Motown songs of the late 1960s and early 1970s were a rare hotbed of pop-music morality. Let’s recount seven deadly sins against which songwriters of nearly a half-century ago – tremulous, perhaps, of the changing society all around them – powerfully inveighed on Top 40 radio.
Who says pop music is bad for kids? Who says music can’t change the world?
“For the Love of Money,” The O’Jays
“Back Stabbers,” The O’Jays
“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” Undisputed Truth
“Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” The Temptations
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye
“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” Marvin Gaye
“War,” Edwin Starr
If American pop culture is good for anything it’s for pumping out crapola between oft-superior advertising and commercial messages. And it has been thus practically since the founding of the Union. Herewith a reach back to the 1980-and-earlier era for some truly awful cultural jetsam.
JIMMY DURANTE | “Inka Dinka Do”
The song title alone is an invitation to infamy. Did America really once love this schmuck? Why?
THE SEEKERS | “The Carnival Is Over”
Schmaltzy pseudo-folk like this had the cultural lifespan of a mayfly. Though I have to say, the look of the bassist is priceless. Should’ve had his glasses straightened, though.
JOHNNIE RAY | “The Little White Cloud That Cried”
Is it over-emoting or does “good ol’ Johnnie Ray” have an uncontrollable tic?
ANITA WARD | “You Can Ring My Bell”
“Wow, this ‘syndrum’ makes a ‘DOOOOooooo’ sound!” I had the misfortune to graduate from high school and start college — a fragile time emotionally as it is — the same year this crap came out.
RUPERT HOLMES | “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”
He wrote this over his lunch hours in the accounting-firm cafeteria and secretly was more shocked than anyone when he got a record contract, let alone a top 10 hit. So he just rolled with it. That’s my theory.