Summer Breeze

Welcome to the Hill1News Isley Brothers Summer Breeze Experience.. This article is brought to you by BOP.. the Federal Bureau Of Prisons, because I don’t have the rights to none of this sh*t. In the event they find out.. please send your letters and prayers to LaLa Hill… P.O Box SCRATCH1NIGA. Attention: Warden Weigotu Noww

In 1958 the Isley Brothers were performing at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia and they were wrapping up a song by Jackie Wilson called “Lonely Teardrops.” Well the audience went crazy with their approval, jumping up and down, hooting and whistling, cussing and spitting.. you know how some people cuss when they get in their feelings…”Dat %$$#@ sung dat #$$@ song!!.” The cool people will spit after saying it because they don’t want you to think they soft and “all dat.” Anywho, Ronald Isley was overwhelmed by the reception and did what is known in the business as a “call and response.” You know like when an artist will call out to the audience..” Let me hear you say yeah!!, and the audience responds by saying “yeah!”… most of the time. Anyway, Ronald Isley called out to the audience .. “You make me want to shout!! Throw my hands up and..” The audience responded..” Shout!,” and music history was made. They brought back the recording and told their producers that they could make a song out of the “climax.” They brought in some band members and “Shout” became the group’s first top 100. Of course 1958 was before a lot of our times, however you might recall the song from a 1978 movie called “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” The song was played during the toga frat party. The film featured John Belushi among others. The year 1958 saw another black group blossom and one that would eventually become synonymous with black culture, artistry and dance. A group of Black dancers led by one Alvin Ailey performed for the first time as a group, calling itself the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Back in 1958 artistic choreography was not at the top of most black people’s mind unless the Temptations or Four Tops were doing it, so the dance group first gig was at the YWHA, Young Women’s Hebrew Association on 92nd Street in New York City. Anywho, somewhere in my early teens.. I mean early teens.. like twelve going on eighteen, I got my first phonograph. Boy I’m telling you now… Once I got my hands on that, you couldn’t even tell me my sh*t stank. I didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out so buying records was out of the question for now. Luckily my mom and dad were big time music buyers. I ran straight to that Magnavox Combo ,TV, Record Player, Radio Console and snatched up a whole bunch of 45’s and instantly became “Boss Music Man!” One of the first 45’s I played was “This Old Heart of Mine,” by the Isley Brothers and I have been a fan ever since. By the way, you might be wondering why would they buy me a record player if I didn’t have any records. Well we did have records. Besides the educational records that my parents brought us, they use to have records on the cereal boxes. You just cut them right off the back. I had a collection of Alvin and the Chipmunks records which I would beg my parents to play every chance I got on that Magnavox.. hell that thing had it all… put a key in that bad boy and you could probably drive it away:>. I guess they got tired of my begging and listening to Alvin that they brought me my own record player. Anywho the memories…

As I became a full fledge obnoxious know it all fifteen year old, my music taste started developing into more mature songs. I started listening to the greats like the Chi-Lites, Blue Magic, the Stylistics and such. It would be a couple more years before I would start listing to the young adult music of Tina Turner, The Commodores and the Ohio Players. Before then we were in the blue light years. You knew it was going to a hell of a party if when you went into the basement the ceiling light were blue. Hot diggity dog!! Anywho after the blue light years, I had had that record player for a few years. I still played it but most of the time I would wait until my parents were out and play the Magnavox. The record player they bought me was mono, or only had one speaker. The Magnavox was stereo and man was that thing loud!! I would sit on the floor and listen to that thing until I saw them pull up and then I would turn on the TV. I could look at the TV, but I wasn’t allowed to play the record player. Mama said every time she wanted to play her songs she couldn’t find them because they were in my room. I guess some of you noticed I said I sat on the floor. That’s right.. ain’t no way I was bad enough to sit on my mama’s living room furniture. To this day I don’t know how she could tell if someone had been sitting on her living room furniture. I always put the pillows back just she way she had it… but still got caught. “Boy you been on my living room couch?? Don’t lie!! ( whap! whap! whap!)” LOL… Anywho, around the early seventies a new music format came out called Quadraphonic. It was a game changer. It leveraged two pairs of stereo speakers and you could control each stereo pair individually. Before then it was loud music or soft music. Quad as we called it had Bass, Tremble, Mid, Left Channel and Right Channel, Stereo, Quad, right speakers and left speakers selections. I couldn’t even afford a quadraphonic record player. The only time I was able to hear one was when I went into the PX and listened to the one on display. I know some of you don’t know what a PX (Post Exchange) is, but to the children of servicemen and women it’s the military’s version of a mini Walmart. Anywho, after I joined the service I was lucky enough to room with a guy who had one.. a quadraphonic!. That brings us to the second song of this Isley Brothers Experience..”Summer Breeze!” Listening to “Summer Breeze” on that quadraphonic was like dying and going to heaven! I fell in love with the Isley’s all over again. There were other jams on that album that were also good, like “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, The Highways Of My Life, and What It Comes Down To.” We had our party songs, but most people in my age group at that time were romantic optimist and we would take the Temptations “Hey Girl,” over James Brown”s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” everyday and twice on Sundays. Those were the days.. After we left our shift, we would buy some of that 2.1 beer or whatever it was and head over to me and Wash’s room to drink beer talk about women and play Isley.

By the time I was able to afford a quadraphonic, a new medium came out called surround sound. Another game changer! With surround sound you now had the ability to control each speaker individually! I got me a surround sound system and immediately was given the ultimatum. “Turn that shi*t down or start looking for some place else to live!!” Well damn.. I moved to Virginia. It’s been 40 years since I lived there but the apartments I lived in were the ones when you first get into Old Town on the right, just after the tracks, if you’re going down the George Washington Parkway. There I was able to play my music! One of my favorites.. “Harvest to The World.” At the time I worked at the US Capitol as dishwasher. My dad got me a job there after I got out the service. You know this was a long time ago because I was able to afford an apartment on a dishwashers pay. They were just building up Crystal City and the shops along route one were years away. Only thing over there was the train tracks. I took a bus from Old Town to Federal Center at 15th and Pa, then walked to work. It was there I met my first girlfriend.. well not there exactly.. she was the friend of my boy Chase’s girlfriend. We hit it right off. She was from Fayetteville NC and soon we were living together and eventually moved into a bigger apartment. Not sure if the apartments are still there, haven’t been out there in decades. They were down the street from a base called Cameron Station. She didn’t work and I was responsible for all the bills. As you can imagine things didn’t work out and we parted ways, but not before she destroyed my surround sound system. Still I was a little more lucky than some other guys. Back in those days breaking up could easily mean a face full of hot grits or she might reach into her bosom and pull out the longest razor blade you ever saw in your life!. Sleep was not an option. You had to break up during the day and then leave. Men were equally violent and some made Ike look like a Boy Scout. Being in a relationship was the same as being married.. it was meant to be forever or until death do you part… the choice was yours. We did get back together a few years later but it didn’t last. But before, when we were grooving… it was the best of times. She was a country girl and could cook her azz off!! After every one of her fabulous meals we would go and sit out on the apartment stoops and talk for hours.. talking and watching life go by. Afterwards we would walk down to the store, grab some beer and go back and listen to music.. and then…. When we broke up, she knew exactly where to hit me.. right in the turntable. Anyway, one of our favorite songs was “Harvest To The World.” We danced, we laughed, we loved..

At some point musically things started to change. We went from “Gangsta Luv” to just plain old gangster. The age of Rap music had come upon us. At first I didn’t really like it. LIke my parents before me, musically I was conservative. My idols were still the Temptations, Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Aretha Franklin and a whole host of other R&B music royalty that generations of African Americans had listened to over the past decades. I resisted until I heard MC Hammer, then it all started to make sense. I went from MC Hammer to NWA and other rappers who had a social agenda and meaning to their rap. But then rap took an ugly turn. It went from talking for us to talking about us. Black women were bitches and hoes and black men were murderers, gangsters or pimps. I grooved with it for a while.. I walked around in Air Force Ones and sweats, switched over to Timberlands and baggy clothes, played my gangster music so loud you could hear me coming from a block away. That shat had me going. I mean I’m so bad now, that when the preacher asked me when was the last time I was at confession, I told him an hour ago… I mean I was one step from carrying one and handling my business as they say.. Cool Mo: “Hey G whatcha talking bout?” Me: I can’t call it.. just gettin ready to handle my business..” Cool Mo: “I know dats right..” For real…I ain’t even have no business… unless I was gittin ready to mop that floor at Giant Food.. All that changed when my daughter was born and with her birth my taste in music changed. I started listening to Boys To Men, New Edition Lalah Hathaway, listening to Grover Washington, Miles Davis and Chick Corea… I basically did a u-turn with my music. I did come back for a while to listen to Biggie Smalls and Tupac.. but after them, I was finished with it for good. Looking back to my roots I turned to the Isley brothers again, “Between the Sheets”, Make Me Say It Again Girl and in 2006 when Ronald Isley put out “Just Came Here To Chill,” I knew R&B wasn’t dead…

Well it’s been north of 30 years since those days. Now I listen to music once and awhile. With the advent of the 24 hour news cycle and my growing interest in black history, writing and other things, I find little time for it. My daughter is grown and the music my grandkids listen to have little resemblance to what I once listen to. One of them turned me on to a song that didn’t even have no words… just some cat making indecipherable noise punctuated every now and then with “yeahhhh…” So to me it was “grunt, grunt, grunt. howl, howl, howl.. yeahhhh..” Trying to still be cool, I say to my grandkids .. “Oh I see he’s handling his business.” Them: “Granddad what you know about that..?” I smile.. sit down and tell them to bring me the chicken so I can put it on the grill. I grab my Iphone and click on Itunes.. Artist- Isley Brothers…

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