White Men Can't Rap

But they talked your ear off about war, morality and patriotism in the '60s. Is Young America again ready for More Talk, Less Music?

"An Open Letter to My Teenage Son" (1967) -- Victor Lundberg

A Grand Rapids, Michigan, news reader opens up a dialogue with his rebel son that allows him to get every last word in. Dad's pretty flexible on long hair and beards, as long as you believe you're emulating Thomas Jefferson or Abe Lincoln and are willing to fight for your country to express this statement of personal freedom. And if said son agrees to judge all adults as individuals, he will not judge all teenagers as "drunken dope addicts and glue sniffers."

Dad is even pretty open about the God-is-dead issue: "This is a question each man must answer for himself," but reminds us "God is a guide and not a storm-trooper." Good, that really needed clearing up.

Senator Everett Dirksen: A wrinkly teen idol who got the word "gallant" on Top 40 radio.
Senator Everett Dirksen: A wrinkly teen idol who got the word "gallant" on Top 40 radio.
Johnny Sea: Will you accept his challenge to sing "America the Beautiful" at a party?
Johnny Sea: Will you accept his challenge to sing "America the Beautiful" at a party?

But he is absolutely immovable on the subject of draft-card burners: "I would remind you that your mother will love you no matter what you do because she is a woman and I love you too, son. But I also love this country and the principles on which it was founded. If you decide to burn your draft card, you burn your birth certificate at the same time. From that moment on, I HAVE NO SON!" Someone cues the Amen chorus and we wait for the answer disc.

"A Letter to Dad" (1967) -- Every Father's Teenage Son

This record proves that in retrospect Meathead was every inch as dumb as Archie Bunker. Our soft-spoken over-folk-music son is insufferably condescending toward Dad ("You use the phrase 'fight for the right' two times in your letter") and, after agreeing to disagree, tells Dad if he decides to burn his draft card, then "Dad, it will be you who burn my birth certificate. And even though you stop calling me son, I'll never stop calling you Dad." Or stop hitting up Dad to wire money to Canada!

"Don't Blame the Children" (1968) -- Sammy Davis Jr.

So expansive was the generation gap at this point that the Rat Pack adults at Reprise enlisted a black man to go see what 's reeeally bugging the kids. But what did Sammy get when he befriended the kids? Did they invite Sammy to play Woodstock? Or Wattsstax? Or Watkins Glen? No to the third power. Did the Chambers Brothers invite him to jam? Not on your life. All he got out of this youth cultural exchange were a lot of peace medallions, an embarrassing wardrobe and a No. 1 hit with an excruciating piece of dung called "The Candy Man." No one knows what it's like to be the Sam man, behind one eye.

"What the World Needs Now"/"Abraham, Martin and John" (1971) -- Tom Clay

What the world needs not, but got anyway, is this six-minute and 10-second sound collage that superimposes sound bites of boot camp drills, the Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and Tom Clay's quizzing of a preschooler on the subject of bigotry and prejudice over the schlockiest Vegas-styled medley of the Dionne and Dion hits. This odd recording was issued on MoWest, Motown's West Coast label, and it was thankfully blocked from going any higher than No. 8 by more reasonable pleas for social reform from the Detroit parent label, like Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" and Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes."

"Once You Understand" (1971) -- Think

Leave it to a studio aggregation that calls itself Think to concoct the most thoughtless spoken-word disc ever. "Things get a little easier," sings a Kermit the Frog-ish male a cappella voice, "once you understand." Then the entire Ladies Garment Workers Union is procured to clap hands and sing this doggerel behind him and the various parents-versus-kids vignettes Think has staged.

Dad badgers son to get a haircut. Son tells him it won't change anything. Mom grounds daughter instead of letting her go in a bad neighborhood. Mom goes back to nag son about wasting his time with friends. Son sasses, "What about your bridge club?" "That's different," she backpedals. Gotcha, mom! One down, one parent to go.

Cut back to Dad calling son stupid for not working 12 hours a day like Dad did when he was a kid. "There's more to life than joining a group and playing a guitar," he gruffs. "Yeah, Dad, what is there to life?" That shuts Dad up, and that horrendous song gets cut off when a police officer informs Dad his son just overdosed. Here the actor playing Dad starts crying. Not like Michael Jackson "She's Out of My Life" crying. We're talking girly-man bawling while Kermit picks the worst possible moment to taunt him a cappella again, this time with heavenly reverb. What's the lesson here? If Dad hadn't belittled his son for playing a guitar, would he have lived a drug-free life? Or would he grow up and form Think?

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