Zaleski: '50s doo-wop, '60s Motown top my charts
Responses to last week's column about my lack of love for rap music generated considerable comment. Most of it was thoughtful and complimentary. Not all. I heard from a couple of readers who played the race card by accusing me of being racist because I do not like music that is practiced primarily by black artists, and I had the cheek to say so. They are wrong. It's not about race. It's about music and its messages.
Among the more probing queries: "Gawd, if you don't like rap, what do you like?" asked a caller. Fair question.
I like doo-wop of the 1950s and early '60s, and Motown sounds of the '60s. Hard to beat the soaring lead voice of Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops as they belted out "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" (1965); or Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas with "Heat Wave" (1963). Can't top a doo-wop classic like Curtis Lee's joyful love song, "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" (1961); or the longing in Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Tracks of My Tears" (1964).
My collection of Nat King Cole's hits includes one of his best, "That Sunday, That Summer" (1963). It's a musical idyll of young love that is as affecting today as it was 55 years ago.
And these make my charts: The Supremes' "Baby Love" (1964), James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" (1970), Neil Sedaka's "Next Door to An Angel (1962), Bobby Vee's "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (1961), Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" (1962), The Rolling Stones' "Get Off My Cloud" (1965), Mary Wells "The One Who Really Loves You" (1961), Judy Collins' "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" (1968), and most songs of The Beatles, Temptations and Everly Brothers.
Seeing a pattern? Or am I in a rut?
I hope everyone harbors an especially meaningful song in their musical psyches. Mine is John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" (1968) as sung by Glen Campbell. It's a time-stopper, a what-if anthem, a lyric to loss, and yet, an affirmation of life's happy serendipity.
"Gawd!" said the caller, "There must be something you don't like besides rap." There is, I told her.
Ironically, it's the polka. My Polish immigrant grandmother loved to polka. I danced with her at my sister's wedding. Babcia lived long and danced until she could not. Polka was in her heart. Not in mine, ever. She believed my musical soul had been corrupted by my mother's Italian family, which hailed from Calabria. But I never warmed to Calabrian tarantella. So much for the theory of ethnic imprint on musical taste.
I'm also a student of classical music. I listen all the time; have season tickets to the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony. Here's a factoid worth contemplating amid hip-hop hype. According to Billboard, the top-selling CDs in 2016 were a set of Mozart's music. Not most talked about or most honored with Grammys. Top selling. Mozart fans put their money where their musical hearts are. He's been popular since the 18th century. Any guesses whether rap will achieve such staying power?
Zaleski retired in 2017 after nearly 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He continues to write his Sunday column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 241-5521.