When I was a kid, I was absolutely mad about dancing. It took a while – somewhere around my 14th birthday or so – but I discovered dancing with a girl was nearly as cool as making the throw across the baseball diamond. I recall sitting in Barbara Brackett’s living room, listening to Aretha Franklin, “Shotgun” and Sam and Dave, then going crackers on Friday and Saturday nights, doing our version of the “Disco” of the era. More than just one girl were responsible for helping me in this sweaty and satisfying endeavor! But her potato chips were dam good and she was beautiful.
Back then, Soul Music landed with all four feet and a loud, upbeat rhythmical thump. It took us all by storm. Fr0m Bo Diddly to the elegant Marvin Gaye, I spent years dancing and listening to Soul Music. It remains to this day a virtual Fountain of Inspiration to me. Here’s Bo – inventor of the guitar sound which he pioneered as well as the guitar itself. Funky man, that Bo:
I had an exceptionally eye-opening experience as a sophomore in high school, when three of us traveled to Evansville, Indiana from my home town of Owensboro to attend a James Brown concert. We got there real early, because we were afraid we wouldn’t get good seats, so we were easily an hour ahead of the concert start. As the crowd filed in, we began to realize we were pretty much the onliest white people in the entire small arena.
There we were, 3 young dumb white kids in “O” jackets, with “State Baseball Champions” engraved across the letters – which we had just won. Well, as people filed in behind us (we were in about the third row), they engaged us. They were quietly thrilled we were interested in Brown but what blew our minds was that they knew who we were. Huge sports fans. “You boys have a sweet team. That Jim Howes will be throwing in the Big Leagues. Our boys gonna get you all!, ha ha ha.”
And, as always: “You came to the right concert, boys. James Brown is The Man.”
Well, he was. For all sorts of reasons, it may have been the greatest concert I’ve ever seen. Big Mama Thornton led things off, with Brown’s incredibly tight band behind her and our local men were going stark-raving crazy. She was amazingly talented, with a gorgeous voice and a passion I’ve never forgotten. She sang the blues – and she got upbeat – but her blues were the stunner. I wonder if I ever saw it done better.
We left the place on a cloud. It was a unique and enhancing experience for us all. It was, of course, during a time when racial issues became extremely important as an American social phenomenon. In a way, for me it was easier, owing to my athletics. Playing with the guys had me visit their homes, listen to them gab – for better or for worse, lol – have a darn good time and appreciate pure talent and performance. The good old bottom line in both the athletics and military experiences I had back then acquainted me with a race of people who were about as ‘different’ from me as “I am from me”. 😉
So I danced – and danced. Let’s face it. If you can’t move to this, you may be dead: