Thursday, June 7, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Assassinations, Riots and the Temptations' Ball of Confusion

 This week was the 50th anniversary of the Robert Kennedy assassination on the heels of his California primary win. Two months earlier Dr. Martin Luther King was slain. The Viet Nam War was in full swing and the summer more than 100 U.S. cities would experience riots in the streets. Thinking about these things brought to mind the Temptations' hit single Ball of Confusion, which seemed to pretty much sum up the decade we had just been through when it was released in 1970. 

For this reason I thought I'd share the song here as 1968 still seems so fresh in some of our memories. Upon Googling it I learned that I'd actually shared the song in 2010, ironically on the anniversary of Bobby's brother's assassination, November 22. Here's what I posted on that occasion, as relevant as ever.

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This weekend on Twitter someone wrote, "The Truth will set you confused." Clearly a parody on the well-known saying from the Gospels. (John 8:32)

Interestingly enough, just before the weekend I'd torn Matt Gruhn's editorial message out of the trade journal Boating Industry with the title Uncertain times. He begins with an unattributed quote: "Anyone who isn't confused here doesn't really understand what's going on."

Harry Truman once declared, "If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em." Straight talk from inside the Beltway.

Dylan at times addressed the confusion of the times in his songs as well, beginning one 1962 song with the exclamation, "I got mixed up confusion, man, it's a-killin' me."

All this is lead in to a 1970 pop hit by the Temptations which pretty much sums up the tenor of the times.

Ball Of Confusion

People moving out,
People moving in.
Why? Because of the color of their skin,
Run, run, run, but you just can't hide.

An eye for an eye,
Tooth for a tooth,
"Vote for me and I'll set you free,"
Rap on, brother, rap on.

Well, the only person talking about
loving thy brother is the preacher;
And it seems nobody's interested
in learning, but the teacher.

Segregation, demonstration,
integration, determination,
aggravation, humiliation,
Obligation to our nation.

Ball of confusion,
That's what the world is today, hey hey.

The sale of pills is at an all time high,
Young folks walk with their heads in the sky,
The cities aflame in the summertime,
And oh the beat goes on.

Evolution, revolution,
gun control, sound of soul,
shooting rockets to the moon,
Kids growing up too soon,
Politicians say, "More taxes will solve everything."
The band played on.

So, round and around and around we go,
Where the world's headed, nobody knows

Oh, Great Googa-Mooga,
Can't you hear me talking to you,
Just a ball of confusion...
That's what the world is today, hey hey.

Fear in the air, tension everywhere,
Unemployment rising fast,
The Beatles new record's a gas,
And the only safe place to live,
Is on an Indian reservation,
The band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
mod clothes in demand,
Population out of hand,
suicide, too many bills,
Hippies moving to the hills,
People all over the world are shouting, "End the war!"
And the band played on.

Great Googa-Mooga,
Can't you hear me talking to you,
Just a Ball Of Confusion.

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And the band plays on...

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