STEVIE WONDER / “Ribbon In The Sky”
“I’m getting married in the morning.” That’s the first line (after the intro) of one my favorite dancehall records, Yellowman’s “I’m Getting Married.” And guess what? A week from today it’ll be true – I’m getting married Sunday, July 27th. In honor of the big day, this week’s Classic post is going to be a mix of some of my favorite love songs. And not just any love songs. I’m skipping all the cheating songs, breakup songs, strange relationship songs, etc. This week I’m going for the straight-up ‘I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it’ sort of love songs. The good stuff. Here we go…. 1. Nina Simone – “Exactly Like You” – From Nina Simone At Town Hall (Colpix, 1959) Kalamu and I both love this woman and everything she does musically, so there’s no better way to kick off a Breath of Life mix than with the High Priestess herself, my girl, Nina. Plus, If I remember correctly, my soon-to-be brother-in-law used this one for his first dance. It was definitely something by Nina. 2. Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Baby, We’ve Got A Date” – From Catch A Fire (Island, 1973) Boy, do we. Not only do we have a date, we have a date that I’d better remember everyday for the rest of life. Right? Right. … About the song, you have to love it when a man as intense and serious as Bob takes a moment to put aside the politics for something as gentle and sweet as this. The infrequency of it makes it that much sweeter. 3. Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald – “Our Love Is Here To Stay” - From Ella & Louis Again (Verve, 1956) Speaking of sweet, here’s one of the sweetest records you’ll ever hear. I love when Louis says, right at the end of his verse, “Take it, Ella!” And does she ever…. 4. Willie Hutch – “I Choose You” From The Mack Soundtrack (Motown, 1973) Let’s get cinematic for a second. When it comes to the big moments, the bad moments, the bold moments, Willie Hutch is the man. Willie pulls out all the stops for this love statement – he’s got the horns, the strings, the melodramatic lyrics, the girls singing their hearts out in the background. Everything. I love it. 5. Maria Bethânia feat. Gal Costa – “Sonho Meu” - From Álibi (Verve, 1978) Maria Bethânia can rare back and blow like the best of them but for this duet with Gal Costa, Maria dialed it back, way back, and turned in a classy, understated performance. Same sex duets aren’t common (how many can you think of?), but here it really works. 6. Yellowman – “I’m Getting Married” – From Them A Mad Over Me (J&L, 1982) Sometimes I listen to Yellowman and imagine that he’s actually a frustrated lounge singer. He’s known, of course, for chatting (i.e., rapping) on the mic, but most of his big hits also include little segments where he’s crooning bits of standards, lounge songs and pop tunes. And he always performs the melodic parts as enthusiastically as the raps. 7. Sam Cooke – “Wonderful World” – Originally from Sam Cooke (RCA, 1958); Available on Best Of Sam Cooke (RCA, 2005) I remember being at summer camp at Jean Gordon Elementary when this song used to come on the radio. It had to be the late seventies or so. I used to listen to the words and try to imagine what it must be like to be the guy singing the song and actually care what some girl thought about me. Back then, all I cared about was tag and kickball. Girls? Nah. 8. Van Morrison – “Crazy Love” – From Moondance (Warner Bros, 1970) Here’s the only R&B singer I’ve ever liked who happens to be Irish. By the time I first heard this one, I was all grown up and unlike my first experience with “Wonderful World,” I knew exactly what Van was talking about. … Not coincidentally, this is going to be our anniversary dance. (The dance honoring the longest-married couple in attendance.) 9. Stevie Wonder – “Ribbon In The Sky” – From Original Musiquarium (Motown, 1982) I’m going to wrap it up with one of Stevie’s many beautiful tributes to the power of romantic love. I chose this one for two reasons. First, because I’ve always really liked the way the acoustic guitar sounds on this track – it perfectly compliments the rest of the instruments and Stevie’s voice. And second, because it makes a nice segue into this week’s Cover selections – jazz versions of a few Stevie Wonder classics. Baba, why don’t you pick the feature. I like ‘em all! :-)
Choices, Choices Back in the sixties I was a cha-cha-cha-ing fool. I had crosses, dips, hesitations, twists, turns and partner twirls (even that lil alternating "triple twirl" you could get into when dancing with a really hip chick who with the slightest touch to her hip would start a twirl and if you quickly touched the opposite hip she would immediately twirl back the other way and then on the beat—remember the cha cha cha is in threes—if you delivered that third touch she would be on it twirling back around just in time to dip). Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” was made for that high class, expert cha cha cha-ing. So I’m inclined to go with that except Marley sounds wonderful too with that pedal steel guitar in the background. But, like you mentioned in the beginning, how can anyone not choose Nina? Choices, choices. Ok, I’ve made up my mind. Stevie Wonder. "Ribbon In The Sky." Goodnight. (And see you soon for the wedding.) —Kalamu ya Salaam
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