Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Love Rollercoaster – The Ohio Players and a Rant

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Legbamel Not-Pop

This post is a rant only tangentially related to The Ohio Players. That’s okay, because all you really need to know about Love Rollercoaster is that it’s quintessential funk, practically the epitome of the genre. If you don’t know it, listen to it.

The song leapt into my head today and I thought, “I bet that’s how what’s-her-face thinks of herself.” As my familiarity with Nicki Minaj is limited to clips of her lolling about in a metallic bikini for a few seconds in videos for various mashups, I had to find one to uncover her actual name. That’s not quite the point I was trying to make.

That contrast between a modern-day performer—one I think of more as a burlesque act than a musician—with some talented people deservedly famous for their music rather than their willingness to shimmy in very little clothing got me recalling how some remarkably unattractive people with wonderful voices and/or musicianship sold a whole lot of records once upon a time.

Don’t misunderstand my point: appearance has always played a part in marketing. The music industry is no different than any other in that respect. Why else the pre-Photoshop prevalence of soft-focus album covers? Why else the widespread use of matching outfits for bands for every public appearance?

Sex sells, again as it always has, though folks used to have to do it the hard way, in person and then on television. There have always been talentless hacks trading on their appearances. In my rosy view of the past, however, these were flashes in the pan, people who caused a furor and disappeared, one-hit wonders deservedly shoved back into obscurity after their little moment in the sun.

I really did have a point. Talent used to count for more than the willingness to writhe about in your undergarments on the Internet (and this applies to men as much as women, of late). It wasn’t all, but it charted and it sold records. It got recording contracts.

Sure, there’ve been a lot of remarkably bad songs recorded and sold over the past hundred years. A goodly number of them have been about drinking, drugs, and sex. Anyone who denies that is either deluded or lying and is obviously not a fan of funk, disco, or the blues.

This brings me around, full circle, to Love Rollercoaster and the fact that someone singing (and actually singing, rather than approximating and letting a machine hit his or her notes) about so specious a topic can still demonstrate a remarkable ability to make music.

Have a listen to The Ohio Players and let me know what you think. Do you agree or am I relying too heavily on my rose-tinted headphones?

Love Rollercoaster by Ohio Players on Grooveshark

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