Sweet Soul Music, a Brief History and Exegesis

Jean Mirre

One of my favorite one-hit wonders is Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” a sort of sonic collage of borrowed (polite word) sources paying homage to a few of the great soul singers of the Sixties.

The underlying source is Sam Cooke’s “Yeah Man,” released posthumously after Cooke’s bizarre murder (shot to death wearing nothing but a shoe and a sports jacket). [1]

I say collage, because Conley and his co-writer, the great Otis Redding, not only “borrow” from Mr. Cooke, but also co-opt the opening bars of the theme song from the movie The Magnificent Seven.

Here’s how “Yeah Man” commences:

 

Here’s the theme song from the movie:

 

 

And the beginning of Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music”:

 

 

Note initially the songs begin with the identical question, “Do you like good music.”  However, Conley substitutes Cooke’s “crazy about music” with “sweet soul music”  and sharpens Cooke’s “crazy about the dances” with “going to a go-go,” an allusion to the Smokey Robinson song of the same name. Specificity sharpens Cooke’s rather generic proclamations.

“Sweet Soul Music” is a tribute, a list of soul singers to be celebrated.

First Low Rawls.

Spotlight on Lou Rawls, y’all
Ah don’t he look tall, y’all
Singin’ loves a hurtin’ thing, y’all
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Then Sam and Dave

Spotlight on Sam and Dave, y’all
Ah don’t they look boss, y’all
Singin’ hold on I’m comin’
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Wicked Wilson Pickett is third

Spotlight on Wilson Pickett now
That wicked picket Pickett
Singin Mustang Sally
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Co-author Otis Redding is the penultimate singer cited

Spotlight on Otis Redding now
Singing fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa
Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Finally, the Godfather is crowned king

Spotlight on James Brown, y’all
He’s the king of them all, y’all
He’s the king of them all, y’all
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Except Otis gets as encore allusion, the last singer’s name we hear in the song:  “Otis Redding’s got the feeling,”  Arthur grunts as the song fades away.

Check it out in its entirety:

 


[1]Hacienda Hotel, LA, 11 December 1964.  Check it out. Here’s one version: http://performingsongwriter.com/mysterious-death-sam-cooke/

Summer Solstice Musings

Ah, after the pyrotechnics of last night’s lightening strikes and Aeolian blustering, the longest day of the year has arrived with its magical moon that will drive the devotees of Dionysius from their dorms into frothing streets of the Holy City – but, no, wait, hold on; it’s the summer solstice! The College is out until August.

Praise Zeus!

That’s right, those dim-witted imbibers and garden urinators have returned to wherever in Off they’re from – Jersey City, Peoria, Cincinnati, Charlotte – and we say good riddance, especially if we live on Warren or George or Society Streets, where those sons and daughters of Belial are wont to dwell, reverberations from their self-indulgence echoing into the wee hours, disturbing the sleep of respectable burghers who live a life of not-so-quiet desperation, thanks to Bacchanalian cries of the inebriated.

In Courts and Palaces [Belial] also Reigns
And in luxurious Cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above their loftiest Towers,
And injury and outrage: And when Night Darkens the

Streets, then wander forth the Sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.

Paradise Lost, Book 1 497-502

Jacobus de Theramo, Das Buch Belial. 1401.

Happily, Caroline, Brooks, and I-and-I live far from that madding crowd in our little jungle paradise on the backside of Folly Island, 10 blocks away from the front-beach Center Street shit show. Things have quieted since the alcohol ban seven years ago – a half-ton less of detritus is strewn about the sands, according to officials. And Folly Gras is a thing of the past, and a recent city ordinance has banned outdoor music after ten.  It seems our city government is trying to change Folly from “The Edge of America” to “The Beige of America.”  Whatever the case, I’m certainly in favor of less litter.

Hit it, TS Eliot:

The [beach] bears [fewer] empty bottles, sandwich papers,

Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends

Or other testimony to summer nights.[1]

“The Waste Land” 176-9

our front yard

trash from the past

Yet, there’s something about the ripeness inherent in the summer solstice that cries out for revelry – the shedding of clothing, purple-stained mouth[s], ecstatic exclamations of pure joy.

It’s a day to celebrate Paganism – those all-too-human gods and goddesses – and their tolerance of the wild hair, their sanctioning of frenzy, their cult of fertility – latitude not afforded us via Hebraic mythology.

Santorini

Susya, a Palestinian Village

So beware, neighbors.  This evening you might hear some moon-howling, some blaring Zydeco music, the thumping of crazed dancers doing the Wa-wa-tusi:

Wow!

Ow!

Uh!

You know I feel alright?

Hah!

Feel pretty good, y’all

Uh-hah!


[1]Not to mention beer cans, dirty diapers, used condoms, discarded panties, fast food bags, abandoned flip flops.