Archive for July 2nd, 2009

Two From the Stonewall Jukebox

July 2, 2009


Stonewall Inn, NYC 1969


Listen – Gladys Knight & the Pips – The Nitty Gritty – MP3″

Listen – Gladys Knight & the Pips – Friendship Train – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope everyone has downloaded this weeks slice of the Funky16Corners Radio pie, ingested the funk and got themselves some pep in their step.
Summer is finally here, and although the thunderclaps pop in now and again, it’s usually at the end of a hot day, which is par for the summer course, so I can’t really complain (can I?).
And now, a sociopolitical public service message…*
Last weekend we were out running the errands and what not, listening (as we always are) to the Sirius satellite radio, and since Mr Stern was pumping a repeat, we moved on over to OutQ (the LGBT station) to see what was up, and happened upon a very interesting piece of soul/funk related information.
June 28th marked the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall uprising, in which the patrons of the bar of the same name fought back against police harassment of the gay community, giving birth to the modern gay rights movement.
The host (I think it was Derek Hartley Larry Flick) was going through a list of the songs on the jukebox at the Stonewall that night in June 1969. Naturally my ears perked right up, since history has proven our gay brothers and sisters to have excellent taste in dance music.
I made a note to myself to dig into Google to see if I could turn up a copy of the song list.
I did.
“Why?” you ask “am I doing this?”
Well, first of all, basic cultural/musical curiosity.
Secondarily – but ultimately more importantly – we as a nation are at a crossroads of sorts in relation to recognition of gay Americans as first class citizens (i.e. entitled to the same rights as the rest of us), especially in relation to the institution of marriage and all the rights that follow.
The fact that we have allowed religious ideologues to keep this right (which is a 100% civil concept in that you can get whatever religious figure you want to marry you, but if you don’t get a license and file it at city hall you are not married) away from our fellow citizens, because they happen to be gay, lesbian or transgender, is a digrace.
The concept in question is equal protection under the law. It’s pretty simple despite a veritable tsunami of disingenuous double-talk from religious figures and their political servants to the contrary.
The time is long since passed for this injustice to be remedied. President Obama seems to be taking a (very) measured approach to the situation, but I hope that he’ll end up doing the right thing and ending the prohibition against gay marriage.
The Stonewall uprising is an important touchstone for this issue since it was really the first significant event in which the gay community stood up and insisted that they be treated with the same level of legal respect as their fellow Americans.
It has been a long 40 years, but things have gotten better since then. They aren’t where they should be, but it is important to keep in mind that for almost three of those four decades, the fight for gay rights has been running against the rising tide of religious fundamentalism, and the latter’s effect on political discourse (as it is).
Fortunately for all of us, we have a Constitution that is supposed to guarantee equal rights for all citizens. Unfortunately not everyone that has taken an oath to uphold that document is clear on this point.
If you take a look at the 1969 playlist from the jukebox at the Stonewall, there’s lots of Top 40 soul and funk, a couple of surprises (the Equals’ ‘Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys’ , The Flirtations ‘Nothing But a Heartache’ and Marva Whitney’s slamming ‘It’s My Thing’), as well as show tunes and mainstream balladeering (Streisand, Sinatra, Eydie Gorme and Connie Francis).
I wanted to commemorate this anniversary, so I picked a couple of personal favorites out of the list and reposted them.
The tunes in question are both by Gladys Knight and the Pips. The first, their version of Shirley Ellis’ ‘The Nitty Gritty’, which is a funky killer, and second (and more symbolically important) ‘Friendship Train’.
I’ve always felt that despite their chart success, Gladys and her Pips don’t really get the respect they deserve amongst the soul and funk crowd.
So, the next time this particular issue comes up for discussion, whether among friends, at the ballot box or in court, keep these words of wisdom in mind, and do what you can to push things in the right direction.

Oh yes it is now people let me tell you now
We’ve got to learn to live with each other
No matter what the race, creed or color
I just got to tell you what the world needs now
Is love and understanding get aboard the friendship train
Everybody shake a hand make a friend now
Listen to us now, we’re doing our thing
On the friendship train

Keep it in mind, and I’ll be back on Monday with some soul.



*Bet you thought you wouldn’t see one of those for at least four years..

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