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?"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The daddy's favorite post in 2008: Levi Stubbs and the Black community

The Four Tops

"If you were lucky, when the intro started, some cute boy from the football team would snake out an arm, capture your wrist and pull you into his orbit. You'd be clasped against a well-muscled chest as you breathed in his after shave and Levi Stubbs pleaded his case.

--Barry Gordy, founder of Motown

Note: I got several e-mails asking me what posts I wrote in 2008 that I liked the most. Well, I'll mention my favorite in politics tomorrow. But in the field of music, it was the post I did on Levi Stubbs. But if you read it closely, you'll understand that it was not about Stubbs passing so much as an era passing: a time when homogeneous African American communities developed and held fast to values that helped the Lefi Stubbs succeed: hard work, excellence, cooperation, and resilience. Here is the article:
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Levi left us, but what he represents remain
by Mac Walton, aka, MacDaddy

Today, the daddy is still feeling the death of Levi Stubbs. Yes, he is feeling the sadness about his death. But he is feeling something else: what Levi Stubbs life says about us as parents, as African-Americans, as Americans.


Levi is gone. He died at the age of 72 from cancer and a host of illnesses. But in another way, he is still with us. Don't believe me? Tell you what: when you go to your parent's house this thanksgiving, check out their record collection. I bet you'll see an album or CD of the Four Tops.

Don't want to wait that long? Then check out the R&B section of the nearest record shop. You'll see a number of Four Top CDs displayed prominently.

Too lazy to get out of the house? Check You Tube. They're there. You'll no doubt see them perform hits like "Baby, I need your loving," "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch," or "Just ask the lonely," the daddy's favorite. But there's another way that Levi and the Four Tops are still with us.

Levi and The Four Tops represent a legacy of political and personal struggles of African Americans to beat the odds, to succeed as individuals and as a people in the face of American oppression. Levi didn't come from a privileged family like, say, Sen. John McCain. Levi and his three buddies came from inner-city black communities during the fifties and early sixties, a time when crime wasn't so bad, when kids hung out under street lights near the houses or in their front yards.

In their front yards, girls danced to Martha and the Vandellas and James Brown blaring out of a living-room window. Under street lights, boys sang doo wop, honing their harmonizing skills and practicing steps for the next singing contest. Levi and the Four Tops represent a time and a place in America when making music was not more or less a modeling contest of privileged whites or middle class black rappers seeking fame by bragging about violence and calling women names to get some kind of rep in a phony thug culture.


Making music, above all, was an expression or outcome of the values that were inculcated in black kids by their parents and their community: Hard work, cooperation, excellence, and resilience. Put another way, Levi and the Four Tops, as well as the singers, producers, choreographers and studio musicians at Motown, the label under which they sang, were as American as sweet potato pie.

And, despite the emotive utterances, teenage angst and phony hip hop that passes for talent on commercial radio these days, the true talent in R&B, hip hop, jazz, gospel and blues is still there in black communities; and it's still there, because black parents are still bearing and rearing Smokey Robinsons, Pervis Jacksons (leader of the group called The Spinners), Diana Ross's, Mary Wells, Marthas,
Isa
ac Hayes, James Browns, Otis Reddings and Levi Stubbs. More importantly, despite increasing violence, decreasing paychecks, and dwindling home equity, those black parents are still inculcating those same core values their children will need to be successful: work hard, cooperation, excellence, resilience, and dignity.

Because of crime and other factors, you won't see them under street lights or even in the front yard at night. Most likely, the boys are in a basement, their makeshift studio, the girls in their bedroom, their impromptu stage and dance floor.

Can you hear them singing? Can you hear them stepping like soldiers drilling upstairs in your home? Can you see hear Diana Ross Ella Fitzgerald? Can you still remember that muscled guy taking your hand at the high school dance? Can you still hear Levi Stubbs making his case, saying "Baby, I need your loving?"

Can you see the American in them... in you?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loved this when I first read it. Sweet thoughts of dancing close to his voice.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Yea, that was good Mac.
T'was an age of innocence in many ways. . . at least, it seems so today.

Jimmy said...

It was a better time back then.

I just don't understand what has happened to folks when the kiddies can't even hang out at night like we used to?

Those were the days!

Anonymous said...

Mr MacDaddy we're hoping you're feeling ok since you're not writing much new stuff lately. Still enjoy most anything you write so keep it comin. Hey Jimmy I hear you --them were the days thats for darn sure

Anonymous said...

I told my girls i don't like dancing to this new stuff. But I
could shake it to the Supremes and the Four Tops.

MacDaddy said...

Anon: Thanks for asking about my health. But I'm doing fine now. I was preoccupied working with a couple of organizations getting and delivering food to families. Here in Minneapolis, some food shelves gave out of food. Some families could get toys but no food.

I also have been working on my computer. Because I can't use some functions, it is very time-consuming to do posts. The problems should be taken care of in a few days. I got no-quit attitude about fixing the computer. But thanks for asking.