Over the years I've heard a lot of people refer to the music they like as "my music". People will stroll into a bar and come up to the DJ booth and say something like "I'm so glad you're playing MY music tonight!" Music, unlike any other art form, has a unique power to reach over enormous chasms to reach into our hearts and let us know that we're not alone in our emotional experiences and life struggles. I think that's why people feel so deeply connected to the music they love. It becomes so personal to the point that even if we didn't create it ourselves, it feels as if it belongs to us.
With that in mind, I'd like to send BIG birthday wishes to Gladys Knight whose voice guided me through the loneliness and confusion of my younger years. Gladys Knight for so many years was MY music.
I've had today's selection of the day in my head a lot lately as I've watched the recent turmoil that feels as though it's tearing people apart while at the same time binding us together in ways we haven't seen in decades. Though on the surface this song may not seem like a message song, here we find Gladys Knight reminding us that when humanity has trouble finding common ground, it's important to remember that one thing we all have in common is the need for LOVE. It's undeniable and has been heavy on my mind as of late - There needs to be a lot more LOVE, COMPASSION & CONNECTEDNESS going around in the world today.
Sondra "Blinky" Williams, who was born on this day in 1944 in Oakland, is probably best known for her duets with Edwin Starr and for being the female voice in the theme for the TV show Good Times. But to me she is best known for her killer funky-blues version of "Money" which proved to be quite popular on the Sugar Town dance floor in the depths of the Great Recession. Of course, with the wealth gap widening, the middle class disappearing, and the influx of wealthy people migrating to Portland and pushing out those less fortunate, I have a feeling this record will ring true to the struggling population of Portland for a long time to come. CRANK IT UP and so that the people in the shiny new condos can hear it.
Today is Cher's birthday. Lord knows I love me some Cher! I feel grateful that I grew up in the era when Cher was one to the top female movie stars, though at the time I didn't always appreciate her as much as I should have. She was one of the original scandalizers both in the tabloids and in her outfits. A true trailblazer in the category of shocking spectacles.
In appreciation of Cher and everything she is and was, I present to you my current favorite Cher record. Do I like this one because it sounds like Sonny and Cher doing their version of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood? Yes. It's as simple as that.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
As Mad Men comes to a close, I can't help but process my thoughts and feelings about the final episode. I keep reading disappointed reviews by critics, however I found the final episode a fitting conclusion and surprisingly satisfying.
All of us mid-century junkies were sucked into this show for the aesthetics. As for myself, I begrudgingly began watching after the first season had fully aired. As a dedicated feminist, I was originally deterred by all the male Mad Men fans who were actively celebrating the sexist "good ole days" depicted on the program. It wasn't long before the gorgeous artistic direction of the show proved to be something I simply couldn't resist. After a handful of episodes I found this wasn't a show about MEN as much as it was the story about the journey of women (admittedly mostly white women) during the decade that would forever transform gender roles in the United States, all told against the backdrop of the industry that did so much to control and define the confining roles and impossible standards set for women in the 20th century.
Modern feminists grabbed a hold of the character Peggy Olson and claimed her as their representation. A lot of feminists are angry about the conclusion of Peggy's story in a variety of ways. They seem to think she was betrayed by a storyline not true to her character. But is that really true, or is she being judged by modern standards? Are people just angry because she didn't make the choice they would have liked her to make?
My viewpoint is different. I think her decision to stay at McCann was totally in-line with the character. She obviously LOVED being a part of that system. She loved playing the game that would allow her to ascend up the ladder within that system and patterning her career after her mentor, Don Draper. She revelled in the power she could wield over her subordinates. It makes perfect sense that she would be happy staying with McCann.
In terms of the sudden love connection with Stan, it seemed to me that Peggy just went along with Stan because...why not? Nothing better had come along and they're best friends. That's something Peggy had done throughout the series in terms of romance. She just kind of goes along with whatever's in front of her. Many people have criticized the sappiness of love story at the end, but I think the "corniness" of it was intentional. It played like the contrived emotions of a vintage television ad for Bell telephone company. What could be more appropriate for a tv show about advertising?
For all of us who hung our professional feminist dreams on Peggy (myself included), the joke is on us. CLEARLY we should have been less surprised by the triumph of Joan. Aren't we a bunch of jerks for not realizing that it was JOAN all along who was the closest representation of today's modern feminist SHEros? I was literally cheering (complete with fist pumps) for her throughout the episode. I think most people assumed that Joan would continue to be punished for utilizing her sex appeal for advancement in the business world.
I feel fairly confident that like me, most women have felt underestimated at times. Perhaps that's why it feels so incredibly satisfying to see Joan seize opportunity and establish her own power. She represents all of us who have been written off, dismissed, or ignored- The people who weren't allowed to thrive within the established power structure, who have come to realization that if we want to flourish we'll have to do it ourselves. We have to build our own thing from the ground up.
So, to those who say the Mad Men finale wasn't feminist enough simply because of Peggy didn't follow the trajectory you define as feminist, I say feminism can and should include whole host of perspectives. Feminism can be Betty staking claim in what's best for her children. It can be Peggy simply choosing to do what she wants to do rather than following a contemporary idea of ambition. AND it can be Joan choosing her own professional ambition instead of a man. MOST of all, feminism is the telling of all of these women's stories and their journeys to their own brands of self-empowerment. Our power lies in having options.
Today's record of the day goes out to Joan who was branded a sex-pot and a party girl. The message is, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE a "party girl", or any woman for that matter. There are still barriers to be broken and we're coming to claim or stake!
This song was recorded by the Big 3 featuring Cass Elliot (pre- Mamas and the Paps days) in the early days of when the Mad Men series takes place. Women's liberation was just beginning to simmer under the surface and the women performers within the early 1960s radical folk music scene took inspiration from classic blues artists. This record is a cover of an Ida Cox song originally recorded in 1924. In this song we celebrate the women who bucked traditions so that the women of today could have options. And it's a reminder to keep being wild and untamed. Never settle for less than what you deserve.
What was it about BB King that allowed him to float to the top of a sea of brilliant blues musicians making him the most well-known artist of the genre? I've been asking this question for many years and I always come back to the same answer- MASSIVE likability. Yes, to become a musical ambassador a person has to have qualities beyond just musical skill. BB King was a guy with a warm personality, a brand that was easily marketable to the masses, and the ability to endure. It helps that he rose to prominence during the birth of rock n roll, an era when the general record buying public was much more friendly with blues artists.
However, as the decades went on, blues went back underground. Only a very small handful of artists would remain in public consciousness. It was the BB King brand that thrived via commercials, print ads, his club for tourists in Memphis, his guest appearances on other people's records, etc. People never got tired of BB. You can't really attribute that to his music. It was the power of his celebrity. He was the go-to guy when you wanted someone to represent the blues, especially as his contemporaries went on to the next life.
The LEGEND of BB King is so huge, it's hard to imagine a world without him. He falls in that elite category of people who personify their art. There is now a gaping hole in the landscape of our American culture, much like when Ray Charles and Johnny Cash passed away. These folks are as much (if not more) a part of who we are as a nation as any political leaders.
So today I mourn the passing of an American icon. Today I will dance to what is currently my favorite BB King 45. I hope you'll do a little shuffle too. If you are someone who was introduced to the blues through BB King, I hope you'll take some time to dig a little deeper into the genre in his honor. He led you there to show you there's so much more to love.
One of the greatest voices of the 20th century has danced his last earthly dance. Ben E King is sometimes written off as a pop-soul "sell out" by those who prefer a grittier sound. To those people I say, you have a narrow appreciation of soul music. King's impact, true artistry, and contribution is undeniable. In fact, for many people of my generation, Ben E King was the primary gateway to the genre of 1960s soul.
He was a master of theatrical soul performance. King knew how to sell a song through subtle emotion and elegant nuance, slowly building the drama of the story to peak just short of melodrama. With the collaboration of master producers Leiber and Stoller, each record became a mini play, often times reminiscent of a tragic opera. Perhaps it was the Spanish musical elements that gave that feel of "Carmen" (most likely that was on purpose). A little Bizet for the pop audience. Whatever it was, it worked.
The late 50s & early 60s was King's most celebrated and best-remembered era, but he continued to record regularly throughout the 1970s even delivering some very interesting experiments in the blending of psych-soul and rock. Sometimes that era was a little hit and miss, but he put out a lot of overlooked gems during that period.
My selection of the day is a great example. Ben E King does Elton John. I personally far prefer this to the original and I think he brings a great deal to the song, perhaps even bringing a deeper meaning.
With the passing of Ben E King (and Don Covay recently), we've seen the end of the Soul Clan and maybe a more official ending of an era. Of course, there are a good number of people like me who work every day to keep the flame burning, making sure the soul music pilot light never goes out. So, Mr. King rest assured that we will never let you be forgotten.
So long old friend.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!