Thursday, July 26, 2007

Do You Love What You Feel- Part 2 -Toya
Again, this is a song by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan who I need to see in concert at least once in my lifetime.

I am a sponge for all things music related. I love music history of any genre and I soak it right up. I love to hear about the rise and fall of record labels, stories behind songs, and the unsung heroes of the music that has shaped the soundtracks of our lives (anyone want to get me “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” for Christmas? Anyone?). So when I found out that the Belcourt Theater was showing an advanced screening of “Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story” that will be airing August 1st on NPT, I knew that I had to go.

I didn’t know nearly as much about Stax Records as I thought I did. In fact, I made the mistake of thinking that Aretha Franklin was on Stax and she wasn’t (she was on Atlantic Records which later owned Stax). What I did know was while Motown was representing a polished, pop friendly, side of R&B music to the world, Stax brought the grit. Motown had The Temptations, Stax had Sam and Dave. Motown had Marvin Gaye, Stax had Otis Redding. I don’t believe that one label was greater than the other, just very different in approach and intent. Let’s put it this way: I grew up with Motown but now I’m grown enough to GET Stax. Stax records just carry that blues bottom with them that’s hard to explain on paper so I’ll stop trying.

So I’m watching this movie marveling at how this little Memphis indie label changed the face of music; how Otis Redding, an old soul at merely 27, captivated audiences from Memphis to Monterey, and hearing co-founder Alex Bell, a more tolerable “Diddy” of his time describe how they went from a small label to calling the shots on their own distribution, producing movies, and being positively influential in social issues. It then dawned on me: Why aren’t we doing this (“positively” being the key word here)? Why isn’t this being done anymore? Where is OUR movement? How is it that a gospel act like The Staples Singers can be one of the biggest groups of their time by singing about social change, respect and pride? Why is it a risk to even think that Otis Redding would even go gold if he came out now?

After the movie was over, two members of the original STAX Records Family, Wayne Jackson and Bettye Crutcher answered questions from Nashville Scene journalist Ron Wynn and took questions from the audience. Wayne Jackson was a studio trumpet player for Stax and Bettye Crutcher, staff writer and only woman in production in Stax history, is best known for having penned Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Makin’ Love”. I walked up to Ms. Crutcher initially to ask her about what she knew about the new Stax Records, which is now home to Angie Stone. As my knees started to knock together, a new question came to mind: what advice would she like to give our generation that she believes could spark a resurgence in great and authentic music enabling us to do what Stax did? Her answer was simple. “Love your craft. Love your art. Believe in what you are writing on that paper. Don’t worry about the money or royalties. Love what you do. Success will come.” Then she hugged me and I almost passed out from being so nervous.

I had a strong feeling that is what she would say. She said that one of the things that the film did not portray was how much fun they had and how you couldn’t wait to get to work every day. Never did I hear about the pressure of deadlines or the pressure to make a hit. The love they had for music and for one another that crossed racial barriers, a tremendous fete for that time in our country’s history, bled into what they created and thus produced a joyful noise to the world that could not help but become profitable. This whole principal reminds me of something I heard Terry McBride of Nettwerk Records say: “You don’t do good out of the abundance. You get the abundance out of doing good.”

I think that a problem with today’s music executives and artists is that while they may start off with good intentions and a genuine love for music, somewhere along the way they get caught up with abundance being the goal. I have heard artists say that they will compromise their craft and values to get put on but when (which nowadays is a strong “if”) they get to their second album they will do the music that they always wanted to make. This almost never happens.

It boggles my mind that artists like India Arie and Lauryn Hill are criticized for being too preachy while once upon a time the world was rockin’ out to The Staples Singers “Respect Yourself”…

If you disrespect anybody that you run in to
How in the world do you think anybody's s'posed to respect you
If you don't give a heck 'bout the man with the bible in his hand
Just get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thing
You the kind of gentleman that want everything your way
Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day

I don’t remember the last time a timeless song was made such as this one. In fact I don’t know too many timeless songs made past the 80’s. It seems bleak but I do believe that if we could only get back to the love and respect of music and “Respect Ourselves” then there will be more great and timeless music to come.

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