Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Last of the Great Slow Songs

Time to talk about some grown folks music. If you're under 35: prepare for an education.

Back in the days before booty-shakin', pole dancin' and Crunk. Hell, before hip-hop was a million dollar industry, singers sang in sweet falsetto voices. Groups wore color co-ordinated outfits on stage and did sycnopated dance steps.

But the cornerstone of every group was a great slow song. The Dells had what may be one of the best slow records ever "Stay In My Corner". From what my father and uncles (and anyone else with salt and pepper hair) told me that song was the ultimate 'blue light' party record. Junior Marvin probably holds the record for holding the longest note on a R&B track.

"If you stay - stay darlin'.
Stay in my corner.
You'd make me oh so proud - stay darlin'.
Stay in my corner."

My best buddy Rod Loche once told me what his older brother Lionel said about that song: "Man, when that song came on you had to find a girl to dance with, or you were weak."

For a cinematic example of what I'm talking about, please refer to my good buddy Eric Monte's groundbreaking classic film 'Cooley High'. In the scene at the house party Smokey Robinson's smash hit "Ooh Baby, Baby" came on and everyone - except for Pooter, grabbed a girl. "Stay In My Corner" had the same effect.

"I'm just about at the end of my rope,
But I can't stop tryin',
I can't give up hope."

That's how you know when a man loves a woman, when he can't give up hope - that's deep.

Anyway Al Green has made more classic love songs than any artist you'll find today. But by the late '70's early '80's soul music was no longer 'soul music' it was starting to miss something. Peabo Bryson held it down for a second, but the last great slow song was by three kids from LA.

The year was 1981. Two of them had been Soul Train dancers for many years. The other one, I don't know where he came from, but he made the group better. They were called Shalamar. The song was called 'This is for the lover in you'.

Now you gotta be old school to love this joint. I remember when they did that song on Soul Train, the camera panned to the silhouette of Jeffrey Daniels 17-inch long afro. Howard Hewett was rockin' a shag. Jody Watley had braids (I think).

"This is for the lover in you" was the last great slow record that people requested at house parties. After that I don't really remember people going crazy over slow songs anymore. When that song came on: it was time to grab a girl. If only I could remember the girls name I danced with back then. Oh wait, it was Monique, I was at camp in Virginia and we had a light weight crush on each other. There was some kind of dance at the camp one night when that song came on. She made me dance with her. She didn't have to talk too long, mind you. She must've had C cups back then, I had no problem rubbing up against that girl.

That song remained popular until somewhere around 1984. I had a crush on a girl named Eugenia, we danced to that song at a party at the Boy's Club in Hayward.

After that song got too old, is when you stopped seeing people slow dance. Mother fuckers wanted to do some freaky ass shit after that. You can't even play a slow song at a club anymore cause everyone would rather freak all over each other than to take their time and whisper some real smooth rap shit into a girls ear. No wonder hooking up is so hard to do now. Love is lost.

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