Thursday, September 5

What's Goin' On? (#4) -

In a piece of moving nostalgia, Juan Williams writes about the music then and now, which compares some of the songs from the summer of 1963 with what's being written today.

His piece inspired an interlude
of related reverie on my part, too . . .

One of my favorite songs from popular music over the past several decades is Nightshift by The Commodores. It refers to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye. Both of them represent notable thematic threads.

Much of the music we remember from the Sixties was associated with Berry Gordy's Motown which generally had an uplifting tone because of a strong Gospel component. Jackie Wilson ("higher and higher") came out of Gospel Music. He, in turn, became an inspiration to others.

And then there was Marvin, who started out conventionally enough, but veered into a distinctly different direction; his later work became the germination of the more serious forms of Poetic Rap which led to Gil Scott-Heron.

"What happened to our upbeat Motown Revolution?" a mature black friend asked me a few years ago, shaking his head. "I'll tell you what happened," he continued. "It got hijacked by dark, evil forces, so that now all we've got is ho's, bitches, and the n-word. But who are these people who hijacked it and how did they do that?"

I had no clear answers for him since I've never followed popular music and the music industry very closely. I do remember, though, that somewhere seemingly between Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott-Heron there was a song being played on the radio quite a bit called The Message. Maybe those lyrics influenced the direction this musical genre took and led to where the situation stands today.

Poetic Rap seemed to decline after Gil Scott-Heron's success. But that kind of lyrical tone once more became popular with Bob Marley's songs which came out of a series of crossover reggae albums and are still heard today. Marley's No Woman No Cry was later adapted by The Fugees from New Jersey, its settings transposed to America, and it became a kind of nostalgic favorite of mine for a while.

Rap Music seems to have exploded since then, but I no longer keep up with popular music. If I am around young people while they're listening to it, I'm exposed to some of it, but I often don't understand the lyrics, and don't pay much active attention to it. It just doesn't appeal to me.

I, too, hope the more negative music fades away.

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# "And who shall I say is calling?"

:: Who By Fire :: by Leonard Cohen ::

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# A worthwhile preview of Fall Books.