Song Of The Day 4/6/2015: Margie Joseph – "Stop! In the Name of Love"

We Need to Talk: An occasional element of ’60s and ’70s R&B that I have a profound weakness for is the long-form spoken word introduction. I’m not necessarily talking about the basso profundo pillow talk of Barry White that dissolves into disco lovejam – though there’s nothing at all wrong with that – but rather the statements of purpose, the accounting of principle and belief, be it social, romantic or political. I’m not aware of any other microforms of pop music that went out of the way to establish a context for the song that follows. Certainly performers in folk music did, since storytelling was the primary objective of that form (Lonnie Donegan’s version of “Rock Island Line”). But not after the advent of the sub-three-minute radio hit.

I don’t know who did it first, but I like to think it was Isaac Hayes with his eight-minute preamble – he speaks for eight minutes, then gets around to singing the song – to his cover of “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” from the Hot Buttered Soul album. That, I think, was the first instance of such existential disclaimers fronting what was assumed to be a piece of pop music. Hayes became so identified with intent, layered table-setting that many of his subsequent albums featured at least one or two “Ike’s Raps.” They were one-act plays. They’d stop parties. They probably interrupted a seduction or two, which Barry White was trying to counteract.

We’ll get back to Isaac later this week, because I thought I’d give you six days’ worth of some of my favorite R&B monologues (plus a couple I just discovered that were, well, let’s say, notable). Let’s start with something easy: Hayes’ Stax/Volt label-mate Margie Joseph, who reached across state lines to Motown for her version of “Stop! In the Name of Love.” This one’s pretty simple: Margie overhears unpleasant gossip about herself and her man, being spoken by two acquaintances who mysteriously did not see Margie get on the bus. Either that or they’re just ignoring her. I don’t know how gossip works on mass transit.

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