Monday, July 17, 2006

Have Fun Again… Fight the Power

      I was always a huge Diana Ross fan but Detroit itself was kinda ambivalent toward the hometown girl made good. Their pride was tempered by the charges of “oreo” and “sellout” that reflexively trailed her name. But the year that she hooked up with Chic and produced her funkiest, blackest album, Detroit claimed her fiercely. The singles “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” (especially the latter) were huge, of course, seeping out of apartment windows, blasting from car windows and replayed at every party. But the album tracks “Tenderness” and the sing-along, custom-made-for-summer “Have Fun Again” were just as popular, with everyone loving the fake-out fade-out of “Have Fun.” Fun-fun-fun-fun-fun-fun FUN… Have fun… One of the things I most loved about the album was bonding over it with my much older cousin Randy. Back before stretches in prison and jail became media-hyped and industry-glorified rites of passage, most black folk still lowered their voices when speaking of a family member who was in or had been in jail/prison. There was shame around it. Randy had been in and out of juvie and then jail for as long as I could remember. But he was out that summer: cheekbones high, smile wide, ‘fro flawless and his tight, cut-off-at-the-knees jeans driving all the girls wild for flashing his almost comically bowed but still sexy legs. Randy was – and is – the biggest sweetheart on the planet, just cursed with shitty luck and incredibly bad timing. Always caught up for petty or stupid shit. But still, prison had stamped him dangerous, mysterious, in my young eyes. I was intrigued by him but a little afraid of him. One day, dusk falling, just the two of us sitting on the front porch, “Have Fun Again” playing loudly on someone’s radio, Randy turned to me with a grin and said, “Your girl is bad. That’s good shit right there.” And he sang along. And it was.
      The rest of this essay on summer songs can be found here.

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