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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

That's What The World Is Today

It all started with Murphy Brown.

Knowing that I had worked in television, a friend of mine -- who had also worked in television -- presented me with a copy of the first season of Murphy Brown, the TV sitcom starring Candice Bergen as a strong-willed TV journalist. (I guess it didn't sell that well, because only the first season is out on DVD. C'mon, guys, the show ran for TEN YEARS! Doesn't that warrant a few more DVDs?) As my wife and I watched shows written and broadcast in 1988, we noticed they seemed to be talking about things my wife and I had been discussing just last week. Murphy and her colleagues on FYI were constantly battling the network to keep their news magazine about news and information instead of fluff;  a private memo Murphy wrote criticizing her fellow anchors was leaked; in the biggest meta-joke, Connie Chung shows up to scold Murphy for appearing on a sitcom (you remember Connie Chung, don't you?). Murphy might as well have been working for CNN in 2013.

It continued in my car.

I punched the satellite radio button to 70s on 7 and listened as the Temptations sang Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today). The great Norman Whitfield co-wrote that song with Barrett Strong (Barrett's big hit was Money (That's What I Want)) when Motown didn't want the Temps recording his song War, which became a hit for Edwin Starr, because it was too strident. Still, aside from a reference to "the Beatles new record," these lyrics written 43 years ago can be applied almost word-for-word to the problems we're facing today.  Which is why it's been covered by Anthrax, Love and Rockets, Tina Turner, Widespread panic -- hell, even Whoopi Goldberg sung it in Sister Act 2.

Racism, sexism, guns, poverty, kids growing up in the 60s and 70s, my wife and I thought we'd fought all these battles and won some victories.  But, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Damn.

Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)

People moving out, people moving in
Why? Because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run but you sure can't hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Vote for me and I'll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to my nation
Ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that's what the world is today

The sale of pills are at an all time high
Young folks walking round with their heads in the sky
The cities ablaze in the summer time
And oh, the beat goes on

Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul
Shooting rockets to the moon, kids growing up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything
And the band played on

So, round and around and around we go
Where the world's headed, said nobody knows
Oh, great Googamooga
Can't you hear me talking to you?

Just a ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that's what the world is today

Fear in the air, tension everywhere
Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record's a gas
And the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation
And the band played on

Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors
Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills
Hippies moving to the hills, people all over the world are shouting
'End the war' and the band played on

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