Inspired by the November 21 birthdays of Björk, War’s Lonnie Jordan, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dr. John, Phoenix’s Thomas Mars, Amanda Lepore and Vivian Blaine.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month. In 2016, President Barack Obama, who recognized the month as African-American Music Appreciation Month, said the music of African-American artists helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist embodies that sentiment.
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Today Tunes du Jour introduces Throwback Thursday playlists, in which we go back to hear some of the biggest hits from a particular year. We start with 1970, when you could hear Led Zeppelin and the Carpenters played back-to-back on your favorite AM Top 40 station..
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“Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”
– Eric Clapton, to his audience during an August 1976 concert in Birmingham, UK. (Per Wikipedia, “in British English, wog is an offensive racial slur usually applied to Middle Eastern and South Asian peoples.”)
Clapton’s rant, coupled with the rise of fascist and neo-Nazi rhetoric in England, led to the formation of Rock Against Racism, a UK campaign in which recording artists including The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, Aswad and Generation X performed concerts with an anti-racism theme.
In an interview some years later, Clapton claims his remarks weren’t aimed at any one particular minority. True. They were aimed at “wogs” and “coons” and Arabs and Jamaicans, so several minorities. You dug yourself out of that one! “It was kind of a feeling of loss of identity, being English and losing my Englishness,” said the blues guitarist whose first solo top ten hit was a cover of a reggae song written by Bob Marley.
In his 2007 autobiography, cleverly entitled Clapton: The Autobiography, in a paragraph that begins with the sentence “I had never really understood, or been directly affected by, racial conflict,” Clapton says of the 1976 outburst “Since then I have learned to keep my opinions to myself.” Okay, that’s one lesson. I think there may be more if one looks hard enough.
Today Eric Clapton turns 70 years old. To celebrate, here are twenty songs about the idiocy of racism.
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On September 18, 1977, Aaron Russo, Bette Midler’s manager, produced “A Star-Spangled Night for Rights” at the Hollywood Bowl. The focus of the four and a half hour concert was gay rights. Performers included Midler, War, Richard Pryor, Helen Reddy, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits and Tanya Tucker. Among the approximately 17,000 people in the audience was Paul Newman, Olivia Newton-John, Valerie Harper and Robert Blake.
It had been a rough year for gay rights. In June, Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign proved successful when Dade County, Florida voters repealed the gay rights ordinance they had just passed in January. In Arkansas, the state legislature reinstated the sodomy laws it repealed two years earlier.
As a result of these setbacks, gay rights marches appeared around the country, official Gay Pride parades drew their highest number of participants to date, and Russo organized the concert to benefit the Save Our Human Rights Foundation.
California Senator John Briggs threatened to blacklist every Hollywood performer or politician who supported or attended the show. The following year Briggs sponsored a proposition to remove all gay or lesbian employees and their supporters from California schools. The measure was defeated due in large part to the efforts of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. On September 18, 1977, Milk had yet to be elected to that position.
The concert went well for its first few performances, but took an ugly turn when comedian Pryor took the stage. Among the things he said: “Motherfuck women’s rights!” “Fags are prejudiced.” “I’m sick of y’all and your faggoty-ass bullshit. What were you doing during the Watts riots – sucking each other’s dicks? Fuck you and everything you stand for, I’m getting the fuck out of here.” And the finale, “You Hollywood faggots can kiss my happy rich black ass!” It wasn’t his best material. And yes, if given the choice between arson, destruction, looting, beatdowns and fellatio, my selection is a no-brainer.
Next on the concert bill…Tom Waits! It reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer was to perform a comedy set at Mr. Burns’ birthday party. Mr. Smithers gets on stage and announces “I have some sad news to report. A small puppy, not unlike Lassie, was just run over in the parking lot. And now it’s time for the comedy stylings of Homer Simpson!”
Waits was invited to perform at the event by his close friend Bette Midler, who he met three years earlier at The Bottom Line in New York. Subsequently, Midler recorded Waits’ “Shiver Me Timbers” in 1976 and they did a duet on Waits’ Foreign Affairs album released the year of the Hollywood Bowl show.
Before Waits took the stage Aaron Russo came out to apologize for Pryor’s outburst. “I’m terribly embarrassed and don’t know what to say about what just happened, but I do think this show tonight started out and will end up on a positive note.” However, the audience was agitated. Waits gave up after two songs.
The crowd wanted the headliner. Bette Midler bounded on stage and asked the crowd “Is there anyone here tonight who wants to kiss this rich white ass?” The crowd cheered and she closed the show.
Today Tom Waits turns 65. Aside from Milder, his compositions have been recorded by Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen and The Ramones, among others. Here are twenty career highlights.
On our menu:
“Dance to the Music”
From 1968, Sly & The Family Stone’s first hit single helped launch the “psychedelic soul” sound that was a huge influence on acts such as The Temptations, The Undisputed Truth, War, Parliament and The 5th Dimension. Interestingly, the Family Stone didn’t care for the track, thinking it too commercial.
“Sing a Simple Song”
Sly & The Family Stone drummer Greg Errico said this song isn’t simple at all; it’s actually difficult to play live.
“In those days it was the hippies who cut their hair and ran away from the hippy feeling. It’s about how, at a certain time, everybody runs away from something.” – Sly Stone
From 1971, this was Sly’s third #1 pop hit and his last top ten.
“Somebody’s Watching You”
A track from 1969, seventeen years after President Truman formed the NSA.
“Hot Fun in the Summertime”
This song contains the lyric “I cloud nine when I want to,” a reference to The Temptations hit song “Cloud Nine,” insinuating that the Motown band was echoing The Family Stone’s vocal style. This single went to #2 on the pop chart, kept from the top spot by The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You.”
“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”
And vice versa, per the song. Made more impactful due to the fact that this as one of the first integrated bands (which also had men and women playing major roles).
“If You Want Me to Stay”
The band’s final gold single, from 1973
“Everybody is a Star”
Recorded for an album that was never competed, this song, along with “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” was included on a 1970 Greatest Hits set from the band.
“In the end you’ll still be you, one that’s done all the things you set out to do”
“I Want to Take You Higher”
Released as the b-side of the “Stand!” single, the band’s incendiary performance of the tune at Woodstock had their record label release it as a single a-side, becoming another top 40 hit for them.
“And so on and so on and scooby doobie doobie.” Has any other song said so much as elegantly?
“Que Sera, Sera”
One of the few cover versions his band recorded
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
Hulk Hogan’s daughter Brooke released a cover of this song. It’s not as well known.
Jesse Johnson, lead guitarist of The Time, brought in Sly to help on this 1986 club hit that went to #2 on the r&b chart.