I was never an athletic girl. I was the one that sat in the outfield making clover chains as the softball flew over my head. I was the one feigning cramps regularly in P.E. I was the one that sat by the fire, flirting with ski instructors, on the big ski trip. I was the one that only faked an interest in football, and that was just to make some guy happy. In fact, the best football game date I ever had was when the guy wanted to leave at halftime to go check out a band downtown.
Fortunately for me, there is one bright spot in this vast wasteland of non-athleticism – music makes me move. A lot of times when I go to concerts and everyone is sitting, it’s all I can do to stay in my seat and not be “that one girl” that stands up and dances wildly and makes a fool of herself. The inner Marie is dancing just as wildly as the one girl, and always has been. One of my earliest memories is of dancing by myself in my bedroom as The Monkeys’ “I’m a Believer” played on my little portable record player.
I was in junior high and high school during the heyday of funk, and that really took the “I’m a Believer” side of me to a new level. They played a lot of great songs at the Friday night dances at the Jaycee Hut. In case you don’t know what a Jaycee Hut is – the Jaycees, which stands for Junior Chamber of Commerce, is sort of a service club, and they used to call their lodges “huts”. So our Jaycees used to sponsor Friday night dances at the Hut for local teens during the school year, and they had a swimming pool that we used in the summer. We’ll talk about the pool later, but for now, let’s take a look at the comedy of errors, or the cluster of sad ironies, that was the Friday Night Jaycee Dance.
The main issue was that only a few of the boys would dance. This caused a big problem, because for some reason, at that time in Lynyrdskynyrdsville, it was unacceptable for girls to dance together. So the place would be packed with non-dancing kids, with the boys on one side of the room, and the girls on the other side. Luckily, I had male friends from the band that would dance the whole time – those were the Weird Al Yankovic-types that just got out there and shook their skinny white butts, usually exaggerating for comedic effect.
But most of the boys just stood there, arms folded, sour expressions on their faces, waiting for a slow dance, at which time, if they felt confident and motivated enough, they might ask a girl to dance. To tell the truth, I think that even then they would have preferred to stand completely still and just enjoy the full frontal contact thing. After the slow dance, it was back to standing grouchily against the wall, and the Weird Als would rule the floor once more. So the bottom line is that this situation deprived the boys of what they wanted more than anything, which was to be close to the girls, and it deprived the girls of the boys’ attention, which is what they wanted more than anything, and for which they had spent hours perfecting their Farrah Faucette ‘dos and blue eye shadow. All this angst and heartache because of an inability to get down and get funky.
It’s a good thing that this situation resolved itself by college, or the dance clubs would have really sucked. But it did resolve, and a lot of these non-dancing fellas figured out that having some smooth moves on the dance floor could only be advantageous to them. Finally there were enough males to go around. The best dance club that I ever went to was in Athens, Greece. This place could have rivaled the famous Studio 54 – it was massive and absolutely wild. I couldn’t understand anything that anyone was saying, but it didn’t matter – who needs words when you’re dancing?
So what does all of this have to do with exercise? Well, for most of my adult life, I walked around a huge college campus 500 times a day, but now, I’m teaching mostly online from home, so I need another form of exercise. One that doesn’t require much athleticism. One that’s fun. Happily, thanks to my inner dancing queen, all I have to do is switch on some good funk, and you can’t keep me still. I’ll be up on the treadmill, or doing an exercise video (muted, of course), or just plain dancing. It’s also a mood elevator. You want to feel happy? Cheerful? Optimistic? Try working out to some of the songs below and see what happens. Here is a list of the 100 greatest funk songs if you want some more ideas.
Okay, so here’s some of my very favorite selections from my long workout playlist, followed by a video countdown of the top three…
“Tell Me Something Good”, Chaka Khan
“Play That Funky Music”, Wild Cherry
“Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster”, Ohio Players
“Lady Marmalade”, Patti LaBelle
“Fight the Power” and “Who’s That Lady”, Isley Brothers
“You Haven’t Done Nothin” and “Superstition”, Stevie Wonder
And now for my top three. In third place…Will it go round in circles? Will it fly high like a bird in the sky? It sure as heck will. By Billy Preston.
In second place…by the great Stevie Wonder…good Lord, this song just sizzles…
Edging out that reggae woman by a slight margin, we have this song that just makes me crazy for some reason. I start every workout with it. I love everything about it, and the way it stops and starts in the middle before the guitar solo just sends me. Here’s the fabulous Isley Brothers, from the outstanding album, Go For Your Guns.
Questions? Comments? Please Share!