Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Rock Steady": Your Middle-Aged Black Uncle's Favorite R&B Jam

Whoa, these guys are old. I didn't even realize how old they were until I watched the video. I always assumed they were, like, in their 20's or something.

If "The Whispers" sounds more like the name of an early '60s doo-wop group than an '80s R&B group, that's because it basically was. Well, they don't quite go back that far, but they'd been fixtures on the soul charts since 1969, although they didn't have a big pop hit until "And the Beat Goes On" in 1980. I remember hearing "And the Beat Goes On," or perhaps more accurately, hearing Will Smith sample "And the Beat Goes On" on his turn-of-the-Willenium classic "Miami" ("Party in the city 'til the heat is on/All night on the beach 'til the break of dawn") and thinking, "Hey, that little two chord synth riff sounds like the one from 'Rock Steady'!" Then one day I learned that both songs had been performed by the same group. So, "Rock Steady" was actually the song that recycled the riff, not the other way around. Well, it worked: they re-used the lick from the biggest hit they'd ever had up to that point, and they scored an even bigger hit with it ("And the Beat Goes On" hit #19, while "Rock Steady" hit #7).



The reason why "Rock Steady" truly does sound like the work of a younger artist is because, in essence, it was. In fact, one of the co-writers and co-producers looked so young, Bootsy Collins ended up giving him the nickname "Babyface." Yes, before Pebbles, Karyn White, and Bobby Brown (let alone Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Boyz II Men, and TLC), one Kenneth Brian "Babyface" Edmonds and frequent collaborator L.A. Reid gave some old farts a credible makeover and helped introduce New Jack Swing to suburban parents everywhere.

Listen to that finger-popping bass! (I assume it's a bass?) Note the way lead singer Scotty Scott attempts to create some kind of jazz scatting/rapping hybrid on the bridge: "I begin to touch/but yew wouldn't-let-it!/It nevah-seemed-ta-be the raaaht taahme/I started to give up/down to-thah-limit!/And then you changed your myyyynd." I also like the fluttery and yet robotic "ooh-ROCK" vocal interjections peppered throughout the track whenever necessary.



The sight of mustachioed, not-so-youthful black men getting down on stage has inspired the expected comparisons in the YouTube comments section:
Neil Degrasse Tyson is amazing!

I didn't know Richard Pryor was in the Whispers

Fun fact: Steve Harvey discovered cloning technology in the 80's and used it to start a music group called "The Whispers". The machine was soon destroyed by the might of his band's music. Some say the use of the cloning machine was a waste of potential, but most others believe it was the best thing ever. You decide.
The reason why two of the singers look like clones of each other ... is because they were twins. Who needs Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen when you've got the two mustachioed guys in the Whispers, amirite? Other highlights:
These guys were old by 1987 standards. Awesome.

this ain't a boy band, this is a MAN BAND

currently playing at your nearest black uncle's car...

this the type of song you see a old person dancing to at a bbq with that red beer cup in his hand

Every time I walk into a club and I hear this song, I just know it's gona be a GREAT NIGHT !!!

Damn that song makes me dance even on the toilet

This song randomly popped into my head last night at work lol. Then I go to the break room to use the bathroom this video is on the TV. Weird, but it gets weirder. As I'm driving home the first song I hear on the radio is this fucking song lmao.

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