Where I Came From, Part 2
December 3, 2016
I left off in Part One, stating the teachers and education administrators I knew in the 70s had wanted to prepare students for the future. And the basic key to fulfilling our role in society and being successful in life (by any definition of success) had been to feel Safe, be Happy, and Live Free.
It would be thirty years later when I would come to realize that music had been refuge to a whole generation.
The late 70s brought hit songs to the Disco era: Dancing Queen, Blame It on the Boogie, Hot Stuff, and September.
Every kid knew the lyrics, the melody, the rhythm. And we all knew how to do “The Bump” while squawking an octave high call of “Woo-Woo” in between down beats.
What we didn’t know at the time was that we were being changed. In the remnants of a broken city, an entire youth were becoming One Soul. Blacks, Asians, Latinos…kids grew unified in song and dance.
Fictitious roofs were on fire, and music lovers heeded the advice to let those mothers burn. Yet, no one would have time to pull their feet from the disco flames and cool their heels.
Merely a few years later, an aural evolution took place. By 1982, Disco wasn’t fading out. It was maturing like a summer flower in September. Its blossom dried up. But its aged petals fell off to germinate into widely popular forms of modern music.
Funk reigned supreme with George Clinton declaring the dog in him, and Grace Jones inviting us to pull up to her bumper.
Spoken Word gave birth to Rap pioneered by The Sugar Hill Gang. Lastly mentioned, out of the Disco vein, came R&B in the style of Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, and The Pointer Sisters.
But here’s where things get really interesting. Not only was Disco undergoing reincarnation—but Pop, Dance, and Rock music was transforming into cross-cultural, mixed-genre phenomena.
By mid-eighties, Pop and Dance was seeing the likes of Whitney Houston, Tiffany, Chaka Khan, Paula Abdul, and Madonna threaded in the same style of consistent rhythms, cheery instrumentation, and formulaic composition.
I’m not going to Rickroll you. But you know…
Latin music exploded into mainstream with Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, and Linda Ronstadt.
Meanwhile, Rock got glammed. Was the lead singer of the band a man or a woman? No one cared! Long hair, eyeliner, and lip gloss…no one wore them better (or sounded better wearing them) than Warrant, Ratt, Poison, and Enuff Z’nuff.
Kiss was still partying Saturday nights, and heavy mascara wearing Ozzy was decapitating bats. Ok, it was one bat, but still—it was crazy!
Yes, there were many more phenomenal artists during this period, such as Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, Run DMC, U2, Guns & Roses… But this isn’t a music history lesson.
Soon, as if these roots breaking ground wasn’t enough, we got artists who created a musical genre all their own.
Culture Club reached past gender and race in British Punk and grabbed Reggae by the steel drums. And Prince, God rest his soul, who really understood which genre he should’ve been listed under besides Genius?
Then, the world declared Michael Jackson The King of Pop. And rightfully so!
Well, friends, now we get to the precipice of this trip down memory lane.
My generation received the greatest gift in the musical arts of all time. We got to witness the arrival of genres that:
- mixed traditional sounds;
- mutated preconceptions; and
- matched artists who never would’ve performed together in the same melting pot category of music.
The 80s was the beginning of the end for music genre segregation. Blacks weren’t just making Black Music, and Whites weren’t just listening to Country.
My generation got Diversity.
Thus began my own journey into music. I got accepted into Arts High School, majoring in classical music, bearing a head full of diverse songs and dreams of becoming a recording artist.
Oh, what a time to be Young, Gifted, and Black!
—End of Part Two.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and above all, were left inspired…possibly troubled enough to contribute in your own community…but reminiscent of your own past nonetheless.
Until the next segment,