Tonawanda News — Needless to say, I was not alone. Plenty of white kids, who never entered the music business, grew up this way. At Jefferson Avenue record stores, approached through a circuitous route of buses from North Buffalo, I was by no means the only young, white kid trolling the bins of records (the cardboard covers of which typically offered no photographs of the artists, merely their names and those of their songs. It made it easier to sell the records in the South).
I saw Motown acts on the Ed Sullivan Show, a Sunday night variety program on television. The Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, in evening gowns and tuxedos, belting out the hits with style and a certain reserve (they were coached in good manners, Motown having something of a charm school teacher on the payroll). The non-Motown black performers had a little more latitude when it came to abandon -- Ike and Tina Turner, for example -- but their television performances were rare.
Still, I sought, watched and listened.
Saddest song ever? “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted”, by Jimmy Ruffin. Happiest? “Show Me”, by Joe Tex (“Show me a man who’s got a good woman, show me…”).
Most likely to wake me out of a funk when it comes on the car radio? “River Deep Mountain High”, the way Ike and Tina did it. See? You have your own list, of course, but I cannot make a “Best of” list without including examples Mrs. Rosenblatt in the fourth grade would never find acceptable.
I think of it as a facet of America I was privileged to know, whether or not it was aimed at me. The way the concept of a black First Lady is more acceptable if you came to know Mrs. Claire Huxtable in the 1980s, an early immersion in soul music informed my approach to a lot of things as I grew older.
These hit-makers are dying off now, of course, as are the more obscure ones. I hope it’s not too late to say thank you.
Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident and can be contacted at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident and can be contacted at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.