The month of September 2017 will long live in infamy.

Two extraordinary gentlemen bade us farewell. For 8th September 2017 is the day American country singer, songwriter, and 2010 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame Don Williams passed on. 27th September 2017 is the day that Hugh Marston Hefner, the founder of Playboy died.

Wikipedia tells us that Don Williams began his solo career in 1971, singing popular ballads and amassing 17 number one country hits. His straightforward yet smooth bass-baritone voice, soft tones, and imposing build earned him the nickname: “Gentle Giant” of country music.  The man was prolific as you can read from his discography. At the height of the country and western boom in the UK in 1976, he had top forty pop chart hits with You’re My Best Friend and I Recall a Gypsy Woman. In March 2016, Williams announced he was retiring from touring and canceled all his scheduled shows. “It’s time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home. I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends, and my family for their everlasting love and support,” he said in a statement.

That got my brain racing. Can I recall all the beautiful music that has made me so happy over the years? Luckily, we live in the era of YouTube and most of the music you may wish o retrieve is deposited here. Not only music, but everything that has been recorded as video can be obtained in this most wonderful Internet depository. Wikipedia will let you know that YouTube is an American video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California. The service was created by three former PayPal employees-Chad HurleySteve Chen, and Jawed Karim — in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 billion; YouTube now operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries. I could not have possibly have done this blog without YouTube.

I did tell you that music is a curious experience since it has a way of locking you down to a particular period of your life. Now that I have turned 60 I can gaze back and savor my past experiences of great songs that have marked my life. It all started with Jim Reeves, known as “Gentleman Jim”, his songs have continued to chart for years after his death. Reeves died in the crash of his private airplane in July 1964. I stumbled on Jim’s music in the early 60s. It all started with This World is Not My Home rapidly followed by Take My Hand Precious Lord.

I have enjoyed much country music Skeeter Davis, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner But I must say, it was Don Williams who really captured my fancy. These songs remain my favourites to date:

  • Some Hearts Never Mend
  • You’re my best friend 
  • Gypsy Woman 
  • Love Me Tonight 
  • Jamaica Farewell 
  • Turn Out the Light and Love Me Tonight 

I then found Kenny Rogers and his hit song The Gambler inspires and advises one. Others such as Coward of the County and Lucille are really great. Kenny Rogers partnered with Dolly Parton and produced a wonderful ballad Islands in the Stream followed by We Got Tonight

I got sold onto Soul music which Wikipedia informs to be `a popular music genre that originated in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel musicrhythm and blues and jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as MotownAtlantic and Stax were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Soul also became popular around the world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.’ 

James Brown released a moving song known as Say it Loud, I‘m Black and I’m Proud. This did it for me. I drank, ate, danced and slept soul. James Brown followed with Sex Machine released in 1971 when I was a rabble in Patch (Nairobi School). We danced bumping styles to this song as to the other great one by Kung Fu fighting by Carl Douglas. I discovered Isaac Hayes who told us cupid can shoot an arrow so fast that you cant get out of the way in I stand Accused. Hayes was to make it to the centerfold of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine.  A Kenyan journalist, Ng’ang’a Mbogua described Hugh as `the silk pajamas-wearing founder of the magazine that changed the way the world views the human body and the desires that animate it’. 

The wonders of Motown are best read in Berry Gordy’s autobiography titled To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown. I must thank my good friend Prof. Mwenda Ntarangwi for recently getting me a copy from the US. The back of the book says as follows: 

` Imagine a world without the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Rose, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, the Temptations, and the Four Tops. You have just imagined a world without Berry Gordy.

The book explained to me what Marvin Gaye was on about on Lets Get it On as well as that most controversial song Sexual Healing. I so much loved `The Temptations’ especially when they crooned Papa was a Rolling Stone. I also got to understand Michael Jackson and the `Jackson Fives’ better. Michael Jackson was a great fan since he was very handsome and about my age. His rendition of the son Ben was simply out of this world. Michael Jackson was to later thrill the world in Thriller and Beat It.

Soul train then introduced us to KC & The Sunshine Band with their hit That’s the Way I Like it.  My life got really rich when Chaka Khan brilliantly composed the all time hit Ain’t Nobody  and the Staple Singers did `Lets Do it Again’. George Opiyo then worked at the Voice of Kenya (VoK) but lived with our art teacher Keith Harrington at Nairobi School. As my friend Stan Ramogo would tell you, Opiyo cut quite a handsome figure with his black dressing. The polo shirt was a killer. In patch I was also friends to an interesting schoolmate known as Teddy Lugaye. The man enjoyed Mbaraka Mwinshehe’s music and who later formed a band in college. He actually looked like a younger version of Mbaraka. It was the late Mbaraka who gave Shida.

There is a blogger who reckons that Lingala hits came to Kenya in the 90s. Well he is wrong. The mid 70s had a rare explosion of Lingala in Kenya. A number of bands pitched tents in Nairobi including the legendary Mangelepa. But for me it is Orchetre Veve’s Lukani  that captured my imagination. Those days songs were played as part one and a flipside on as part two. It was soon followed by Orchestre Bana Ngenge singing Belinda and Orchestre Lipua Lipua crooning Nsayi. Luambo Luanzo Makiadi as Franco of TPOK Jazz dazzled me with his renditions of Ndaya  and the epic Mamou. 

I met a resourceful inspiration in the person of Bryan Nyamai at the Medical Training Centre (MTC), Nairobi. Bryan (now Pastor) was studying radiography. He and I became friends and we occupied a room in KANU student rooms at Kenyatta National Hospital. Bryan was a fanatic about soul music and extremely fastidious on how people handled the polyvinyl long-playing records (LPs). He was a friend of Chege wa Gachamba who span records for the popular `Yours for the Asking’ programme of the Voice of Kenya (VoK). Bryan was so furious with someone who returned a LP that had scratches that he told him “My friend, I did not lent you the record for you to walk all over it as if it is a doormat!”.  It was Bryan that introduced me to the group Rose Royce and their 1978 mega hit Love Don’t Live Here Anymore as well as The Brothers Johnson who gave us such a delightful hit titled Stomp!. Bryan lectured me on a curious instrument known as the `Moog synthesizer’. I later became a student in India and relied on regular postal mail contact with Bryan. It was he who alerted me on the 1979 release of Ring My Bell by Anita Ward that became a big hit in Kenya.    


1 Comment on I was Moulded by Music…

One Reply to “I was Moulded by Music…”

  1. Love the list of records and hits that you enjoyed. You should join a fb group named Old School Funk and Soul..OSFS. We discuss R&B and soul music there

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