Friday, December 31, 2010

Back to the 50's

I'd like to spend a little time talking about the 50's and the birth of Rock and Roll. In my opinion two things changed the black and white divide for us kids of the 50's, at least the boys, baseball and music. In those days, children were only "to speak when spoken to". So, many a night I would spend listening to my parents talking with the neighbors. One night, the topic was blacks in baseball. I can't remember the conversation or if it was about Jacky Robinson, or what. What I do remember is what I thought. I thought, "what are they talking about?" Why shouldn't Elston Howard be playing. He was great and an important contribution to my Yankees. My father loved the Giants and my best friend Billy was a Dodger fan. Personally, I never understood any of that. Why root for a loser when the Yankees won every year. Back to black and white. The other thing that was instrumental in helping to break the back on racism was music. Who didn't love Sam Cooke, Sam and Dave, The Isley Brothers, Smokey, Little Anthony, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and the Marvelettes (whom you could call night or day at Beachwood 4-5789). And, Ike and Tina, and The Temptations and The Four Tops. Although, to be accurate, many of these groups were the early 60's. To be specific, Motown wasn't even created until 1960.

I wasn't allowed to hang anything from my room as a kid, but many of my friends had their bedrooms adorned with those great groups. We certainly didn't care about their skin colour. Although, I must admit, sleeping with a picture of James Brown on your wall is definitely creepy.

A few years back, Susy and I went to Memphis for a long weekend to celebrate my 60th birthday. Memphis has a few fascinating things to see. Of course, there's Elvis' home. But, Memphis is also the birth of not only Sun Records (Elvis, Johnny Cash), but Stax Records (Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MG's). Further, as the location of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Memphis is also the home of a non-violent revolution museum, mostly dedicated to MLK, and with the basement level devoted to Mahatma Gandhi. There have been few experiences that have moved me as much as that museum and the memories it brought back.

The song Walking in Memphis written by Marc Cohen was re-released in the '90's by Cher and really defines the feel of Memphis in those spectacular lyrics:

Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy -- won't you look down over me
Yeah I got a first class ticket
But I'm as blue as a boy can be

Then I'm walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel

Saw the ghost of Elvis
On Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through
Now security they did not see him
They just hovered 'round his tomb
But there's a pretty little thing
Waiting for the King
Down in the Jungle Room

They've got catfish on the table
They've got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green be glad to see you
When you haven't got a prayer
But boy you've got a prayer in Memphis

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would --
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said --
"Tell me are you a Christian child?"
And I said "Ma'am I am tonight"

Cher, when she recorded it, changed the verse from Muriel asking "Tell me are you a Christian child to Gabriel asking the question, and the answer from "Ma'am I am tonight" to "Man, I am tonight". Great lyrics, great town, perhaps the cross roads of rock and roll and rhythm and blues.

No comments:

Post a Comment