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Spinning Wheel, Got to go 'Round...

“Let’s go back, let’s go way back, let’s go way on way back when…” as Aretha Franklin said in her unforgettable 1968 hit, “Think.” That song happened to have come out the same year that I did and it’s one that I remember from, well, way on way back when. It’s not the very first song that I remember, though. When you think back, way back, way on way back when to the earliest songs that you remember ever remember hearing in your entire life, which ones come to mind? Can you narrow it down to a single song? The first blues songs I remember hearing were BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” and Bobby Blue Bland’s “Poverty,” courtesy of a TV commercial for a blues compilation album that appeared during a Cleveland morning show that we picked up each school day morning of my first grade year, static and all, courtesy of the big fish-skeleton-looking aerial antenna that perched precariously on our roof. That was the first delightful bite from the blues bug which, 48 years later, can clearly be considered terminal.

The very first song I remember ever hearing in my life is “Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat & Tears, which came out in 1969. There were a few others, but this one stands out; my brother played it all the time and some of my earliest memories were of my mom snapping her fingers, smiling, and singing, “What goes up…must come down…” to which I would reply with a gibberish version of spinning wheel go got to go 'round. The “Ride a painted pony on the spinning wheel ride…” line was more of a stand-out to me, though; as a toddler, the prospect of a painted pony and/or a ride had my complete attention. Blood, Sweat & Tears, whose music was a staple of my childhood, may have a rock ‘n’ roll heart and some jazz bones, but they bore some blues blood that coursed though their veins. They covered a blues song or two when I saw them live in the 90s, and their very own "Hi-De-Ho" tells the story in an a blues-infused way, as does their rendition of "God Bless the Child". David Clayton Thomas and a few other original members were on stage when I saw them in 1998 here in town, when they played a free outdoor show at Morley Pavilion in beautiful Mill Creek Park on a wonderfully warm summer evening. They closed with "You Make Me So Very Happy," making the entire audience so very happy.

This past December, I got to see them again at the Robins Theater. No original members were present but the original drummer still owns and directs the band and, as he said during the pre-recorded message that was played before the show, the musicians and the vocalist are hand-picked by him. They may not have been the original lineup and they may not be blues, per se, but I was definitely feeling it; the sound and essence of the band was righteously captured and delivered to an appreciate and enthusiastic audience via impeccable performances of well-known hits, lesser-known hits, and some new material, all of which was perfectly performed and immaculately arranged and, once again, closing with "You Make Me So Very Happy." In addition to it just being a plain ol’ good show, it was a wonderful walk down memory lane, going back, way back, way on way back when, to my very early introduction to life and to music, courtesy of my mom and my brother, both of whom found themselves a piece of the sky in June 2020 and November 2021. I miss them like mad but the music makes for a nice visit; spinning wheel, got to go 'round...

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