A Great American Music Lesson

Last month the nation celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Dayfirst authorized as a federal holiday by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. August 28 will mark 60 years since the civil rights icon delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the nation’s capital. According to some observers, King departed from his prepared text and, at the request of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, went full-on Baptist preacher:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that . . . one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Sixty years later, in effect, King’s dream has been replaced by a nightmare. The nation is divided into a perpetual victim class of “people of color” and an oppressor class of “white” people. 

Children, teens, and adults of pale pigmentation are consigned to oppressor status for physical attributes they can’t control, and without regard to their character. For evangelists of this view, the larger problem is something they call “whiteness.”

That means being proficient at matha discipline held to be inherently racistshowing up on time for work, getting good grades, and the whole concept of merit. This comes packaged as “white supremacy” but doesn’t apply to Joe Biden, who admired Senate boss Robert Byrd, the former Ku Klucker who voted against Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. More recently, Biden told blacks who failed to support him that “you ain’t black.”

For the woke mindset, black people of independent mind, such as Larry Elder, are “the black face of white supremacy.” More recently, Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali claimed that presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “uses her brown skin as a weapon against poor black folks and poor brown folks, and she uses her brown skin to launder white supremacist talking points​.”

And so on, pretty much 24/7, with support from the Biden Junta, establishment media, and the government education system. In this jihad of junkthought and racist hatred, forces outside of politics provide grounds for hope and change.

Americans in their teens, 20s, and 30s, in their explorations of the internet, are discovering the music of the 1960s, especially a duo known as the Righteous Brothers. With “brothers” in play, many assumed they were black. As it happened, the duo were not black and not brothers at all.

In the early 1960s in California, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, both born in 1940, were singers on the rise and after one performance a black Marine called out, “that’s righteous, brother.” Medley and Hatfield duly rebranded themselves and in late 1964 their rendition of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’” hit the charts, shot to number one, and over the years became one of the most played records of all time.

Performances are all over the internet and new generations are all over it. Consider 30-something YouTuber “AB the Kreator,” hearing it for the first time. This is “old school baby, this is throw-back, this is old-old,” so “let’s give these brothers the stage.”

After the first verse, AB proclaims “these brothers got soul.” Bill can “go low-low” and Bobby’s stratospheric notes emerge “from the deep barrels of the soul.” For AB, “these brothers are on fire.” The host wasn’t expecting them to be white but it was no problem and “I like that surprise.”

YouTuber MMBxMOB came across Bobby Hatfield’s live performance of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” in 1965. The black hoody-clad host digs it from the start, but when Bobby powers up “And the cotton is high,” the young responder has to run it back.

“Bobby got soul!” he says “Listen to Bobby.” When Bobby closes out, at the peak of his incredible range, the host proclaims, “this brother just caught the Holy Ghost!” Bobby’s skin shade never comes into play.

Also check out No Limit Twan, only 21, on his first response to the Righteous Brothers and Bobby Hatfield’s solo on “Unchained Melody.” The performance leaves Twan speechless and he can’t think of a similar vocalist today. As Twan’s site proclaims, “color don’t matter.” For Bill and Bobby, it never did.

Here they are in a live performance of “Night Time is the Right Time” with The Blossoms, a black girl group headed by the great Darlene Love. See how they all take turns on the lead vocal and together blow the roof off the place. The Brothers and Blossoms are hardly the first examples of color-blind collaboration.

In the 1950s, many music fans thought the Silhouettes (“Get a Job”) and the Monotones “The Book of Love,” were all white. Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” revealed them to be all black. Groups that some fans thought were all-black, or maybe all-white, turned out to be black and white.

These included The Crests (“Sixteen Candles”), The Marcels (“Blue Moon”), The Del-Vikings “Come Go with Me,” and the Impalas (“I Ran All the Way Home”). As it happens, Johnny Otis (“Willie and the Hand Jive”) was actually Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, the son of Greek immigrants, who one day simply decided he would be black.

In 1961, when they first heard “I’m So Hurt,” many thought Timi Yuro was black. In 1964, when they heard “White on White,” many believed Danny Williams was the same color as the title. Williams was in fact a black man once hailed as Britain’s Johnny Mathis.

In 1964, in the middle of the “British invasion,” Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield scored their first hit. A new generation is also discovering their feeling for the blues. 

Check out the response of De Real Adogg to the Righteous Brothers on “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” a Willie Dixon tune from the 1950s. For the young host it’s “so freaking good” and he’s “enjoying the ride.” As many a commenter has noted, talent and soul have no color. You either have it or you don’t—and the Righteous Brothers had it, big time. 

In similar style, As Dr. King explained in 1963, character has no color. It’s shameful that his dream has been replaced with a nightmare of racist hatred. Way back in 1950, Percy Mayfield saw where that was leading.

In “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” Mayfield urged heaven to “show the world how to get along, peace will enter when hate is gone.” But unless we put an end to “this damnable sin,” said Percy, “hate will put the world in a flame, oh what a shame.”

As “Agent Double-O Soul” Edwin Starr might say, much of today’s music has “no kind of soul.” Neither do those who classify people as privileged oppressors for their skin shade, and ignore the content of their character. The time has come for everybody to bring back that loving feeling because right now it’s pretty much gone.

Bill Medley turns 83 in September but he’s without Bobby Hatfield, who passed away in 2003.

Here they are on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, performing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” And check out Bobby’s live performance of “My Prayer.” As that Marine called out, way back in the day, “that’s righteous, brother.”

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images