Friday, March 2, 2007


LET MY PEOPLE GO by Darondo.

The release of Eve of Destruction by (Oklahoma City's own) Barry McGuire may be the first documented case of "rocket envy" in the history of mankind. In the last verse of that famously cranky and odd hit, McGuire sang,

You may leave here for four days in space /But when you return, it's the same old place.
Rocket envy really took off after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in July 1969. "Giant leap for mankind"??? Come have a look at my broke down house and my hungry kids and tell me about a giant leap for mankind! Indeed, before it became one of the more hackneyed lines around, there was some great music wondering how if we could a man on the moon we couldn't do more for people here.

Probably the most famous of these songs is Whitey on the Moon by Gil Scott-Heron ("A rat done bit my sister Nell /and whitey's on the moon"). But there are lots of others, like Sign O' The Times by Prince ("Sister killed her baby 'cause she couldn't afford to feed it and we're sending people to the moon"). And the bitterness and resentment wasn't limited to the black community--step forward Lynyrd Skynyrd (Things Goin' On: " Ask them why they spend millions on the moon"), and more recently Drive-By Truckers' Puttin People On The Moon ("Double Digit unemployment, TVA be shutting soon / While over there in Huntsville, They puttin' people on the moon").

So that brings us to Let My People Go by Darondo. This guy was more or less rediscovered a few years ago by Gilles Peterson, and has had his entire recorded output (just nine sides) re-released as "Let My People Go." The title track has some of the best elements of early 70s funk and soul. The first sounds you hear are a simple bass lick and a metronome (in a "There's A Riot Goin On" style). Add to that the live drums (and in an endearing, ramshackle touch, a very occasional handclap doubling up) and a couple guitars and you've immediately established a menacing, loping groove (the vibe is not dissimilar to Sign O' The Times, really). Once those breathy horns come in, the stage is set for Darondo's high, nasally, drawling vocal--and he really does sound like a "street savvy Al Green," as one reviewer put it.

The second verse isn't much different from the first or third, but I do love it:
Man builds a rocket ship, / Take you to the moon, /
A billion dollar mission, just to bring back a piece of rock, /
We got starvation, panic over the land, /
And here's a fool in a rocketship, / Trying to be Superman.
One final comment. As much as I love the song, and not to take anything away from what I've said before, I do feel like the premise of the song isn't really carried through. There's bravado... but no real threat to his warning "You better let my people go." Every time I hear it, I automatically ask, "or what?" And I'm not really sure what the answer is. The pleading tone of the backing vocals "let em go let em go let em go" during the bridge seem to be more representative of the message, but anyway... Just enjoy the song! (Sorry for the late post today, and thanks to the ILM borg for a few song suggestions. Have a good weekend!)


Photo: Buffalo Bill (1).



corbett said...

I just wanted to add my own personal favorite (that I'm sure you omitted for brevity's sake)...Curtis Mayfield's:

"We're all built up with progress,
but sometimes I must confess,
We can deal with rockets and dreams,
But reality...
What does it mean? Ain't nothing said"

from "Freddie's Dead".

Bill said...

No, just forgot it initially. There are other, more oblique examples, like in Inner City Blues & Ball of Confusion. THe list could go on and on