February 22, 2007

Where Have All the Men of "Soul" Gone?

R&BGrooving down State Road Nine this morning to “How Could I Let You Get Away” (Live) by The Spinners, I was listening to Philippe “Soul” Wynne’s channeling of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Al Green (ironic that Al Green though younger should outlive him), when I thought, where have all the men of R&B 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. AndrĂ© "AndrĂ© 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.




Stephen A. Bess said...

I love the way that you started this post because the live version of the Spinners is a classic. Philippe Wynne definitely channels all of those great singers. It's a call to preserve the artistry and fine music that comes out of pure talent and hard work. I don't even listen to the radio anymore. I have all of these cd's titled, "Best of..." :)I'm laughing but it ain't funny. These guys are/were composers and song writers. Where's the Soul brother??!!

Stephen A. Bess said...

By the way, I did a link from my page to this post. Have a great weekend!

As Mr. Philp would say,
One Love~


Geoffrey Philp said...

What I love about that song is that Philippe Soul Wynne knew the styles of those who had gone before and his competition--all informed his singing style, yet he had his own voice.

That's why I have to laugh when I meet younger writers who say they don't read or one of the best quotes on a blog, "I don't need to read no big ass book, I'm a writer!"

I may be showing my age, but I don't get angry at those things anymore. I just shake my head and walk away.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks for the link, Stephen.
Enjoy your weekend!

One Heart,

Stephen A. Bess said...

Definitely! We have to give respect to those who paved the way. We can also learn from those "big ass books" that this person spoke of.

Dance_Soul said...

Aww man. I may be young - but growing up in Motown with Souful parents - you can't help but know ALL the hits.
My dad went to school with on of the Spinners (COULD IT BE I’M FALLIN IN LOVE?) - I have the greatest hits on VINYL. Otis Redding – I’ve got Dreams, FA-FA-FA, Tramp - MY FAVS. I used to carry around an O'jays tape when I was in 5th grade. Sam Cook (You Send Me), Sam and DAVE (Soul Man, Hold On - I'm Comin)...LOVE IT.
Music just isn't the same anymore. Soul is lost on my generation.
Comin...LOVE IT.
Music just isn't the same anymore. Soul is lost on my generation.

Dance_Soul said...

I forgot Sam and Dave's Soothe Me -Now that was SOUL-FILLED.

Geoffrey Philp said...

How are you, Dance?
I began singing, "Darling, you send me" for my eldest child as a lullaby and contined the practice with the other two.

It may not have made them sleep, but it was the only thing that I could think of singing when I held something so precious in my arms.

Rethabile said...

"Love and Happiness," by Al Green, is the song of my life. But there are about fifteen hundred of those. Curtis Mayfield's "So in Love" is another. Stevie Wonder's soul music is another. Luther Vandross, The Manhattans, see what I mean?

On the other hand, you've got all these talented kids just singing to sell, boys, as you put it. I miss listening to good music on the radio. Good post, ntate Philp.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks, Rethabile.

And here's the thing, I don't mean for this to be a trip in nostalgia because we did have boy music also--not with the explicitness of current boy music--but we had it in addition to soul music.