In a Noisey piece titled, How Come Everyone Still Wants to Be in A Sixties Girl Group? writer Hazel Cills asked, “Remember how good the music was in the 60s? Of course you don’t! You weren’t alive then.” She’s so right that I had to smile. It also made me think about my deep affection and attraction to that era of music and those images.
Maybe it’s because I was named after a musical icon but from a young age adults would ask me if I was going to be a singer one day. My 5th grade teacher once told my mother, “Chaka has a voice there. Ever looked into getting her into singing classes?” The singing classes never happened because my mother was still bitter about wasting money on piano lessons the year before. Anyway, I have always wanted to be in a girl group or a 60’s iconic performer. My earliest recollection of this desire was in grade 4, when I got my two best friends to perform The Angels record, ‘My Boyfriends Back,’ for the school talent show.
“Is that from the olden days?” asked BFF 1. She looked completely perplexed, and slightly insulted, after I played it for them.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe.”
“It sounds old,” said BFF 2.
To this day I don’t know where I even stumbled upon this song or why I felt so passionate about it but somehow I convinced my friends to dance our little hearts out to that Angel’s classic. Our teachers loved it. The other 4th graders were confused yet oddly entertained. We rode the retro factor into grade 5 when we performed “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I want to.”
I look back now and wonder why at 9-years-old I had such little perception about what was old and new. It was my mother who after noticing my affinity for things created 30-40 years before I was even born that informed me that Laverne & Shirley, The Honeymooners and Elvis Presley movies were not just in black and white but actually old. (I was devastated when she explained to me that Elvis had died in the 70’s). Later, she decided to let me figure it out on my own when I told her that I was going to marry Bob Marley one day.
Then there was the phase where I wrote “Tell ‘em off” songs in the vein of Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” and “Don’t Call Me I’ll Call You.” I was a feisty young girl ready to rumble with the hot boys one days.
By the time high school came, I believed that my friends and I could be an Island girl version of Destiny’s child (this is pre-Rihanna folks). However, none of us sang, we barely got along, and the following row ensued when I suggested we start a band.
“I’ll be like Beyoncé…”
“Why are you Beyoncé?”
“Umm, maybe because it was my idea.”
Needless to say, the other girls weren’t game for a talentless dictatorship.
And today, many of the artists I have a particular musical attraction to have a retro edge. There is of course Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Adele and Lana Del Rey. All women with more overt expressions of my similar retro 60’s girl groove bent. Wouldn’t’ it have been great if the five of us formed a supergroup, like the Spice Girls but with really incredible singers and amazing vintage clothing and I would choreograph the dance moves and direct the videos. Yes, it would be brilliant. Sadly, it’s just a dream.
To honour my obsession with girl grooves and being inspired by the PBS special honouring 60’s girl singers, over the next few weeks I am compiling videos that will hopefully inspire one 9-year-old out there to dancer her little heart out to one of these 60’s classics. Check out the first below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chaka V. is a writer, journalist and the creator of The Winehouse Mag.