- piv•ot•al |ˈpivətl|
- – of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else
There’s no getting around the fact that 1978 met the above definition for me. Whatever I am today, it is the sum of what occurred in that formative year. It’s the reason I’ve mentioned it a couple of times in TMTs (found here and here) and elsewhere in other articles through my years of blogging. Like some, certain memories are tied with the music of the time. During this particular period, I was in my Jazz Fusion phase and the artists in and around the genre. Yet, still very much near the R&B stylings of the day. And with summer of 2012 coming to an end tomorrow, there is one song and artist that comes back to my mind’s eye whenever the autumnal equinox cycles passed.
I think I discovered Angela Bofill back in the day listening to L.A.’s FM soul station, KJLH. I seem to recall one of their DJs constantly played cuts from her début album, Angie. The original LP was released in ’78. As AllMusic noted in her biography:
“Bronx native Angela Bofill sang with Ricardo Morrero & the Group and the Dance Theater of Harlem chorus before her 1978 début. With her strong, distinctive alto, she has carved a niche as an outstanding interpreter of soul ballads. Between 1978 and 1984, Bofill had consistent success on the R&B charts, with six albums making the Top 40 (five of which made the Top 100 on the pop charts as well), including two, Angel of the Night (1979) and Too Tough (1983), that made the Top Ten. During this period, she also placed seven singles in the R&B Top 40, with “Too Tough” making the Top Ten. Bofill‘s career cooled off after 1984, but she returned to the R&B charts with Intuition (1988), I Wanna Love Somebody (1993), and Love in Slow Motion (1996).”
Her doleful song renditions immediately captivated me and those I orbited back then. Years before Mariah Carey would come on the scene, Angela’s vocal range — something she and the celebrated Minnie Riperton (a beautiful artist who sadly died way too soon the very next year) could really boast of in the late-70s, stood out like nobody’s business. What I still believe remains the best of her albums, this première vinyl really benefited from two music stalwarts in tune with the Jazz Fusion movement of the 70s, Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.
The GRP label (which then stood for Grusin/Rosen Productions), founded that same year, had a highly polished, distinct style noteworthy to the period. Talented label and studio flute artist Dave Valentin, the one who brought Angela to the attention of these producers, along with the likes of Steve Gadd, Ralph MacDonald, Eric Gale and Grusin himself regularly added wonderful instrumental backing to each of their productions. Dave and Larry would produce her next and last effort with them, Angel of the Night, as well. If only she’d stayed with GRP. But, such is life.
Born the same year as I, on May 3, 1954, my favorite ballad of hers (and there are a number of great ones she laid claim to on this album and others), bar none, was Summer Days. The song may not have been the most popular track on Angie’s launch record, but she gave the song a real and distinct ache that somehow obsessed me. The melody marked the passing of the season like few others. The almost mournful tune, byway of the songwriter Timothy’s pronounced lyrics, registered on many levels.
As the Fall approached that year, the tumultuous relationship I’d gotten myself into after my mother’s death was coming to close. And seemingly, this LP and cut was its accompanying soundtrack. The imprint of that time and music has never really left me. The tune still manages to touch an inner chord. If one particular pop oldie always reminds me of summer’s start, it was this song that has marked its close. The album reached #47 on Billboard’s Top 200 for the year, 20th for R&B, but was in the top five for their Jazz chart.
Her career, like her health, has seen ups and downs, but that voice and what she did with it in the songs she sung lingers. Angela Bofill suffered a stroke on January 10, 2006 and was subsequently paralyzed on her left side. Another massive stroke the next year required a long period of therapy and has left her speech and mobility impaired. Like the other artist and song from that same year I highlighted back in January, each shepherded me through a dark period with their music. Summer Days being the one that brought a measure of closure to a pair of human events we all experience: one of loss and something that was never meant to be. That the singer Angela bore a striking resemblance to my mother in her younger days is just another element of it all that’ll haunt me, her middle son.
“Turn around and summer’s almost gone…”
Into the night the aging sun begins to fade And I’ll be thinking about you and the summer love we made But all the memories don’t really mean a thing Too many sad ones and the good ones were few and far between What happened yesterday is gone with the wind Summer days and moonlit nights Through the waves and hold me tight Turn around and summer’s almost gone Turn around and summer’s almost gone What is the use of chasing rainbows though the air It’s an illusion of grandeur, a fugitive affair And all of the promises don’t really mean a thing So few remaining unbroken and the heartaches that they bring The leaves begin to fall and talk to the wind Summer days and moonlit nights Through the waves and hold me tight Turn around and summer’s almost gone Summer days and moonlit nights Through the waves and hold me tight Turn around and summer’s almost gone Turn around and summer’s almost gone Hmm hmm, hmm hmm, hmm hmm, hmm-mm (repeat and fade)
Note: when I originally wrote this piece, more than a week and a half ago, I never dreamt the song would again hit another moment of poignancy for me and mine. Such was the case during this last week of summer when my wife’s cousin, a beautiful, vital young woman I fondly remember at our wedding reception, lost her battle with cancer. Sarah left this mortal coil far, far too soon, and we will miss her dearly. I dedicate this in her memory.