Hudlin Entertainment Forum

Music => Feel The Funk => Topic started by: Emperorjones on October 07, 2020, 02:19:48 am

Title: ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ singer Johnny Nash dead at age 80
Post by: Emperorjones on October 07, 2020, 02:19:48 am (
Title: Re: ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ singer Johnny Nash dead at age 80
Post by: Hypestyle on October 07, 2020, 01:47:32 pm
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I don't have a memory of being exposed to his music while growing up, though I figure "I can see clearly now" is one of those songs I have half of a memory of, based on possible occasional rotation on easy listening stations and retail stores background music.

I don't have a memory of seeing "Take a Giant Step" until 2007, and I was apparently impressed enough at the time to write an IMDB review:
Too bad that his acting career seemingly stalled, or perhaps he just deliberately decided to table it after a certain point.  Sidney Poitier was just a few years older than him, and of course, Hollywood studio culture was still entrenched in its 'one at a time' mandate.
Compared to James Dean's lead character in "Rebel Without a Cause", Nash's character Spence has a whole lot more on his mind. (

Courageous but Flawed Examination on Race & Teen Culture
hypestyle May 2007
Warning: Spoilers

United Artists released this film in 1960, in the midst of Civil Rights-era social turmoil in the United States. Johnny Nash is Spencer, "Spence" to his friends, a 17-year old boy who's looking at graduating high school later this year. He lives with his parents and his maternal grandmother. Spence's dad, Lem, is a bank teller; Spence's mom, May, is a homemaker, but the family also has a maid, Christine (Ruby Dee). You see, Spence's dad earns enough of a living to give his family a middle-class lifestyle, having apparently moved to a suburban locale from the inner-city at least a few years ago (it's inferred to be perhaps just before Spence hit middle school. Additionally, Spence's father may well have a college education, but it is subtly implied that being a teller is as far as he's allowed to advance at the bank.)

As the movie opens, Spence's birthday is around the corner, but he's not feeling too enthusiastic. Like a lot of boys his age, Spence is thinking about the future- what is he going to do with his life-- and, perhaps more important for Spence-- where does he belong? You see, Spence's teen angst is aggravated by the culture shock of being black in an all-white community (it's not explicitly stated, but it seems to be suburban Philadelphia or somewhere on the Northeast coast). Hanging around with his white friends was fine before puberty hit-- all of a sudden, because of his race, he's the odd man out when it comes to trying to socialize with the opposite sex. On top of that, he apparently has to cope with other classmates who like to make sly remarks; things come to a head when Spence mouths off to a bigoted teacher-- he gets labeled as a "troublemaker" and is suspended, with risk of expulsion.

Lem and May want Spence to apologize, but he refuses; the only person on Spence's side is his Grandma, who is rather blunt spoken (and not above ethnic slurs herself)-- she understands that Spence has become alienated, and criticizes his parents for pushing him to "assimilate" above all else. The ongoing conflict at home becomes too much for Spence, who decides to run away-- finding his way to the inner city, he drifts to a couple of bars, and pretends to be older, but his greenness is too obvious to most of the people he encounters-- ultimately, he's picked up by a hooker desperate for cash; but Spence just wants to vent about his problems, and the lady of the night has little patience; she kicks him out of her apartment with only bus fare to get home..

Back at home, Grandma's condition takes a turn for the worse, and she dies; feeling more alone than ever, Spence finally turns to Christine for advice-- especially about women. Soon, May abruptly decides to fire Christine, partly because of monetary concerns, and partly because she knows her son is attracted to her. Once again struck with anger and frustration, Spence races to the local bus stop to see Christine one more time, and she gives him some wise words about his grandmother and his overall malaise-- "If you weren't black, you wouldn't have gotten to know your grandma.."

Back home again, Spence's mom throws a birthday party, and Spence almost skips it, but he finally come to an understanding with his parents about his feelings, and for once, looks forward to the future..

analysis- That the filmmakers chose to directly address the complicated issues of being black in America was arguably a bold step for a mainstream studio (United Artists/MGM). Johnny Nash's acting career stalled not long after this (though he became a prominent reggae/pop crooner), but Beah Richards and Ruby Dee had distinguished roles as character actresses, pioneers for blacks in the profession. The pivotal role of Estelle Helmsley as Grandma is fascinating to watch.

The dilemma of Jim Crow-era black middle-class aspiration is handled admirably, but awkwardly-- the dialogue is rather dated by current standards, despite the presence of racial slurs. Ultimately, the film's conclusion ends on a note that defuses Spence's growing militancy, and his character's arc has a "work within the system" subtext. On the plus side, several key points are made, such as when Spence's dad remarks on having to service bigoted clients at the bank, or Spence's mother recalls working for (and perhaps now, socializing with) bigoted whites; Spence's parents not wanting him to "blow" their status as 'decent folk' to the neighbors; Spence embodying the creeping sense of self-loathing that comes with being racially ostracized, and his romantic frustrations of not having any 'real' dating options. Despite the time-specific setting, several of these issues have varying degrees of relevance in today's culture.

Trivia: Bernie Hamilton, the future Captain Dobey from "Starsky & Hutch", has a bit role here in a bar scene.
Title: Re: ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ singer Johnny Nash dead at age 80
Post by: Battle on October 10, 2020, 11:42:15 pm

...and retail stores background music.

HEF Trivia:

called Muzak.