sets and a brass section? All you have to hear is the horn parts to songs like “Shining Star,” (Earth, Wind & Fire) or “Sir Duke,” by Stevie Wonder, and you’ll know the song before a word is sung.

So, why is it that:

“We don’t listen anymore
To baselines like thunder, and
Guttural testimonies in the midnight hour
Professing anguish for a wayward woman.
Soldiers return from war
Back to the world they thought they left behind.
No baselines for them;
Just drum machines and angry lyrics
Numbing rhythms that freeze the brain like ice.
We don’t question anymore
What goes on in the world or,
Sing horn parts, like words to the song, or
Name that tune because we’d recognize the baseline
Driving past in a ’72 Duce and a Quarter,
Lemon yellow, fuzzy dice, and gangster whitewalls,
Like, sunshine on a cloudy day”.

Labels: ,


At 3:53 AM , Anonymous State of Zora said...

Wow. Was just thinking about Marvin and Donny Hathaway last week. NOBODY makes music like those guys any more. Nobody plays REAL instruments. And there is no true message. But it is like Dead Prez says, "...a radio program ain't a figure of speech."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home