Song Of The Day 8/17/2016: Betty Wright – “Secretary”


The Hidden '70s, Part 2 – Forgive me for loving this song. It's a cascade down from my great admiration for Betty Wright, best known for her crossover smash "Clean Up Woman," which thematically is very, very close to "Secretary" (#62, 1974). I don't agree with the practical advice Ms. Wright dispatches via the male songwriters of both Secretary" and "Clean Up Woman," who were Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke. If the name of Ried, who died earlier this year, turns on a light in your head, then it's probably a neon street light hanging over a dilapidated strip club on the blue-collar end of Sunset Strip, because Reid's alternate persona was Blowfly, one of the filthiest, most offensive comedians of his time. Very funny, but filthy and offensive. Politically, socially, sexually and chemically incorrect, Blowfly was.

That's another story. Reid and Clarke were songwriters first, writing a lot of hits and eventually finding a groove at Miami's TK Records, where KC & the Sunshine Band created some of the most misunderstood disco records ever recorded. That too is another story. Reid & Clarke scored gold when Betty's "Clean Up Woman" hit paydirt in 1972. The basic admonition there was for wives to hold on to their husbands, lest an opportunistic other female catch you napping on your womanly duties and steal the guy from under your wings. "Secretary" took the exact same message to the workplace and got even crueler to the woman stuck at home:
It's very ordinary for the secretary
To take a man away from his wife
Girls, we make it necessary for the secretary
To put a little joy in his life
She takes the time to listen
To what he has to say
While all you do is nag him
A thousand times a day
Her hair is always pretty
And her clothes are always stylish
But you greet him with your hair in rollers
And that's outdated and so childish
Holy 3-speed blow dryer, that's some harsh admonishing we got up in here! Suddenly the last four seasons of Mad Men start to make sense to millennials. 

Uh... well, first things first: Betty Wright is wonderful and sings the hell out of this one. But for the record, I've never had a secretary. I learned to type at age 5. So I never needed a Kelly girl to type up my zines. And sweet Jesus, the self-loathing is strong in this one: "We make it necessary"? "All you do is nag him"? "You greet him with your hair in rollers... and that's childish"? It's not childish! It's DIY cosmetology! Ow. The blame-shifting in this song has always made me feel very uncomfortable. 

For the record -- well, nobody uses hair curlers anymore (they actually are outdated, though I remember seeing my mom use them well past 1974). But if my wife did, I wouldn't consider it childish. I would consider it frugal. The balance of our relationship does not hinge on whether she answers the door looking like a chorus girl in "Beauty School Dropout." We've moved past that. Actually I thought we'd moved past that since before 1974, but my memory's hazy. It's all that nag-nag-nagging.

Anyway. Um, the opinions expressed in this song do not necessarily reflect those of the proprietor of this blog. The beat's sick though.

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