Feel Good live in 1972 on Soul Train is an awesome performance of an awesome song. I have always dreamt of being a Soul Train dancer, a dream that was shattered when I realized that most artists lip-synch on the show anyway. Yet, with Ike and Tina Turner I knew that the moves would be fierce and worth a click. I lucked out and caught a live show.
The close-ups of Tina clearly show that she could barely open her right eye. It was swollen damn near shut. Once I saw that, a homegirl rolling on the river had a much loftier protrusion, sitting watching the complicated energetic dance moves and precise lyrical steps. I imagined Tina getting away from that abusive man, and he being made to spend the rest of his natural black life looking for every which way to make amends to a whole generation of Soul Train fans who innocently came to see them on stage, and are confronted with a battered woman and a batterer!
Searching through the YouTube’s ‘related videos’ on the sidebar reveals a host of other famous, infamous and even legendary bits of showmanship, like Marvin Gaye, live and likely ‘under the influence’. Then there was this mysterious video called “SOUL TRAIN LINE - WE THE PEOPLE 1972.” The title was unfamiliar, and boasted of no star act, which heightened my curiosity to see what lie between the lip-synched acts. Besides, I consider Soul Train lines a quintessential aspect of any folk gathering, much like west African dance at weddings, baptisms, and funerals—the drums challenging the dancers challenging each other for a faster, funkier beat. This is the legend of the Soul Train Line, or even popularized line dances like the Electric Slide, all of which can be seen on YouTube these days.
Of course, the outfits from this ’72 performance would appear strange to viewers now. One sister had a blond Afro the shone like a halo. Those fly Afros seems to have come back in style in the meantime. Another sister wore, well, I am not sure what she had on, but it covered her from her platforms to neck. Her outfit had lines and circles like an abstract art canvas. Most folks wore such fitted clothes that one could never tell where tops and bottoms began and ended. Then there was some guy, I swear I saw a sissy, twirling his arms as if he was whirling a baton. This Soul Train dancer was leading cheerleading camp.
I am a bonafide soul searcher. I grew up on soul music on the car radio, at home, and in relatives houses. Soul music made home. And we LOVED soul music. Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Anita Baker, Stax Records the list is endless.
My aunt Shirley had anything George Benson ever put out; She kept a cupboard of LP’s, but Give Me the Night was usually sitting on the floor resting against the wall near her stereo. I loved looking at the plain looking black man pictured on the cover, wearing a simple pullover and an honest grin. My aunt Johnetta loved her some James Brown, and just as naturally, Prince. She adored JB’s leadership and considered him a maestro. My uncle Wayne had Morris Day and the Time, and still rocks Frankie Beverly and Maze Live! Eugene, a classmate at Oberlin who lived and worked with me in Seoul, could break down all the reasons why even white soul singers like Bobby Caldwell say “Aaih” in place of “I.” Additionally, I hear Fela in the background and imagine my father packing up his albums for his voyage to America; clothes, Gari, addresses and Fela albums all had to accompany him. This Feel Good video has taken me to all those places. This almost slight appearance on Soul Train was a funky kind of soul that I had not heard in a while. Listening too it again, knowing that this sister can barely open her left eye, leads me to soul searching, again.
Who are we to know life so intimately yet take it so carelessly? Who are we to judge the decisions of another when it is clear that their actions are based on self-love? Who are we not to draw those close to use nearer to us, especially when they are in need. Who are we not to empower one another to aspire to do better and to want more happiness out of our lives despite and perhaps in spite of our lots? Don’t it Feel Good the way Tina plucks her shoulders as the bassist strums and heaves. Feel the really good deep base down in your hips. Bend over and let that base get in you. Snap like she do’ er’time Ike tells the man to hit the beat. And what a beat! Stomp, like Tina stomps and know that this feels real good.