Sometimes song lyrics can be funny, sometimes corny, sometimes unbelievable, sometimes just good, but in any case, memorable.
That crossed my mind while listening to a recent song sung by Usher titled “Lovers and Friends.” (Actually, it is by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, but Usher does all the singing.)
At one point rap star Ludacris comes in with a rap that always amuses me. He says, “You said I made you feel so comfortable. Used to play back then. Now you’re all grown up like Rudy Huxtable.”
That Rudy Huxtable reference gets me every time. Plus he stretches out the words comfortable and Huxtable. Funny!
We all know that Smokey Robinson is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of recorded music. However, even he is capable of a misstep.
For example, he once wrote a song for the Supremes titled “Precious Little Things,” featuring this awful line: “You’re life’s stopper when I’m heading down the drain.”
And speaking of water, on more than one occasion the male artist on the record professed to being so smitten that he would head for a lady’s bathtub. One of those artists was rapper Twista in his song, “Dreams.” With no shame in his game, he said, “Baby, I’ll drink your bath water, about a pint.”
JOE TEX, who made a lot of humorous records, including “Skinny Legs and All” and “I Gotcha,” once had a song titled “You Need Me, Baby.” In it he and another man are competing for the affections of a woman, and these two had been rivals since elementary school.
In extolling his virtues and trying to convince the lady that he is the best choice, Tex has the nerve to say, “Now I know can’t run the 100-yard dash as fast as he can, but I can provide for you, and fo’ or five children too!”
You are likely to remember when the Isley Brothers sang these words: “Gonna put your love in the layaway, coming back to get it on another day.”
Etta James clearly meant business with “Tell Mama,” one of her many classic hits. “That girl you had didn’t have no sense. She wasn’t worth all the time that you spent,” sings Etta. “She had another man throw you outdoes, now the same man is wearing your clothes.” (“Clothes” and “outdoes” rhyme.)
Interestingly, “Tell Mama” was originally recorded by its composer, Clarence Carter, as “Tell Daddy.” The lyrics were “femininized” for Etta.
Another soul songstress who really laid it on the line was Ann Peebles. She boldly proclaimed, “Got nowhere to turn to, tired of bein’ alone. I feel like breakin’ up somebody’s home.”
MAYBE ANGELA BOFILL was being a bit of a naughty girl when she recorded “Too Tough.” We say that because the line she repeats goes, “He’s too tough for me, he’s from another scene. He’s too tough for me, I want him in between.”
And speaking of “soft core raunch,” back in the 1950s, the Dominoes had a hit with a song titled “Sixty-Minute Man.” Without being explicit, it said a lot:
“There’ll be 15 minutes of kissin’. There’ll be 15 minutes of teasin’. And 15 minutes of squeezin’. And 15 minutes of blowin’ my top.”
The Dramatics deserved a bad grammar award for singing, “I think that I have fell for you.” And worse was Barbara George, who in her big hit “I Know” sang, “I don’t want to be hurted anymore.” (“Hurted.” Can you believe that?)
The Staple Singers had a Top 20 hit with “Be What You Are.” But Pop Staples could never keep a straight face when he sang the line, “If you can’t afford caviar, don’t be ashamed to eat pork and beans.”
AND WHILE on the subject of straight faces, Barry White was one of the kings of lovemaking music. But some of his sexy lines were embarrassingly funny.
Such as, “You really look good to me in your baby blue panties.” And in another song he said, “I don’t want to see no panties. I want you just the way you came into the world.”
Betty Wright lost her man to a sexy teenager in “Babysitter.” She was caught completely off guard:
“This 16-year-old chick walked in, with a skirt up to her waist,” Betty sang. “She had a truckload of you-know-what, and all of it in place. I should have been aware of the babysitter. I should have known from the jump she was a man getter.”
And we will never forget Bobby Womack giving vital information to a lady he was in a troubled relationship with. “If you think you’re lonely now, wait until tonight,” he said.
Another great soul man, Johnnie Taylor, told interviewers, with tongue in cheek, that his massive hit, “Disco Lady,” was only about dancing. (Yeah, right!) Taylor gleefully sang about the lady on the dance floor “movin’ it in, movin’ it out, shovin’ it in,” etc., also informing us that he “liked that funky stuff.”
BILL WITHERS has always been a great wordsmith (“Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Use Me,” among others.) In “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” he had a confrontation with a woman he believed to be a cheater.
“A man we passed just tried to stare me down, and when I looked at you, you looked at the ground. I don’t know who he is, but I think that you do. Who is he and what is he to you?”
Later, he adds, “When I add the sum of you and me, I get confused and I keep comin’ up with 3.” And then he warns, “Before you wreck your old home, be certain of the new.”
Had to laugh at these words from Chuck Berry: “Well, I looked at my watch, it was a quarter to 2, she said she don’t, but I know she do.” (However, the line was deleted when “Reelin’ and Rockin’ was released.)
And we can’t leave out the words to Ray Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson: “Ain’t no harm to have a little taste, but don’t lose your cool and start messin’ up the man’s place. Ain’t no harm to take a little nip, but don’t you fall down and bust yo’ lip.”
What was Jr. Walker thinking when (for “Shotgun”) he wrote, “We’re gonna dig potatoes. We’re gonna pick tomatoes.” (What is that supposed to mean?”)
Let’s close this story with Prince.
“Kiss” is a great song, except when he says, “Act your age, not your shoe size.”