I love old-school R&B with the kind of love that could only build in the heart of a suburban white boy who grew up listening to the local oldies station and wanted very much to be a trombone player in a horn band
Of course, that dream of being the bone player for Earth, Wind, and Fire or Stevie Wonder died a mewling small death when my folks presented me with the instrument they got me courtesy of my Aunt, who gave it to them for free: a clarinet. To say I was disappointed is like saying the Taj Mahal is a tawdry little shack.
Trust me, folks. While swing jazz is really cool, it was nothing compared to the burning hot, driving horn lines of “Superstition” or my favorite song by tonight’s Monday Night Music Artist, Edwin Starr.
It’s a shame that most folks only know Starr as the guy who sang the Vietnam protest song “War” (Unh! Good God, y’all!) and the glowering photo in this post. Though that song went to #1 on the US charts and #3 in the UK, it was far from his best tune and it didn’t come anywhere close to revealing the sheer ebullience of the singer who was called “the nicest man in showbiz”. Starr started out on the small Ric-Tic label where he recorded his first hit “Agent Double-O Soul” (#21 US). That label got bought out by Motown Records in 1968 and that’s where he started cranking out the tunes. He took the foot-tapping “25 Miles” to #6 on the US charts and a couple more to ten hits in the UK into the late 70s. He died of a heart attack in 2003 and left behind many, many appreciative fans.
After the jump, the music that, in part, made me want to be a trombone player.
Here’s the audio of Starr’s first hit, “Agent Double-O Soul”. It’s just a warmup, trust me.
Here’s the obligatory clip of his performing “War”. Note how happy he is while singing what most folks regard as a supremely angry song. It’s tough to reckon what you see with what you hear.
And now, my favorite Starr song, and one of my favorite songs of all time, “25 Miles”. There aren’t many songs that blend a driving, red-hot horn line with nearly perfect drum work, and a vocal line that rides over top of the music like it was the tastiest wave on the North Shore like this one does. Starr could flat-out sing and none of his songs show that as well as this one. Also, pay some attention to the lyrics. It’s all about a guy who is so crazy in love with his woman that he’s willing to walk over 25 miles to get to her. He’s in the home-stretch and the closer he gets the more he can’t wait. Feet don’t fail me now.
If you’re not moving in your chair a minute into the song, I fear you may be broken.
Two clips here. One with him surrounded by go-go dancers, because, well, go-go dancers! Do I need a reason?
And here he is later in life, absolutely lighting up a live audience. Dig how hard they sing when the producers turn up the crowd noise.
Oh, by the way? I did learn the clarinet, moved over to saxophone, eventually played for a few years in a pretty good community swing band, and sat in with a cover band for a couple of months. I never did get to be in that horn band, but I still play and there’s no telling what might be in the future.
Category: Monday Night Music