FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Great General Johnson

General Johnson died last week. He wrote the first great rock’n’roll song not about rock’n’roll itself exactly but about why the music would prevail. And he wrote a ton of other stuff, though that one and “Patches,” his deeply affectionate reminiscence of hard times in the rural south, got the attention.

It Will Stand” was a prophetic voice in its way, as much as James Baldwin’s was. “It swept this whole wide land / Sinkin’ deep in the hearts of man.” Grown-ups must have thought he was nuts. It was 1961. Rock’n’roll was out of fashion since … oh, maybe the plane crash. Two years, might as well have been forever. Who else believed that music would have a comeback?

Every kid who heard it. I was ten, it never left my mind all through the crap about the Beatles, long hair, too simplistic….ten years of blah blah blah.

And that whole period at Invictus Records….man! At that point, he was the most powerful ally Holland Dozier Holland (who owned the joint) possessed.

In that time, the early ’70s, General Johnson wrote some of the greatest anti-war songs: “Men are Getting Scarce,” “Bring the Boys Home.” He wrote the greatest anthem of the down-low, “Band of Gold.” He wrote Laura Lee’s “Wedlock is a Padlock,” which Loretta Lynn ought to have covered. Not to forget Honey Cone’s rendition of his version of “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” which I actually like better than Joe Tex or Oscar Brown Jr and I don’t hardly ever like anything better than Joe Tex. Beyond that, “Westbound #9″ was just classic, like an updated “Expressway to Your Heart” from the Motor City.

For his Invictus group, Chairmen of the Board, Johnson wrote about fifteen great songs including “Patches” (I think that they did it before Clarence Carter defined it.) The Chairmen also had a stage act that is totally under-rated, with wild ass Harrison Kennedy adding a P-Funk thing. I remember him racing through the streets of some theater, in NY or Detroit I can’t remember, a la Shider, only wearing lime green jockey shorts instead of the diaper.

I interviewed them for Creem but can’t remember what I wrote. Maybe nothing. I was taking it in, but maybe not ready to spit it back out.

It was one thing to see Funkadelic, a black rock band, but it was another thing for that kind of outrageousness to pop up with vocal groups. It made me ready for Labelle and Sylvester, probably.

Then all those beach music records, a steady stream of them it seemed like, as they worked the Carolina beaches. Just dance grooves—I never found a great song in any of those various albums they did for little labels down there. Never found any bad songs, either. Which is tougher than it might seem.

To me, General Johnson was a giant. A ton more interesting than a sometimes-inspired hustler like Solomon Burke.

Probably that’s just my problem but…what if it isn’t?

DAVE MARSH (along with Lee Ballinger) edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

More articles by:

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 02, 2020
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
The Dark Secrets in the Fed’s Last Wall Street Bailout Are Getting a Devious Makeover in Today’s Bailout
Jason Hirthler
The Temple of Self-Gratification
Eve Ottenberg
Prisons are a COVID-19 Petri Dish
P. Sainath
What We Should Do About COVID-19
Rev. William Alberts
The Coronavirus Rained on Trump’s Easter Charade
Stephen Corry
It’s Time to Clean Ecofascism Out of Environmentalism
Binoy Kampmark
The Swedish Alternative: Coronavirus as a Grand Gamble
Rebecca Gordon
The Future May Be Female, But the Pandemic is Patriarchal
Thomas Knapp
By The Time We Notice We’re Hungry, It May Be Too Late
David Rovics
An Open Letter to My Landlord #CancelRent
Simone Chun
Appeal for Humanitarian Diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula
Liu Jian
How COVID-19 Changed Our Lives: a Report From Beijing
Dean Baker
The Return of Infrastructure Week
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Feds to Stop a Project That Will Kill 72 Yellowstone Grizzly Bears in Wyoming’s Upper Green and Gros Ventre Rivers
Elliot Sperber
Plague Days
April 01, 2020
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
No Pandemic-Related Pause? VA Privatization Leaves Veterans Waist Deep in Another Big Muddy 
Kenneth Surin
The UK and Covid-19 Crisis
Jack Wareham - Dylan Burgoon
“Whose University? Our University!” The Struggle for a COLA at UC Berkeley
Erik Molvar
Oil industry Exploits Pandemic as Excuse to Dodge Federal Regulations, Fees
Robert Jensen
Apocalypse, Now and Forever
Jake Johnston – Kira Paulemon
COVID-19 in Haiti: the Current Response and Challenges
Jen Moore
Guatemalan Water Protectors Persist, Despite Mining Company Threats
Danny Shaw
“The Coronavirus is Man-Made:” the Conspiracy Theory Trap 
Nafeez Ahmed
Former WHO Director: 8-Week Suppression Strategy Could Stop US COVID Crisis in Its Tracks
Frances Madeson
Death Camps in the Making: New York’s Prisons During a Time of Pandemic
Clark T. Scott
The White House and the CDC are United in Stupidity
George Ochenski
What Does COVID-19 Have to Do With Industrial Pollution?
Norman Solomon
Trump’s Mass Negligent Homicide Doesn’t Let Democratic Leaders Off the Hook
Scott Owen
Another New Peace
Elizabeth Schmidt
Lessons From Africa: Military Intervention Fails to Counter Terrorism
Greta Anderson
What’s the Hang Up on Releasing Adult Lobos?
Ted Rall
The Speech Trump Must But Cannot Give
Marshall Sahlins
Trumpty’s Country
March 31, 2020
Jonathan Cook
Netanyahu Uses Coronavirus to Lure Rival Gantz into ‘Emergency’ Government
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
Growing Xenophobia Against China in the Midst of CoronaShock
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Chernobyl Moment: the US May Lose Its Status as World Superpower and Not Recover
Roger Harris
Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela With Nacro-Terrorism
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Has America Reached Its Endgame in Afghanistan?
Thomas Klikauer
COVID-19 in Germany: Explaining a Low Death Rate
Dave Lindorff
We’ve Met the Enemy and It’s a Tiny Virus
Binoy Kampmark
Barbaric Decisions: Coronavirus, Refusing Bail and Julian Assange
Nicolas J S Davies
Why is the U.S. so Exceptionally Vulnerable to Covid-19?
James Bovard
The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy
Michael Doliner
Face Off: the Problem With Social Distancing
John Feffer
The Politics of COVID-19
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail