Song Of The Day 1/22/2015: Charles Wright - "Keep Saying (You Don't Love Nobody)"

Northern Soul Week: I realize I do this a fair amount, and I get hypocritically annoyed when I see other online writers do it: In reference to an influential musician who’s been around a long time and has done almost nothing that wasn’t great, yet never touched the sparkly oval of superstardom, we scribes put a bicycle tire pump over a high flame, stick the end of the tube into our mouths, have a trusted friend pump away as we fill our lungs with saline aggravation, then rush over to our workstations and start flailing around the keys: “WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT (ARTIST NAME HERE) THERE’S NO JUSTICE IT’S ALL A FRAUD AAAAH.” It’s unbecoming.

Having said that, I really wish more people would care about Charles Wright. His best-known stuff came during his leadership of the 103rd Watts Street Rhythm Band, like the incomparable “Express Yourself.” They should have italicized the “Rhythm” part of their name, as they made some extraordinarily tight and bracing funk grooves in the late ’60s that were just a little ahead of their time. It’s a pretty good bet they were the funkiest band in L.A. in their heyday.

Wright was also a great meat-and-potatoes singer, maybe not the same fiery spirit of his hero James Brown, but with a lot of flourishes and internal rhythms unique to him. “Keep Saying (You Don’t Love Nobody),” which predates the Rhythm Band by a year or so, shows that off, especially in the constricted squeak you hear on the word “Keep!

By the way, there are conflicting reports as to whether Wright was the uncle of the late Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E from N.W.A., who sampled “Express Yourself” for their 1988 song of the same name. Wikipedia says he Charles is Eric's uncle, but there’re a couple of obscure web pages who directly cite him saying he wasn’t. I’m inclined to believe the latter, but you choose whatever fits your immediate needs.
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