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Friday, July 1, 2011

Soul Train Hits The Big 4-0

Wow.  The popular music program Soul Train celebrated it's 40th anniversary at the Lincoln Center recently.  Funny how you only see the disparate threads of your crazyquilt life coalesce into a coherent pattern when the grave comes into sharper focus than the cradle.*

As an awkward whiteboy sporting a buzzcut in the upper Midwest during the 1970's, Soul Train was a HUGE catalyst to my way of thinking.  Maybe not in the sense of being a springboard into some lifelong commitment to Black culture and art, but definitely in terms of providing a reliable frisson of contrast and excitement. 

Sure, I would live out the '70's and '80's as an extremely awkward and conventional white kid, but watching what was for me the totally unprecedented display of unabashed sybaritic revelry and an aesthetic that could leverage bold emphasis as much as understatement really blew open doors in my mind.  As exciting as the Beatles' excursions outside of the 4-piece pop paradigm were to a boy raised on Johnny Horton's "The Battle Hymn of The Republic", the O'Jays represented an even more interesting departure.  They could be more conventional than the Beatles in terms of instrumentation, harmonic and melodic structures, but offered way more rhythmically novelty, and with a much warmer timbre.

Jacques Derrida
I truly believe that this was the subjective frame of reference that allowed me to handle Derrida.  Without the inimitable flare of Don Cornelius' glowing, mellow tones guiding me, I'm not sure how I would have been able to develop subtle enough distinctions between 'enthusiasm' and 'reserve', 'formality' and 'cultivation' to appreciate alternate ways of looking at the world, the difference between "Deconstruction" and "Destruction."  Thank you, Soul Train.

*How's THAT for a mixed metaphor?

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