Today’s trip down memory lane is comprised of music from the 1960s. I was born in 1969, but I’ve always felt connected to the music of my parents’ young adult life, as well as that of the post-Civil Rights era. My maternal grandmother LOVED herself some Sam Cooke. Now, let me say this, I loved my grandmother, but when we were kids, she wasn’t sweetest old lady on the block. In her later years when she was nicer to us, my dad used to joke that now she was an old person trying to get into heaven. Don’t judge us too harshly, we were little, and she was kinda mean, and we loved the way our other grandparents doted on us and indulged our every whim. Grandma A. didn’t spoil us much, and she was a force to be reckoned with. She worked in a funeral home, and had raised seven children pretty much on her own after she and my grandfather divorced. She took good care of us when we visited, but we weren’t allowed to do much, not even swing in the swing set on the porch! This why we were so surprised the rainy summer afternoon she blew off the dusty Sam Cooke records on her hi-fi, (again, look it up if you don’t know what that is!), put on “Everybody Likes to Cha-Cha-Cha,” by Sam Cooke, and proceeded to show us how to do it.
Me and my sister ’bout fell out! Make no mistake, my grandmother was a fox: she was always dressed to the nines when she went out and she ALWAYS smelled like talcum powder and Esteé Lauder Youth Dew. I never saw the woman break a sweat, and I know she worked hard. But dancing? Our eight and nine and a half year old selves just couldn’t believe my Grandma A. was doing the Cha-Cha-Cha to Sam Cooke! She was in her powder blue slides and flower print shift, (don’t act like you don’t know what a “shift” is), and she was gettin’ down! Now, that wasn’t my favorite Sam Cooke song, that honor goes to “Bring it On Home to Me,” but I’ll never forget that afternoon in Alabama with my Grandmother getting her groove on to the Cha Cha Cha song. Here’s to you Alga Mae:
One of my favorite groups of the 1960s was of course, The Supremes. They were stylish, beautiful, and I loved ALL of their songs. I can’t even pick a favorite, well, maybe “Someday We’ll Be Together,” but I remember when I was in high school Phil Collins remade “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and even then my critical self decided that he couldn’t hold a candle to The Supremes, and I promptly went out and bought a 45 of the original version. Back then, our local record store was Flip Side Records, and you could buy anything on vinyl. My dad had one of those huge console stereo systems, and it could play EVERYTHING. I don’t even think you can find one of those things now, well, you can probably find one on eBay.
My other favorite group was you guessed it, The Mighty Temptations. I just loved everything about them, especially their smooth vocals and precise dance moves. I had cassettes, (a box set, no less), of all of their hits and I also had one for The Supremes, as well as The Miracles. I think I loved “Just My Imagination” best because it’s such a sad song. I also kinda loved it when Hall and Oates sang “The Way You Do the Things You Do” with them at The Apollo in 1985. And let me just say that until MTV came along, I thought Hall and Oates were a Black duo. Yeah, I did.
I can’t finish this blog without mentioning Marvin Gaye, the smoothest brother singing in the sixties. I’ll just post a couple of videos and let you bask in his chocolate glory…
Ok, I love this next song, and I’m not going to comment on the back up dancers. Context, people, context; it was after all, 1963.
Tomorrow, my last blog in this series: the music of my pre- and teenage years, the 1980s.