Still the one

By Joe Rector

The band called “last song,” and couples scooted to the center of the gym floor. Teenagers had spent the last couple of hours gyrating to some songs and then holding onto each other for slower selections. Everyone in the gym knew what the final tune would be. After introductory chords, the lead singer softly sang “When the night has come, and the land is dark,” and couples embraced and sang the chorus of “Stand by Me.” Just for a few minutes, they imagined that only the two of them were alive in the world and that they would be together forever.

That’s the kind of effect the music of the ‘60s and early ‘70s had on those of us in high school. Music helped young folk escape every problem and hurdle that might exist in the world. Some felt the ache and fear of leaving home for college. That meant leaving family and a boy or girlfriend behind. Others wanted no part of college and chose instead to begin careers. Too many teens graduated high school only to receive the news that their lottery numbers were selected and they’d been drafted.

No matter what the situation, we foolish young people let music lighten our loads and send our spirits soaring. Sure, plenty of listeners thrived on the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but another huge group loved a variety of music. The Four Tops and The Temptations could sing us to the highest mountain tops or to the depths of despair with their songs. The Supremes always produced catchy tunes.  Oliver had us all singing “Good Morning Starshine,” and the “Classic Four” sang of the sadness in breaking up in “Traces.”

In our day, a car radio was essential. WNOX and WKGN kept us in the groove with upbeat music most of the day. On those occasions when we had dates, slow, emotion-filled songs filled the car as couples parked on out-of-the-way streets, fogged the windows, and swore devotion. Concord pool was the only public pool around us, and teens packed the pavilion where the jukebox was located.

At some point, the music changed again. Groups like BST, Chicago, and Chase caught our attention. Their use of brass sections made the music different and added a cutting edge. We high school band geeks loved them and listened with delight as trumpets screamed higher octaves and trombones produced magic with their slide.

The most wonderful thing about our music from way back then is the fact that today’s young folks like it. Today’s teens know the lyrics to some of the best songs of the time. Put on a song by The Four Tops, play “Respect” by Aretha, or “The Twist,” and watch folks of every age group begin to sing. In just a few seconds their hips begin to move ever-so-slightly with the rhythm. Older folks might take a minute to remember how many of the songs from back then were performed on the most serious and joyous occasions of their short lives.

I watched a documentary about the group Chicago the other evening. They have toured for 55 years and have a schedule of tour dates for 2023.  Over that time, the band has cut 38 albums and sold more than 100,000,000 of them. That’s staying power. I know that several of their early songs are tied to some of the most precious memories I have.

God decided that we humans needed music. He knew that the notes that the human voice or an instrument sounds can affect our moods and lives. I’m not a fan of too much present-day music. I might be wrong but seriously doubt that many, if any, of the selections today will achieve the eternal popularity of the ‘60s and ’70s music. If you are too young, take time to listen to those songs and pass them along to your children. As far as making people happy, that music is still the one.