Today marked 50 years from the day that one of the world’s greatest advocates for social justice, economic equality, and peace–a man who quite literally, in that advocacy, courted assault and death for at least a third of his life–was shot dead in Memphis. Say what you will about the range of theories: his assassination was a further iteration of this country’s power structure’s willingness to commit spectacle murder in order to protect itself. I’d like to think that since 1968 we’ve evolved; I’m far from sure.
In the Overeem house, we like to remember King and his impact on people across the American spectrum, and remind ourselves about the dangers inherent in public truth-telling, by playing George Perkins and The Silver Stars’ heartbreaking “Cryin’ in the Streets.” Perkins, though not credited, claimed and is generally believed to have written the lyrics about King’s funeral; the song, unsurprisingly, became a big regional hit and rose to #12 on the Billboard r&b chart. Few songs in the American canon penetrate as deeply into the country’s historic sorrow, and testify as eloquently to its original sin:
Also, it’s stayed relevant over the last half-century and, considering current social unrest and the lack of urgency our elected leaders have in addressing it, is bound to remain that way. Here is Buckwheat Zydeco’s differently heartbreaking rendition, recorded following the Katrina disaster–neither version would sound out of place being played, sung, or sung chanted for Stephon Clark and Saheed Vassell, just to name the most recent in the litany of black bodies robbed of lifeflow by those charged with protecting them:
I did reach for something later in the day to break angry, frustrated, and sorrowful thoughts: Rhino’s kaboodle-kontained girl group compilation One Kiss Leads to Another–Girl Grou Sounds Lost & Found. It’s most definitely one of the most prized presents my parents ever got me for Christmas, one I’m sure they thought was also one of the weirdest.
It’s four fabulous, and very consistent, discs of mostly unsung highlights from the girl group era. Though it does contain some acknowledged and not-so-obscure classics–The Exciters’ “He’s Got the Power,” The Shirelles’ Beatle-adored “Boys,” Brenda Holloway’s (Del-Fi version of) “Every Little Bit Hurts,” just to name a few–it very much justifies its existence by unearthing some unforgettable gems. My favorites from yesterday (they tend to change every time I break this set out):
Carole King: “He’s a Bad Boy”
Donna Lynn: “I’d Much Rather Be with the Girls” (written by two guys named Keith and Loog…)
Dee Dee Warwick: “You’re No Good” (it may be a certified masterpiece, but it’s not easy to locate, at least physically)
The Shangri-Las: “The Train from Kansas City”
Earl-Jean: “I’m Into Something Good”
P. P. Arnold: “The First Cut is the Deepest”
Dolly Parton: “Don’t Drop Out” (did she beat JB to that?)
The Egyptians: “Egyptian Shumba”
The Goodees: “Condition Red”
The Whyte Boots: “Nightmare”
Wanda Jackson: “Funnel of Love” (a bit of a ringer, but what the heck!)
The What Four: “I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy”
Marsha Gee: “Peanut Duck” (one of the great pop music mysteries–see below!*)
Hollywood Jills: “He Makes Me So Mad” (Not Hollywood–NOLA!)
Lesley Gore: “Brink of Disaster”
Gayle Harris: “They Never Taught Us That in School” (amazingly, non-existent on YouTube!)
The Ribbons: “Ain’t Gonna Kiss Ya”
The Pussycats: “Dressed in Black”
Here’s a convenient playlist containing (most of) the above:
About the only thing keeping this package from being perfect is the absence of the Pleasure Seekers’ “What a Way to Die”–if they could wedge in Wanda and Dolly and the Whyte Boots, they could make way for proto-punk Suzi Q.! Also: where’s Little Ann’s “Deep Shadows”! (I added them to the above playlist, FYI.)
*For about five minutes, I shut my office door and practiced “The Peanut Duck.” I recommend you take some time today to do so yourself, but I’ll warn you that “Marsha”‘s instructions are, um, esoteric to say the least. I mentioned a mystery, and straight from the set’s eye-popping and brain-expanding booklet, authored by Sheila Burgel, here it is, yet to be solved:
“At Virtue Sound Studio in Philadelphia, a mystery girl singer cut “Peanut Duck,” a feverish soul stomper that trailed the Loco-Motion, Mashed Potato, Twist trend. But the track was never released, and Marsha Gee was not the actual singer. The only proof of “Peanut Duck” lay in an acetate discovered by a British Northern Soul DJ who took the disc back to England and released it as a bootleg on Joker Records in the ‘80s. Not wanting his rival DJs to infringe upon his precious find, he christened the unknown singer Marsha Gee (who incidentally had a single out on Uptown Records in 1965). The true voice behind “Peanut Duck” has yet to be revealed. Anyone?”
2 thoughts on “Never Forgetting / Doin’ The Peanut Duck–wait WHAT? (April 4th, 2018, Columbia, MO)”
Love this post brother (4/4/18). Hearing “Crying in the Streets” today really gave me pause (as well as a chill up my spine). Thank you for giving it a chance to be heard again on a most appropriate day.
Oh yeah! In regard to the nearly-lost single “They Never Taught Us That In School” by the fabulous Gayle Harris. I found it right around this mark. I wanted that box when it came out. You have the best family my man! – https://youtu.be/6hYxkck3QHg?t=3490
My dad was forced to buy it for me, as we give each other wish lists, and that’s the only thing I put on it. I cherish the discomfort of the transaction! Hope you’re doing well, my dude, and that we will see each other soon! Thanks for the kind words.