Friday, September 12, 2008

Wilson Pickett, The Soul Clan, and the Limits of Modern Technology

Have you ever wished or imagined that your favourite celebrities (the cast of a tv show, or the members of a rock band) were truly BFFs in real life?

All too often, the fans dream it, but the reality is something else entirely - which is why, in Peter Guralnick's "Sweet Soul Music", I was so fascinated to read about The Soul Clan.

The Soul Clan was the name adopted by a group of Southern Soul artists - all friends - who intended to record together. (And no, in 1960s Memphis, I don't believe the "clan" reference was a coincidence.) The key players seem to have been Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex and Otis Redding, but the project never really got off the ground for a variety of reasons - including (most important of all) Otis Redding's death.

I was captivated by the idea not only because it offered potential proof of a true friendship between my idols, but also because of the tantalizing, tragic possibilities it offered: What if? What if the gang had gotten together in time? Better yet, what if that plane had never gone down? What would The Soul Clan have produced?

This week, on one of those satellite TV music stations, I came across a lament for The Soul Clan, straight from the source: a track off Wilson Pickett's 1999 album, It's Harder Now. The track is called "Soul Survivor" and it looks back on the glory days of Southern Soul.

"I remember 1965," Pickett sings, "Everybody was still alive."

Sure, the song won't be winning any prizes for lyrics, but it made me realize that of course, I'm not the only one wondering what could have been. I'd like to post it here, but - for the first time ever - YouTube has failed to come up with the soul track I'm seeking. Not only that, but none of the online lyrics banks have it, either! I'm a little bit shocked. After all, Pickett was well past his prime in 1999, when the song was released, but he was hardly obscure. Was he?

This marks the first time in this project that I've hit a technology wall, and I thought it was worth noting. Meanwhile, you can hear a brief sample of the song on the album's Amazon page.

Sorry, but it's the best I can do!

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