Saturday Single No. 56

Originally posted February 9, 2008

Jeff at AM, Then FM had an interesting observation this week that got me to thinking about my listening history:

“Someone once wrote that the evolution of a person’s musical tastes was expected to go something like this: You start out in pop, then mature and move on to rock, then further mature and move on to jazz, then further mature and wind up at classical.

“Perhaps that was the record companies’ expectation.

“Perhaps it was an expression of an older generation’s lingering hope that rock would go away.”

Either way, he says, he never fully made the leap from rock to jazz and never made the following leap to classical. He did, however, listen to some jazz fusion for a while and then retreated back to rock.

That intrigued me, for I did much the same thing in what must have been 1980. I was utterly unhappy with what I was hearing from the Top 40 and rock stations in the Twin Cities. Disco, punk and new wave were unwelcome guests for the most part at my internal music party – disco didn’t care about the lyrics, new wave was pretty much laughing at everyone else for being so uncool, and punk tended to spit in the punch bowl – so I turned the radio dial and found a station in Anoka, about twenty miles away, playing jazz fusion. It was mellow, it was certainly well crafted and well performed, and I’d never really listened to it before.

So for about a year, I guess, that’s what came out of the radios in the living room and my car. My first wife didn’t care for the station – she called its offerings “dooty-dooty music” because “it just doesn’t go anywhere!” – and refused to retune the radio in the bedroom. After some time, I tended to agree with her, but I wasn’t hearing much of anything new I truly liked on the station we’d been otherwise listening to, one whose tag line was “the hits of the Sixties, the Seventies and today.” Unhappily, music was becoming less important to me as it became less pleasurable.

Then, one day about the time 1980 turned to 1981, I was listlessly pushing buttons on the radio as I drove from one interview to another. And I heard a strummed twangy guitar followed by horns and then a weary countryish voice calling out, “Givin’ it up for your love, everythang. Givin’ it up for your love, right now!”

My ears perked up and I listened, head bobbing, fingers tapping time on the steering wheel, to the best thang I’d heard in a long time. It was, of course, Delbert McClinton and “Giving It Up For Your Love,” a record that went to No. 8 in early 1981. It remains McClinton’s only Top 40 hit.

After that, I pretty much stopped listening to the station in Anoka and let jazz fusion wander on its own. I sifted through the sands of current pop and rock once more, finding the occasional nugget. A couple of years later, when I was in Missouri for grad school, I picked up a few McClinton albums and enjoyed them. A later lady friend and I dug deep into Bob Dylan and The Band, and from there, I dug into the folk, blues and country traditions that inspired them and the musicians they then inspired, some of whom I’d listened to earlier and some of whom were new to me.

From those explorations stems the bulk of my record, CD and mp3 collections – connections from one musician to another leading to still more connections. Now, I’m sure there were other songs and records back in the early 1980s that helped revitalize my interest in current music. (Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” also in late 1980, comes to mind, as would others if I thought about it.) But the almost electric jolt I got from “Giving It Up For Your Love” remains clear.

That’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Delbert McClinton – “Giving It Up For Your Love” [1980]

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