An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania – The Delfonics and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Looking back at the “history” for this post (we get that here at WordPress), I started writing it back in November! I really need to pick up the pace with this series otherwise it looks as if I’m going to be in my dotage before I make it all the way round to my final destination, Florida. Anyway, as it’s now been over three months since I entered New Jersey (must have lost track of time in those vast gambling emporiums in Atlantic City), the great state of Pennsylvania now beckons. Yet again however we are entering a state that cannot be neatly summed up as having a single character. Pennsylvania has wide stretches of farmland, forests and mountains but it also has Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the US.

pennsylvaniaA few random facts about Pennsylvania. It was one of the 13 original founding states and came into being as a result of a royal land grant given to William Penn, an English Quaker and son of the state’s namesake. Philadelphia played an important role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States – The Declaration of Independence was signed there on the 4th of July, 1776. It is also home to the cracked Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the south central region of the state and is the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his landmark address. The Pennsylvania Dutch (who were actually German/Deutsch) settled in the south-east of the state and there are still Christian groups living there today who separate themselves from the world favouring simple living and plain dressing.

But what do I associate with Pennsylvania when it comes to music. Last time a few suggestions were offered up for which I am always grateful. Rol over at My Top Ten suspected I might choose Pennsylvania 6-5000 by The Glenn Miller Orchestra which was most definitely going to be a contender until I discovered it was actually the telephone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City! C, from Sun Dried Sparrows suggested I’m in Pittsburgh (and It’s Raining) by the Outcasts, a sort of “sub-Stones US ’60s garage classic” she tells us. Last but not least Lynchie, a frequent and very knowledgeable visitor to the music blogosphere, came up with two songs by Loudon Wainwright III. “I don’t think you’ll find the first one on YouTube” he said, and he was right, but fortunately he gave us some of the lyrics for Have You Ever Been To Pittsburgh.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
(It’s in Pennsylvania)
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Well – if you wanna go to Pittsburgh
Get on the bus and go!

“Loudon however”, he added, “also wrote the more affectionate Ode To Pittsburgh” and this time it could be found YouTube. A nice little film to accompany the song that gives us a bit of a flavour of what it might be like to live there. Not heard it myself before, but I find myself strangely smitten.

But as ever, music and film go hand in hand for me, and three movies immediately came to mind for this Pennsylvania post. The tunes from them are by no means all favourites, but they do for me, sum up the state. As tends to happen at award ceremonies, I will announce the results in reverse order:

First of all, when I saw that the next state we would be entering was Pennsylvania, I was immediately reminded of the film The Deer Hunter as the main characters in that epic Vietnam war drama were steelworkers from Clairton, Pennsylvania, a small working class town south of Pittsburgh. The images of that grim steel town have obviously stayed with me but also the scenes in the mountains where that trio of friends, played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage, spend much of their time deer hunting. I didn’t see the film when it first came out in 1979, but I do remember that the piece of music called Cavatina (popularly known as “Theme from The Deer Hunter”) received much radio airplay at the time and reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It was performed by classical guitarist John Williams whom I have just discovered is not the same John Williams responsible for writing the film scores for ET and Jurassic Park. Obvious now, but the same name and from a long time ago.

poster_thedeerhunter

Cavatina by John Williams:

The second film I was reminded of was of course Rocky where the main character, played by new kid on the block Sylvester Stallone, is to be seen pounding the streets of Philadelphia in his grey sweats, whilst carrying out his gruelling training regime. These scenes were of course very memorably played out to the sounds of Gonna Fly Now (popularly known as the “Theme from Rocky”) which was composed by Bill Conti. The lyrics (all 30 words of them), were performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford. Released in February 1977, the song has become part of American popular culture after Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then raises his arms in a victory pose.

Whenever I watch 1970s footage of American cities (like in this clip), I think of “the three B’s”, boxes, braziers and back alleys, as just about everything I watched on telly back then seemed to feature these three elements. Maybe it was just because there was a plethora of gritty cop shows and crime dramas, but also our inner cities were in real need of gentrification. I am sure however that the Philadelphia of today looks quite different, and I’m also sure that Neil from Yeah, Another Blogger, who is a resident, will keep us right on that score?

Gonna Fly Now by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford:

But of course I can’t write a post about PA, without mentioning all the great music that came to be known as the Philadelphia Sound, or Philly Soul. Any regular visitors to this place might remember that I wrote about how it all came to pass recently (The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision”). It does seem that there were three pivotal players without whom it might never have happened – Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell. It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion. Some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

0000219089

But I have written about some of those artists before so this time I’m going to go a little further back in time to 1969 when Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) was written by producer Thom Bell and William Hart, lead singer of the Philadelphia R&B/Soul vocal group The Delfonics. It was released by the group on the Philly Groove record label and is regarded as a classic, winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

And this is where my third film choice comes in, as for many of us, it is simply that great song from the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. It very much plays a pivotal role in the film as it underscores the relationship between main characters Jackie, and Max Cherry. Like many others I was probably a bit too young for a song like this when it first came along in 1969 but after re-discovering it in 1997, when the film came out, I found a new appreciation for Philadelphia based groups like The Delfonics.

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) by The Delfonics:

So that’s your lot as far as Pennsylvania goes. When I started this series it was with a view to featuring one song per state but of course once you start to do the research it becomes impossible to limit it to just that. Next time however we will be entering Delaware, a very small state indeed which at the moment is not offering up any inspiration (bar the obvious candidate). If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments boxes, as left to my own devices it’s going to be a very short post.

It has just occurred to me, as I returned to the top of the page to insert a title, that I may have inadvertently been a tad insensitive having included both the Theme from The Deer Hunter and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) in the same post – To anyone who has “experienced” the film The Deer Hunter, they will probably know what I mean. Enough said.

See you in Delaware….

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) Lyrics
(Song by Thom Bell/William Hart)

I gave my heart and soul to you, girl
Now didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby
Gave you the love you never knew, girl, oh
Didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby

I’ve cried so many times and that’s no lie
It seems to make you laugh each time I cry

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

I thought that heart of yours was true, girl
Now, didn’t I think it baby didn’t I think it baby
But this time I’m really leavin’ you girl oh
Hope you know it baby hope you know it baby

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)
(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (oh)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Hoo
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind, baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Can’t you see)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh baby, ooh)

Girl, can we talk for a second
I know it’s been a long time
Since some someone’s blown your mind, like I did
There’ll be other times, for me and you
And I can see the tears fallin’ from your eyes

Tell me girl, did I blow your mind

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

19 thoughts on “An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania – The Delfonics and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)””

  1. Great post (as always), Alyson. Hope all is well at home and I’m glad you found time to continue this series. Speaking of time, I don’t have much of it right now so I have to make this a quick comment. Love your musical choices here, and nice job with the unfortunate connection between “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” and The Deer Hunter. Well-played. I have to think that any Philly Soul song (especially from Philadelphia International/Gamble & Huff) could be a definitive Pennsylvania song. And let’s not forget Hall & Oates, probably the biggest selling act from that state (I’m just guessing here).

    As someone who saw Rocky the weekend it was released (I was 10 at the time), I was an instant fan…even though I didn’t quite understand how he could be happy when he lost the big fight at the end (oops, 40+ year old spoiler alert!)…and I bought the soundtrack album which got lots of spins over many years. The singers on “Gonna Fly Now” (as well as the equally awesome “You Take My Heart Away”) were credited as DeEtta Little & Nelson Pigford (what a great last name, by the way). I wonder why she’s now credited as DeEtta West. Maybe her full name is DeEtta Little Cougar Mellencamp West. 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your “quick”comment – Still managed to pack quite a lot in so very grateful.

      Yes a shame I didn’t find space to include Hall & Oates but with these kind of posts I have to find a theme and stick with it or you could go on for ever. For this one it was these 3 movies.

      You are right – In my old Book of Hit Singles, DeEtta has the surname Little, so not sure when that all changed – Looks as if she got married or simply got fed up of it! I think I might change it in the text above as now that I think of it, much more familiar when attached to the Rocky theme.

      Since you’ve dropped by, and since I can no longer leave long anecdotes on your FYF series (sorry about that!), here’s one I could have included above but didn’t. I watched the film Rocky for the first time in the summer of ’77 on board a large ship that was used by schools for “educational” cruises. We’d had a great two weeks and on the last day we were slowly coming back home to Glasgow, so they entertained us with the film before it was time to disembark. For the whole 2 weeks we’d been in casual clothes which in ’77 involved flared denim and cap sleeve T shirts etc. but for this last day we had to wear our school uniforms. Many of us had little holiday romances over the fortnight and I was no exception. Unfortunately the object of my affection went to one of the posh fee-paying schools whereas I went to a state Academy. We wore normal blazers and skirts from a shop called “The Skirt & Slack Centre” (other readers will no doubt remember it) but the girls/boys from the fee-paying school were in those very upmarket uniforms that involved kilts and matching ties/braid etc. I was asked if I wanted to join them for the film which I did, but it made for uncomfortable viewing as I was suddenly not one of them and made to feel inferior (girls at 16/17 can be somewhat mean) – Maybe I was just being overly sensitive but whenever I watch any of the Rocky films now, that feeling comes right back so brave of me to include it above at all. Strange how some things stick. (Needless to say the summer romance died a death once we got back and quite rightly – who could cope with all that tartan on a daily basis!)

      Anyway thanks for dropping by – Hope you’re enjoying the music room?

      Like

  2. On the subject of Delaware, I still have nightmares about the Perry Como song of that name – a “novelty” song (ha!) which namechecked about a dozen states of the USA by means of horrendous rhyming puns.
    For example:
    “Oh what did Del-a-ware boy, what did Delaware
    what did Del-a-ware boy, what did Delaware
    she wore a brand New Jersey,
    she wore a brand New Jersey,
    she wore a brand New Jersey,
    that’s what she did wear”.

    It was released in 1959 and I was 8 years old then and was scarred for life. Is it any wonder folk of my age worshipped the 1960’s ?!?!? You punks don’t know you’re born – the suffering we had to go through. And don’t get me started on Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest (also in 1959).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I know that “novelty” song only too well – It featured heavily on Ed Stewpot Stewarts Junior Choice when I was a kid so I wasn’t absolved. I’m afraid it’s very much looking as if it will have to be included next time however but I’ll try and do it in an entertaining fashion! As a great fan of Eurovision and having all the facts and figures re the songs entered at my fingertips, I also know the Pearl and Teddy song you refer to – Puppet On A String it ain’t.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

    1. Thanks – I got blocked somewhere between New Jersey and Pennsylvania (as this post has been half written for ages) but hopefully will start to pick up pace again. A lot of states to get through before I get to some of the really interesting “country music-lovin'” ones though.

      Like

  3. I once saw a film called the Mysteries of Pittsburgh, you might find find songs on the soundtrack listing from that neck of the woods. Although I honestly can’t remember what music was used as was a decade since I watched.

    John Williams certainly made beautiful music back in the days of The Deer Hunter. I was actually considering a scene from Rocky for my series great music choices in film. Top choices in this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Never heard of that film Chris and all I’m thinking of now is how the heck I can come up with something for Delaware – I had to be quite creative with some of the New England states though so sounds as if that will have to happen again.

      Not sure if everyone would agree with your “Top Choices” statement but you are right, Cavatina is beautiful and whatever you think of the Rocky franchise, Gonna Fly Now is a rousing piece of music. Please include the Rocky scene for your new series as I’m curious now!

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You outdid yourself, Alyson. Terrific and informative essay.

    Philadelphia definitely has had plenty of gentrification going on over the last 20 or so years. But the gentrified neighborhoods still retain their “old” look to a large extent. That’s a positive, I think.

    I heard The Delfonics song on the radio a day or two ago. It is SO great.

    Till next time.

    Neil

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Phew, I’m pleased you approve as always a bit nerve wracking if you know someone (virtually) from the actual state!

      Good to hear that the gentrification has been a positive thing and that the old neighbourhoods have retained their character. Sadly that didn’t happen in the 60s/70s but the city fathers have learnt their lesson since then thankfully.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great choices. We used to play Cavatina in my brass band days. Good solo for a flugel horn, if I remember correctly. (I played tenor horn, we rarely got solos.)
    Delaware? Perry Como was my first thought. Otherwise…
    The Hollies – Delaware Taggert & The Outlaw Boys (probably not about the state)
    James McMurtry – Down Across The Delaware
    Timbuk 3 – The Little Things
    Johnny Cash – Ragged Old Flag

    A tough one: good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like the sound of your brass band days – But did you have Pete Postlethwaite (great name) as your band leader?

      Only you could come up with 5 choices for a tricky state like this one so thanks. I will try not to take as long to come up with the next episode. These are the kind of posts I can start and keep coming back to however as not time sensitive like so many others.

      Like

  6. Glad you have assumed your musical travelogue series. I love Pennsylvania but have not been as far out in the state as Pittsburgh, though I may be going out there in the spring so the Loudon Wainwright song was a real discovery for me. Also, that Delfonics song is one of my faves and was so well used in “Jackie Brown.” Eagerly waiting the next state!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – I started with great gusto but seem to have stalled a bit as such a big undertaking. 9 states down, 41 to go!

      That Loudon song is great isn’t it and everyone seems to love that Delfonics song, especially how it was used in Jackie Brown.

      Like

  7. I somehow missed commenting on this post before, I meant to say it’s good to see you back on the road trip! And thanks for the mention re. the song suggestion too. There’s a song by the Drop Nineteens called Delaware if it’s of any help?!
    Just read your reply to Rich Kamerman by the way, and love your tale of school uniform woes….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve been quite prolific this week haven’t I but just wanted to get some of the drafts that have sat unfinished for a while done and dusted. Thanks for the heads up about that Drop Nineteens song – As you probably expect they are new to me so will be worth checking out.

      School uniform or any kind of uniform really isn’t it – We all have such tales of woe. I have another story you might appreciate where I got the “uniform” totally wrong. I was a student and I’d been asked to what I thought was a big Christmas Party, by a boy I knew from school. A dress was needed so off I went to the shops and managed to find a great punkish, blue & black leopard spot number. Finished off with black nail varnish, lipstick and a fake tattoo on my neck I thought I looked the bees-knees. Turned out that the party was actually a big RAF Ball (as his brother was attached at the time) and all the other females were in long Laura Ashley dresses (like something from Stepford). His brother’s girlfriend actually cried when we met up with them beforehand which I didn’t understand until we turned up at the event a bit later. It made for an odd evening but I braved it out and wouldn’t have been seen dead in Laura Ashley anyway at that age. Unlike with the school uniform incident, and the Rocky discomfiture, I don’t relive the memory of that night at all thankfully!

      Like

      1. Oh what a story! I love the thought of your look against all that Laura Ashley, odd though the evening may have been you were refreshingly unconventional and I hope you turned more than a few RAF officers’ heads.
        By the way – just listened to that Drop Nineteens record and actually think it’s awful! It was just the title that rang a bell from seeing the single cover somewhere in the dim and distant past….but now wondering if I ever heard it before!

        Like

I'd Love To Hear From You And I Always Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s