THE SPINNERS / “Love Don’t Love Nobody”
Last week in class one of my high school students wrote a statement which essentially asked the eternal question: does love equal being a fool. Immediately I thought of Phillipe Wynn and the Spinners, “Love Don’t Love Nobody” (available on the career-covering compedium, A One Of A Kind Love Affair - The Anthology). Phillipe Wynn’s sterling tenor was an incredibly beautiful instrument. Beyond the beauty of his voice, it was the way he used it that set him apart from his peers and made The Spinners one of the premiere vocal groups of the seventies, an era whose musical valley is higher than the sonic peaks of many other eras. That led me to think about doing a write up on songs that dealt with being a fool in love. I thought back to seventh grade, on a school bus, and an older girl (she couldn’t have been too old, our school went up to the ninth grade) was sitting a couple of rows in front of me, screwing up her face and out shouting Tina Turner as this young lady proclaimed, “You just a fool / You know you’re in love.” Then, of course, there was Ray Charles, Live at Newport, singing “Fool For You,” which all led to bunches of songs about being a fool in love including at least three or four Aretha songs as well as The Main Ingredient's “Everybody Plays The Fool,” Bobby Bland’s “I Pity The Fool,” and on and on. As I started assembling the songs and reviewing them, a stark realization hit me. None of these other songs had that same wistful, philosophical quality that “Love Don’t Love Nobody” has. Most of the other songs were painful declarations of failure, folly or plain lustful foolishness, but "Love Don't Love Nobody" is a wisdom song. No matter what order I put them in, the Spinners song was in an entirely different category. Perhaps it was because most of the other songs were heavily blues-based whereas “Love Don’t Love” wasn’t. Sure Phillipe’s style of singing was obviously very much influenced by both gospel and blues, still, the song itself was not a blues. Before I knew it I had eliminated most of the other songs because they didn’t have same philosophical feeling that comes from drawing life lessons from past love experiences. “Love Don’t Love Nobody”—just the title is deep. Written by the songwriting team of Joseph Jefferson and Charles Simmons (who had many other hits with Philly Soul artists), "Love Don't Love Nobody" is truly a classic recording. I started meditating on the Philly soul sound, on lead producer/ arranger/ songwriter Thom Bell and that crew of producers, song writers, arrangers and musicians who worked with executive producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They virtually defined the new Soul sound, a style of soul far more sophisticated than the rawness of the Stax/Atlantic sound or the crossover appeal of the Motown sound. In the back of my head another song surfaced; a song I have loved and often would play on my various radio programs during the nineties: The Isley Brothers singing “Love Comes And Goes” from their Winner Takes All release. “Love Comes And Goes” is a throwback to the Isley’s crooning in an acoustic setting accompanied by a delicate guitar and reflectively singing in the twilight. A quiet taking stock song best appreciated sitting at sundown when no one else is around and it’s only you and your memories reflecting in the gloaming. But there is a deeper truth those sounds excavated. Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, I found myself wandering through the sacred forest of my bygone loves. Faces appearing and receding, faces I used to know, used to touch. A couple of them were faces I have not seen in the flesh for years, decades even. One or two of them were faces I once thought would never be more than an arm’s length away. What I like about both these classic soul songs of former loves is that the emphasis is not on recapturing or even simply remembering, rather these songs are about meditating on love lessons learned. The deeptitude of love experiences. In the course of a lifetime, love comes and goes. —Kalamu ya Salaam Too simple / Too deep Yeah, what a line. It's one I've actually used myself. I never said it out loud, of course. I was caught up in one of 'those' moments and I remember saying it to myself. I said it to myself and for the first time, I really, really understood what the line meant. You can love her, and she can love you, and hell, some of us even love love. But as for love itself, it's true, don't go looking to love for love, 'cause if you do, you're going to come up empty. It seems to me, the only times that line would actually make sense to say to someone else are the same times I'd never have the guts to actually say it. It's one of those 'too simple/too deep' lines. The type of thing that initially comes across as obvious and overly simplistic. Right up until you're in the middle of some deep, deep shit. And just about the only thing you can come up with that makes any sense at all is, love don't love nobody. —Mtume ya Salaam
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