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Dave Godin's column for Soulful Kinda Music. Issue 55


What people now tend to forget is that what we in Britain would define as “Northern Soul” never arrived ready formed, complete and finished, but gradually evolved from the various expressions of Blackamerican music that were on offer in the mid-60s. And, as always happens in any cultural field, the development often gets eclipsed by revisionist historians who often manipulate the facts (which often, they were not around to witness themselves) to fit a cosier and much more over-simplified concept. Soon to celebrate its 40th anniversary, The Twisted Wheel in Manchester was a pioneer in the field that was eventually dubbed Northern Soul, but in 1963, its programming was far more eclectic than would perhaps be the case now, simply because it had an awareness of, and a determination to access, the roots of Blackamerican music as it moved onwards into different styles. The term R&B in those days also had great significance and meaning for people, and what we later termed Soul was really only R&B in more sophisticated outfits. This development should not surprise anyone because if you know your Blackamerican history, it parallels the socio-political development of Blackamerica itself. The Wheel’s staunchest DJ, the late Roger Eagle, not only had immaculate good taste in music, but consistently played his hunches even if the first spins of a side appeared to elicit little response from the floor. How we need more DJs of his calibre instead of those whose only affection for the music was the degree to which it could be used to bolster their own insecure egos! So, happy birthday to The Twisted Wheel - you were a true pioneer and keeper of the faith! 


Sharon Davis is now a veteran fan of the music we love, and, beginning her writing career at “Blues & Soul” magazine, she has branched out over the years and written many books, mainly focused on her first love, “the Sound of Young America”. Her latest work is a biography of Stevie Wonder, and a particularly fine work it is too. Although always “in the corner” of those she writes about, Sharon doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it was, even if this means including a scurrilous piece of gossip I once passed on to her concerning The Soul Sisters. Published by Robson Books at £16.95, it is a compulsive read about one of the true phenomena amongst the many the music we love has given us. I was also particularly pleased to see that one of the people to whom Sharon has dedicated the book is the late Gloria Marcantonio who was also a stalwart in “The Cause”. 


Sad news continues to arrive with the death of Ed Townsend, a man who made a tremendous contribution to Blackamerican musical culture mainly as a composer, but also as a performer. He died on August 13th, which, by an ironic twist of fate, was the same date, in 1982, that Joe Tex died. He will be greatly missed. 

Finally, Randy Cozens’ death was a particularly bitter blow, and I posted the following tribute to this very special guy’s memory on Ady Croasdell’s website: 

The trouble with growing older is that you experience more and more bereavements. The latest loss of Randy Cozens was particularly bitter and painful because not only did we share a passion for the music of Blackamerica, (the element that initially brought us together), but we shared so many other beliefs too. Both born and bred on the wrong side of the tracks in London, when we first met we not only recognised the Soul brother in each other, but the outlaw too, and we both remained anarcho-rebels; mistrustful of authority, our “betters”, organised shams like religion, as well as the piss-artists who, once all element of danger has passed, seek to appropriate elements of the “outsider” culture and bring it under their control. A parallel experience in fact to what has happened to Blackamerica since the Civil War was fought to preserve the Union, and black emancipation added as a politically opportunistic afterthought once the war was already a couple of years underway. 

In many ways, although we had so much in common, we were very different too. His approach to life was direct and virile, mine more discreet and pansified, but we both wore invisible boxing gloves, and spent most of our lives keeping them shining! But people develop in different ways and grow different characters through their life experiences, and provided you always remember that only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches, you can always respect one another no matter how disparate you may be with regard to peripherals. 

When it came to the music of Blackamerica we were both driven; driven by a searing sense of injustice that such artistry should be overlooked and ignored by those who controlled the media, and alongside this too was the simple solidarity with all oppressed minorities whom the privileged think were born just to serve their over-inflated egos. Our backgrounds ensured that the politics of the streets was never lost on us, and, more importantly, could never be bought off. Our shared sense of humour was also scandalous. 

Our love of THE music however was THE constant factor that bound us in friendship. He not only knew exactly what sort of side would flip me out, but, as I once remarked in passing conversation with Ady Croasdell, “I think Randy is one of the few people who really understands me and my funny ways.” 

He approached his end without fear and with stamina, which didn’t surprise me in the least. We were even able to joke about it a little, and I told him that if there WAS anything afterwards, he was to hang on at The Gates until I got there, and we’d sort them out together, and in the meantime he was to look after all the departed companion animals that have featured in my life and tell them I’ll be joining them one day. 

We once spent ages discussing the impact Maxine Brown’s record “All In My Mind” had on each of us when we first heard it. It was for both of us a seminal moment in our cultural history, and it was wonderful that, a fortnight before he died, we were both able to spend an evening with Maxine in London. She knew he was her number one fan, and the evening was tinged with great sadness for her too since we knew Randy didn’t have much time left. But, it is a person’s LIFE we must remember and celebrate, and Randy’s life touched and enriched so many other people’s lives. Not least of all my own, and I feel blessed that our paths crossed; I shall remember him always with love and affection; and always regard him as one of life’s true Soul treasures.