Dr. John (YGtCTO Music #69)

Right Place, Wrong Time

Song written by Mac Rebennack and performed by Dr. John
(and yes, I know)

Apparently, my earliest memories of hearing this song must come from other people controlling the radio. Album-oriented rock dominated the taste of those with mastery over the radio dial, just as they were beholden to the disc jockeys and program directors at their preferred radio stations.

Just as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and other singers defined the American songbook, AOR programmers picked the songs that would define popular rock music going forward. They always mixed in Motown that they deemed appropriate, but that mostly enshrined the idea of Motown as its own wonderful thing. No, these rock gatekeepers made sure that we heard certain songs often enough that they became inseparable from the eternal cycle of summer and school.

Dr. John

They played the hits of the day, but there were always these songs that stayed and played for more than a decade. Of course, the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, and the Who all factored heavily in the mix, just like Buffalo Springfield, the Hollies, and Jimi Hendrix. Boston and the Eagles and Queen all pushed their way in as well.

what was Dr. John doing there? He was definitely weirder than Joe Walsh and more unexpected than Warren Zevon.

Being as close-minded as the average conservative radio talk show host (like most stressed-out youth), I drew my line at Dr. John. I liked the stuff on this side and Dr. John would sit on the other. Really, if the song hadn’t been played incessantly, maybe I would have come around sooner. My theory is that radio DJ’s loved the idea of having a song title available that could be squeezed into about a million one liners, all of them dumb.

Skip ahead a few years and I started chilling to Fats Domino and Little Richard. That led to the Nevilles and their various incarnations. Professor Longhair emerged and I was all over that.

And… we are back at Dr. John.

You can’t expect a child to have the knowledge of a man. Respect comes with knowledge because that provides context. Jugglers complain that audiences never applaud the truly difficult feats because they don’t know enough to appreciate them. I was perfectly happy to cast aside a segment of music.

Being in the audience is difficult. Artists want you there, but they also want to do their own thing and be appreciated for what they are creating. Inevitably, they assume some knowledge or context on the spectator’s part. When that doesn’t materialize, the entire artifice collapses.

Something strange has happened over the centuries as art has moved out of the palace through the salon and into the common parlance. The expanded audience has created expectations that cannot be met by an audience unseen and unknown.

It seems almost easy to say that you can’t have American music without New Orleans and my path of discovery was reasonable. But, really, how many other doors have closed in the same time?

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 95 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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