A Surprising Discovery

I was moving around the house the other morning with the TV set to a morning news show. I stopped to listen to the day's top news stories and the weather forecast, and only half listened to the rest of the stories they covered. But the sound of wonderful a-cappella singing of Stevie Wonder's You Are The Sunshine Of My Life caught my ear, and I stopped what I was doing to look at the screen.

I saw about ten middle-aged people, just one woman in the group, notable for full heads of hair (in some cases gray) on all the men and lots and lots of teeth. My first thought was that the Kennedy cousins had formed a singing group. Then the camera panned across the group in close-up and I recognized Marie Osmond. The entire Osmond family was being featured to promote their new show in Las Vegas.

I never regarded the Osmonds as having any particular musical talent. I saw them as a rip-off of the Jackson family, back in the day when they were known as the Jackson Five (I know for a fact that there are plenty of people out there who would erroneously say with absolute authority that One Bad Apple was recorded by Michael and his brothers.) That song with its R&B sound, a big hit for the Osmonds in the early 70s, was clearly an effort to cash in on the success of the Jacksons. Jumping on the bandwagon is nothing new, but I resented it, yes, for racial reasons. Black people have always been denounced, but that hasn't stopped our fashions, style, and music from being copied and profited from.

As I watched their a-cappella performance I suddenly realized that these people can really sing. No augmentation or other studio tricks, no music . . . just wonderful harmony reminiscent of Take 6 or the Emotions.

After an introduction that included a playful jibe at the decades-old rivalry with the Jacksons ("You forgot Tito," somebody quipped) and a brief interview, they sang their big hit, One Bad Apple. Little Donny at 50 can't hit those high notes he nailed at 13, but again, I was struck by how good they sounded. Those brothers (and I mean brothers in the Biblical sense, not, well, brothas of the brownskin type) can really sing!

Funny how I never noticed that before. Makes me wonder what else I've overlooked.


Donna D said...

Bettye, I believe the Osmonds were performing before the Jacksons were. If I remember my miniseries trivia correctly, Joe Jackson hit on the idea of forming a group after seeing the Osmonds perform. I think where it hit the fan was that the Osmonds saw the rise of the Jacksons and tried to cash in on that popularity.

Speaking as a fan of the "Donny & Marie" show back in the 70's, I've always known how talented they were as singers and performers. They just couldn't move like the Jacksons. I'm looking forward to the special. It'll be nice to see the entire clan performing.

Personally, I would love it if all the Jacksons - God help us, yes, LaToya too - would perform. Okay, not LaToya, but all the brothers with Janet. Now that would be a special to die for!

bettye griffin said...

Yes, Donna, you're absolutely right. I've seen clips of the Osmonds performing on Andy Williams' variety show when Donny (and me, too, since he's my age) was maybe 5 or 6. At the time I thought they were more cute than talented in their matching striped suits. I think their voices have matured like fine wine with age. You obviously saw the talent much sooner. You've got a good ear!

Brothers singing together is nothing new. (The Mills Brothers were huge back in the day, performing from the 30s through the 80s, with one of the brothers' sons now teamed with a former member of the Platters under the Mills Brothers name). That's interesting about them being Joe Jackson's inspiration to try to do something with his sons.

As far as I know, the show will be performed live in Vegas. I don't know if there are any plans to broadcast it as a TV special, but if they do, I'll definitely be watching!


Mel said...

Sometimes your dislike can skew your view of the real person/people in front of you. Might be a good idea for a book.

bettye griffin said...

I'm waaaaay ahead of you, Mel. But then again, I view everything with a will-this-work-in-a-book grain of salt.

Thanks for posting!


Donna D said...

The special is going to air on PBS in October, I think.

bettye griffin said...

Donna, you are one well-informed woman! I'll be watching. Thanks!


Patricia W. said...

I used to view the Osmonds the same way, Bettye. Although I didi like the TV show.

But I heard Donnie sing years later and really enjoyed him.

Can't wait to see your book using this concept.

bettye griffin said...

Right now it's nothing more than a germ of an idea, added to the dozens of other themes and full-blown story ideas in my file, so it'll probably be quite a while before anything gets on paper.

Don't you just love it how ideas are everywhere?


Gwyneth Bolton said...

I just keep remembering that scene from the Jackson family movie where Papa Joe kept pushing the kids to work hard so they could beat the Osmonds and the actor playing Randy I think, said, "we like the Osmonds. They're good kids." Or something like that... It's been a minute since I've sat and watched that movie. LOL. Great post, Bettye. I think we all have examples when we may have missed something really good because we weren't ready to really hear or see it...