In an odd kind of confluence of events, one that probably registers in about 12 brains in this whole damned planet, I noticed that there is a guy being sued for misrepresenting himself as an attorney for CAIR. His name is Morris Days.
Morris Dees is the guy who bankrupted the KKK. Morris Day is cooler than Santa Claus baby!
I'm one of those guys who wanted Morris Day to become a much bigger superstar than he did become. His attitude was my attitude, at least back in '82 when I was a freshman at State wondering how I could get into one of those camisole parties thrown by Phi Beta Sigma. In fact, I did go to one of those camisole parties and it was a bit too off the hook for me. But it was pleasing for me to discover that such things actually did take place.
Morris Day is one of those talented individuals who has a website that's five years old still with 'coming soon' parts. There's nothing quite so sad - except knowing in the same breath that he used to represent your social world. Andy Rooney remarked that he didn't even realize who Kurt Cobain was. Cobain had the advantage, like Princess Di, of dying young. Right about now it would be even sadder to see what they would have eventually turned out to be in their fifties. And so it must be with Morris now that he's not, what he wanted to be, Donald Trump Black Version.
When that song came out, back when Morris was a big star, as silly as it sounds, that was quite a miraculous thing to think about. Back in those days, Barry Gordy who owned half of the black slaves entertainers in Hollywood was saying to hell with MTV and music videos - that it was a trend and black people wouldn't respond to flashy videos. Well, except for Stevie. If Stevie wanted a video then it was OK. But the idea that black and white audiences would go for videos of black artists and that such a thing would sell records and concerts.. well there was an industry consensus that this was something neither black artists nor audiences could afford. Morris Day was bodacious enough to record Ice Cream Castles and break through lots of frozen mentalities about race. But he was just that kind of off the wall dude, managing to be classy and subversive at the same time.
Day should have been rich. He held a grip on my generation which was as substantive as Jay-Z ever had on his. I don't know how many parties have been had based on ideas in Jay-Z records, but I have a feeling that Hova just bought the whole girls and their camisoles, whereas Morris, Jerome and The Kid used wit and candor. Day seduced, all the rest of the rappers bullied women into submission. And, as quite as it's kept, I'm hard pressed to think of anyone else who moved the party scene with such finesse and intelligence after the end of Day's salad days. They all became sweaty crooners like Keith Sweat, Orange Juice Jones or Al B Sure, or just little cut-up nasty rudeboys like Jodeci and all the clones around Johnny Gill. Now I'm not really going to say anything bad about Boyz II Men, except that - well they only could rock the party with one song MotownPhilly. After Morris Day fell off, the R&B Party did not come back until Missy Elliott. OK? Yeah there was a little New Jack Swing, but it didn't really last more than two years. Admit it.
Now what I have to admit is that Morris Day kicked the majority of ass for four years around my collegiate days, when time moved slow. So they will always be outsized in my mind, especially for that particular time in my life when I used to rent KITT looking Firebirds and cruised down to San Diego State to front on the locals. And yeah actually Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam rocked the party even harder. BUT. Morris Day and the Time were the last huge R&B party band of all time. And yes they crossed over. I'm trying to think of another band since that has actually got people dancing a new dance with a song about the dance. Not Missy Elliott. She saved it, I've already acknowledged that. Crunk all you want, but what kind of audacity you had to have to make a song about an Oak Tree and make it a dance? That's energy.
The Walk, The Bird, The Oak Tree. The brilliant percussion of 777-9311. That's stuff with sweetness and light that just doesn't happen any more. And it's too bad. Morris Day couldn't blow, and he didn't try. He couldn't rap, but the boy could talk, and he talked in his records improvising at a moderate clip that made all of the 'owws' and 'aawws' of the previous Funk era instantly tired.
The classic in all of this - of Morris Day at the absolute quintessence of game was a single called Tricky. It was a stripped down version of the beats to Prince's Irresistable Bitch, and you have to ask which was the chicken and which was the egg. There was also Cloreen Bacon Skin that almost worked on Prince's Crystal Ball, but it was an extended variation on the theme that was only good enough to be mixed into a good DJ's rep. Speaking of which... that's what killed The Time. It was the beat. Once DJs had the beat at their disposal, nobody needed a band. And without a band, there was no need for a front man. Goodnight Morris.
What we will never know is how the band exactly disintegrated and what must keep certain people awake nights thinking about how they might have been Jimmy Jam or Terry Lewis. They survived the death of the R&B band in the late 80s. The whole thing became a producer's game - and that became clear by the time we had Rob Bass and the Beasties. Jam & Lewis got Janet and the rest is history.
But I still think of Morris Day as the last of his kind. That reminds me. I'm going to buy Pandemonium.