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Celebrate or observe?

by | Mar 4, 2021 | Celebrate, J Geils Band, observe

Explaining my empower framework to people, they will often ask me ‘Which one is the most critical?’  And like picking your favorite child, it is a fool’s errand as it mostly depends on the situation you are in.  Pressed hard, it is a toss-up between today’s observe and tomorrow’s wonder.  The interesting paradox to Celebrate this week is that the songs were literally released on the same single in 1971 – this is the A-side, and tomorrow’s is the B-side.  Both were huge hits, but this was their first top 40 hit – cracking it at 39.  And both were on the album titled, The Morning After… which makes the story today even more poignant… 

My roommate would head to Oxford for a year, but not before influencing me with his focus on his faith.  He had, no exaggeration, 5 Bible studies… a DAY.  And was an active attendee at the local Methodist church on campus.  I had been active for most of my life, and frankly was a bit burned out, and with work, and school – full time of each and both in engineering, I didn’t have a lot of time.  A lousy excuse, I mean I could walk there… but it was what it was. 

Seth Justman was born in Washington D.C, and was attending Boston University where he found time to come to a lot of the J Geils gigs.  As J explained, “… and at the end of the night he’d sit down at the piano and play some Otis Spann stuff…he was the youngest guy in the band, a nice guy (who) could play his ass off.  I said, ‘Maybe we ought to consider having him join the band.’”  They found out he had a Hammond Organ, invited him to bring it over for practice, and “after a tune and a half I said ‘You’re In!”  Wolf agreed but said “What’s this piece of furniture?  It looks like it belongs in my grandmother’s living room.”

Not only did he turn out to be a great player, he was just blossoming as a producer and arranger, helping their sound capture on vinyl the raw energy their shows would regularly deliver.  This particular song is actually a Gospel tune derived from “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” written and released by The Womack Brothers in 1961.  Produced by Sam Cooke it went nowhere… but the brothers opened for James Brown in 1973.  Bobby Womack used the song to loosen up his vocal chords in a recording session, and it was suggested they cut it – which he did in one take.  It went to Number 1 on the R&B charts… ironically, tragically, the week after, his brother Harry was stabbed to death by his girlfriend… 

One thing I noticed, as our SA’s became Juniors, their girlfriends became way more a part of their lives, and as the song says, I was also “looking for love”.  After a few false starts that are some interesting stories that probably won’t show up here, my roommate’s leading by example came to mind.  It is often the case that words don’t have nearly the impact as the actions that others observe.  Certainly in my case, I saw that it was real – the change that would be manifested in him after he would return from some event at the church.  He had a feeling of Celebration every time… 

… so I made it over there for an evening event, a film that I enjoyed, and observed not only were there a lot of people there, but also a lot of really cute girls 😉  I came back on Sunday, and that night they were starting a new group for college students, with the best part for college students – free food.  I grabbed my new roommates, and we showed up – and of course, observed there were reasons to Celebrate for sure.  One in particular caught my eye almost immediately, and that is a story that is still being told nearly 42 years later. 

Standing and observing at this point in my life, it is easy to look back at the various places where I need to Celebrate the serendipity that happens when you are looking for it.  As with Seth, showing up to a show would give him the opportunity to not only join an amazing band he admired, but to change it and contribute to the sounds that we can now experience.  I normally try to find the best-sounding cut for the music, and frankly, the album and live versions are hard to distinguish.  I went with the live cut because that is what the band was known for… but Seth was able to harness that by observing how to Celebrate the chemistry that he brought together.  One of their best and timely for my story as well… Looking for a Love.

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