Friday, February 27, 2009

OSF: When I Was 14/15, My Sophomore Year

Welcome to WSATA on this lovely Old School Friday. I was 14 at the beginning of my sophomore year and 15 by the end. In the fall of 1974, Love's Theme by Love Unlimited Orchestra was still being played on the radio because, while it was released in 1973, it went gold in early 1974. But I'm not playing "Love's Theme" today.

I spent both my freshman and sophomore year at a ritzy all-girls, white boarding school in Richmond, Va., that wanted to integrate. I went on scholarship, discovering a whole new world and had my first encounter with subtle racism, the kind that tries to be polite, but you feel just the same. Sometimes my classmates and I traveled on chartered buses up to dances at Sen. John McCain's alma mater, Episcopal High in northern Virginia, to get to know the future leaders of the planet. It was all-boys back in the day. (John was long-gone by then. I don't think they allowed black boys there when he attended.)

Boy, what a week to think back to those anxious days of tepid integration. Here we are today, on one hand we have the first black President of the United States and on the other a white California mayor sending out black folk watermelon email while my governor, Bobby Jindal, praises a known racist on national TV.

No wonder NASA's busy searching for other habitable planets. Some folks probably want off this rock. The good news is, Stevie Wonder received the Gershwin Prize. Anyway ... Update: Mayor Grose, watermelon email mayor, says he'll resign.

Today I'm playing "At 17" by Janis Ian, which SongFacts says was really more about Janis Ian at age 14, closer to my age in 1974-1975.. The song was released in 1975, at the end of or in the summer following my sophomore year. I had already decided not to return to boarding school, but instead to go to a college prep, all-black public school in my hometown, New Orleans. Full of angst, I identified with "At 17" because I knew the world was not meant for people like me, at least, not me the teenager. Like most teens I thought I was alien to others.



But the song that was out that I played most during my sophomore year was Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's The Way of the World." Sometimes on Saturdays, I'd hide and play that song over and over and over, sitting in an empty classroom at boarding school that had a great stereo.



Side Note: For genuine old school fans, a post at The Root suggest read the full transcript of Obama's speech to congress while listening to Wake Up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. That song was also released when I was a sophomore.

The creators of the Old School Friday meme are Mrs. Grapevine and The Marvalous View and has these rules, if you want to join the party.

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9 comments:

Pop Art Diva! said...

I really enjoyed this post from you. It gave me a little history, a little personal background and social commentary - all wrapped around the theme and music!

Thanks for a nice reading moment and music to go with!

Pearl said...

Lovely! Earth Wind and Fire (Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, and yes, KC and the Sunshine Band amongst others I don't recall just now) was the sound track to my early teenage life. Even now, they make me happy.
Have you heard EW&F live? Sounds exactly like the recordings. They are just too good for words.
Pearl
p.s. I don't know how else that watermelon e-mail could be construed other than racist BS. Same with the chimpanzee/cop cartoon (can't remember what eastern city that was from). Why do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot like that?

[***Fresh&Fab***] said...

hey, i like the earth wind and fire song, great choices

have a nice weekend

Lola Gets said...

Even though I was in elementary school in the 70s, I, too, loved EWF! I also went to an all-white prep school in northern California, and even though they sometimes played an EWF album during gym, I also experienced the "softer" side of racism.

Its amazing, people seem to feel that after MLK had a dream, and those civil rights acts were passed, a magical wand was waved over the US, and everything was hacylon - in the 70s! (Oh, you can also apply that theory to gender and sexual orientation movements as well). But if folks just talked to those that lived it...they just might get their eyes opened.

GREAT POST!

L

Revvy Rev said...

Earth, Wind, and Fire - I must confess is the greatest soul band of all time, bar none. And they put on an absolutely fabulous show back then. I feel you on 17. I can relate.
We sing Harold Melvin's version of Wake Up Everybody every Sunday for a doxology. It is great, especially after a social justice/activist sermon.

msladydeborah said...

Janis Ian has been a long time favorite of mine. Seventeen is one of my favorite songs by her. She writes amazing lyrics.

EWF is one of my forever favorites! We had great music in the seventies.

Happy OSF to you!

soulafrodisiac said...

Earth Wind & Fire - enough said.

HAppy OSF.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I always appreciate your visits.

Hey Shae! said...

You can't go wrong with EWF. :)