Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Take-Me-Back-Tuesday: Songs of the Christmas Season

Here are some cool songs that I currently have on my iPod Christmas playlist. We don’t have a lot of time to enjoy the songs because the season is so short. I also refuse to play any Christmas song before the week of Thanksgiving, and somehow, listening to the songs after Christmas seems a bit moot. But here’s what I got:


From the Polar Express, an absolutely delightful movie that I watch about twice during the season, Believe  (Josh Groban) and When Christmas Comes to Town (Matthew Hall and Meagan Moore).

From A Charlie Brown Christmas, The entire Vince Guaraldi Trio Charlie Brown Christmas album. You can actually play the instrumentals any time of the year, but the music conjures up such memories of Christmas and the classic show, I like to let the album be a once-a-year holiday treat.


The Nutcracker Suite (Peter Tchaikovsky) I love this because when I was a theater kid back in the day, we did a really cool rendition of The Nutcracker. I still remember the steps to the Trepak dance! What fun!

Silent Night sung by The Temptations. This old standard is beautifully done. (What a voice Melvin Franklin (bass) had! I’d be falling out on the stage in front of him.)

Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt) I love her Christmas list! I wonder if she got any of her many requests.

Sleigh Ride (Boney James) I love any version of this classic, but I especially like Boney’s jazzy spin.

Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McSleigh) This peppy song reminds me of shopping malls. This is the only song that’s played in malls during the season, it seems.

And I leave you with one of the many reverent anthems of the season—Christmas Rappin’ (Kurtis Blow). The long version is the coolest. It’s fun to rap along, and after all these years and years, I’m still learning all the lyrics! (Thanks to the person who posted this on YouTube.) What are some of your Christmas favorites?


Take-Me-Back-Tuesday: Songs from the Other End of the Dial

In the 70s, the trend on Chicago radio stations, and maybe all over the country, was playing the same thing over and over and over again. If you missed your favorite song in the 2:00 hour, it would be rolling around again in the 3:00 hour. That was good if you liked to tape the songs like I did. Otherwise, things got pretty boring if you listened to the same stations all the time. So when I got tired of R&B stations WJPC and WVON, I’d turn to the rock/pop stations WLS and WCFL to hear what they were playing. Those stations were jammin’ too!

There were certain artists that everybody (meaning those in my world, which really didn’t encompass a whole lot) knew about like Elton John, The BeeGees, The Stones, and Queen. STILL trying to learn all the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody. Very cool song!

The white kids in my acting class turned all us black kids onto Peter Frampton. We all bought the Frampton Comes Alive album. I would blast “Do You Feel Like I Do” throughout the house, much to the chagrin of my father. He would tolerate my loud music sometimes, but he really hated rock music!

I liked songs by the Doobie Brothers, Ambrosia, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Toto. Very few songs by rock artists crossed over to the R&B stations, but they played Toto’s Georgy Porgy. It had a mellow R&B beat. The R&B stations played The Stones’ Miss You probably more than the rock stations.

I just recently put these on my iPod:

Show Me The Way–Peter Frampton; Dream Weaver–Gary Wright; My Sharona–The Knack; and Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac. Good stuff.

I leave you with one of the absolute coolest rock songs known to man: Barracuda by Heart. This is on my cardio playlist! I wish I could play the guitar like that!

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Take-Me-Back Tuesday: Tighten Up / On Laflin Street: The Block Club Party

So I heard a song today that brought tears to my eyes. No, it wasn’t a sappy love song that reminded me of an ex-boyfriend or one marking a tragic event in my life. (Fortunately, there haven’t been many of those.) I got all choked up over Archie Bell and The Drells’ “Tighten Up.”

Tighten Up came out in 1968, and all was right in my 7-year old world then. That song also reminds me specifically of The Block Club Party. The 117th and Laflin Block Club was only a few years old at the time. The parents were all young-ish, and very civic-minded. They all watched out for each other’s children, and you better believe if you were caught doing wrong, word got back to your homefront quick. The parents always sided with each other, too. If you tried to argue against one of the neighbors, you’d get a swift backhand in your mouth. Once the Block Club bought red lantern-type lights for Christmas and each house had one in the front yard. It was cute and festive then. All the kids went caroling up and down the block. During the Great Chicago Blizzard of 1967, the Block Club pooled their labor together, and all the men shoveled Laflin out. The ladies got the coffee and hot chocolate together. We kids dived into snowdrifts and enjoyed being out of school.

So the Block Club Party was a much-anticipated event. That morning the street was cordoned off, and I actually got a chance to go Across The Street. I was never allowed to venture over there, although I knew the kids who lived there. Not only could I go across the street, I could actually play IN THE STREET. What unchartered territory that was! That whole day was like one big free-for-all, under the watchful eyes of the parents, of course. My friends and I were going back and forth to yards we had never been in, and the food and drink was flowing–hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and Koolaid.

That afternoon, there was to be another major event–The Dance Contest. All the kids who wanted to be in it were instructed to just dance, and you would be touched on your shoulder to indicate that you were out of the running. I decided that I would be in this Dance Contest, and emerge The Victor.

I don’t know what song was playing; it could have been Tighten Up, who knows in 2012? But what I do remember was doing the Monkey. I was pumping my arms up and down like I was Georgette of the Jungle! I knew I was jamming! Soon I heard laughter, that got louder and more raucous. I didn’t think anything of it; I just kept climbing trees. Next thing I know, I got touched. What? You touched me? I’m out? Are you serious? Surely, the June Taylor Dancers will come calling and you’ll be sorry!

So, I slinked out of the running to win the Block Club Dance Contest, not knowing that the Monkey was years out of date. I got teased about my performance from certain Laflin denizens for a few days afterwards. Whatever. I do know I continued to enjoy the Block Club Party, eat hamburgers and drink Koolaid in the middle of the street.


Take-Me-Back Tuesday: Songs of the Summer

My friend Trina lamented the other day that the “summer is over.” Over? It’s early August, what are you talking about? But in Trina’s mind, because she has kids and gauges the seasons by their school schedule, summer is over because they’ll soon be back in school and the whole laborious ritual starts all over again. Personally, I try to hold on to summer as long as I can, childless as I am.

When I was a teenager, I had a joyful ritual on the last day of school. I’d come home and snatch off my watch and unplug my clock. (My friends and I had decided that we wouldn’t keep time in the summer.) Then after making time stand still, I’d find the cassette tape that contained “Summer” by War and I’d play it, thereby officially welcoming summer into my life for another year. That was one of the first songs I deemed necessary to have as a summer playlist. In Chicago, the radio stations would start playing Fatback’s “I Like the Girls” to herald in the season. And you know how you hear a song while involved in a certain activity and it sticks with you, and then you always equate that song to the summer and the fun you were having when you heard it? I mean, seriously–do we have a lot of fond memories of cold and slushy winter days?

Let’s go back to the summers of our youth and reflect on these cool songs. I don’t care what Trina says–there’s a whole lotta summer left!

SUMMER by War (1976) This one would usher in every every high school summer.

WARM SUMMER NIGHT  by Chic (1979) Some folks used this as a make-out song.

GOOD TIMES by Chic (1979) This one reminds me of the backyard party I had. Certain neighbors were irritated and called the cops. This song was our VERY LOUD encore before we shut the whole thing down!

GIVE ME THE NIGHT by George Benson (1980) This one reminds me of cruising with my “shippees” one summer night after we had finished pledging. It warm, it was summer, we were free!

SUMMER SONG by Grover Washington, Jr (1978) This was my introduction to the late great Grover.

RUNNING FOR YOUR LOVING by The Brothers Johnson (1977) This one brings back memories of a hot, steamy night listening to the radio and hanging with my best friends. Not a care in the world!

LAKESHORE DRIVE by Art Porter (1996)  This is a good jazzy jam for being with your honey and driving down, say, Lakeshore Drive!

I’ll leave you with SUMMERTIME by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (1991). What are some of your summer favorites?


Take-Me-Back Tuesday: Songs of Arrogance

Welcome to another edition of Take-Me-Back Tuesday! Let’s go to work. A couple of songs caught my attention as they blared on my iPod recently. Norman Connor’s Once I’ve Been There (1977, featuring Phillip Mitchell on vocals) and Jermaine Jackson’s  Don’t Take It Personal (1989) were great songs. Now when a song first catches your attention, it’s mostly because of the music and the beat. The words are secondary. They could be singing a nursery rhyme; who cares as long as the beat is sweet. Then later you may really  listen to the lyrics and decide they offend your sense of morality, politics, or other points-of-view and the song falls out of favor.

I don’t know what I thought back-in-the-day when I listened to Once I’ve Been There:

Once I’ve been there, I can always go back again. No matter how long I’ve been gone, I can always get there again. Now at that point, he could be singing about Albuquerque. Then he goes into you know how I feel and you know the love is real, so when I ask you to give me your love, I know you will. Okay, he says he loves the woman, but how arrogant of him to feel he can be gone for any length of time and she will still be there, waiting and available to him! (Apparently she must be, or he wouldn’t be singing about it, but that’s another post.)

Now Jermaine really has a lot of nerve. He tells the woman the time has come for him to move on and get on with his life??!  Don’t be sad? Don’t be blue? You have your whole life in front of you? Love was here, now it’s gone, so it’s time you keep moving on? Don’t take it personal, take the bitter with the sweet? Easy come easy go?

Jermaine, what kind of drugs are you on?

If the link works, watch the video. Copy and paste the link if it doesn’t. They were such a happy couple.

Okay, how are bubble baths and sex NOT PERSONAL???!!!

The quintessence of arrogance. That’s how brothers get their tires slashed.

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Take-Me-Back-Tuesday!–Larry Dodson and Rick James

Welcome to a new feature on donnacterrell–Take-Me-Back-Tuesday! Why Tuesday? I like alliteration. And I also love the music of back-in-the-day! My day! When music was such a part of my life–waking up with the radio, taping songs from the radio, buying records and tapes, blasting music throughout the house (much to the chagrin of my father). I even deejayed on my college radio station. Then I could equate a song with every event of my life. New boyfriend? There’s a song for that. Break up with him? There’s a song for that. Songs that remind me of pledging my sorority. Songs that remind me of certain high school parties and using fake IDs to get into college parties. I used to know every song on the JET Top 20 and had most of the albums.  Now, the music stations I ate and slept by have been replaced by news stations and sports talk, and I’ll admit, I now know very little about the world of R&B I so loved. But that’s okay! Life changes, right? So we’re going to revisit some things and I hope you’ll have as much fun as I know I’m going to have.

Everybody knows and loves Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross–a moment of silence for them. But what about a couple of under-rated guys–funksters Larry Dodson of The Bar-Kays and ol’ slick Rick James? They were the wild ones. They were the dudes a girl wouldn’t dare take home to her father. The Bar-Kays never won a Grammy and for most people I know, you either liked them or you didn’t. Everybody has something by Rick James in their collection. These bad boys actually had very nice voices on slow and mid-tempo cuts.

I love Rick James singing Oh What A Night (1984) and Happy (1982) with Teena Marie.

And who can forget Rick with crooner Smokey Robinson on Ebony Eyes (1983)? That song also had a pretty nice video to go with it. I also love his voice on Moonchild (1985).

Now this guy was the one Rick James would study before he became “Rick James.” Larry Dodson, lead singer of The Bar-Kays, has a voice that makes you want to, well, put it like this–I’m sure there are a whole lot of Anticipation (1983) babies out there!

Now on Running In and Out of My Life (1979), Larry doesn’t sing lead, but his “oooh babies” in the background makes you want more of him.

Rick James and Larry Dodson may not be as “pretty” as the Teddys of the world, but they definitely have an appeal!

Unfortunately, we lost Rick in 2004. But Larry Dodson is still with us (and is quite handsome these days!), and The Bar-Kays still perform. They recently performed for the troops in Iraq along with fellow funk bands Confunkshun and The Dazz Band.

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