March 10, 2008

Five Songs I Must Have for my iPod

I see an old warrior sitting by a hearth of smoldering coals. The air is thick with the scent of stews, aromatic herbs, and roasted flesh. Sentinels lurk beyond the brush and a stand of pines. His sheathed sword has been laid across his right leg that has been scarred in many campaigns. The thongs of his sandals are still tight and battle-ready. An owl's hoot ricochets through the camp and all the young warriors grab their swords. He smiles to himself and remains unmoved. But then, he looks up and through the smoke he sees "Her" serving the soldiers or perhaps not doing anything in particular. Maybe just washing the dishes. She is so beautiful. The old warrior feels something that he hasn't felt in a long time. It’s this mixture of compassion and longing. The last time he felt like this was—before the wars started. He can’t believe an old codger like himself could still be moved this way. He’s been with many women (some whose memory still hurt him), yet he's surprised that his heart can still muster these emotions. And even though he's a normally confident man, he is boyish, foolish, and shy around her, and yet strangely protective. That’s how I feel when I hear "Waiting in Vain" by Bob Marley--an old warrior surprised by love:

From the very first time I blessed my eyes on you, girl,
My heart says follow trough.
But I know, now, that Im way down on your line,
But the waitin feel is fine:

The Gipsy Kings version of “Bamboleo” is one of my favorite songs. There’s so much fire, and the speaker is unapologetic about life or love and is determined to live his life on his terms. No compromises: “Porque mi vida, yo la prefiero vivir asi!”

Este amor llega asi esta manera
No tiene la culpa
Caballo le ven sabana
Porque muy depreciado,
Por eso no te perdon de llorar
Este amor llega asi esta manera
No tiene la culpa,

Amor de comprementa
Amor del mes pasado
Bembele, bembele, bembele
Bem, bembele, bembele

Al Green’s pleas and promises in “Let’s Stay Together” and how his lover makes him feel, “Cause you make me feel, so brand new/ And I want to spend my life with you.” And then, his confusion:
Why somebody, why people break up
Oh, and turn around and make up
I just can't seeeeeeeee
You'd never do that to me
(Would you baby)
'Cause being around you is all I see
It's why I want us to

Let's, let's stay together
Loving you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
Al, I, too, can’t understand.

When I was in sixth form at Jamaica College, I remember having a heated discussion with Donovan Ashley on the steps of Simms House about whether Thom Bell or Bob Marley was the better songwriter. This was a time when even the most screwfaced, dreadlocked bad man was walking down King Street singing in falsetto “Bethcha by Golly Wow” by The Stylistics even while he clutched his knife or gun. Donovan said that Thom Bell was the better writer because he wrote only about love and love was the only thing that mattered. This was also the time when I believed that love was only for the bourgeois and that everything should be devoted to the revolution and to bringing down apartheid in South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). I argued that the only music that mattered was music with "conscious" lyrics. I think in the eyes of my peers, I won the argument. But forty years later whenever I hear “Sadie” by The Spinners and remember my mother who made her transition a few years ago:
Early one Sunday morning
Breakfast was on the table
There was no time to eat
She said to me, Boy, hurry to Sunday school

Filled with her load of glory
We learned the Holy story
Shell always have her dreams
Despite the things this troubled world can bring

Oh, Sadie
Don’t you know we love you
Sweet Sadie
Place no one above you
You were right about love being the only thing that matters, Donovan. You were!

I could listen to every song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, but if I had to choose one, it would have to be “As”:
Did you know that true love asks for nothing
Her acceptance is the way we pay
Did you know that life has given love a guarantee
To last through forever and another day
Just as time knew to move on since the beginning
And the seasons know exactly when to change
Just as kindness knows no shame
Know through all your joy and pain
That I'll be loving you always
As today I know I'm living but tomorrow
Could make me the past but that I mustn't fear
For I'll know deep in my mind
The love of me I've left behind
Cause I'll be loving you always
"True love asks for nothing/ Her acceptance is the way we pay." It's a lesson I'm still learning. Sing on, Stevie!

Besides the fact that I’m fascinated by memes, I’m taking the lead from Rethabile’s post via Crafty Green Poet about 5 songs that “appeal to the poetic sensibilities."

And if I were to cheat just a little, I'd add Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass with "Bad Luck" and "Wake up, Everybody"-- a herald to the dormant bodhisattvas--"Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul, and "Praise Ye Jah" by Sizzla Kalonji, for sheer effervescence.

As in the nature of memes (some are subject to change), I’ve modified this one and I'm tagging Georgia , Marlon, Madbull, Professor Zero, and The Prisoner's Wife (for your new iPod?) Name five songs that if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 5 songs on your I-Pod what would they be? As with most memes, as you pass it along mention who tagged you, so some mad scientist (or blog historian, Nicholas?) can figure out the Ariadne thread.

If anyone else wants to join in, feel free to tag yourself!


"If you have never heard or read about Bob Marley, this book is the best place to begin…. For someone like myself who knew Marley personally and has read nearly everything ever written about him, the book makes me feel like I’m reading about Bob Marley for the first time… If you want to place a Marley biography in your library, this is the one to buy."

Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah
Eminent Rastafarian author, broadcaster and journalist.

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Stephen A. Bess said...

This is a good post. You have some great songs too. I think I want to do this meme. I'm on my way.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Stephen, I didn't include you because you've been so busy.

I'm looking forward to seeing your choices!


Mad Bull said...

What a hard one! Only five songs? To cover all my moods? Wow! I will try anyway.

Stephen A. Bess said...


It's all good. I usually run from them, but this was a good one. Yes, there is so much going on right now. I had a free day today. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Hey this was fun I found myself dancing to some familiar tunes on my ipod. I saw your meme on Stephen Bess blog and had to past the shout out over here.

Rethabile said...

Great, straight choices. Like Stephen, all I need to get now is an iPod.

Marlon James said...

Cool post. I consider myself tagged. Five songs? Do I get to kill myself after?

Geoffrey Philp said...

I don't want you to kill yourself---you still have a few good books left in you (LOL)--but that's exactly why I tagged you. I knew it would be difficult.

I can't wait to read your post.

Crafty Green Poet said...

good choices here - specially the Al Green, Gipsy Kings and of course Bob Marley....

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thank you for passing it along...