’77 was a pivotal year for my family.
We loaded up and headed for the great white north – a little town called Mahopac, on the Putnam/Westchester County line of NY state – less than an hour from NYC.
I was 9 years old. It’s a bit ironic now to look back on that time and realize what a big year it was in that part of the world.
1977 was a great year for music, too. Peter Gabriel released his first solo album. The Clash and punk rock in general were taking off. George Crumb (a native of WV), penned a great piece: Star-Child.
1977 was the year of my first trip to New York City, a place that defines everything around it for miles in one way or another – a place in many ways, that has defined me.
I’ll never forget driving by the bombed out high-rises of Brooklyn and the South Bronx. It was a completely alien landscape. I couldn’t believe people could live in places like that.
A few years later, these places would give life to hip-hop, arguably the most important genre of music of the late 20th century. It’s a form of music that’s taken a real beating over the years. Quite frankly, racism is the reason why. IMHO, our society (dominated, especially at the time by white, upper middle-class values) just didn’t want to hear the story.
Every time I hear Grandmaster Flash’s early hip-hop masterpiece, The Message, I see those bombed-out buildings. It’s striking stuff to hear, a cry for help and a challenge:
Rats in the front room/roaches in the back
junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
tried to get away/but I didn’t get far cause the man with a tow truck/repossessed my car
don’t push me/cause I’m close to the edge
I’m tryin’ not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes/it makes me wonder
How I keep from goin’ under
Check out the original video from 1982 on MTV’s website.
OK – I’ve skipped a few years by posting the video above, I’ll fill in the blanks with my next post.