After introducing my daughter to the glories of cake left in the rain with the 1970s version of “MacArthur Park,” we had a discussion in the newsroom about favorite songs from our youth.
I learned there are times you should keep your past to yourself, lest you be labeled odd.
For instance, should you really ever tell people — even close friends or spouses — that you can still remember all the words to Michael Jackson’s “Ben?”
I recently found a recording of the song on YouTube (did you know you can find anything there, even rarely heard recordings like the theme song from the old children’s show “The Banana Splits” and Paris Hilton songs?)
I played “Ben” for Shannon, who’s 15:
“Ben, the two of us need look no more;
we both found what we were looking for…”
I said to her: “You’ll never guess who he’s singing about.”
From her more contemporary standpoint, Shannon guessed: “Some little kid?”
But no, this was Michael Jackson of the 1970s — hip, cool and still black. He was singing, I told Shannon, about a…rat. “Ben” was the theme song for a horror film.
I guess when you listen to songs about “lovely lady lumps,” an ode to a friendship with a rat doesn’t seem so odd.
My coworkers who are a tad younger have been caught rolling their eyes at ’70s music, as if those Black-Eyed Butter Bean people are so-o-o-o much better. So when I had the opportunity to take one of our young reporters I’ll call Jennifer Hill — mainly because that’s her name — on a road trip to an Alabama Press Association convention, I gathered all my CDs from the ’70s.
On the trip with me were 20-something Jennifer, Shannon and one of her teen friends.
They wanted to listen to hip-hop music.
I was more than willing to listen to their requests, then reminded them that I had the keys and, well, tough.
What we learned from this experience was that the ’70s churned out loads of crowd-pleasing music AND people look at you funny when you pull up to a red light rockin’ Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.”
As it turned out, everyone in the car could sing along to my Disco Gold CD. (What? I said it. “Disco Gold.” I refuse to be ashamed.)
We rolled down the windows and sang along to “I Will Survive,” “Car Wash” and the ultimate disco classic, “YMCA.”
BTW, you really should never play “YMCA” in a moving vehicle because, well, there is an inherent element of danger.
Don’t ask me how I know this.
Suffice it to say:
1. It is impossible to hear the song without making the accompanying hand motions;
2. The accompanying hand motions require removing your hands from the steering wheel;
3. Police aren’t always understanding when you explain you veered into the next lane because you were steering with your knees.
My young companions thought I monopolized the CD player but really, let’s be honest, could we have rolled down the window and sung “Baby Got Back” or “Ms. New Booty?”
I think not — at least not without the threat of arrest.
So a good time was had by all, plus we had the added excitement of devising a new invention.
We could patent a small, magnetized scrolling computer screen, much like those seen at banks, to place on the sides of cars that would announce what songs drivers were listening to.
It could be very beneficial to see “YMCA” flash on the screen and know that driver is steering with her knees.
Meanwhile, until I get the patent, you might want to avoid anyone driving a black Suzuki Forenza.
I can’t help myself.
- Kelly Kazek
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