Sweden is messing up my favorite Oldie-Goldies!
I was in that kind of mood today. An Oldie Goldie mood. I wanted to hear some songs that brought me back to Grandmother's house when the grownups had a great time in the den with the music blasting and all of the cousins made up games in the kids room. Those were the days. The music could be heard in the kids room and we loved all of the songs that were popular when my mom was a kid. When I hear Al Green howling or Teddy Pendegrass aggressively commanding, I smile and reminisce. Some Temptations or Isley Brothers songs take me back too, but nothing like those O'Jays.
I know they're not the most popular group ever, but there's something about the O'Jays. You probably know some of their songs and don't even know it's them ("Love Train", "For the Love of Money"and "Backstabbers" were hits). They had a smooth groove to their music. You could dance to it and marvel at the heavy, distinct voice of the lead singer Eddie Levert. That man could SAAANG! I can't compare any current singers to him because most of the singers now are all soft and feminine in the voice (I said it!). That Pendegrass power is gone. I can't think of any singers that dig deep and belt out heavy notes. It's all nasal falsetto. If I want to hear somebody whine through his nose I'd watch old episodes of Urkel. R Kelly could get there, I guess. But not like Eddie Levert. Eddie sang with the throat and diaphragm. You KNOW he meant what he said. He even passed the pipes down to his son Gerald (R.I.P.). That Levert voice is something to behold.
At work I made a playlist of my favorite O'Jays tunes ("Stairway to Heaven" is my favorite) and turned up the volume. The work day would fly by. Listening to songs now is different from when I was a kid. I have a different outlook on life. I've seen more of the world than just the "kids room" at Grandmother's parties. Now I think of "Stairway to Heaven" as a song about sexual climax. It's even MORE beautiful now! Then there are moments when I listen and realize that liberal Sweden has really gotten to me. Today some specific lyrics caught my ear. There is a song called "Use Ta Be My Girl" (yes it's spelled like that... yes it's awesome). The song is about "the one that got away". It's an upbeat reminiscence of this awesome woman that was "not only good looking/ the girl was so smart/ you can't beat her cooking..." Sounds all well and good just like when I was a kid except NOW I pick up on how possessive he is. Like it's up to HIM if they're together. How dare he? What is this, a cave man song?
Then there's "Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love)" (again, yes that's the title and yes it is strong as hell!). In this song they talk about this wonderful woman. For lack of better words, she's "...everything I could ever hope for in a woman..." It's beautiful stuff. I jam along to the song. I know all of the words.
"YOU SHOULD HAVE EVERYTHING A QUEEN SITTING ON A THRONE SHOULD HAVE!"
Such a lovely thing to say to a woman. Who wouldn't want to hear that? He calls her a queen throughout the song. As a matter of fact. He tells his "Darlin' Darlin' Baby:
"You're my queen on the throne/ The one that I WANT TO OWN..."
This is where the preverbial record scratches. Have I never noticed this before? I know he needed a rhyme and all, but did they really let him say that on a record? Somebody should have told Eddie to say something else. It's sexist and degrading. Right after calling her a queen, too. This can't be happening. Not to my O'Jays! I blame Sweden. This overly-PC country has me analyzing music that "Use Ta" make me smile. Now I cringe every time this guy tries to enslave his queen. Whyyyy?
Then there's "Family Reunion". I love this song so much. We obviously played it at every one of our family reunions. It's about... you guessed it... family reunions. Eddie rolls his throaty melody over some horns, snares and strings. He sings about his late grandparents being proud of the beautiful family that gets together at least once a year. It's a beautiful song. It makes me think of the 4th of July and barbecue and smiling relatives. Thanks O'Jays!
THEN... at the end of this beautiful song Eddie decides to go on what I would say is the equivalent to a modern-day freestyle. He gives shout outs to members of the traditional family and states their roles. He breaks it all the way down.
Father - "The head, the leader, the director." He guides the family. He shows love. I can dig that, Eddie.
Mother - The "right arm of the father. They're supposed to... to do the cooking, raise the children, do the sewing and help the father to guide and direct." The FUCK? Eddie, how did they let you say this?
Son - "Most sons are like imitators of their father." Then he goes back to the importance of the father.
Daughter - "Watches her mother. Because sooner or later she's gonna be a mother. She'll have her own sons and daughters." Then he goes on a bit more about us all being a family under one divine father (God).
I see what he was trying to get at with this whole thing, but I could definitely do without it. I can't believe it didn't bother me as much before. I mean, I bucked at the God part in the past, however I somehow missed the whole reduction of women to man servants! Thanks Sweden! A song I used to enjoy will now get skipped when Eddie Levert starts his family freestyle because I'm now a PC hawk. The good news is, it only slightly reduces the awesomeness of the song. My new Swedish outlook hasn't made me swear off The O'Jays completely. There are too many memories for that. I love the music. They're still my favorite Oldie Goldie group and I will still play their music forever. It's just different now. It's like finding out that Grandad is racist. You still love him, but... he's a fucking racist.
Part of me is glad that I now notice this beautiful ignorance. I'm definitely going to introduce Bash to The O'Jays and I will be ready with some talking points. Not that he will need any growing up here in PC Sweden! The world has come a long way since the 70's. We're more informed, more tolerant, less sexist and music is worse. At least The O'Jays' music will always be a reminder of those things. Until next time...