From the ears to the heart: Tower of Power

On January 17th of last year, a legendary brass player passed away. Mic Gillette, who joined the Gotham City Crime Fighters (which later evolved into the Tower of Power) at age 15, played a variety of instruments — from the trumpet and trombone to the baritone and tuba. Tower of Power is an American R&B-based horn section and band from Oakland, California that has been performing since 1968. Its horn section has often performed separately, but Tower of Power is best known for their funky soul sound highlighted the horns and bass-guitar lines. Among their most highest-charting songs is “Soul with a capital S,” though Gillette was on hiatus during the production of this album, T.O.P.

There’s all kinds of music, everywhere you go
Some folks like it fast, and some like it slow
Some like it hot, some like it blue
Uh some like it old, and some like it new
Now I’m not liking country, and I’m not rappin’ rap
You can make a man swing, just say my thing
No, I’m talkin’ to dig, my step
The only thing that turns me on
Is when I hear a soulful song
I like soul with a capital S
Soul with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best
Soul with a capital S
Music makes you happy, thinking makes you sad
It can do the worst thing to the best you ever had
For entertainment found you if you had to choose
You and me might disagree, ’cause I like rhythm and blues
Now I’m not missin’ disco, I’m not saying punk is bunk
I can’t settle for heavy metal, cause I got to have that funk
I like soul with a capital S
Soul with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best
Soul with a capital S
Oh, there’s people who tell you to get in with the times
It doesn’t even matter that if your poem rimes
But I’m here to tell you, whatever comes along
There’s something that gave up everyone and there ain’t no right or
Wrong
I like soul with a capital S
Soul with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best
Soul with a capital S
Some rock makes you lazy
Highschool leaves you flat
Fusion drives you crazy
That’s now funk is where it’s at
I like soul with a capital S
Soul with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best
Soul with a capital S
I like soul with a capital S
Soul with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best
Soul with a capital S
Solo
I like soul with a capital S
Soul with a capital S
Sweet soul music, that’s the best
Soul with a capital S
Play that funky groove

Watching this live performance of “Soul with a capital S” was impossible to do so sitting down; before Larry Braggs even began singing, I was up on my feet and dancing across the living room. The entire band (I’m not too sure how many of them there were in this performance; the members have switched several times in the last couple decades) was energetic and exuded a captivating stage presence. The funky combination of a brass section supported by guitars and drums complemented Bragg’s vocal to create a beautifully soulful song. With a lively harmonization of sounds, Tower of Power brings us the epitome of funky soul music (which I, having been just introduced to, think should make a comeback in today’s songs.)

The lyrics aren’t particularly noteworthy, but are just the right words to sing as one would, naturally, dance across town belting out to funk music (such as Bruno Mars did in Uptown Funk. But this song is the older, infinitely better predecessor). The repetition of the words and phrases make for a catchy tune, perfect for getting stuck in your head. It’s precisely this type of music that you’d find yourself nodding along to in the elevator, the muted lights shimmering to the playful guitar line. It’s this song that truly brings music alive: Tower of Power gives all of their songs Soul, with a capital S.

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