Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lowell And Gladys

I detest ironing but understand it's a necessary part of the human condition, as least as it applies to teachers. I try to do a bunch of it at once instead of spreading the process out. And when I do, I often listen to music on my laptop, coming from youtube where you can find almost every song ever recorded. Yesterday, as I made myself presentable one shirt at a time, I was in the mood for Gladys Knight and the Pips. I listened to a number of their songs; Midnight Train To Georgia, Neither One Of Us, (You're The) Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. Do you want to know something funny? Every time I get nostalgic for Gladys, I think of Lowell Siebert. A basketball teammate of mine at York College from nearby Henderson, Nebraska, Lowell would entertain us by singing in the dorm. He could simultaneously carry the parts of both Gladys AND the Pips. Lowell was good at it, in addition to being an excellent player/great guy and married now to the lovely Shannon. And he remains my chief memory link to one of the great soul singers/groups of all-time.... and I am grateful. 

My favorite Gladys Knight song is a toss up between Neither One Of Us and Midnight Train to Georgia but the edge goes slightly to the latter. But here's something I found out about it- the original title was Midnight Plane To Houston. It started with a call from a musician named Jim Weatherly to a friend in Los Angeles, actor Lee Majors, who would become The Six Million Dollar Man. But the phone was answered by Major's new girl friend, an up and coming actress from Texas named Farrah Fawcett, who would in several years become the star of Charlie's Angels. She told Weatherly, a former Ole Miss quarterback, that she was catching a midnight plane to Houston. Something just clicked in his brain and in forty-five minutes, Weatherly wrote a song with Lee and Farrah in mind as the couple in the narrative. Weatherly recorded it as a country-type ballad and then it was covered by Whitney Houston's mom, Cissy. Feeling it would be awkward having the same last name as the song, Cissy changed it to the current title and made it an R & B recording. From there, Gladys and the Pips, who were comprised of her brother and two first cousins, gave it their own special treatment. The rest is music history. Gladys and company, who were coincidentally Georgia natives, saw their smash hit live two weeks at # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as reaching # 1 on the soul charts. And it all started with a simple phone call.

As with many things in life, there was more to this song than met the eye. A random phone call, a soon to be famous couple, a catchy tune and emotional lyrics, and the right artists added up to an amazing story. My eighth graders are studying the story of Zacchaeus. Much of what they knew came from the Sunday School song which ended with Jesus telling Zacchaeus to come down from the tree so they could eat. But as I tell my kids, that rendition leaves out the meat of the lesson. Zacchaeus, a prominent tax collector in a wealthy city, was hated by his fellow citizens who were angry at Jesus' invitation. It also leaves out the public confession of Zacchaeus and his promise to make restitution and bless the poor with his riches. All that stuff would be too much from a child to absorb in Sunday School so we keep it on the happy side. But if we leave it there, we miss the bigger picture. We tend to be a surface society and at times, we stay on the surface with our faith and Bible study. There's so much more if we just dig a little more! I don't think of my folks when I think of Zacchaeus.... but I probably should. They taught me the story and I'm sure the song long before it was part of Sunday AM curriculum. I owe them, just like I owe Lowell. But Mom and Dad never could do Gladys justice, or shoot a jump shot. Thank goodness, we all have our gifts!

To watch an interview with Jim Weatherly about the writing of Midnight Plane To Houston, click or copy/paste the link below:

To hear Gladys Knight And The Pips classic version of Midnight Train To Georgia, click or copy/paste the link below:

Applicable quote of the day:
We all have a responsibility, and since I've been so wonderfully blessed, I really want to share and to make life at least a little better. So every chance I get to share the gospel or uplift people, I will take full advantage of that opportunity.
Gladys Knight

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

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