As most of you know, Im not the brightest bulb in the light fixture, but every now and again I get a germ of an idea. Those ideas usually hit me over the head with increasing velocity until I pay attention.
I thought there was something wrong with my radio last week when the 1975 song Wake Up Everybody -- the title track on an album by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes -- played almost back to back. I didnt think much of it at the time. I figured I probably changed stations. Then on my morning walk, as I settled into my earphones and hit my stride, there it was again. It just kept popping up. I was on my lawn mower when the 2010 cover by John Legend and The Roots hit my iPhone. Somebody wanted me to listen.
Wake up everybody, no more sleepin in bed
No more backward thinkin time for thinkin ahead ...
Wake up all the teachers, time to teach a new way
Maybe then theyll listen to whatcha have to say ...
The world wont get no better
If we just let it be
The world wont get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me.
Thirty-nine years after the song hit No. 1 on the soul charts, the lyrics, unfortunately, still ring true. I wonder if Teddy Pendergrass, the lead singer, thought his words -- written by John Whitehead, Gene McFadden and Victor Carstarphen -- would still apply in 2014? None will know. Pendergrass died in 2010. He was 59. Only one original Bluenote is still alive, Lloyd Parks. McFadden and Whitehead have also passed on.
My question is, will the lyrics ring true or hollow 39 years from now in 2053? While I pray for hollow, I fear well be able to sing prophetic songs until doomsday.
The singers and songwriters of the recent past were more than performers. Heres a few lines from Bob Dylans 1964 The Times They Are a-Changin:
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance wont come again.
Was Dylan ever right? Though the song is about civil rights, Dylan could not have foreseen Oklahoma City, 9/11, Columbine or Sandy Hook. More than Mississippi has been burning.
Curtis Mayfields, 1988, If Theres Hell Below, Were All Gonna Go.
Educated fools From uneducated schools
Pimping people is the rule polluted water in the pool...
When I was growing up, there was a general trust of industry and the political process. There was a thought that everyone was trying to do the right thing. My naivete has disappeared -- GMs recent self-inflicted woes, Superfund sites and the ever-escalating profit motive that has Pope Francis saying we have a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power ... where the powerful feed upon the powerless.
The Temptations 1970s hit Ball of Confusion (Thats What The World Is Today):
People moving out, people moving in. Why, because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run but you sure cant hide. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and Ill set you free ...
Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher ...
And it seems nobodys interested in learning but the teacher ...
(Its a) Ball of confusion. Oh yeah, thats what the world is today.
Weve developed what an old colleague called segregation academies. We dont go to church and if we do go, we dont listen. We vote for people because we loved their grandmama, not because the candidate followed her example. We brush mental illness aside until a deranged individual like F. Glenn Miller Jr. comes out of his mental cave and kills. Hes an example of how hatred rots the mind. Even in murder he couldnt get it right. He intended to murder Jews but none of his victims were Jewish.
The ball of confusion is still rolling and gathering speed. I wonder if there will be a discussion of the social consciousness of Kanye West and Jay-Z rap lyrics in 2053?
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at email@example.com. Tweet@crichard1020.