Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last night my son and I were scanning the guide for something to watch on TV, when we happened on "The Temptations", a biographical drama about the Motown singing group The Temptations. We watch it for a few minutes and I asked him if he would rather see what else was on, to which he replied, "I want to watch this". So we settled in to watch the whole story. My son is 13 years old, a huge fan of Lil' Wayne, and pretty much all rap type music. He watches all those shows on MTV about hip-hop culture and anything revolving around pimping, rappers, and street cult. So, when the "Temps" story came on, I thought it would be too old school for him to get into. I was wrong. After a half hour or so, I went to bed. He stayed up, and not only did he watch the whole thing through, in the morning he told me how all the members died, what happened to them in their career, and who were his favorite "Temps".
I recalled that back in 1971 or so, Toward the end of our career, my band, The MC5, was playing a gig in Detroit at a place called The Latin Quarter. It was a show club down in the inner city of Detroit, that in the past was host to classy entertainment acts more in the vein of cabaret and regular show business performers. Rock and roll, the MC5 and "underground" music was a rarity in a place like this, but oooh how the times were changing. So, there we were loading our gear into a van on the street out front of The Latin Quarter, when a bronze colored Cadillac pulls over to the curb and a fellow jumps out of the car. As he approaches me in the darkness, I can see he is rather well dressed and has a familiar face. "Hey brother, I'm in a bit of a jam. Could you possibly hit me with a twenty or something, I need to get high and I'm flat broke? I'm David Ruffin and I would be so grateful to you." I was in a small state of shock at hearing that, but I dug into my pocket without hesitation and handed him a twenty dollar bill. He shook my hand and turned and walked away back to his car, and drove off down the street. I turned to Wayne and said "damn, that was David Ruffin!" I recognized him. As a matter of fact, The Latin Quarter was quite close to "Hitsville U.S.A.", the famous recording studio of the Motown Sound on West Grand Boulevard.
This morning as we discussed the "Temps", Gabby, my son, mentioned something about Otis, the founder of the Temptations. It brought back another memory. "I remember Otis quite well," I told Gabby. He was Otis Williams. When I was 13 years old myself, I bought my first rock and roll record. It was a song called "That's your mistake" by Otis Williams and the Charms. Otis Williams and the Charms were my favorite group and my very first record, and I still have it! I told Gabby that later today we would go get the record and clean it up and give it a listen on the old turntable.
What does it all mean? For now, it means that me and my 13 year old son can share something I never would have though was possible. That in two and a half minutes of recorded song we can vanquish 52 years of time. I can focus on a time when I was his age and draw that moment into the present. For a brief few moments his world will be channeled into my past, but have some meaning for his today. Beyond sentimentality, the importance of music is that we share our inspirations.