Video Saturday – Motown

OK – lets touch on something that is usually left unsaid for reasons of politeness, correctness, embarrassment, or just something that should be buried and forgotten as “not my fault”, the 1960s was an era of huge productive development in popular music, to be more specific and to bend the rules slightly the world will never see another decade for musical development and diversity then the decade from 1966 to 1976.

And it had racism.

Overt and covert, completely unintentional and environment grown, if you lived your development years in a suburb like I did, if you went to the schools that I went to then you did not know any black people, my primary school was 100% white middle class, my Grammar School was 100% white boys until the second year of our incarceration when the Head warned everyone to treat the Sikh boy who was starting in the First Form that year “correctly”, in other words don’t bully him on grounds of colour, any other form of bullying was ok though…

There, its been said, we did not live in a multi-cultured society in the 1960s, a city the size of Leeds had plenty of immigrants of all colours and flavours of course but they lived in other areas and we who lived in the suburbs barely came into contact – the first black lad that I spoke to was at Technical College when we were both 18 years old, imagine that, my kids don’t believe me but its true, its also true that it was around the same time that my boss was told by one of the company directors to get rid of a certain employee because he was black, no other reason, overt racism didn’t die with the Race Relations Act of 1976 believe me.

And yet, and yet, there was a genre of life that transcended any prejudices and always had – popular music paid no heed to colour or creed, not when there was money to be made out of it anyway, and in the 1960s we white middle class Grammar School boys were heavily influenced by Tamla Motown, or at least Sam Kirkbride was, and he then influenced us …

Did I ever tell you that Diana Ross was staying at a hotel just over the road from us on a holiday in 1974 ? Yes I have, several times ? Oh ok then…

So we may not know any kids other than the ones with skin “white as the driven snow” and we were certainly ignorant of other forms of multi-culture, food for instance, my only introduction to anything that was even slightly not meat-and-two-veg-with-thick-gravy-on was Vesta Chow Mein, a strange packet of dried offerings that when boiling water was added was supposed to represent the finest of Asian foods whereas in reality it only ever tasted of salt with bits of grit in it, and my father may have made our Ned sit outside on the doorstep to eat his first ever bought-from-a-takeaway pizza because it was “bloody foreign muck”, but if we didn’t immerse ourselves in anything other than a stiff upper lip, a game of cricket and a cold shower afterwards, then at least we could listen to music that had traveled huge distances in miles and culturally to sing to us…

…and inexorably we moved slowly and with trudging footsteps towards the mix we see today, a mix of culture and colour that our children and grandchildren don’t even think about yet which for us was not even on the agenda – have we achieved Blue Mink’s “Melting Pot” yet, possibly not “curly black and kinky, mixed with yellow chinky”, possibly not the right message or the right delivery (an all white band with one token black singer ???) and also a shit song so we won’t watch that one, but this one instead…


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