For me, going back to a day I was too young to remember, when summer and sweet soul music went hand in hand -- think hot pants, beer cozies keepin’ Colt 45s cool, Fat Albert, afros of all shapes, hula hoops, blaxploitation, stay-press polyester, pocket transistors, gangster leans, Sidney Poitier, and, of course, 45s -- is something that always seems to surface around the 4th Of July.
This Wednesday June 29th, I’ll air my annual Independence Day special, Soul Freedom in The Roadhouse on KEXP 6:00 to 9:00 PM PT, and available all 4th Of July weekend via KEXP’s stream archive. It’s three hours of vintage soul with all selections falling somewhere between 1965-1975, including comedy bits, old-time radio advertisements, a set about soul food, and that special good feeling when everything seemed to be funky.
There’s a positivity and cooperative community in my romanticized vision of the late '60s and early '70s, fabricated in my consciousness by the ephemera of my youth -- old magazines, album covers, liner notes, movies, TV shows, books, cartoons, commercials, and, of course, old records. It just seemed to be a good time (“dy-no-mite!"), when everyone was cool, and the music was outta-site. The output was simply incredible. Now, with the many re-issues of this classic period it only adds to my assembled memory of the day, when I was very young. But like a contact high, I can feel it. The stone love reverberating from the Civil Rights movement of the '60s and into the Black Panthers of the '70s was expressed through the music. Black pride, self-determination, and the idea that “this is our country” too, propelled some of the most vital American music ever put to wax. Collectors seems to unearth a gazillion masterpieces daily: 45s pressed on colorful labels like Phi-La-Of- Soul, One-Derful, and ATCO, to name a few. I’ll play these. Plus more obvious classics from Motown, Fame, Stax, and Hi Records.
And then there’s cultural mile markers of the time like WattsStax, Soul Train, and the many situational TV comedies that introduced black American life (often poorly) in shows like Sanford & Son, Good Times, and The Jefferson’s. Flip Wilson and his alter-ego had a popular variety show (“The devil made me buy that dress!”) and Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier three times. Super Fly was big and even Sesame Street had a funky soundtrack. I’ll play bits of these too.
It was a special time, whether real or imagined. The decade of ’65-’75 is perhaps the sweetest spot in recorded music history and to me it always sounds best when summer hits. The 4th Of July celebrates all Americans, and freedom is a family cook-out, bbq, fireworks, and the slip n' slide. Cold beer, too. I got your soundtrack to this holiday weekend, so keep the boom box bangin’ and the 8-track trackin’ on a special, sunny edition of The Roadhouse. Tune in! Share it!