One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show

…or, How a 2:AM distraction became an obsession.

I have been in a foul mood all winter. It hasn’t helped that Mother Nature also seems to have been in a pissed off mood. Seriously. It’s almost May and we’re still dealing with temperatures as low as 30°F a few nights this week. Will someone please make Ma Nature a cup of espresso or something?

When I’m in a foul mood, I tend to stay away from people. It’s a lot better that way. Otherwise I wind up snapping at folks for no reason. It’s not pretty. Like so many others, when I’m in a bad mood I turn to music. What usually works for me is Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979). For some reason, the Waters, Gilmore, Mason and Wright classic has a way with working out my aggression. It’s amazingly therapeutic. But I couldn’t seem to shake it this time. The winter was brutal. I still have a cold that just-won’t-go-away. On top of everything, cancer took three close friends within a two month period. It’s essentially why I haven’t been writing very much. Three funerals in such a short amount of time sends me right back to the early 90s, when everyone I knew was dying. I sat at my keyboard on more than one occasion to try to express the feeling of loss, but it was too overwhelming. I’d start a draft but then lose focus, which is what this post is about to do if I don’t guide it back to the point. 😉

On a mindless surf though YouTube, I stumbled onto Bette Midler’s cover of ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’ (Rose Marie McCoy, Charlie Singleton) It’s an old favorite. In this video, she’s performing it at the 1998 Billboard Awards.

It’s a fun song. Bette’s Studio version is better but, as with all of Bette’s live performances, there’s something about the attitude she projects on stage that brings a song to life. I guess it’s the same for most singers.

Because Bette Midler is a vocalist, she’s introduced me to many great artists. I’m always searching for the original singer of composer of any particular song she might have made popular. So of course I wanted to know the who, what, where, and maybe even the why of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show. The earliest version that I was aware of is the one made famous by the truly wonderful Big Maybelle.

Truly, Big Maybelle doesn’t get the attention she deserves.

My appetite whetted, I wanted to know more. Who was this Rose Marie McCoy? Did she record a version of One Monkey?  So… I checked everyone’s favorite source of misinformation, Wikipedia!

According to the Wiki page, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show was “recorded by Stick McGhee and His Buddies in 1950, credited to McGhee, released on an Atlantic Records in 1951″

Hmmm… It’s not at all like Big Mabelle’s version. It’s good in it’s own right, but where Big Maybelle’s classic is about a woman tellin’ her man, “Buh bye! Don’t let the door hit ya on your way out!”, Stick McGhee’s version is about making your way through life without letting things get in your way. The themes are similar, but… Now I was on a mission.

According to Wiki “…another version was recorded by Joe Tex in 1965. In 1966 it was covered by The Animals.”

Here’s Joe Tex…

…and here’s The Animals.

It’s hard to choose between the two. I can see the appeal of The Animals but I like the rawness of Joe Tex. The most glaring thing so far is that now there are three completely different versions of this song.

But wait, there’s more!

“In 1972 the all-girl group Honey Cone took its altogether different version to number five on the R&B singles chart” – Wiki 

Here is Honey Cone on the Sonny Bono Show

If those funky outfits aren’t enough, there’s a coked up DISCO version by Jessie Rogers. I’ll spare you. If you really want to hear it, you’ll have to click the link. I think it’s a little too peppy, If you ask me. 😐

So, what does the phrase “One monkey don’t stop no show” really mean? To me it’s fairly obvious. It’s another way of saying “Life will go on” or “This too, shall pass”. But could there be more? One could find himself deeply entangled within the interwebs, searching for a deeper meaning, but I gave it a go.

Curiosity killed the cat. …and kept this blogger up all night.

In their wordpress post, Yeah, But do you know what that song is actually about? #1 The guys at Old School Record Review put it perfectly. They wrote in part, ““one monkey don’t stop no show” is a perfect lyric for pop music because it shares so much in common with the music itself. It is ambiguous, emotional, catchy and supports introspection and interpretation.” They’re right, of course. Music is art and art is open to interpretation.

But what’s all this have to do with my pissy mood?

Haven’t you figured it out yet? Winter is over. We’re almost halfway through spring. Love and I are shopping for new plants for the tiny patch of concrete behind our tiny South Philly home.  With spring comes a new chapter. Hopefully a little brighter than the last, but it’s new. Life goes on.

PS: You really should navigate on over over to Old School Record Reviews and see what they’re up to. They did and excellent job exploring the meaning of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show lyric. I would have abandoned it here had it not been so essential to the point I was trying to reach.

Bonus Track! Here’s Bette’s Studio version, just for fun. 🙂

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EXTRA BONUS!

Pink Floyd The Wall (Full Album) 😀

 

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Dad wasn’t perfect, but…

My Dad wasn’t perfect, but neither am I.

This August will mark the ten year anniversary of my Father’s passing. He was 62 years old.

My Dad struggled to make a comfortable home for us. Along the way, teaching me never to be afraid or ashamed of the work you need to do in order to put a roof over your head, or food on the table.

In the 1970s, the economy was much like it is today. Dad was often out of work. On weekends you’d find my Father at flea markets, selling items he found at the curb on trash nights. He knew the Bulk Trash Pick-Up days of all the local municipalities. These were the days when you could put large items out on the curb for trash collection. You’d be surprised what people are willing to throw away. My Father was able to support his family like this for nearly a year. Though he hasn’t picked trash since the 1970s, he continued to buy and sell flea market items to supplement his income until the end of his life.

By the way – There is nothing wrong with picking through trash in order to support your family. The alternative is to resort to crime, or lose your home.

I’m proud of my Father for that. I credit him for my work ethic.

In August 2003, my Father had a heart attack. It was his third. His Doctors moved him from the smaller Delaware County area hospital to a larger Philadelphia area University Hospital in the hopes that access to more resources would help him recover more quickly.

Though cutting edge, the care wasn’t as personable as his local hospital. My Dad was not happy. Against my Stepmother’s wishes, he petitioned his healthcare team to relocate him. Though my Stepmother tried to keep my Father where he was, the Doctors relented. By the end of the week, my Dad was relocated to his local hospital.

I talked to my Dad on the phone that Saturday afternoon. He was concerned that I might be mad at him for choosing to return to the smaller hospital. I told him I wasn’t angry with him. I believed that he would receive better care at the larger University Hospital, but he is entitled to have his wishes met.

“You’re my Father”, I said. “I Love you.”

“I love you too”, he replied, and hung up the phone.

I didn’t give it much thought. But when the phone rang at 11:00pm, I knew. For some reason I just knew what I was about to hear. It was my Stepmother. My Father had just died.

After hanging up the phone, I got dressed and left my apartment. I didn’t want to be alone. The obvious place for me to go was a local watering hole that had been an important part of my life for almost two decades. I didn’t go there to socialize, or get drunk. I just wanted to be surrounded by people.

Through several interactions with people who knew my Dad was in the hospital, I processed this new information.

One acquaintance, who knew my Dad from the flea market circuit, revealed several stories told to him by my Father. Apparently, my Dad held me in high regard. He bragged to everyone he knew about every accomplishment in my life, no matter how small. The stories contained such details that I knew he wasn’t just telling me what I needed to hear.

My Dad was proud of me. I had never heard him say it. Just like, until that day, I had never heard my Father say I Love You. It was the first time I remember hearing my Father say I Love You to me. I was 38 years old, and I had never heard those words.

I spent the next few weeks in a fog. On one hand, I was sad. On the other hand, my Father’s last words to me were, “I Love You”. How was I supposed to process this?

I believe my Dad knew he was going to die. I believe he wanted to die close to home. I also believe his last words to me were intentional.

Whether true or not, my Father’s last words to me were, “I Love You.” Nothing can ever change that. And I will hold onto that for the rest of my life.

After all, my Dad wasn’t perfect, but neither am I.

FranksDadDennisGrandmotherAnnaHerBrotherDannyBW

My Dad smiling affectionately at my Grandmother (his Mother) during a family gathering.
My Grandmother never sat down. In this photo, she was probably setting out dessert and pouring coffee after one of her many delicious Sunday meals.
I got my love of cooking from her.
I miss them both.

Note: This post originally appeared on June 2012 at ADignorantium.tumblr it has been updated to reflect the passage of time.