Sunday, June 09, 2013

30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel), Day 9: A Song You Love From the 70s

Ahhhhh, the 70s.  Among many other things, it was a great decade for babies.  Including and especially yours truly.  I was born the same year as the Roe v. Wade decision, so that just goes to show you... errr, umm, well ... I don't know how to finish this sentence.

That's me in the picture to your left on my 5th birthday (still in the 70s) and now (just a couple of months before my, ahem, 40th birthday).  My, oh my, how things change over time, n'est-ce pas?  I was the first-born both in my immediate family and in my larger family, that is, the first-born of my generation of Johnsons. I was also the first girl born in my family in over 70 years and, with the exception of my younger brother, it was only girls after me in my generation of kids.   So, I like to think of myself as a game-changer in that way, because I generally like to credit myself with lots of things I haven't actually merited. (I'm also going to take this opportunity to plug another amazing Johnson-girl from my generation, my cousin Hillary, who is an absolutely phenomenal photographer-- check out her site here-- and also her husband, Clark, who is also awesome and has recently launched his own brand of skateboards, which you can check out here.)  More relevant to today's post, however, it's worth noting that I was also born a "P.K.", something that shaped many of the contours of the person I am today, both positively and negatively.  Chief among them, without a doubt, is my deep and abiding love of music.  I suppose it makes a difference what sort of church you're born into, but for PK's like me-- born into Protestant, evangelical, holy-roller denominations, where every song raised up in the congregational voice is raised up in three-part harmony, such that you intuitively understand the relation between the triad parts of a musical chord before you even understand how to count-- well, in that environment, one just grows up recognizing that music determines the measure of your soul as much as sin and salvation do.  My earliest musical influence was, of course, gospel/hymnal music, but I also had the great fortune of having two parents who were died-in-the-wool fans of 60s and 70s popular music (especially Motown).  I've often heard my mother say, only half-jokingly, that if you asked her kids when they were young to sing "Joy To The World," there was a 8 in 10 chance that they'd begin with: Jeremiah was a bullfrog!

To this day, if you asked me to sing "Joy To The World," you'd most certainly hear a story about how, if I was the King of the world, I'd tell you what I'd do.  I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the wars and, well, you know.

All in all, I'd have to say that the 1970s are my favorite decade of music.  I was only six years old when the decade ended, so I can't possibly claim to have been reflective about, or even consciously aware of, the music of "the 70s" at the time.  But I often wonder whether or not those sounds, that zeitgeist, the weird and ultimately inexplicable way that a countless number of cultural elements coalesce to form a generation's sound, also formed me in a way that I "remember" without being able to call it up in any specific memory of my own. 

To repeat (at this point an ad nauseum repetition) what I've said for the last two days of this Challenge, it's impossible to pick just one song from the 70s.  However, today's pick was made (slightly) easier by a restriction that I imposed on myself on the first day of this Challenge.  I promised then to do my best not to repeat any selections in this month's posts from the ones I picked in my original 30 Day Song Challenge venture from June 2011.  So that knocked out my favorite song of all time, the Rolling Stone's (1978) "Beast of Burden," and several other picks that may have found their way to the top of my 70s songs.  Even still, let me say again, for the record, this is an impossible task.

Here's my pick for a song I love from the 70s.  It's Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On."  The recorded version is an absolutely triumphant piece of work, of course, but here's a rare live version of Marvin gettin' it on:



For the record, I arrived in the world the very same week as this song.  Props, please. "Let's Get It On" is, hands down, one of the grooviest, grindiest, libidinous, erotic, provocative, simultaneously pleading and demanding, flat-out rough and raw, and really, truly seductive songs ever recorded in the history of American popular music.  There's nothing wrong with love, if you want to feel love, you gotta let yourself go.

Amen, Marvin.  Preach.  Is there anything, in the history of human expression, truer than that?

What I hope for everyone (of age, that is) is that he or she has a moment in life when s/he is so moved, so entranced, so motivated, so driven and so undeniably turned-on to say to someone else not only "let's get it on," but to follow that imperative immediately with this minute.  I'm a fan, of course, of the long history of songs (in blues and country, especially) that thinly-veils sexual propositions with metaphor and analogy, but there comes a time, alas, when nuance is nothing short of a liability.  This song has absolutely no nuance whatsoever.  Not. One. Bit.  That distinguishes it for many as the kind of crude, base, sexually illicit and explicit product of the 70s that we'd spend the next decade repressing and sublimating, not to mention paying the price for.  But this song, for a moment in history, and for a million other moments when it's been played and replayed at just those times it was written to serve, is a masterpiece of human desire, in the purest sonic rendering of human desire.

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Nostalgic? Check out my Day 9 entry for the 2011 version of the 30 Day Song Challenge.

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