It’s African-American Appreciation Month and sometimes even we get stumped by a musical question. Last week on “Arsenio Hall Monday,” we became consumed by Childish Gambino’s hit “RedBone” because it doesn’t include the word redbone in the lyrics. Given the actual lyrics, a more fitting name obviously would have been “Stay Woke.” Arsenio thought that “Redbone” might be the only song that didn’t include its title in the body of the lyrics but, we decided to do a little research and we came up with a few more examples:
“Dilemma” by Nelly. This song, released in 2002, was the third single from the album Nellyville. While in the studio recording “Dilemma,” Nelly decided to add a female vocal and immediately thought of Kelly Rowland. Since she was always my favorite member of Destiny’s Child, that decision posed no dilemma for me. But it’s “fo’ sho” neither of them utter the word throughout the song.
“Love’s Holiday” by Earth, Wind & Fire. From their 1977 All in All album, “Love’s Holiday” was written by the late Maurice White and Skip Scarborough, who also passed away. Scarborough also wrote “Love Ballad” by LTD, which is also on this list. You may not recognize this song by its title…but the lyrics are definitely EWF: “Would you mind/ if I looked in your eyes/ and got hypnotized/ and I lose my pride.”
“Love Ballad” by L.T.D. From the moment L.T.D.’s lead singer Jeffrey Osborne belted out the word “Yeah”, this song penned, by Skip Scarborough, was a hit. It spent two weeks at number one on the R&B singles chart in 1976. Some thought it should be called, “What We Have is Much More,” but nope.
“Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson There has to be a reason composer Shuggie Otis called this song “Strawberry Letter 23.” However, written for his album First Fight, we’re more familiar with 1977 version recorded by the late Louis Johnson and his brother George. But the song doesn’t refer to Strawberry 23 at all. “A present from you. Strawberry Letter 22.” Twenty three is not that hard to rhyme.
“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5. This 1982 rap song took a look at the harsh realities of inner city life. “It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” “The Message” was in the music…just not in the lyrics to the song.
“Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye In fairness, the words “Make Me Wanna Holler,” were in parentheses when this record was released in 1971, but “Inner City Blues” was what we DJs called it. “Crime is increasing/trigger happy policing/ panic is spreading/ God knows where we’re heading.” Sounds like it could have been written yesterday.
“Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang Sometimes known as the first official rap song, it ranked No. 2 on VH-1’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Recorded in a single take and released in 1979, it became more than a hit. It became an anthem. In fact, I’ll bet more people can recite its lyrics than can sing all the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige This 2001 hit was written by Mary J. and her brother Bruce Miller and Dr. Dre, among others. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the Best 100 Songs of the decade. It may not include the words family affair, but it did invent a some new words: “hateration,” “holleration,” and my favorite of all time “dancery.”
If we missed any, and I’m sure we did, please let us know! Happy African-American Music Appreciation Week. STAY WOKE!
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