Tag Archives: the spinners

Soul Vikes: Fun Funk and Soul from my High School Years

 

I have done a number of articles on music that I like from the 1970s and 1980s. As I have written before it seems that most of us have some kind of attraction to the songs that we grew up with, especially those that we listened to in high school.

I started high school in 1975. It was an interesting time. Our city Stockton California desegregated its schools then and kids like me from the North Side of the city were bussed to Edison High School deep on the South Side. The city had grown in the 1960s with the area north of the Calaveras River becoming the more economically well off suburbs. It was predominantly white with a smattering of Asians, Mexican Americans and a some more well off black families.  The South Side had suffered during the period as the population and business moved north leaving the South Side and Downtown to struggle.  The South Side was predominantly African American, Mexican American and Asian.  The make up of the high schools reflected the racial and economic divide.

One of the things that many of us that experienced the bussing was a new collection of friends. We all brought different perspectives, life experiences and likes in music and entertainment. One of the things that I remember fondly was the exposure that I got to music that was not what I grew up with. I grew up with Rock, Pop and Country music with some Soul thrown in, but nothing like what I experienced when I got to Edison. The exposure to Soul, Funk, Blues and later Disco was something that I still relish and when I hear those songs I enjoy them. I was at our formal Dining Out for our Naval Hospital earlier in the year and found myself dancing to some of these songs with other officers my age. I hadn’t done that in a long time and though I am no dancer it was fun just to get out and get my groove back.

I have put some links to some of those songs from that time below. The list is certainly not inclusive and is just a sampling of the rich variety of music of the era. Likewise when you see the live performances of these songs from shows like The Midnight Special, Soul Train or Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert you find that the musicians and performers of that era were very talented and did not have to depend on high definition, digital and computer technology to be good. It was well performed, choreographed and sung music. It was also fun. For those that grew up with this music enjoy the trip back. For those that have not experienced this welcome. I think that you will enjoy it, so get down and play that funky music.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Wild Cherry: Play that Funky Music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIXXGAPpQOM&feature=related

K.C. and the Sunshine Band: Get Down Tonight  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoI7vK4uvY&feature=related

Hot Chocolate: You Sexy Thing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoI7vK4uvY&feature=related

Ohio Players: Love Roller Coaster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoI7vK4uvY&feature=related

Ohio Players: Fire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47G-Wa4qfs&feature=related

The Spinners: Rubber Band Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKbADFJOCkU&feature=related

The Temptations: Papa Was a Rolling Stone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKbADFJOCkU&feature=related

The Trammps: Disco Inferno http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47G-Wa4qfs&feature=related

Kiki Dee: I Got the Music In Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLQRW7J_D0U&feature=related

Blue Swede: Hooked on a Feeling (The Ooka Chaka Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3JHi4f3CUI

Barry White: You Are My First My Last, My Everything http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcd3XuQwDQQ

Commodores: Brick House http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf0LwyxcQAE

Commodores: Once Twice Three Times a Lady http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf0LwyxcQAE

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Laughing to the Music: The Musical Genius of Mel Brooks

The Zany Mel Brooks as the Governor in Blazing Saddles

When most people think of legendary comedian Mel Brooks they are likely to think of the hilarious shtick of such movies as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs, the Movie, DVD or Video. Brooks is a comic genius but mixed in with the comedic side of Brooks he has a musical side that captures some of the most popular genres of yesteryear and overlays them with incredibly witty lyrics and catchy music.  Whether the music is Broadway musical, crooning, or even something out of the old west brooks brings a comedic edginess that can offend and delight at the same time. Today I will share a bit about the songs and soundtracks from the various Brooks films interspersed with the songs from the films.

Teri Garr, Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein

Now I know that some people will say and rightly so that I am just a bit warped in my worldview.  I’m okay with that, in fact I would hate not to be as I think that life would be boring.  Maybe that is why I like Brooks so much.  He demonstrates that rare form of being able to entertain and even provide social commentary on issues like racism and discrimination in Blazing Saddles.  Part of how he did this so successfully was in the music that he often wrote for his movies.  It is one of those unusual things that most people, even Brooks aficionados have no idea that Brooks was the genius behind the music in his movies.

As for me I love Brooks’ music as well as his comedy.  I can practically sing from memory the major songs of each of his movies and frequently will find that I am inadvertently singing them going down a hallway at work or in the car. Some Priests sing hymns or praise and worship songs, I sing Mel Brooks songs. C’est la vie.

Springtime for Hitler 1968

The first film that Brooks music featured prominently was the original The Producers starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Dick Shawn which was reprised on Broadway and later on the big screen with Nathan Lane, Matthew Modine and Will Ferrell. The original Producers involved a Broadway producer who has seen better days (Mostel) and his new tax accountant (Wilder) trying to find the “world’s worst play” to produce as a flop which they would then keep the money raised for the play.  They find their play written by former German Soldier Franz Liebkind the author of Springtime for Hitler “a gay romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchesgarten.”  They hire the world’s worst director “Roger DeBris” to direct the play and raise a huge amount of money to produce it by selling well far more than 100% of the profits.  Expecting the play to offend everyone they begin an early celebration before finding out that people love the play. The play becomes a critically acclaimed hit leading them to try to blow up the theater.  The music of Brooks is prominently featured in all three. The irony of producers producing a guaranteed flop which becomes a hot on the big screen and then a real hit on Broadway is not to be lost.  The theme song from the play Springtime for Hitler both in 1968 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGp0hCxSg98 and the later version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCUfkMkVbwo also found its way into Blazing Saddles.

Springtime for Hitler 2005

As an interesting side note Brooks has a cameo during the song in both versions where as a member of the cast he sings “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty come and join the Nazi Party.” The Producers also featured more Brooks’ songs including Love Power sung by Dick Shawn playing Lorenzo St. Dubois or LSD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkYBJId7WZs Prisoners of Love featured in both the 1968 and the 2005 versions and When You Got it Flaunt it, I Want to Be a Producer and Keep it Gay all from the 2005 version are classic show tunes.

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles

The Producer’s netted Brooks an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Brooks’ next two hit films Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both featured interesting musical arrangements, The most memorable coming from Blazing Saddles which starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn.  The songs Blazing Saddles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tyhpt6_pwc the Ballad of Rock Ridge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiTKIbR69ss

Madeline Kahn as Lilly Von Schtupp singing “I’m Tired”

I’m Tired http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQU0_PHUB2E and the French Mistake featuring Dom DeLuise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMK6lzmSk2o are all Brooks’ work.

The French Mistake Musical Scene from Blazing Saddles

He even managed to take an old tune into Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle as Dr Frankenstein and the monster perform Puttin’ on the Ritz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH2nQHPs4aA.

Dr Frankenstein and the Monster (Wilder and Peter Boyle) singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Brook’s next film’s High Anxiety, a takeoff on Hitchcock movies starring Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman feature Brooks’ songs High Anxiety http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_UcRmELvs and If You Love Me Tell Me Loud. History of the World Part I which starred Brooks, Kahn, Korman and a host of comic greats would incorporate music is ways undreamed of by those who viewed these films.

The Inquisition from History of the World Part One

In fact the musical segment The Spanish Inquisition featured the song The Inquisition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oppHeMlaLVM where Brooks plays the Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada in a spoof of the 1930s musical featuring dancing monks in wink tips, nuns who perform a synchronized swimming number as well as banter between Brooks and the various Jews and heretics that he is trying to convert. The irony of course being that Brooks is Jewish.  The closing song Jews in Space http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_jLnrUXJNM is the trailer for a sequel which was never produced. In Spaceballs Brooks collaborated with others to produce the title song Spaceballs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezyoKr0v-HQ which was performed by The Spinners.

Men in Tights

Brooks would continue making movies which though not as popular brilliant as his earlier works would feature some funny songs written by Brooks.  Robin Hood: Men in Tights featured Men in Tights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc1am3KyYgA , Marian and the Sherwood Forrest Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APTXBm5Zp-Y The 1983 film To Be or Not to Be in which Brooks starred with his wife Anne Bancroft was about the Nazi invasion of Poland featured the Brooks songs A Little Peace and Ladies. A music video for this film entitled The Hitler Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu2NqfISm9k was released as part of the promotion for the film.

Hitler as a polish Jew playing Hitler in a Parody in pre-War Warsaw in To Be or Not to Be

I don’t know that we will ever see a comedic genius who is able to also incorporate music, especially classic Broadway style show tunes in about every movie that they make.  Brooks in my mind is one of those once in a blue moon kind of entertainers whose creativity is not bound by words or gags but crafted through a diverse experience of live performance, film, writing and producing taking comedy to places where his edginess and occasional social commentary was heard and appreciated by middle America.  That is the genius of Mel Brooks.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under film, music, purely humorous