TALK TO THE DADDY

Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Sweetest Song I've Ever Heard

Last time, the daddy wrote about the weirdest song he ever heard. But the story begs the counter question: what’s the loveliest, sweetest song you ever heard? The daddy’s got two nominees for you.

In a CD called “Aretha Franklin’s Gospel Greats,” recorded in a black church in Cleveland, with the famous Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern Community Choir, Aretha sang “Amazing Grace” with such passion and with such power that she left no doubt who the greatest soul singer is ever, man or woman. The sister moaned to the floor, preached to the congregation, and, with head up and hands outstretched, testified to the lawd above, saying, "Yes, I once/ was lost. But now/ now I'm found/ My savior/I know he leads/ leads me on."

On the CD "Pain in my heart,", the late Otis Redding sang “You send me,” a Sam Cooke hit. And, yes, Cooke had the smoother voice, but Otis had a more powerful, more soulful voice. And Otis had something else: a tighter band of southern studio musicians who played with such soul that it made you feel guilty for not attending church as much as you should. Duck Dunn on bass, Booker T from Booker T and the MGS, Steve Cropper on guitar, and the Memphis Horns, the baadest group of horn players around at the time. With this tight group, Otis gospel voice, and the song's sweet, honest lyrics, “You send me” couldn’t miss. Though overlooked by critics, it is one of the sweetest ballads ever recorded.

But the daddy heard his sweetest song ever at a house party. You know this type of party: The party where a couple of your male friends invite you because they want you to get married, have children and live in the suburbs like they do;where one of your male friend's girlfriend wants you to date her sister or cousin so you'll settle down and stop taking her boyfriend around clubs where single, attractive, and available sisters are in abundance; the kind of party where you walk in the door with very dim lights and five or so couples dancing so close you’re sure that at least one of the women is going to get pregnant right on that dance floor (if she isn’t already); the kind of party where singer Marvin Gay welcomes you by saying “Let’s Get it on” makes it plain as a country black preacher that he wants him some "Sexual healing."

This is the kind of party where Junior Walker of Junior Walker and the All Stars raps hard and long and, a little frustrated, asks:

“What does it take/
to win your love for me/
How can I, baby/
make this dream come true for me/
You know I just got to know/
Ooh, baby/cause I love you so/
I’m gonna blow for you/"

It's the kind of party where the Isley Brothers ask, “Who’s that lady” and, after a sips of wine, whisper into ear, confessing, “I want to groove with you... between the sheets."

It's the kind of party where two females show up unaccompanied, where even Ray Charles on heroin could see that they are there with an agenda of their own. No, no one's eyes are closed at this kind of party; and every thing comes at a price.

Nina

This is why the daddy never stays at these parties longer than to say hello, have a drink, and eat up the appetizers (Note: the daddy has been known to stuff cheese and grapes in his pockets on the way out); and this is why the daddy was heading toward the door when he heard this one song that made him stop in his tracks, the one song that wasn't about making out so much as making time; that wasn't about artfully manipulating a woman into bed but consciously hearing her gentle plea to be rescued from an abusive relationship.

The daddy knew this voice. It was Nina: The Nina who played piano as a child to support her family, the Nina ,who, after finishing Juliard, was denied entrance into another music school solely because she was black, the Nina who got so fed with American racism that she left the country and moved to France; the Nina who told us we were "young, gifted and black;" the Nina who, from distant shores, decried American racism, shouting "Mississippi Goddamn;" the Nina who, through concerts in America and around the world, supported Dr. King so his organization, the Southern Christian Conference (SCLC), would have the funds to get peaceful protesters out of jail, pay staff and travel; the Nina who--wherever she went-- never left us. That’s why, even at a make out house party, everyone stopped to hear her melancholy plea to Porgy:

I loves you, Porgy,
Don' let him take me,
Don' let him handle me an' drive me mad.
If you kin keep me,
I wants to stay here wid you forever,
An' I'd be glad.

I loves you, Porgy,
Don' let him take me
Don' let him handle me
With his hot han'
If you kin keep me
I wants to stay here wid you forever.
I got my man.

That's why you could hear a pin drop when she soloed on the piano, her long, dark fingers gently sliding across white ivories, transferring voice to fingers and moving us in a way no vodka or "available" companion ever could.

That's why the daddy whispered to put that son on repeat and promptly grabbed a woman's hand and began dancing.

Shortly afterwards, the daddy left the party. But he wasn’t alone. Nina was still with him.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this walk down memory lane. House music was some of the best and you weave a great story. Maybe you can link us with some of the tunes next time.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Ah, you bring back so many memories for me, but the sweetest, cleanest and most beautiful song I ever heard was a lulaby type of song by a Welsh folk duo called Cusan Tan (Kiss of Fire).
Sadly I can't find a copy anywhere, I am going to order an old copy of one of their albums.
To understand how a couple Welsh women and a Welsh harp player could produce the most beautiful song in the world, you must understand the ancient Welsh tradition of singing. These people sing everywhere they go. When they're not siniging, they're reciting poetry.

An old Welsh saying goes:
To be born Welsh
is to be born privileged.
Not with a silver spoon
in your mouth,
but music in your blood
and poetry in your soul.

When I was in Wales, I heard some of the most amazing sounds I've ever heard.
We stayed with people we knew (from their travels to the USA) and they had a big party the day after we arrived. They sang, danced, played music and read poetry all night long and amazingly, no one was drunk. . . well, not sloppy drunk.
They have an ancient tradition of national singing competitions called Eisteddfod that's all about findiing the best singer and singing group that year.
So yea, the sweetest song I ever heard was by Anne Morgan Jones and Sue Jones Davies accompanied by Robin Huw Bowen on harp.
When I dig up a copy, I'll post it.

MacDaddy said...

anon: Thanks for going down memory lane with me. And I think I'll have the links next time.
sagacious: I didn't know this about the Welsh. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to thank you too for bringing back those memories...tonight I'm thinking of two songs that resonate with me as being among the sweetest. "Dance with my father," a beautifully truthful croon by Luther Vandross. A reminder of love, memories and the wish that we could sometimes make time stand still.
"...If I could get another chance
Another walk, another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
How I’d love, love, love to dance with my father again..." and Willie Nelson "Always on my Mind."
Thanks for providing a place to share.
jah

Kellybelle said...

Yeah boy, you hit them all thenails on their heads. Nina was fascinating. I recommend her autobiography, I pUt A Spell On You. You won't be able to put it down.

For my sweet songs, I have to go with a young, green Sam Cooke singing--no, sanging--Peace in the Valley. And Platinum Pied Piper featuring Dwele singing Bobby Caldwell's Open Your Eyes. I heard that--I got lost and the found.

MacDaddy said...

kelybelle: I believe Cooke did "Peace in the valley" when he was with the gospel group The Soul Stirrers way back in the day. Excellent choice.
anon: Another great choice. I saw Luther Vandross perform this song on Oprah. Sweet. And "Always on my mind" is just one of many beautiful songs written by Nelson. A friend of mine, a jazz musician, told me Nelson wrote Stardust, one of the greatest American songs ever written, I think. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

No Macdaddy Stardust has been covered by 100's --many wonderful versions and I actually love Willie's. But the honors go to Hoagey Carmichael.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Sweet? How sweet ya want it? Try this:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=q7hDnKtc9oM

One of the greatest songwriters of the 20th. . . almost everything she does is sweet.

MacDaddy said...

kellybelle: Thanks for the correction.
sagacious: Carol King's "You've got a friend" is great. Another great songwriter. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful -- makes me feel downright like I'm in my mid-30's (boy does that seem young now) just reading that post. Thanks for the sweet sweet memories, Macdaddy. Love your silken words that make me breathless . . .
Anon.

Anonymous said...

daddy: I listened to "I love you porgy" but there was no piano solo. What CD does she play the solo on?

MacDaddy said...

Hi, anon: Nina Simone has recorded many versions of this song. In the two live versions I've seen, she didn't play a solo. But you can hear it on her CD: "Bittersweet: The Best of Nina Simone."

Anonymous said...

Aretha and Otis were great artists. But Nina was very progressive as well. She was totally down with us.

Natalie said...

Dreaming As One, Richie Havens

As I reach for you
You open your eyes
As if somehow you knew
The need in my life
As you always do
Slowly you come
And though we sleep as two
We're dreaming as one.


I think Blood, Sweat, and Tears does the original version but somethig about Richie's voice just kills me.

MacDaddy said...

natalie: God, those lyrics read sweet. I hate to date myself, but I haven't listened to Havens in about 25 years. I'm sure his voice will bring back memories. Dreaming As One...I'll check it out.

sdg1844 said...

"The Rose" by Bette Middler

Some say Love it is a river,
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say Love it is a razor,
that leaves the soul to bleed.
Some say Love it is a hunger,
an endless, aching need.
I say Love it is a flower,
and you it's only seed.

It's the heart, afraid of breaking,
that never learns to dance.
It's the dream, afraid of waking,
that never takes a chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
who cannot seem to give.
And the soul, afraid of dyin',
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely,
and the road has been too long,
and you think that Love is only,
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter,
far beneath the bitter snow,
lies a seed that with the sun's Love,
in the spring becomes the rose.

MacDaddy said...

sdg: Love The Rose. "It's the heart, afraid of breaking,that never learns to dance." My favorite. Thanks for sharing. Come again.

Anonymous said...

Hey MacDaddy:

Now that's a good question and I could spend quite a bit of the day trying to chronicle them, for I've heard dozens of songs that fit into this category. However, I can think of three or four off the top of my head that stick out right now. They are:

1. Midnight Sun-Nancy Wilson (Ella made this famous but Nancy has the definitive version of it)
2. Blue Gardenia-Dinah Washington
3. What A Diff'rence A Day Made-Dinah Washington
4. This Bitter Earth-Dinah Washington
5. To Be Invisible-Gladys Knight & The Pips
6. Part Time Love-Gladys Knight & The Pips
7. Theme from "Sparkle"-Aretha Franklin
8. Alfie-Dionne Warwick
9. Love Letters-Kitty Lester
10. Tenderly-Sarah Vaughan

There are hundreds of other beautiful melodies I could mention; however, these seem to come to the fore of my thinking at this time.
--James