Where Have All the Men of "Soul" Gone?
I’m not talking about age, I’m talking about stage.
R&B right now is crowded with boys, and boys only sing about ONE THING or as Lauryn Hill would say, That Thing. That’s all boys sing about. And it’s all right. Boys will be boys. I didn’t say cads. I’ve been a boy, still am a boy, and probably will always be a boy in some respects.
What I’m talking about is the kind of singing that men like Al Green, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and other R&B singers used to sing about—what all “Soul” singers sing about:
The fears and vulnerabilities inherent in loving and losing the love of your life and how to continue despite the losses--the paradox of being strong and weak at the same time.
The predicament of being in a relationship with a woman who makes more money than you do, while all of society and your friends say you should be the “man”—provider. The double bind of that and still loving.
How a woman can leave you weak in the knees, but because you have agreed to play the role of a “man”—which means you have grown up from the “boy” stage of only thinking about one thing--you can offer support despite your own flaws.
How to be a protector, even if the woman doesn’t need protection—she can hold her own—been holding her own—but she KNOWS you’d take a bullet for her—do anything for her because that’s how deep a man loves.
How despite all that, a woman can drive you crazy when you are trying to have a relationship—knowing the person—and she does the very human thing of putting up walls—hiding because of her own fears of intimacy and trust that you are also facing—and telling us how that FEELS in the midst of the relationship.
How it FEELS when trust is broken.
Or as Al Green used to sing, “Love and Happiness.”
I imagine if 2Pac hadn’t gone to live in Mexico, he could have matured into a man—he was already showing signs. André "André 3000" Benjamin , Kanye West, and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, look like they may also mature, but I’m talking about right now. For with James Brown and a host of other big stars gone, the situation looks bleak. Brian McKnight and Lionel Ritchie can’t do it by themselves.
Or is this part of a larger picture of the disappearance of black men from American life?
I certainly hope it isn’t.