Writers Workshop: Slow Dancin’

That is a great song for slow dancing. Too bad it wasn’t out until 1977, a little late for me at those eighth grade dances (not that late).

When you’re in grammar school (nowadays eighth grade is “junior high,” but they hadn’t quite invented it in 1969, at least not where I came from), those dances were something to look forward to, mostly because, for the guys anyway, it was a chance to get close to one of the female classmates and put your arms around her for a while while you turned slowly to a song like Mercy’s “Love Can Make You Happy”…

Problem was, the girls wanted to dance to fast songs, like any of the million songs that had been put out by the Jackson 5…

…and they ran the record player. One time, we thought we might be able to get one of them to play “Never Can Say Goodbye,” since the record had a Motown label and it was by the Jackson 5 (at least Michael), and it was a perfect slow-dance song…

It didn’t work. It’s still a great slow-dance song. So was Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which the girls seemed to like, even if it was a slow song.

I know, “Why didn’t you guys just learn how to fast dance and dance fast with us?” Because most of us were total klutzes, being 13 or 14. Even at 140 pounds, I danced like an elephant with a broken leg. Plus, we thought we looked like idiots. Besides, being close to a girl and actually holding one in your arms was THE WHOLE POINT.

I don’t know when that changed. Now, I see videos these kids (literally 14 and 15 years old) put out where the guys are better dancers than the girls. Man, where do they learn those moves? Not to mention that, if a boy were to bust out moves like that fifty years ago, the other guys would tend to stay away from him, if you know what I mean.

Which might have been the problem. The fact was we could have learned to dance like that, but we were too “manly” to do so. So we waited until the girls took pity on us and played a slow one, like Three Dog Night’s “Easy To Be Hard”…

Youth is wasted on the young…

Song of the Day: Billy Paul, “Me And Mrs. Jones”

Kenny Gamble, one-half of the songwriting and production team Gamble & Huff, was born in Philadelphia on this day in 1943. Gamble and Leon Huff are credited with creating the Philadelphia soul genre in the 1970’s. They founded Philadelphia International Records, home to such stars as MFSB, The Three Degrees, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, and Billy Paul. Billy’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” was a huge crossover hitfor him, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 and the Soul chart in 1972. This is from the November 4, 1972 edition of Soul Train.

Song of the Day: Olivia Newton-John, “I Honestly Love You”

By now, everyone has heard that British-Australian chanteuse Olivia Newton-John lost her 30-year battle with breast cancer on Monday. She was the girl-next-door with an incredible voice that we first heard in 1971 with “If Not For You.” When she started her battle with cancer, she insisted on going holistic, using plant-based cures (including cannabis), and started her foundation to aid in finding a cure for the disease.

Her first #1 hit was 1974’s “I Honestly Love You,” a song by Jeff Barry and Peter Allen. Something about a beautiful Australian girl singing “I love you, I honestly love you” in a hushed voice made a lot of men, including myself and most of my friends, fall in love with her as well.

A work friend of mine and I were at a restaurant in Westwood Village the night she opened her clothing store, Koala Blue. We were watching the crowd on the sidewalk and all the excitement and commotion as we enjoyed adult beverages across the street. We were actually tempted to crash the party, but the thought of spending the night in the Westwood lock-up on a drunk-and-disorderly charge prevented us from doing so.

Rest in peace, Olivia. We honestly loved you.

Simply 6 Minutes: Farmin’

When I saw this picture, all I could think about was crop rotation, the practice of planting different crops in different portions of your field and switching off between them each growing season. This year, this farmer is growing wheat in one field and lavender in another. Next season, he might switch the two, or he might have a third field which is laying fallow this year, i.e. one that has grass or clover in it, so next season he’ll grow lavender in that field, wheat in the field where lavender is growing now, and leave the wheat field lay fallow.

The big reason you do this is to allow the soil to replenish itself from season to season. The more I try to explain it, the more tangled up I get, and we only have six minutes, so here’s the Wikipedia article on it.

I grew up in Chicago, and as the song goes, just outside Chicago, there’s a place called Illinois. Illinois is a huge farming state, the big crops being corn, wheat, and soybeans. WGN-TV, which was one of the first cable stations, broadcast all over the Midwest, and had a show, Top O’ The Morning, early on Monday through Saturdays, that was aimed at the farmers, which included information on the current commodity prices, commercials from pesticide and seed companies, and features on farming trends and advice. The guy who hosted this show was a man named Orion Samuelson, who hosted the show for over sixty years. I had no idea what he was talking about, but something about his manner told me that he did, and so did the farmers all over the Midwest. There are video clips of him of him on YouTube; here’s a short one, a commercial for Pursuit herbicide.

Christine runs Simply 6 Minutes.