On the 1s and 2s: Remember when music punched you in the stomach?

2010-10-18 10:29

As bad as we think these days are for our children they will some day be the good ole days.

I grew up on the music of Brook Benton, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Caiphus Semenya, Letta Mbulu, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack – the list is endless. These were the days of soulful music, the kind that punched you in the stomach and warmed your soul. I sang along to Benton’s Lie To Me and Redding’s Sitting on the Dock of the Bay from my father’s prized LP collection.

I still scavenge for old CDs wherever I can and I recently dug out Rare and Unreleased Recordings of Franklin from the 70s – there’s pure gold in this collection that features raw cuts of the queen of soul in studio or on stage. It truly is nothing you’ve heard before. I have taken ownership of it as my legacy, a bit of my childhood memory.

Now and again artists bring back this music – John Legend and the Roots covered Bill Withers’ I Can’t Write Left Handed as well as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes anthem Wake Up Everybody, Rod Stewart released a Soulbook that celebrated Motown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum has just released his interpretation of Hathaway’s music and now the latest news is that R?Kelly’s forthcoming album Love Letters is influenced by the style of Marvin Gaye and Cooke. You may have seen the video of the first single When A Woman Loves and I’m sure you’d agree that soul music has not sounded better.

Today’s artists seem to rely on throwbacks and that’s because life was better then, music was better and the sound punched harder.

To contradict myself I’ll also say yesterday’s artists seem to recognise some good in today’s music. How else do you explain Dame Shirley Bassey’s take on Pink’s Let’s Get This Party Started and Gladys Knight’s cover of Boyz II Men’s End of the Road?

It’s a matter of time before Yvonne Chaka Chaka tackles Chomee’s Sika Lekhekhe – maybe not. Why? And it has nothing to do with snobbery – but today’s music (with very few exceptions) is not built to last.

What will our children remember when they think of their good ole days? I shudder to think.

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