B is for “Betcha By Golly, Wow”

“You’re the one that I’ve been waiting for, forever now . . .”

It may not have been the pinnacle of pop musical expression but this song by the Stylistics in 1971 — along with so many other great songs from the soul groups of the 70s — still rings like a clarion call in my head. So many amazing groups — the O’Jays (“Love Train”), Spinners (“It’s a Shame”), the Chi-Lites (“Have You Seen Her”), and, of course, the Manhattans whose song “Let’s Just Kiss” didn’t just typify the genre but perhaps defined it for posterity.

The Stylistics (circa 1968)

This isn’t meant to be a photo album but there are some great photos available on all these groups. During their sometimes multi-decade careers, the hairdos, dress, and attitudes may have changed but the sounds were always sweet.

Chi-Lites The Chi-Lites, mid 70s

The Manhattans, a reunion picture The Manhattans, in a reunion picture

Was it a formula? Partially — sweet voices, absolutely nailed arrangements, and an elegant level of understatement that reversed, in some ways, the stronger rock influences present in 60s soul and gave us a break from the more frenetic funk tunes and the mindless factory beat of disco that would come a few years later. Actually, those styles may not have been possible without this more genteel phase of heavily orchestrated, musically strong, and vocally disciplined performances from these 70s soul male groups.

At least that’s how this pop maven and life-long singer experienced it. And for a guy who has about a million songs on his “top ten of all time,” this collection of music is right up there. Many others have taken greater pains to catalog and comment on this genre and there’s a great education waiting for you on the internet — “Have Google, will lose track of time.” To sharpen your search, here are a couple of worthwhile sites:

Black Ivory at Soul-Patrol.com

70s Pop and Soul at about.com

The spoken words at the outset of “Let’s Just Kiss” are as endearing as they are, let’s say, campy. My brother and I couldn’t get enough of this song and we’d always turn it up and speak over the lines, trying our best to be as sonorous and as heartfelt as the record. We’d start it off with some laughter behind the words but always with the anticipation of that first melody line — as welcome as a summer rain.

Many of these groups have stayed on the circuit, though it’s more often county fairs or revival concerts. God bless every one of ’em. I encourage each of you to pick a favorite group and do some research. There are a lot of compilation CDs and playlists out there that are sure to either transport you back to a beloved musical era or educate you young’uns on what can happen when talent, lyric, melody, production, and a “whole lot of soul” really come together.

One Response to “B is for “Betcha By Golly, Wow””

  1. Guys, I like the blog a lot — got some of the new Roger Manning Jr. info from here and I’m reposting it on my blog. You wanna swap links? Drop me an e-mail if it’s cool.

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