Saturday, February 28, 2009

Black History Month is almost over. I'd better make this quick.

Chicago's Black Ensemble Theatre has previously produced musical revues like Memphis Soul: The Story of Stax Records and I Am Who I Am: The Teddy Pendergrass Story (Pendergrass was listed as "the late soul star" in the Chicago Reader in the fall of 2007 in its one-sentence preview of the play—I promise I would've caught that if it had come across my desk). Their latest production is I Gotcha: The Story of Joe Tex and the Soul Clan, which focuses on the Texas-born soul singer, born Joseph Arrington Jr., and fellow "Soul Clan" performers Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett, and Solomon Burke. Unlike Pendergrass, Tex really is "late"—he died in 1982 at the age of 49.

The song of his I know best is "I Gotcha," a stomp-and-shout firecracker from 1972 whose chorus was borrowed by rapper Def Jef for 1989's "Give It Here." I love "I Gotcha," but it's one of the most sexually aggressive songs I've ever heard, as is "Give It Here." The object of affection should get a restraining order, but while she's waiting for the judge to grant one, a can of Mace will suffice. Here are the lyrics:

I gotcha (Uh-huh, huh)
Ya thought I didn't see ya, now didn't ya? (Uh-huh, huh)
Ya tried to sneak by me, now didn't ya? (Uh-huh, huh)
Now give me what you promised me
Give it here, come on!

You promised me the day that you quit your boyfriend
I'd be the next one to ease on in
You promised me it would be just us two
And I'd be the only man kissin' on you

Now kiss me
Hold it a long time, hold it
Don't turn it loose now, hold it
A little bit longer, now hold it
Come on
Hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it
Now ease up for me

You made me a promise and you're gonna stick to it
You shouldn't have promised if you wudn't gonna do it
You saw me and ran in another direction
I'll teach you to play with my affection

Now give it here
You never shoulda promised to me
Give it here
Don't hold back now
Give it here
Don't say nothin', just give it here
Come on
Give it here, give it here, give it here, give it here
Give it to me now, good God, hey, I gotcha!

Any man can understand the frustration of being teased along by a woman who hints you're next in line, then reneges on the deal. (A guy like Prince Charles understands it in a different way.) But once it's clear your oral contract isn't going to be honored, you have to move on. You can't threaten her. You can't call her names. You can write a song about her, and it doesn't hurt if you make it irresistibly funky, but keep the sexual menace to a minimum. Otherwise you're no better than the Jonas Brothers. Sure, they appear squeaky clean on the surface, but with a song title like "Live to Party," you know they're trouble. (They haven't covered "I Gotcha" yet, but they do cover Shania Twain's "I'm Gonna Getcha Good" on their latest album, Music from the 3D Concert Experience.)

Eddie Murphy used to joke that Teddy Pendergrass "scares the bitches into liking him" with his forceful baritone, but it's not a foolproof method. I would ask Teddy what his secret is, but I read somewhere that he died. (I gotcha.)

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