Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Favourite Things

Now that we've come to the end of the year, I like Oprah, would like to do a series of my favourite things this year. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to write but I'm going to do it anyway.

Respect Yourself: The Easy Guide to the Staple Singers

Nothing says Gospel/ Funky Soul like the Staple Sisters. Respect Yourself was a feet thumping hit in the pre disco days. Their father, Roebuck 'Pops' Staples (the kast S was dropped due to the particular difficulty in pronouncing Staples Singers.) Pops benevolence could be heard throughout many of their songs like 'Respect Yourself', every note they sang rang true as they were ebbed on by their father and his guitar.

Unfortunately for them, disco hit towards the end of the 70s and Stax, they're label, folded leaving them without a niche to hold on to. The legacy of the Staples Family leaves on through their music - easy to listen to, egalitarian, all encompassing and comforting. ''I'll take you there' was an undeniable hit but there are more mellow tracks like "I See", "It's a Long Walk to DC", "Slow Train" and "Got to be Some Changes". Some are mellow, melancholic and wreaked with unspeakable sorrow, others are uplifting, a funky island in the turbulence of the American 60s and 70s. For me what I like most about the Staples was the way they mixed good old fashion church gospel with subtle yet hard-hitting political confrontation. They remain as relevant today as they always did - angels whispering it's going to be OK.

Also worth a listen is Mavis Staples' -the groups husky-voiced lead singer's- brand new studio album "We'll Never Turn Back".

He Was A Friend of Mine

It's been two years since my guka died. It was sudden, for me a least but then again his medical history had not been good. The man, a quiet enigma, was the sort of person I pictured everyones granddad to be; benovelant and quitely proud of his grandchildren. He was one of the people who fostered my love for reading. The first book he ever gave me was an old African Writer's Series, Peter Abrahams 'Mine Boy'. I was about 13. The book was simple enough that it could be read and enjoyed in my youth and innocence. Subsequent readings brought about deeper shades of meaning. The main plot never changing, the characters growing more complex. The second book he gave me was A Long Walk to Freedom, a collection of political letters and essays by the then imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

He was a teacher and a pacifist, a man who watched the country he had helped build crumble into mediocrity and utter despair yet he never had a bad thing to say about anyone. His wisdom was sought by all but most of all his children. Despiter their shortcomings he loved his children unconditionally and mostly did not interfere in their lives. The third and final book he gave me made me question the man he was, the man that was. The book is now misplaced, my mother, no doubt found it and destroyed it, I have since forgotten its title. Briefly, the book was a coming of age tale about a handsome but akward young man in 1950s America. The protagonists name, with an obvious sense of irony, was Gaylord and yes he was very gay. Well, the story was touching and it helped me through some stuff I was going through at the time. It gave me a sense of hope, and that perhaps my grandfather was a liberal.

So Guka here's to you, a son of a clergy man, father, grandfather and friend. But most of all you were a friend of mine.

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