In high school and early in my college days, I made attempts to write songs. In retrospect, they probably were not that good, though I do have some affection for a couple of them. Among other things, I realized that I had, on more than one occasion, unintentionally swiped the tune from an existing song. Still, I wish I could find the notebook where I was keeping the lyrics over a number of years.
One of the songs was called “Black or White”. It started:
“My father was a singer of folk songs,
My mama used to hum along.”
I remember that part, because it was true.
In the chorus, there was this couplet:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s black or white.
Music is music if the feeling’s right.”
I do recall the specific inspiration for this song. My father had moved to Charlotte, NC. Whether it was true or his perception, he felt that the gumbo of folk music that he had performed in hometown Binghamton would not fare as well in the South of the 1970s, and for a number of years, he just stopped playing. I found this quite disheartening.
In the same vein, it was a song for Dionne Warwick, Charlie Pride and Jimi Hendrix, who were often put down, including by black people, because they weren’t singing the music they were “supposed” to be playing, jazz, soul or blues, but certainly NOT pop, country or rock. (I have an irrational affection for the song Then Came You by Dionne and the Spinners – “see, she can do soulful; now, SHUT UP, already!”)
When Michael Jackson’s song Black or White came out in 1991, complete with the lyrics “It Don’t Matter If You’re Black Or White,” it made me feel…wistful. If I ever DID find this book and recorded the song, people who think that I had ripped it off from MJ, when i had written it at least a decade and a half earlier. (And no, I don’t believe he ripped it off from me, either.)
So, I’m waiting and waiting for Fred Hembeck to post something about his daughter Julie’s birthday this week, but nothing. So I write to him, and he tells me I should have been checking out Facebook! I’m mediocre re Facebook at best, and not much better with Twitter. There’s something rather ephemeral about those social network platforms; it’s different with the blog, which is a web LOG. Anyway, belated happy birthday, Julie! Really, I didn’t forget.