LIFESTYLE/MEMOIR/RELATIONSHIPS/TRAVEL

Musical Love Lessons

I’m not always so fortunate as to get the Hertz car with the Sirius Satellite radio in it during my travels. I have to do as the locals do most of the time, and see what I can find on the FM dial. In some places, you’re actually lucky if there is an R&B station, and sometimes it’s even relegated to AM. But, the eternal optimist in me says that this too is one of the joys of traveling.

Remember the slow jam tape? No, seriously. Don’t act like you haven’t any recollection of what I’m talking about. Driving through the rural Midwest, I heard an old song today (on one of the aforementioned local stations) that must’ve been on one of my particularly famous editions. It made me think of how ridiculous some of my college antics were. Of course, none seemed ridiculous at the time. I thought I was the coolest cat around, and the selections that made the final cut of my rendezvous soundtracks surely reflected that.

In fact, I think they evolved as I evolved. Some of my earliest efforts contained the old standbys of the time. Keith Sweat whined and cried through many of my futile first attempts at foraging for sustenance. Johnny Gill and Bobby Brown dropped the smooth vocals that filled in the blanks when I fell short, which was often. When I only had a shy smile to offer, “Troop” told tales of walking to school each day and waiting for her to pass my way.

As I started to graduate from young lion to more experienced hunter, the complexity of my musical selections became more evident as well, or so I thought. I went for the classics, sometimes letting Lenny Williams do the begging or letting Teddy convince somebody as to why they ought to come on and go with me. I was always good for keeping some Prince in the rotation too, just for atmosphere, because although the décor of my apartment or dorm room may have belied the fact that I was a man of exquisite taste, the dim light along with his lyrics might create the illusion that the futon was really a 100% Italian leather sofa, draped in Egyptian lace.

Any hunter or fisherman will tell you that you’re only as good as your tools, though. If you’re in search of quail, heavy artillery might not be the right approach. (That ruled out Public Enemy). If you’ve got the wrong bait, you won’t catch anything that day. So, I kept a few selections from “12 Play” available, or “H-Town,” or maybe that a cappella joint from “Shai,” lest I eliminate anyone my age from being lured in.

My roommates and I would have competitions with the tapes, hyping our latest offerings like we had just come out of the studio after producing “Songs in the Key of Life,” or “Kind of Blue,” or “Thriller.”

“Yo … you let me know if you want to borrow this one … it’s niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.” The most amusing aspects of this whole undertaking were the rather ambitious assumptions that were made in this whole process. First of all, the notion that this “mood music” was the very lynch pin to a successful outing was ridiculous. Our naiveté probably prevented us from grasping the notions of a phenomenon like “girl-talk.” What we thought in our circles was cementing our legend, was probably being discussed between hysterical laughter on a 3-way call. Furthermore, that the specific order of said musical selections was deemed so crucial to the war effort was downright laughable.

Finally, and most importantly, there would need to be occasion to unsheathe Excalibur. There was not always a surplus for us young lions of the Serengeti. Indeed, there were many periods where famine swept across our homeland. The environment often ceased to be target rich. None of that was of any consequence though, as you’ll recall a wise man once saying, “if you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.” (Who was that anyway? Tupac? Volume 10? I don’t remember.) We STAYED ready.

Well, I’m proud to say that I no longer own any slow jam tapes. I’m over that. Really … I am! A while ago, I figured out that John Coltrane had already done this work for me 50 years ago when he and McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones got together to bring us “A Love Supreme.” It didn’t require the 18 or 19 tracks that I might include. With 4 tracks, it was simple in construction but very rich in content, appropriately mellow in stretches and fiercely intense in others.

Again, I may be making too big an assumption here with this musical choice, but now I am older and wise enough to know that neither Coltrane’s nor any other’s melody is the foundation that is holding everything together. It’s more likely akin to a nice chandelier in the living room. Besides, it makes me