Episode 036: Love
In which we discuss love, and soul, and Philadelphia
A song that rolls around in my head often—not necessarily an earworm, but just a song I think about from time to time—is Elton John's “Philadelphia Freedom”. I had a little red, white, and blue transistor radio when I was a kid and listened to a lot of Top 40 radio on WABC in New York. For some reason, I remember that song playing all the time.
It probably wasn't, but you know how fuzzy memories can be.
And while for all intents and purposes I am a New Yorker, I have a soft spot in my heart for Philadelphia:
I played so many nightclubs on Columbus Boulevard in my youth.
My undergrad degree is in history, so all the Revolutionary War goodies really light a fire.
Philly Soul…The O’Jays “Back Stabbers” is one of my all-time favorite ‘70s songs.
And of course, so many great jazz musicians. John Coltrane, seriously…
So I wanted to write a song about Philadelphia. But about what?
Well, the first thing that pops into my head when I think of Philadelphia is none of the above. It's the giant Love Statue by Robert Indiana in Love Park across from City Hall. That statue, along with others in Indiana’s sprawling series, is based on his wildly famous and influential 1965 print Love.
The LOVE artwork has had many different incarnations.
It started out as a design for a personal Christmas card to friends from the artist; then came prints like the one at MOMA; the postage stamp may be the most famous stamp ever, it was everywhere.
These days though, Love is probably most seen in the huge sculptures Indiana created over the years, appearing in parks and museums. There are over 50 of these simple, positive-message-bearing (imploring?) sculptures.
This reduction was harder to do than you might think. Only three colors. And the letters take up so much more space than my blocks and planks usually do against the backdrop. Plus, depending on the specific statue or print, the blues and greens can be located in different places. Decisions had to be made…
Speaking of decisions, I decided not to write a beat that sounds like love. Those greater that came before me have been broken on that wall.
Instead, I thought back to walking through Philly when I came across the sculpture for the first time and stopped to wonder at it. That was it!
A funky, groovy beat for walking through Philly, tell a little traveling story of the city.
First, I’m strolling the streets and avenues. Then, in the middle eight, I stop in the park in front of the sculpture and marvel a bit at it, daydream a little. Then I’m back on my way, off to wherever my feet may take me.
Finally, I wanted the ending to sound like I was ducking down the stairs into a subway, leaving the city behind. I thought the main theme played on a spare, wobbly-sounding piano after all that full-band-funkiness would do the trick.
Ok, so let's get back to the vast number of astonishing Jazz musicians that hail from Philadelphia.
I would argue that the great triumvirate of jazz cities in the United States includes New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit. But Philly, woof:
The Brecker Brothers
The Heath Brothers
Philly Joe Jones
Man, that’s a lot of great jazziness, And that’s just ten names.
Anyway, if any of you folks are from Philly, I hope you dig my little tribute to your city!
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