You can have too much of a good thing.
When Great Big Radio streamed tunes from 1970 all Labor Day weekend long, I was reminded again that while there were plenty of great tunes on the radio 40 years ago, it wasn’t all good. Listening to all that sapped some of my enthusiasm for revisiting songs from 1970.
But here we are again. And here comes Great Big Radio again.
From Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, it’ll stream tunes from 1973. That year was chosen by listeners in a poll in which 1966 finished a distant second and in which 1977, 1969 and 1974 split most of the rest of the votes.
Near the top of the charts on this week in 1973 was a tune that mixed soul and funk, with lushly orchestrated strings and horns going head-to-head with a scorching dance beat.
It tore out of the radio with an energy that exposed other hits of the moment — among them songs by the DeFranco Family, Marie Osmond, Jim Croce, Seals and Crofts, Art Garfunkel, Gilbert O’Sullivan, the Carpenters, Helen Reddy and Looking Glass — for the mush they were.
“Keep On Truckin’” made Eddie Kendricks a solo star and reaffirmed Frank Wilson’s status as one of Motown’s great producers.
Kendricks had left the Temptations two years earlier. Wilson, a renowned hitmaker who had worked with but was overshadowed by legendary Motown producer Norman Whitfield, was working with Kendricks to take him beyond the Tempts. They sought to make a break from the sweet ballads for which Kendricks was known.
This smash did it. It’s written by Wilson, Anita Poree and Leonard Caston.
Yeah, you know the one.
“Keep On Truckin’,” Eddie Kendricks, from “Eddie Kendricks,” 1973. The LP is out of print but the tune is widely available. You’ll find it on this “Ultimate Collection” CD put out in 1998.
This is the 8-minute LP cut. There also is a single edit that runs 3:30 and a Tom Moulton remix that runs 11 minutes plus.
This song is a pleasant, if familiar, reminder that for all the mush from 1973 — and there was plenty of it — there was a wave of soul, R&B and funk that has endured. That week alone, there also were tunes by Billy Preston, Al Wilson, the Isley Brothers and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in the Top 40.
What a time that was.