Music: 1977

’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.

’77 was the Son of Sam and the New York City blackout.  Studio 54 opened.  The South Bronx looked like a war zone.

President Jimmy Carter tours the South Bronx in 1977.  NY Times Photo

President Jimmy Carter tours the South Bronx in 1977. NY Times Photo

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.

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