Daily Archives: July 5, 2015

Radio 54, side B, track 6: “Ebony And Ivory” by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, #30 on The Top 90 of the ’80s

Paul and Stevie - Ebony and IvoryOh, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, if only it were so simple, am I right?  Back when I recorded this off the radio, I probably did think it was that simple.  After all, the only frame of reference I had to race relations was this song and “The Cosby Show”.  There wasn’t anyone in my neck of the woods whose skin tone was darker than a farmer’s tan.  Until I saw a documentary in my Civics class in high school, I’d assumed that racism ended after the “I Have A Dream” speech.  At the time I recorded this song, which would have made me 14 at the time, I had met a total of two people who were not Caucasian, both of them at summer Bible camp, both of them ebony and both of them from the mysterious land of the Twin Cities.  Both of them were really great and funny guys, and yes, I did find them intriguing because of the color of their skin and the different way they spoke, but I think they were as mystified by all these white farm kids who smelled vaguely of cow and/or pig manure.

With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that there was a lot of racism in my little community.  It wasn’t hateful or even mean-spirited (I don’t think), it was just good old-fashioned ignorance by a bunch of people who SHOULD have known better, since it was also a fairly religious little community.  A memory that’s always stuck with me regarding just how ignorant and sheltered we were happened at Bible camp.  It was the talent show that they always put on during the last night of camp, and kids would get up to sing or dance or do a skit or some such.  And one of the guys from my dorm, this big, friendly, goofy, sweet guy who we’ll call Jerry, got up to tell a joke.  And it was a joke that started with “So this <N-word> is walking down the road. . .”  Keep in mind, one of my ebony brothers, we’ll call him Darren, was in attendance, and was actually sitting right next to me.  And while I was pretty ignorant of race relations, I did know that the N-word was not a word to be used.  In fact, most of the talent show attendees fell into a hushed silence.  Had Darren not been in attendance, maybe no one would have batted an eye, but he was, and eyes were batted.  Except for Jerry.  He was up there grinning and telling his joke.  Until the camp director quietly asked him to sit down.

Here’s the thing:  to this day, I don’t believe Jerry had any idea that he was being derogatory.  He got along great with Darren.  I don’t think he had a hateful bone in his body.  I think he’d just heard that joke and thought it was funny and had no idea what the N-word actually meant.  Of course, he could be one of the many I’ve met who considered Darren “one of the good ones” and so figured Darren would know he didn’t mean him.  I don’t know, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.  I know that when Jerry sat down, he had a confused smile on his face because he didn’t understand why the director interrupted his joke, and I don’t know that anyone had a talk with him afterwards.  I do remember feeling horrified when he said it, and I remember looking at Darren and Darren looking pretty unfazed by the whole thing, and I remember not knowing how I thought Darren should be reacting to it.

It was a small moment, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.  It probably lasted a minute, if that.  But it clearly left an impression.  And I would love to tell you that it was a defining moment of my life, where I became a shining beacon of anti-bigotry.  But I’d be lying.  I’ve laughed at jokes that I shouldn’t have, I’ve TOLD jokes that I shouldn’t have, and I’ve sat silently by while relatives have made some stunningly racist comments.  Hell, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, I know that I’ve likely made some stunningly racist comments, most of them borne of ignorance, but probably cringe-inducing nonetheless.

I don’t know what my point to all this is, Steve Wonder and Paul McCartney.  I think it’s that I hope that some day, some day in the near future, people will listen to this song and maybe even read this post about this song and think how quaint it was that people used to have any hang-ups whatsoever about the color of a person’s skin.

“Ebony And Ivory”

Ebony
And ivory
Live together in perfect
Harmony
Side by side on my piano
Keyboard
Oh Lord
Why don’t weeee

We all know
That people are the same wherever you go

There is good’n bad

In everyone

When we learn to live

We learn to give each other
What we need to survive

Together aliiiiive
Ebony
And ivory
Live together in perfect
Harmony
Side by side on my piano
Keyboard
Oh Lord
Why don’t weeeeee

<awesome Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney jam>

(Ebony)
(Ivory)
(Living in perfect harmony)

(Ebony)
(Ivory)
(Oooooo)

We all know
That people are the same wherever you go

There is good and bad
Mmm-hmm, in everyone

We learn to live

When we learn to give each other what we need to survive

Together aliiiive

Ebony
And ivory
Live together in perfect
Harmony
Side by side on my piano
Keyboard
Oh Lord
Why don’t weeeee

Side by side on my piano
Keyboard
Oh Lord
Why don’t weeeeeeeeeeeeeee

<awesome Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney jam>

(Ebony)
(Ivory)
(Livin’ in perfect harmony)

(Ebony)
(Ivory)
(Livin’ in perfect harmony)

(Ebony)
(Ivory)
(Livin’ in perfect harmony)

(Ebony)
(Ivory)
(Livin’ in perfect harmony)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: