Got The Fever is One Year Old: Gladys and Chi-Lites
I was enticed and encouraged by a few people, who have since become online friends, to start my own blog after writing a guest blog for Soul Shower. I was very happy to write and research about the two tracks I chose, and after the response I received decided to try it out myself.
There were a few considerations to grapple with though: I felt that my eclectic and all over the map taste would not translate well and might not be what anyone else would want to download. I also thought that if I got 100 hits a month I would be very lucky and I might be encouraged to continue.
Well, here I am sitting on over fourteen thousand (!) hits in the first year! Judging from the comments I receive, I’ll be damned if there is always someone that already knows, or truly enjoys the music I’ve turned them on to.
I give thanks for all the support that the original online friends gave me (look to the sidebar), and to the many more who have since encouraged me.
Sometimes, in our effort to dig ever deeper into dusty bins hoping to find a gem, we forget that some of our most precious musical cuts are right on a shelve at home, and have been sleeping there for a long, long time. They just patiently wait for the circle to come around to them once more and become reanimated.
The posts today are from 1971 and concern themselves with a mournful longing for the only person who could ever make us feel whole. An intense, electric and joyless hunger for the one unique soul mate who jars and tears at the very fabric of our soul. A futile hope that they could only love and need us even a fraction of what we feel for them. A craving so extreme that you notice yourself, quite suddenly, finding religion and taking the time to pray to God. A love that so engulfs your daily routine, that no matter the task - work, play or idle time - all you can focus on is them.
The first, “If I Were Your Woman” is from Gladys Knight & The Pips. It’s an all out shameless plea to the man of her heart, begging him to see that she loves him more, even without him, than his present girl loves him. She laments about how poorly he is treated by his present woman and how Gladys places him on a holy pedestal.
Just like we have all done, she shamelessly throws herself at him, hoping that he see her in the same light that we all want to be seen:
Says your nothing at all
But I’ll pick you up darling
When she let’s you fall”
It’s not just the lyrical content with which Gladys relays the message; it’s the earnestness, desire and expert vocalization of longing, which causes us to well up. You can picture this woman sobbing, on her knees, clawing at his pant cuffs:
But she treats you like glass
Yet you beg her to love you
But me you don’t ask”
She further grieves over what will never be. She describes, from her bottomless soul, how different he would feel with her, all the while knowing how useless all the effort would be:
And you don’t even know it
I’m what you need
But I’m too afraid to show it”
Honestly, who could resist, after hearing the response to “If I Were Your Women”, Gladys singing to the heavens “I’d never, never, never stop loving you”?
Musically, how could it have been presented any differently? From the opening hand-clenching bass riff, to the string arrangement second to none; from the crashing clavicle riff preceding each verse along with the accompanying drum rim shot, to the bongos at 1:15. I dare you to produce an alternative to the crisp, precise and soulful backup vocals of the Pips.
Moving on to our second tale of lost love, let’s consider a man’s perspective with the Chi-Lites, and “Have You Seen Her”.
I’ve heard the opening combo of ultra-fuzz guitar and cascading falsetto vocals described as “the soundtrack that is played when the gates of heaven open wide in acceptance of another soul”. Eugene Record (who sadly passed away after a long bout with cancer on 7/22/05) and Co. are right on spot with setting the emotional picture of a lost love.
He has unexpectedly and suddenly found himself alone and without direction. As if trying to piece together just how the hell he got from having the woman of his dreams beside him, to now aimlessly wandering the streets alone without her, he sadly mourns:
But now, I go for walks, to the movies, maybe to the park
I have a seat on the same old bench, to watch the children play”
Again, just like we’ve all done, he is in denial that she has left him for good this time, and he tries to remain upbeat and hopeful:
However, every now and then, the frigid, stark realization and clarity of truth unfolds and he moans from the very core of his soul:
“I been used to having someone to lean on – and I’m lost, baby I’m lost”.
But of course, it’s too late. Much too late. And now, the tar-black feeling of guilt and isolation sets itself like a gel in his veins and he cries out in desperation to the world:
He waits bleakly for a signal, a sign – something he can grasp onto, that serves notice that she is coming back. Stubbornly, defiantly, it is not going to happen.
So, life, sadly goes on and he is forced to confront an existence without her despite the world still turning:
And we can picture him in the midst of his friends, maybe at a bar, maybe at a party or even at a family get together – surrounded by people, laughter and music all around, but all is drowned out and he is still shocked, and quite alone with his thoughts:
Well, dig on these two aforementioned gems that have been hibernating in your collection from 1971, and rejoice that you can revive the joy and the deep well of emotion that they rekindle.
And if by chance you are discovering them for the first time … bath deep in this baptism and then go forward and preach the gospel of Gladys Knight and the Chi-Lites.