I finished 8th grade in 1986 and started high school. That meant going from a fairly homogenous (Mexican American) 1st through 8th elementary school of a bit more than 200 to a very diverse (by race and class) school of more than 1700. This was my soundtrack for that change.
5. “The Rain” by Oran “Juice” Jones
Aside from the really long monologue at the end of the song, the claim to fame for this one hit wonder is that it’s the first #1 song for the Def Jam label.
4. “Rumors” by Timex Social Club
If I had a personal soundtrack for the summer of 1986, it could have this song on it and be done. The dad of a grade school friend gave me a lift home that summer and he sang along with the song when it came on the radio. In my mind he was instantly and forever the coolest dad ever.
3. “All Cried Out” by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jame (with Full Force)
It’s early fall 1986 and a big group of our freshmen class (boys and girls) are building and decorating our class float for homecoming. This song comes on a boom box and it becomes a mass sing-a-long, girls singing Lisa Lisa’s parts and boys becoming Full Force.
2. “Word Up!” by Cameo
This is a good song. It has a great beat and an assortment of interesting sounds. But it’s Larry Blackmon’s odd phrasing and outfits that made this the memorable treat that it is.
1. “Nasty” by Janet Jackson
No my first name ain’t baby / It’s Janet / Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.
Today is the 41st anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. I made my first post to the original “Latino Like Me” blog (hosted on Blogspot) on this day 11 years ago.
To mark the occasion, I could go on about why I love Elvis so much; or make my argument why he is the greatest rock ‘n roll star in history; or play clips of his best performances. Instead, I’d like to share one of his most historic performances, one that captures his position as a cultural phenomenon.
This is Elvis’ “Welcome Home” performance from 1960. Fresh out of the Army, Elvis made his first television performance in three years as part of the fourth (and last) Frank Sinatra Timex Show, this one subtitled Welcome Home Elvis.
Wikipedia tells a little bit of the story:
On March 26, at 6:15pm, taping for the show took place at the Fontainebleau Hotel. It was Presley’s first appearance on television in over three years, and his first serious performance since 1957, making Presley nervous about how he would be received. Colonel Parker, perhaps due to nerves of his own, had arranged for as many Presley fans as possible to fill the audience, although at least half of it was still made up of Sinatra fans. For the occasion, to fit in with Sinatra’s “rat pack” persona, Presley wore a tuxedo.
Sinatra and Elvis were kind of rivals in the 50s. Sinatra represented the kind of music and vocals which were the antithesis of rock ‘n roll, while Elvis. . . well, he was the king. Sinatra had once said rock ‘n roll was “sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons” and “manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth.” But here, the two are friendly and complimentary in every way.
As they say, it was a big deal. Here is the long clip of his appearance.
Word is that Aretha Franklin is “gravely ill.” I’m saddened to hear the news. There’s no disputing the argument that she is the greatest female singer of the 20th century. Perhaps aside from Ella Fitzgerald, there is none more significant.
I’m sure an avalanche of thoughtful and loving pieces commemorating her life and legacy are on their way. I’m spending my work day with her music. If you’re in a listening mood, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)–her first with Atlantic records–is one of the best albums ever. Here are my other favorites of her albums and collections:
Lady Soul (1968)
Aretha Now (1968)
Young, Gifted and Black (1972)
Soul ’69 (1969)
The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin (1962)
Aretha is a much more powerful single track artist than an album one, so compilations of her work are often the surest way to go. Here are my favorites:
The Very Best of Aretha, Vol. 1: the 60s (1994)
Aretha Sings the Blues (1985)
Queen of Sou: The Atlantic Recordings (1994)
And here’s a killer live performance that always stands out in my memory:
I grew up in the 80s. Even though I listened to a lot of oldies, rock, and pop, I probably spent most of those years listening to music that could be categorized as R&B.
That’s a diverse category, I know. It also shares a lot of space with Top 40 music, both then and now. So for the next few weeks I’ll make a list of some of my favorites by breaking down the genre a bit. This week I’ll focus on love songs, both those we might think of as “slow jams” but also some of the stuff that was more Black adult contemporary.
5. “On the Wings of Love” by Jeffrey Osborne (1982)
This song is a perfect example of the intersection of R&B love songs, gospel-tinged lyrics, and late 70s/early 80s pop instrumentation. It was also on the tape that played and played at Taco Bell, the site of my first job. I have fond memories of my co-worker Freddy Dew belting it out every time it came on.
4. “Love You Down” by Ready for the World (1986)
Unlike the above song, this was young person’s music in the mid-80s. It had everything we loved then, too. It never fails to transport me back to freshman year of high school.
3. “If Only For One Night” by Luther Vandross (1985)
I always imagined Luther Vandross would be the music I’d play if I was a grown up having a romantic evening with someone special. Alas, such nights only existed in my imagination back in the 80s. Still, Luther is the man. While the arrangements of some of his music can be a bit much, his voice and phrasing was beyond compare.
2. “I Want to Be Your Man” by Roger (1987)
If I had my way I would’ve walked down the aisle to this song on our wedding day. No hard feelings! It was a great ceremony. But it could have used more talk box.
1. “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott (1986)
At the time everyone talked about Gregory Abbott as a “former teacher” with an R&B smash hit. I always figured he was a grade school teacher who one day walked into class to thundering applause from his students who now knew him as a singing sensation. It wasn’t until later that I learned he just taught one or two writing courses at Cal while working on his MFA in creative writing. The song–which is overwhelmingly 80s in every way–still occupies a big soft spot in my heart.
Southern California is in one of its typical August heat waves. Everywhere you turn, there’s some interesting family-friendly event to go to. The kids are tan and we all smell like chlorine. Still, summer has come to an end in la casa Summers Sandoval.
The girls go back to school today. Our middle kid is entering 5th grade while the little one starts 2nd. It’s an early start but it’s the only school schedule we’ve ever had. Our oldest is starting middle school this year in another district, so he gets another three weeks of summer. But no matter. Since school is starting for the other two, the whole family is about to go into “regular mode.”
We’ll do our best to live the summer life but we’ve got no complaints. It’s been a great two and a half months. The kids had some activities to keep them busy, but not too busy. We went on the 7th Annual Summers Sandoval Big Sur Camping Trip. (It would’ve been our 8th if not for the park’s closure last May-June.) And we capped it all off with a trip to Palm Desert, because we like resort pools and 117 degree heat.
While we’ll miss the freedom of summer, we do pretty good running on regular mode. Our kids like school and they loved their friends. And I like how we can ease into it all so that by the time I start teaching in a month we’re running like a well-oiled machine.
If there’s a downside to it all it’s that another new school year is another reminder of how fast they’re growing. I’m doing my best to remind myself to enjoy every moment but this parenting thing moves quicker than you think.
So here’s to a great new year for our amazing young women. . . and to us all!
Here are five more favorite songs missing from my “impact albums” listing on Facebook. There’s probably a lot of repeats in here from lists of the past, but so be it:
5. “One” by Metallica (1988)
This song changed my life. From an album that’s about as solid as any the band put out…
4. “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos (1970)
The impact of this song on me is hard to measure. It keeps growing over time.
3. “Galileo” by the Indigo Girls (1992)
The best of what the Indigo Girls do is in the song. It also brings up fond memories of 1992.
2. “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin (1968)
The amazing Aretha Franklin is far more amazing on any number of songs she’s recorded. There’s something about this that always captivated me though.
1. “The Weight” by The Band (1968)
When I first heard it, I felt like I had to hear it again. When I bought the album, I don’t think I got passed this one song for about three days.
As you may know, I’m working on a book about Chicano/Latino communities and America’s war in Vietnam. Most of my research comes from oral histories with veteranos and their families, work I’ve been lucky enough to do for the last seven years.
The book is still a bit off but, in the meantime, I’ve been trying to find creative ways to share this history with people, especially people in my own community. Well, thanks to support from the Whiting Foundation, I had a sabbatical this spring to do exactly that by using these oral histories to write a play.
We’re performing a “stage reading” of the play this Saturday, May 26 at a theater in downtown LA. This is a very informal kind of performance (no costumes or things like that) but it’s a chance to hear the play in draft form. After the reading we’re hosting an audience discussion, too, to hear what you think and to share more about the project.
Even better, it’s a completely FREE event!
This is a great way to commemorate the Memorial Day weekend and a fantastic way to learn more about our history. I hope to see you there.