If you ever hear I've been hit by a truck, a train, or a wheelbarrow, rush to the hospital and blast this in my ear: “Mother, Mother there's too many of you crying ...”
One line and I'm already yanking out my IV, then I'm dancing around the emergency room.
“Brother, Brother, Brother – there's far too many of you dying ...”
By now, I've checked out of the hospital, and I'm heading home.
Fifty years after I first heard those haunting words, with that searing musical accompaniment, I still feel compelled to stop what I’m doing and take flight with Marvin Gaye.
Some music does that to me.
(Mr. Gaye released his historic “What’s Goin’ On” album on Jan. 20, 1971.)
The ode to the angst of war and life in the United States still sounds fresh. After hearing it for the umpteenth time, I can still hear things in it I’ve never heard before.
I’m rounding the corner to my 73rd birthday. I’m old.
I watched most of the Grammy Awards last week.
Hardly a single tune during that entire three-hour-and-43-minute broadcast encouraged me to pat my feet.
Did I tell you I’m old?
This isn’t a commentary about the state of today’s music.
Well, maybe it is.
I watch a lot of YouTube videos of the recording artists of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s online. And I take note of the comments below them.
Without fail, self-identified young people comment about wanting today’s music to sound as good as the music from decades ago.
Young folks, too, appreciate harmony, melody, and accomplished musicianship.
“I know you wanna leave me. But I refuse to let you go. If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy, I don’t mind ‘cause you mean that much to me,” said the Temptations when they sang “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” in 1966.
The Temptations were my musical heroes when I was a teenager.
As far as I was concerned, all of the other singing groups were on the J.V. team.
The Temptations would come on the radio and anything within reach would become my microphone.
At the dinner table, I'd snatch a drumstick from a turkey and make it a mike in my tireless quest to reproduce every Temptations move ever made.
My parents would have to wait until a song ended – so we could finish dinner.
David Ruffin, one of the Temp’s lead singers, was my favorite.
He was tall. I was tall. He was thin. I was thin. He wore glasses. I wore glasses. He could make women swoon when he sang. I wore glasses!
(The name David Ruffin isn’t familiar? “I‘ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day ...” That’s him.)
I first encountered Mr. Ruffin at the old Twin Coaches on Route 51 in 1967.
I’d hounded my parents into taking me to see the Temptations, and I was determined to get David Ruffin’s autograph.
Between the first and second shows, I decided I’d attack (with a pen and autograph book, of course).
He was sitting in a limousine. It was my chance to walk up, get his attention, and discuss my future impact on the greatest singing group in world history.
So what if I couldn’t sing a note. I was skinny and I wore glasses, doggone it.
Unfortunately, my plan of attack failed.
Mr. Ruffin saw me approach his limousine, so he turned completely around in his seat so he couldn’t see me.
He had no use for autograph seekers.
I was devastated.
I was so traumatized by the experience I haven’t been able to sing using a turkey drumstick since.
But there’s more.
In the mid-1980s, while working for Entertainment Tonight, I interviewed Ruffin and told him that story about the Twin Coaches.
I’d even taken my old autograph book to the interview.
“To Al, my man. David Ruffin,” he gladly wrote.
A few years later, Ruffin died of a drug overdose in Philadelphia.
He was only 50 years old.
“I know it might sound strange, but I wish it would rain.”
Edward A. Owens is a multi-Emmy Award winner, former reporter, and anchor for Entertainment Tonight, and 40-year TV news and newspaper veteran. E-mail him at email@example.com.