“While Life Passes Like a Breeze with Only Ourselves to Please”

“We stand alone.” – KiLLeR DWaRfS

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Today’s short post is a story I was reminded of when I recently stumbled across today’s video.

My wife likes to tell the story of a time she was listening to a radio program called “FamilyLife Today” featuring Dennis Rainey and co-host Bob Lepine.  Mr. Rainey is a renowned author and a co-founder of a Christian organization based out of Little Rock called FamilyLife.  The organization is part of the Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) ministry, and is specifically designed around the role of providing a blueprint for what healthy, Godly marriages and families should look like.

During this particular broadcast, Mr. Rainey was recalling a story about one of his daughters and the fact that he didn’t want her to “settle” for, and marry someone that he thought was a  “spiritual midget.”  The term was used to describe someone with very little knowledge or passion for learning the lessons and teachings of the Bible.  My wife relayed this phrase to me excitedly at which point, without really thinking at all, I told her that our daughter is not marrying a midget of any kind, spiritual or otherwise.

Stunned for a minute, but quite amused my wife has told this story many times over the years.  She was even able to relay this story to Dennis himself a few years later at a marriage conference being hosted in Rogers, AR, called “Weekend to Remember.”  I don’t remember what Dennis’ reaction was, but the story has just become something funny that we’ve both laughed about over the years.

“And all this time you wondered if you had a friend.  Hey look, it’s me in the end”

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Being played as a puppet in a video was not new when N’Sync used the trick in 2000.

Long before the boys of N’Sync were being played as puppets in their video “Bye Bye Bye,” there was a little known hair metal band from Ontario Canada with a song and video that featured the group being controlled by a puppet master as well.

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Albeit the choreography lacked in comparison to the boy group, this rock group, fittingly enough for this post, is called the Killer Dwarfs (stylized like this -KiLLeR DWaRfS).  Quite honestly, I’ve listened to, and heard, a lot of music from a lot of different artists in the 80’s, but I’d never heard of these guys until recently.

“But if we could find a way to breath.  Some hope for tomorrow is all we really need.”

While my hope for tomorrow is that my daughter doesn’t marry a spiritual midget, I would probably prefer that she also doesn’t marry a “Killer Dwarf” either.  I actually have no idea about this group.  They may some of the kindest, spiritually filled people in rock and roll so I won’t judge, nor will I judge the small in stature in our society.  The story really just gave me a great reason to offer up this video and song today.

From 1988, enjoy a Cuddly Cola, and the video for “We Stand Alone,” by the KiLLeR DWaRfS

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

 

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“Hey Leroy, Did You Hear About That Boy Mike Tyson?”

“I seen him hit this boy, and he hit the boy so hard his head flew off into the eighteenth row.  They had to get his head out of the eighteenth row!” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

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Earlier this week I read the story about boxing legend Mike Tyson’s plan for a 40 acre marijuana multi-purpose resort in California.  Am I surprised?  Not even remotely.  One of the most perplexing and polarizing figures in American sport in the 20th century, Mike Tyson the man is as outlandishly unpredictable outside of the ring as his impenetrable and impregnable boxing style was in the ring during his prime.

In late 1989, I was a freshman basketball player at St. Gregory’s College, a two-year college in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  At that same time, Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.  He was the youngest boxer to ever win a heavyweight crown when he won the WBC title at the age of 20 years and four months in 1986, and because of his rare combination of strength and quickness, was thought to be unbeatable by many.

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He was also looked down upon by many as a convict and thug, because of his past criminal activity (Tyson was arrested many times in his teens, and would also later be convicted of rape and spend time in jail missing out on three years of his boxing career).  But regardless of one’s personal view, by late 1989 Mike Tyson was considered by many as the baddest man on the planet.

I had my Nintendo DES gaming system at college along with the video game “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.”  Mike Tyson had a video game!  You can even play it on your computer now though it’s much tougher using a keyboard for the controls than it is using a game controller, but that should tell you something as to the popularity of Mike Tyson during this time.

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Little Mac v. Mike Tyson for the title (with Mario refereeing)!

To get an idea of Mike’s combativeness and what many of his unpredictable interviews could be like, check out this post-fight video from 2000 with Jim Gray interviewing Mike.  It’s probably one of his most famous.  The dialogue and quotes really pick up at about the 50 second mark…

Mike wanted to eat his children and followed it with a praise be to Allah!  Lol.  You never knew what Mike was thinking or what he would say or do and you still don’t as evidence by his recent announcement.  Still remains to be seen if this new marijuana venture will ever come to fruition though.

“I been training 20 hours a day, lifting big old cars and big bails of hay.”

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Also by late 1989, the west Philadelphia friends DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Townes) and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) were in their early 20’s and establishing themselves as one of hip-hop’s friendliest and funniest rap duos.

I was first introduced to them by former high school teammate Chad Thrailkill when he played their first hit “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” for me with his cassette walkman back in 1986.  As a side note, Chad also introduced me to the Dairy Queen Heath Bar Blizzard back around the same time, which has become another staple in my life along with Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for some 30+ years now.

“I’m rough like a freight train smooth like ice, yo Jeff, straight up, I think I can beat Mike Tyson!”

Most people only partially familiar with the duo will still likely know them from their one of their two biggest hits – “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” a 1988 smash, or “Summertime,” a 1991 top 10 hit.  But back in 1989 when the duo released their third album entitled “And in This Corner…,” the lead single was a tribute to the baddest man on the planet – “Iron” Mike Tyson.  The song was simply titled “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson,” and it reached number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Whenever myself or one of my friends was playing “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out,” I would usually pop this cassette in and play it loud if one of us ever made it to a fight against Mike.  It was a funny tribute to whomever was getting ready to fight Tyson, and to also pump them up for the toughest fight in the game.

The accompanying video features cameos by Mike Tyson and his promoter at the time, Don King.  The song also mentions current President Trump who hosted fights at his hotel and casinos in Atlantic City.  Also ironically, 12 years later Will Smith would portray another great boxer, Muhammad Ali in the biopic movie “Ali.”  Maybe it was all the training he did for Mike Tyson that prepared him!

Enjoy the video…

Thanks for your time.

sincerely,

the 80’s

KerwinSGC89 Pretty sure 1989 me could have beaten Mike Tyson!

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“Rising Up, Back on the Street”

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“Did my time, took my chances.” – Survivor

In his 1993 speech at the Espy Awards show on ESPN, former North Carolina State basketball coach, the late Jim Valvano, said that if you laugh, if you think, and if your emotions bring you to tears each day then “that’s a full day… that’s a heck of a day.”

That’s a simplistic but beautiful approach to daily living, and if Jimmy V sets the criteria, then I’ve had a lot of full days recently.  Christmas is over and 2017 is no longer.  Two thousand and eighteen lies before us like a new road leading to unchartered places and stops, ready to form new memories.

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Jimmy V celebrating his NCAA basketball championship with his NC State Wolfpack team and fans 

For myself, the past few months have held difficult decisions, and at times it seems like a street fight is going on inside my head between gangs with names like “stress” and “sleeplessness” and “guilt” and “confusion.”  It’s no wonder that I have a head cold as I sit here and pound on the keys.  The body and mind can only handle so much before it starts its’ own revolt and reminds you who’s really in charge.

“Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop.  Just a man and his will to survive”

The beauty of this site for myself is that, at times, it acts like a psychiatrist listening to my written pleas, quirky ideas, total randomness, and daily struggles.

I’ve written on here before about my aging parents.  My dad physically struggles, and my mom mentally struggles.  Life is throwing nasty curveballs and 100 mph heat at me everyday.  The decisions I’ve had to make recently deal with real lives and the effects that follow dealing with independence and quality of life for aging parents.

The results are mixed.  They are expected and unexpected.  They are logical and illogical and calming and frustrating all at the same time.  Those aforementioned emotions run the gamut from joy to sadness to anger.  Hard truths can be ugly, uncomfortable, and unfair, yet they must be dealt with and told.  And so we soldier on.

“Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past.  You must fight just to keep them alive.”

It’s through these trials and tribulations that I realize how weak the human condition can be (and is) at times.  It harbors a verse in me from 2 Corinthians when Paul writes “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  What Paul is pointing out is that faith is what ultimately gets us through tough times.

With faith, we must relent to a bigger picture and lean not on our own understanding.  And it’s through this time of complete helplessness and weakness that we eventually become stronger.  It might lead to becoming physically stronger, mentally stronger, spiritually stronger, or all of the above.  It’s a transformation of sorts caused by our weakness during troubles and trying times.  It can make us a better person, more understanding and empathetic.

That is what I am leaning on because if I didn’t I would be trampled by guilt and confusion.  Second-guessing and pure sadness would pummel me like Clubber Lang did to Rocky in their first fight in “Rocky III.”

Maybe I’ve made you think some with this post.  Maybe you’ve even cried thinking about your circumstances or something you’re going through or just went through.  Well, let’s laugh a little bit now so we can have a full day.  That starts with our featured video and song.

“And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night, and he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger.”

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I had this album once upon a time

The group Survivor formed in 1978 in Chicago, and had eight Billboard Hot 100 top 40 hits from 1981-1986.  This song was written and released upon Sylvester Stallone’s request for the movie “Rocky III” (he was denied by the band Queen from using “Another One Bites the Dust”) in 1982.  The song shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and spent six weeks there less than a year before Jim Valvano would lead his NC State Wolfpack to the national title in basketball in spring of 1983.

The song was featured in the closing credits of the movie, which was also a blockbuster smash and probably my favorite of all the Rocky movies.  It was the fourth-highest grossing movie of 1982 after its’ release at the end of May.

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“I’m gonna bust you up.”

The opening scene for this music video today just makes me smile though.  With original lead singer Dave Bickler leading the way, the five members of Survivor strut down a city street looking like the worst, least intimidating gang of all-time.  These five guys look more suited for a street fight in Will Farrell’s “Anchorman” movie than an actual fight in the real world.

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Bickler is wearing his trademark beret, which doesn’t help their image any.  Don’t get me wrong about berets though!  When the political activist group The Black Panthers wore berets back in the 60’s and 70’s, that was a cool, but intimidating image.  And when Prince sang about a Rasberry one (you know – the kind you find in a second-hand store), that was alright too.  With Bickler though, he seems more suited in his beret to be seated in a park with a paint brush and canvas knocking out a bad-ass fountain scene on a sunny day.

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It’s possible that this stock photo is Dave Bickler today.

Though the video is funny to me, the song is a true 80’s treasure.  It’s about focusing.  It’s about overcoming odds.  It’s about being knocked down but getting back up and choosing to persevere.  It’s why the song has been and is used as a motivational soundtrack.

So as 2018 kicks off, there will be fun times, and emotional times, and tough times ahead that will require us all to rise up and to summon the “The Eye of the Tiger…”

May Survivor give you some energy today to think, cry, and laugh.  And may you have a full day ahead.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

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“We’re No Strangers to Love”

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“You know the rules, and so do I.” – Rick Astley

Every time I hear something about rules I think about a great scene from one of my favorite movies –  “Grease.”  Just before the big race where Leo, the leader of the rival gang The Scorpions, and John Travolta’s character Danny Zuko race for “pinks,” (pinks you punk! Pink slips, ownership papers!) Leo lays down the rules by saying “the rules are… there ain’t no rules.”

So cool, so poetic especially coming from a “greaser.”  But rules are not where I’m going with this post today (I just couldn’t pass up a chance to quote from “Grease”).

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Leo, aka “Craterface”

“Never gonna let you down.”

Where could I possibly be going with a Rick Astley song today?  I’m not going to “rick-roll” you, but I am going to be a little reflective, maybe even a little insightful.

Besides being a famous lyric from the 1987 Astley song, it’s also a line in a beautiful praise and worship song called “King of My Heart” by John Mark McMillan.  The line goes “You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down.”  That particular lyric is repeated numerous times to close out the song.

Such an easy sentence.  Such a hard reality.  Truth is we are let down every day.  We are let down by friends, by family, by co-workers.  The world disappoints us.  We become accustomed to being let down.  It’s easy to become cynical and jaded.  We are not even surprised anymore.  Maybe shocked or angry or frustrated, but not really surprised.  We almost sit around waiting for the next proverbial shoe to drop.  Being let down and letting down others is part of our flesh.  It’s part of the course fabric of this life on earth.

The lyric in the song obviously refers to a higher being.  A God, a Jesus that many of us worship, myself included.  But try telling that line to a grieving mother who loses a child in a car accident or watches him slowly waste away to cancer.  Tell that to someone who loses a loved one in a senseless shooting at a concert or a small baptist church.  Tell that to a son or daughter that has to watch an aging parent slowly lose their mind to dementia.  “You’re never going to let me down” is not easy to accept, nor should it be.

We were given emotions and inquisitive minds to grieve and to ask why, to ask how.  More questions than answers is what we’re left with I’m afraid.  There are answers.  There are answers we don’t want to hear.  There are answers we don’t understand.  There are answers that require a great deal of faith.  We all have to make our own decisions regarding those answers.

These life occurrences beat us down.  They wear us out, but the human spirit fights back.  We persevere and we move on.  We have to move on in faith, because what other choice do we have?  We move on in faith that someday we’ll have a better understanding.  We move on in faith that someday we will be reunited with loved ones.  We move on in faith that the world will become a better place.

Life is funny and rewarding and beautiful.  And life is tough sometimes.  Whatever the situation though – whether you’re in a dark tunnel right now, coming out of one, or on the verge of going into one, just know that someone else has been in your situation too.  Someone else may be in that same dark tunnel with you right now, but you just can’t see them.  The darkness may seem cold and lonely, but it’s really just the absence of light.  Bring with you a light in those tough times be it a friend, a family member, or even a complete stranger who knows the way.  And during that time try as hard as you can to muster some faith and believe “You’re never gonna let, you’re never gonna let me down.”

“Never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.”

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One of the reasons I chose today’s song and video is because it helps lighten the mood.  Life’s difficulties are not to be dwelt upon constantly and carried around like a sack of bricks.  That will eventually just crush you.  Put that sack down for a minute and enjoy the mindless beat and dance moves in today’s video.  It has to put a smile on your face.  It does for me.

This song went all the way to #1 on the charts in 25 countries!  It was a 1988 world-wide smash for Rick Astley, whom I thought was a smooth, soulful brother when I first heard him on the radio.  I was surprised to find that the rich, smooth, baritone voice belonged to a pale-white, red-headed singer hailing from Lancashire, England.

Blessed with a cool voice and obviously a fairly good sense of humor, the video features three changes of scenery and clothes so I would assume the video was probably shot in a day.  He sports a cool trench coat at night in one scene (top picture), a suit jacket look that would fit nicely on a yacht in another, and a denim on denim look that was so  totally 80’s.

While Rick was dominating the charts in 1988, this was my look circa 1988 at Norman High School.

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Look at that dark wavy 1988 hair and those guns!

Thanks for your time,

sincerely the 80’s

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“Darkness Falls Across the Land”

“The midnight hour is close at hand.” – Vincent Price

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The one and only Vincent Price 1911-1993

Just last week a co-worker of mine showed me the picture above and asked “do you know who this is?”  Do I know who this is.  Child, please.  After I quickly identified the man as one Vincent Price, he asked “how did you know that?”  I knew that mostly because of today’s featured video and song, but Vincent Price wasn’t some one-time novelty wonder. 

He was the definition of horror for a generation, albeit a generation older than mine.  Blessed with an epic, eery voice, Price died in 1993, but not before appearing in over 100 films – many of them in the horror genre, and lending his talents doing voice-over work.  But for those of us that grew up in the 80’s, he may have been best known as the spooky narrator closing out this Michael Jackson classic.

“It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark.” – Michael Jackson

Day late, dollar short.  Isn’t that the saying?  This post was supposed to be pre-Halloween, but the best laid plans, right?

Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday.  She’s always loved it.  She loves the weather (cool, but not cold) with the beautiful falling, changing leaves.  She loves an outdoor fire on a chilly night.  She loves strange, mythical creatures, and fog.  She loves to dress up.  And she loves this song.

“You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before you make it.”

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Speaking of terror, I was terrorizing children as a crazy clown-child in the 70’s.  Pretty sure I was the original “Pennywise.”

There’s something about creepy clowns, mutilated zombies, and mythological creatures of the night that many of us like.  Some of us like to be scared.   It’s that rush of adrenaline, that feeling of being alive in the moment that many people love this time of year.  For some, it’s just the opportunity to dress up, to pretend, to be someone they’re not.  Others will be thrilled to provide a laugh for others by looking ridiculous for a day.  For others, it’s just about the candy, and how much they can accumulate going from house to house.

I’ve always dressed up through the years.  When I was young it was about the candy.  Now, it’s just about having a little fun, passing candy out to the neighborhood children, and maybe making someone smile for a moment or two.  It has nothing to do with celebrating a holiday many feel is “the devil’s holiday.”  Many hold to this secular view of the holiday though others will tell you it originated from early Celtic harvest festivals and that the holiday itself was Christianized.

Whatever the case, it’s one night a year that still brings people out within your community that you might not see on a regular basis.  It’s a chance to converse and laugh and connect with others.  It’s an opportunity for church congregations to gather as well for a “harvest festival” or “trunk or treating.”  It’s a holiday that the young and old can celebrate.

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Once a killer clown, now I’m just the Doctor

“You know it’s thriller, thriller night.  You’re fighting for your life inside a killer thriller tonight.”

Last year I featured one of my favorite 80’s movies and soundtracks in a piece featuring the vampire classic “The Lost Boys”.  This October/early November, I have to feature the best dancing zombie music video of all time!  It was a music video that broke the classic mold, and forever changed the standards in the music video industry.

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A superstar with dancing zombies… 1983 didn’t get any better!

I don’t get tired of this song.  Mostly because I don’t listen to it much throughout the year, but as Halloween approaches it ends up more and more on my playlist.

The song peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2013 and was Jackson’s seventh and final top 10 single from the album of the same name.  Strangely, the video actually premiered on MTV in early December of 1983 and not around Halloween when you’d expect it.  Therefore, I don’t feel too bad about posting it here in early November.  Here is the mini-movie/music video directed by John Landis.

I hope you had a great Halloween… and remember no mere mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Might As Well Go for a Soda”

“Nobody hurts and nobody cries.” – Kim Mitchell

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Let’s just call today’s piece for what it is – a semi-tribute to a singer I had never even heard of until about a month ago.  It’s a rabbit-hole-fluff sort of piece.  If you were looking for deep, or thought-provoking, or inspirational, you won’t find it here today.  Instead, you’re getting 800 words about an artist you’ve probably never heard of unless you happened to live in Canada at some point in your life.

I’ve listened to a lot of 80’s music, and still do to this day.  I know a lot about various bands and artists and their songs.  I’ve probably heard and would recognize any top 20 hit from the decade.  But occasionally a song comes on that makes me stop for a second and go “whaaat… who is that?… I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song.”

That usually leads to me turning the station and never wanting to hear the song again.  It typically occurs with songs that might have cracked the charts in the U.S., but never climbed into mainstream play on the local radio stations.

This occurred to me again the other day with a song that made me stop and go “who is this guy, and what is he singing about?  Soda?”  It’s rare when any 80’s song or lyric makes me laugh or do a double take, but that’s just what a Canadian singer with terrible 80’s hair did to me.

“Might as well go for a soda.  It’s better than slander, it’s better than lies.”

The singer’s name is Kim Mitchell and the song is a rare gem called “Go For Soda.”

The tune is actually pretty catchy, and during the 80’s apparently served as an anti-drinking and driving anthem endorsed by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).  It has been featured in an advertising campaign for Mr. Pibb, and been featured in the hit 80’s TV show “Miami Vice” (if you have any desire, it plays through the first two minutes of this episode from season two called “Buddies”).

I will warn you that the chorus has the potential to get stuck in your head.  So if you’re like me, and inclined to occasionally wake up at two in the morning with a chorus of a song running through your head, this is a definite candidate for that!

When you watch the video at the end of this piece you’ll notice Kim jumping on an old school remote control for the television.  I love that part of the video because it reminds me of the box I used to have in my bedroom in the mid to late 80’s only I had the other variation which instead of buttons had a slider to switch between channels.

The box with the buttons or slider plugged directly into a cable box by the tv with a long cord so you could actually change channels from your chair or bed or couch as long as the cord was long enough.

I vividly remember laying in bed at night with that cable box and flipping between the 30 or 40 channels that were offered with that “remote.”  It was the early days of MTV and the later years for “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.  Unfortunately, there was no on/off button so I still had to get up to turn the tv off.  What an inconvenience!

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Besides being an adorable picture of my sister and our black poodle Duke taken on my bed in my house in Norman, OK, you can see the old school remote control to my old black and white tv.

“Might as well go for a soda.  Nobody drowns and nobody dies”

Mitchell garnered his first bit of musical popularity as the lead singer of a Canadian group called Max Webster that enjoyed modest success across Canada.  He opted for a solo career in the early 80’s.

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Max Webster

So when I heard “Go For Soda,” I also thought to myself that I hope this song has an awesomely 80’s video somewhere.  And, I couldn’t have been more pleased when it popped right up upon my search for it.  It’s one of those videos that is so bad, I wanted to watch it again a few more times.  Now, get yourself ready to “rawk” with Kim Mitchell and “Go For Soda”…

Thanks for the rabbit-hole indulgence today and I hope you listen to some more Kim Mitchell.  Try “Patio Lanterns,” “Rock N’ Roll Duty,” or “Lager & Ale” for a few more of my favorites of his.

And kids, stay away from soda.  A can of coke has 39 grams of sugar!  That stuff cleans corroded battery terminals, so it can probably do the same to you!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Well I Won’t Back Down”

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R.I.P. Tom

“No I won’t back down” – Tom Petty

I’m angry this morning.

I’m angry with Mother Nature and her destructive children – Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  They’ve caused uncountable damage, and worst of all they’ve taken lives.

I’m angry with so-called “leaders.”  Not only in our country but around the world.  Quit pointing fingers unless you’re looking in a mirror.

I’m angry with entertainers in general, but particularly those in the NFL right now.  You’re a well-paid entertainer.  I don’t care if you peacefully protest.  Just don’t do it during the national anthem.

I’m angry that death took another rock legend at only 66 years of age.

I’m angry at a random madman who killed 59 people in Las Vegas, wounded many more, and affected thousands more who are now trying to pick up the pieces to a life that will never be the same because of the unimaginable loss of a loved one.

“And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down.  Gonna stand my ground”

I’m not staying angry though.  The human spirit always rises.  People persevere and they carry on, but sometimes we just need a little lift.  A pick-me-up of sorts.

Ironically, those same well-paid entertainers are found on this end of the spectrum as well.

See:  NFL player JJ Watt of the Houston Texans who raised over $37 million for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

 

See also:  NFL player Deshaun Watson giving his first NFL game check (estimated at over $29,000) to three cafeteria workers for his Houston Texans football team.  All three had lost their homes due to flooding.

 

See also:  random videos of collegiate walk-on football players being awarded scholarships at the beginning of football season

 

Or how about Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and this video after he invited special needs football player and hero Jake Pratt to a Clemson home game.

 

How about the story on the new tradition at the University of Iowa home football games?  The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital sits across the street from Kinnick stadium.  For every deranged idiot out there intent on inflicting harm, there are 70,000 fans in a stadium in a city in Iowa waving to children in a cancer facility who value life and want just one more day or week or year or more to live out their lives.

 

I’m focusing on the good and the kind.  I’m improving my mood, and I hope your mood improved too.  Maybe you even were a little teary-eyed.  I was, but these acts of kindness and compassion are what makes disasters and unthinkable acts of hate easier to take.

It’s not easy and it never will be, but for now all I can do is send out a big screw-you to the dead shooter in Las Vegas.  A screw you to the extremist filled with hate.  A screw you to mother nature and the disasters that take lives.  And a screw you to death.

“Well I know what’s right.  I got just one life”

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His one life lasted 66 years, and it was a brilliant one.  Like so many of his era, Petty was inspired by Elvis and by seeing The Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.  Petty had 15 top 40 Billboard Hot 100 songs including this one which I’ve always loved for its’ positive, upbeat message.  “I Won’t Back Down” was released in April 1989 and has been an anthem for political campaigns, entertainers, and sports teams.  With a video ironically featuring one-half of The Beatles (George Harrison and Ringo Starr), and also ELO’s Jeff Lynne, the song hit #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

No matter your current situation or your current outlook, do Tom Petty a solid and put on this song.  Hold your head high, walk tall, and be proud of who you are and where you’re from.  Don’t let the world beat you down, and don’t compromise your principles.  Give love and give thanks to God.  Be who you were created to be.  And most of all, stand your ground, and don’t back down.

“Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out”

Thanks for reading, and treat yourself to some Tom Petty at some point this week.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

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“Do You Hear Me?”

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“Do you care?” – Missing Persons

My wife tells a great story about the time her wonderful mother Doris was recovering in the hospital after having a softball sized brain tumor removed.  The specialists in the recovery area were working with Doris to make sure her speech was not affected shortly after her surgery.  Rebekah was in the room with her mother, and to make sure Doris understood, Rebekah told her that she needed to speak to show the doctors that she understood what they were saying and that she could comprehend what was happening.

So Rebekah told her mom (and I’m paraphrasing) that you can’t just nod or shake your head to answer questions you have to speak words.  Doris took this request literally and started saying “words” over and over in a dry, raspy-throated effort to follow a simple command.  Doris was saying words.

“I might as well go up and talk to a wall, ’cause all the words are having no effect at all”

What parent hasn’t felt that way or uttered something to that effect?  What employee has ever wondered if his or her supervisor even sees them much less hears them?  We speak words to be heard by someone.  To make a point, to give instructions, to entertain, to inform, to convey a feeling or emotion.  It’s how we were created.  We write words to do the same thing.  To express thoughts and ideas, to etch memories.

English poet John Drinkwater once said “The written word is everything.”  That simple five-word statement holds a great deal of truth.  It’s the discernment of “truth” that is really the challenge.  The words are there.  It just comes down to if you understand or believe the words you read.

When I was a sophomore in college I wrote for the college newspaper, and I only semi-enjoyed it.  The thing I remember most about that particular semester is that I had all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I had a four-day weekend every week and it was awesome.  Sure Tuesday and Thursday sucked because I was in some class all day followed by basketball practice, but did you just read what I wrote?  I had a four day weekend, every week!

In my student newspaper class there were many times that I had to write about world affairs or upcoming events on campus, and I would be unmotivated to do so, and I’m sure those articles reflected that.  But, those times I could convince my editor / teacher to let me write an opinion piece about the rapidly rising salaries of professional athletes, or a profile piece on students with interesting stories were the times I really enjoyed what I was doing.

One thing I learned early in life is that everyone has a story and if you take some time to listen it’s often fascinating, inspiring, sad, funny, resilient, but most of all – unique.

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Far left back row.  The guy that was mildly interested in writing for the school newspaper, 1991.

“What are words for when no one listens anymore?  What are words for when no one listens?  What are words for when no one listens, it’s no use talkin’ at all.”

I once listened to a podcast about a guy who decided to give up talking for one day only to keep going and eventually went over a decade without uttering a single word to anyone.  I thought that was fascinating.  As I listened to him tell his story I had the usual thoughts of why and the incredibly tough logistics involved in undertaking something like this, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it sounded like a lonely and sad adventure, and even a bit depressing.

When it comes right down to it that’s all this little website is – words.  Sure there are some old music videos and vintage pictures scattered across different decades,  particularly the 80’s and even 70’s.  But the true essence of this site is based upon words – written words.

“Time could be my friend.  But it’s less than nowhere now.”

I couldn’t imagine back in 1991 during that sophomore year in college that there would come a day where you could write whatever you wanted whenever you wanted, and post it to a place where anyone in the world could view and read it.  That you could edit it yourself.  Your grammar or spelling didn’t have to be perfect.  Your facts didn’t have to matter.  You could make up statistics – 73% of statistics are inaccurate according to 58% of statistical survey companies anyway.  See how easy that was?  What an amazing time we live in, but what a dangerous weapon words can be.  At the same time, what a wonderful privilege they are.

As time passes I think we all realize how much more important words become because we have less of them to use with each and every passing day.  So we must use our words written or spoken, and we must use them wisely and for the betterment of ourselves and our families and our friends.

“It’s like the feeling at the end of the page.  When you realize you don’t know what you just read.”

Well, some 1000+ words later I’ve arrived here at the end with the feeling that I just kind of rambled in this post today.  But I’ve learned that it’s ok to ramble when you write sometimes.  A post doesn’t always have to be tight and on point with every word.  I would give that advice to anyone who enjoys the written word (reading, writing, or otherwise).  Just write and see where it leads you.

Writing is like life.  There are times when you feel like you’re just wandering.  The keyboard is like a bunch of different roads you can choose from.  Those roads create words that lead to a destination.  Then one day you stop, look around, and see where it all has taken you.  It’s a fascinating journey.

 

“Pursue it further and another thing you’ll find.  Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices.  I think I’ll dye my hair blue.”

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Cool lyrics from a cool L.A. new wave/rock band formed in 1980 that enjoyed mild success in the 80’s.  Led by front-woman Dale Bozzio (no blue hair, but pink instead for this video), this particular song was one of four singles released from their “Spring Session M” album and peaked at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The band received quite a bit of airplay in the early days of MTV because of their unique sound and look (male rouge anyone?).  The fact that the group had a talented attractive female lead singer probably didn’t hurt either when trying to appeal to the young male viewership of the time.

Here is the group Missing Persons with their video to the song “Words”…

Thanks for reading these words and watching “Words” today!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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From the Vault… “Missing Roger Staubach”

(Fall is closing in, and the NFL football season is back!  From my vault of articles, I hope you enjoy this one I wrote a few years ago…)

“Missing Roger Staubach”

In the early summer of 1978 I was seven years old, and my family was finishing our stay in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  At this time, my dad was still head basketball and golf coach at Stillwater High School.  In just a few months though he would be hired as the men’s head basketball coach at Northern Oklahoma Junior College, and our family would make the 45 minute move to Tonkawa, Oklahoma.

I had wild brown curly hair that my mom thought would straighten out the more she let it grow.  That never worked out, and I have the funny pictures from my childhood to prove it.  It was during this innocent time in my life that I was first introduced to a drug that came in a 2 ½ by 3 ½ wax package called Topps Trading Cards.

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This picture was taken in Tonkawa in 1979, but you can still see my wild curly brown hair and I am proudly displaying my generic blue and silver Roger Staubach jersey.

Not baseball cards mind you with all of its glorious history and statistics, but NFL football cards were my first love.  The 1978 Topps football cards were my first foray into the world of sports trading cards.

My dad would take me by the local QT (Quik Trip) convenience store on our way home in Stillwater, and for 25 cents I could get a pack of football cards (side note:  I looked on the internet recently and you can still find a few unopened packs, but they go for about $17-$20 a pack now).  Each “wax pack” (below) contained 12 gods of the gridiron inside along with one hellaciously hard stick of “bubble gum.”  (On a personal note to my dentist, I shamelessly blame all of those rock-hard sticks of so-called gum on the amount and coverage of fillings in my hopelessly soon-to-all-be-capped molars.)

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There were 528 cards available in the 1978 set, and I voraciously chewed my gum and opened my packs day after day, week after week checking off players as I uncovered them inside.    There was a team checklist card for every team featuring four small pictures of the team leaders on the front along with a checklist of all the players available from that team on the back.  Like any dutiful seven year old, I grabbed an ink pen and check-marked the ones I had (I even wrote my initials on the backs of many of my cards.  I didn’t know about mint condition or the value of them or even care when I was seven!).

The 1978 NFL Topps cards were very plain.  At the time Topps didn’t have a licensing agreement with the NFL so the team logos were nowhere to be found on the player helmets or jerseys.  There were a few action shots, some standard close-up photo poses, and pictures of a lot of players sitting on the bench looking like they’d just been through a three hour battle.

The back of each card featured basic bio on the player along with statistics and an interesting fact about that player.  Some photos were even clever duplicates a year or two before as is the case with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Charlie Smith  (below; interesting fact:  “Charlie works as a substitute teacher in the off-season”).  It was the same exact crazy messed up afro, same exact axe-murderer expression on his face.  It was just a slightly different camera angle between the two pictures.

At this time my two favorite NFL teams were the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Blasphemy, I know!  And, yes, I will confess to being a front-runner back then if that helps with an explanation.  Coming off of a Super Bowl win in January 1978, the Cowboys were in the midst of becoming labeled “America’s Team.”  Plus, their proximity to most of Oklahoma made for the closest NFL franchise.  The Steelers, on the other hand, were five states and a thousand miles away, but I had relatives in Pittsburgh.  My cousin Kevin was one year older and like a distant big brother to me.  If he and his family liked the Steelers than I did too!

My two favorite football players during this confusing time were the great quarterbacks from each team – Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers and Roger Staubach of the Cowboys.  I do confess to loving all the quarterbacks back then, and I made it my mission to make sure I collected all of their football cards that year.

From the Bears’ Bob Avellini (“Bob works for a paper company during the off-season”) to the Seahawks’ Jim Zorn (“Jim is an accomplished speed skater”), I treasured the quarterback cards more than any other (a speed skater?  Really?).  The quarterbacks were the leaders, and the hopes of their respective teams seemed to rise and fall every Sunday depending upon their play.

I had all of the quarterback cards except two.   In an ironic twist of my QB card searching fate, Topps didn’t produce a Baltimore Colts QB card that year for whatever reason.  The Colts had gone 10-4 in 1977 and were led by Miller Beer star Bert Jones.

One of my two missing QB cards was NY Giants Joe Pisarcik who staggered through a four touchdown, 14 interception, 42.3 passer rating season in 1977.  He followed up that stellar campaign with 12 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and 52.1 passer rating in 1978.  Needless to say I wasn’t really in dire need of that Joe Pisarcik card.  After all, I did have the other Giants QB card at that time – Jerry Golsteyn (“Jerry is one of six brothers.  All of whom share the first initial “J”).

 

Topps would also sneak a back-up or two into the QB card stock as well.  James Harris or Dave Mays anyone?

Harris (“At Grambling James was MVP of the 1967 Orange Blossom Classic”) backed up one of my all-time favorites with the San Diego Chargers – Dan Fouts.  Fouts rocked the QB beard like nobody’s business in the late 70’s, and easily ranks in any top all-time QB beards list.  Fouts quarterbacked Chargers teams that were always fun to watch on offense but never had the defense it took to win it all.

Dave Mays (“Dave was once a mascot for his father’s Arkansas AM&N football team”) backed up another quarterback I liked – Cleveland’s Brian Sipe.  Sipe would go on to win the NFL MVP award in 1980, but his Browns’ teams would never play for a Super Bowl (then again, nobody’s Browns’ teams have played for a Super Bowl).

Amongst the other back-up quarterback cards I had was one Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys.  White (“Danny set 7 collegiate passing records at Arizona State”) was the Cowboys starting punter, and as far as I know the only starting punter in the NFL history who would also go on to become a starting NFL quarterback.  I had the White card probably 10 times over, but the other starting QB card I did not have at that time was number #290 on the checklist.  It was the card featuring former Naval Academy and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach.

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The card that eluded my 1978 self.

Staubach’s picture just exuded the confidence and leadership one might expect from a former Navy graduate.  It was if he had just stepped out of his Navy blues and directly into the blue, silver, and white of the Dallas Cowboys.  Some players are just meant to play for certain organizations, and the star of the Cowboys seemed natural for this Navy man.  Without wearing a helmet in the picture, his 1978 hair was perfect.  His eyes looked just over the camera man’s shoulder gazing down field.  He’s holding the football with both hands likely looking for an open Drew Pearson or a streaking Butch Johnson.

Staubach had career numbers that were deceiving because he didn’t break into the NFL until after he served out a four-year stint as required by the Navy at that time.  He was a 27 year old rookie before he played for the Dallas Cowboys, and then he sat behind Cowboys’ starter Craig Morton for the better part of two seasons before finally taking over the reins as the starter while pushing 30 years of age.

“Roger the Dodger” was on his way to an all-pro season in 1978 where he would throw for 25 touchdowns and over 3,100 yards.  But I was less interested in his all-pro season and more interested in discovering his football card in an unopened wax pack of Topps NFL football trading cards.  Did Topps even make a Roger Staubach card?  I knew they did, and the checklist said it did, but to me it seemed like they didn’t make any, or at least didn’t ship any to Oklahoma.

It was like a cruel hoax every time I opened a pack only to get the same Houston Oilers’ Curley Culp card (“Curley strengthens his body by tossing 50 lb. Barrels”), or another Detroit Lions’ Eddie Payton card (“Eddie plays the trumpet”).  And, yes, that is Walter Payton’s older brother who had a five season stint in the NFL mostly as a kickoff/punt returner.  My disappointment and frustration grew as time and again I was stopped short of the goal line by another Oakland Raiders’ Ted Hendricks card (“Ted’s nickname is “the mad stork”) when Staubach failed to appear inside.

To pass the time in between trips to the local convenience store I would group my cards together by teams and place them in a specially designed card holder.  Occasionally if I was bored I would gather all of my quarterback cards together in one group and go through them gazing at their frozen expressions, wondering who Jim Plunkett was talking to on the headset (“Jim plays a lot of tennis during the off-season”), and thinking that Greg Landry’s picture of him playing in the mud was probably the coolest looking QB card I had (“Greg spent the off-season working on a graduate degree”).

With nearly all 528 cards in my collection, it only magnified my disappoint of a missing #290 everytime I shuffled through them and wrapped each team neatly together with a rubber-band (serious collectors worried about card values are screaming at this point – not a rubber band!).

Somewhere along the way between nerf hoops, and basketball, and girls, and cars, and college, #290 became a vacant memory.  It became a distant desire long forgotten.  But every now and then fate seems to step in for a moment and puts our busy lives on pause.  In my attic sorting through bins of old baby clothes, toys, and in the midst of putting up Christmas decorations, I stumbled upon my youth again.  Sitting among the old dusty boxes and sacks in my attic were two dusty plastic bins of old memories.  In them are worn out baseball, basketball, and football cards just sitting there with rounded corners and worn out edges telling stories of years gone by.  The NFL faces of 1978 are frozen in time, and for just a minute or two I’m in 1978 as well.

It’s only natural for us all to take a peek back at our childhood from time to time.  We linger for a few minutes and then move on to more important things in our lives.  There’s no need to dwell in the past, but the past is what makes up our memories as we grow older.  We cherish pictures that bring back fond moments and good times, and that’s what these 2 ½” by 3 ½” pieces of cardboard that cost 25 cents a pack at one time did for me.

On January 21, 1979, Super Bowl XIII took place at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida and featured the Steelers against the Cowboys.  As any good NFL fan knows, you can’t really cheer for the Cowboys and the Steelers and call yourself a NFL football fan.  It’s either one or the other (or neither).

So on that day some 37 years ago, my seven year old self decided that whoever won this Super Bowl was going to be my favorite team forever.  I already told you what a front-runner I could be, and so history dictated for me that day that Terry Bradshaw (“Terry’s wife is ice skater JoJo Starbuck”) and the Steelers would be my team of choice going forward.

The Cowboys were banished to most-hated status.  It was cruel and an unfair punishment for a team that had done nothing wrong but lose a football game that day.  Bradshaw was named MVP of the game after throwing four touchdown passes, and Staubach had played well in defeat throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

With that thrilling 35-31 win the Steelers have been my favorite team since that day.  I’ve cheered on the Steeler greats and not-so-greats through the years.  I’ve watched a few more Super Bowl trophies go to the team from the “steel city,” and someday I actually hope to waive a terrible towel at a Steelers game in person.  Perhaps it will be at Heinz Field, and maybe I will be lucky enough to be cheering against “America’s Team” that day.  But, despite my 30+ years of Steelers allegiance, and my reverence for the great 1978 Steelers, I have a suspicious feeling that deep down inside I will always, and to some degree, forever be missing Roger Staubach.

(On the left wearing my Bradshaw / Steelers jersey and then on the right is Christmas morning 1980 going through my new football cards.  Notice my Pittsburgh Steelers shirt on the floor as well.  By this time, the conversion from Staubach to Bradshaw was complete.)

 

 

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“Sunny Days. Everybody Loves Them”

“Tell me can you stand the rain?”

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Shout out to this past week’s eclipse!

Have you ever had a conversation with God that went something like this:
Me:  God, I’m a good person.  I go to church.  I pray.  I do good things.  Why did (fill in the blank) happen to me?

Well, Matthew 5:45 is your answer.  Let’s take a look – “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

There it is, no matter how unfair you think that statement may be.  We all go through things we think are unfair – failed relationships, failed jobs, losses of loved ones.  You get the picture.

“Storms will come.  This we know for sure.”

I recently attended two funerals in two days.  One was an acquaintance whom I made a home loan to he and his wife many years ago when I worked at a competitor bank in the area.  George was confined to a wheel chair when I first met him.  It was the result of a fall from a ladder while working in a warehouse for the world’s largest retailer.  He was only 30 years old when it happened, but from what I understand never carried a grudge against the company.  In fact, he went back to work for them for a short time and produced safety videos that are apparently still shown to this day.

George lived nearly half of his life paralyzed before passing away suddenly due to an infection in his system at the age of 57.    After I finished their home loan, they had my wife Rebekah do the landscaping on their new house and our daughter Caroline was still little enough that she road on Mr. George’s lap in his motorized wheel chair like a carnival ride whenever they would visit he and his wife at their new home.

Another connection to their family was with their daughter Ashley.  She worked at an animal hospital, and we eventually adopted our pet poodle Paris because Ashley contacted us when Paris was left anonymously at her place of employment late one night.

George was a very nice man who didn’t complain or bemoan the fact he was paralyzed.  He carried himself with confidence and pride.  He left behind a saddened, wonderful family, but more importantly he left this world a better place.

“On a perfect day, I know that I can count on you.”

The other funeral was the unfortunate service for a 17 year old friend of my daughter’s named Thomas, who took his own life.  Thomas was a tortured soul his final few years, but I love the thought that his Camp WarEagle counselor left us with, and I’m paraphrasing, but he said that while Thomas battled demons in his mind, his heart was where it needed to be and he knew his Lord and Savior in his heart.

We attend the same church as his family does and my daughter and he became friends  a few years ago attending youth group together, and even attending the same school for a short time.  My daughter said that she always hoped that others could see the Thomas that she saw.  It was a beautiful sentiment and his death, as tragic as it was, did result in good as Thomas helped save lives through the generosity of his decision to be an organ donor.  According to his father, an estimated 60 lives were touched following his death.

The funeral service was hard.  His parents spoke with a grace and a strength that goes beyond understanding.  They were pulling power from a higher source.  You have to, in my opinion, if you’re speaking at the funeral of your child.  It’s never easy when someone that young dies.  But in reality my grandmother Ruby (God bless her and her 101 years on this planet to date) said it best when she said that no parent should have to bury a child… no matter how old that child is.

I hope Thomas found that peace he was constantly in search of, and I hope his mother, father, brothers, and sister find a peace as they carry his memory through this life without him.

“When that’s not possible, tell me can you weather the storm?”

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Loss and hardships do produce one thing.  Appreciation.  Appreciation for family, for friends, for health, for employment, etc., etc.  Appreciation for late 80’s fly, blue suits!  We can’t make it through difficult times alone.  We need spouses and family and friends to turn to in our times of struggle and strife.  We were made to be relational.  Thank God.

I also thank God for this beautiful 1987 ballad by New Edition which was written and produced by the legendary duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  The group was coming through a storm themselves having lost Bobby Brown to a solo career.  They recruited long time friend Johnny Gill to replace Brown, and then with the help of Jam and Lewis produced 51 minutes and 41 seconds of magic called the “Heart Break” album.

This particular song was a #1 hit on the US R&B Singles chart and remains one of their most popular ballads.  The video itself makes me want to go buy a cape or whatever the guys are wearing at the beginning and end of this video.  With the newly acquired Johnny Gill on lead vocals, it’s one of my all time favorite R&B groups – New Edition asking that all important question we ask of ourselves and others – “Can You Stand the Rain?”

Thanks for reading and know that if you’re going through a storm or having a rainy day that a sunny day is just around the corner and things will get better.

R.I.P. George and Thomas.  You two will be missed.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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