Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9: Joe Tex, "I Gotcha"

Artist: Joe Tex
Song: "I Gotcha"
Album: I Gotcha
Year: 1972

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While many may try and make the case that hip-hop music "came out of nowhere," once one inspects the lineage of music throughout the 1960's and 1970's, the way in which the style developed is completely obvious.  Furthermore, it is within this development that the reason why so many early rap songs were based on older funk and soul break-beats becomes quite understandable.  This is due to the fact that the rapping style of performance was widely used within the soul sound, and though it may have been overlooked due to the backing music, its presence within these songs is impossible to argue.  For those who may wish to think otherwise, there is one performer whose catalog makes this link abundantly clear, and there were few soul singers that could compare to the power and presence of Joe Tex.  Though he remains in comparative obscurity, his writing and songs were one of the most critical elements to the entire rise of soul music, and it was his later work that cemented the base from which hip-hop music grew.  As his career progressed, his sound became more aggressive, jarring, and forceful, and this is the reason why it so naturally led to the development of hip-hop music.  While his early singles remain some of the finest fusions between soul and r&b, it is Joe Tex's 1972 single, "I Gotcha" that forever altered the landscape of nearly every musical style.

The musical arrangement found on "I Gotcha" is as much of a perfect balance between funk, soul, and what would become hip-hop as has ever been recorded, and it is one of the few songs that instantly grabs the listener, almost demanding some sort of positive body movement.  The bassline is without question one of the most infectious in history, as it winds through the song, giving "I Gotcha" a fantastic sway and dip.  Yet it is the fact that there is also an ample amount of attitude and grit within this groove that sets the bassline apart from most others, and it is this tone that quickly differentiates the music of Joe Tex from that of his peers.  The way in which the guitars weave brilliantly in and out of the rest of the music is equally amazing, and it is the largely the guitar that makes "I Gotcha" one of the most irresistible dance songs ever recorded.  However, the element that truly pushes the track to greatness is the signature soul horns, and one can quickly understand that it is this sonic presence that makes all other dance-style songs pale in comparison.  The drumming on "I Gotcha" is also quite unique, as there is a relaxed freedom within the playing that is unlike anything else, and this loose feeling drives home the amazing tone of the song.  The combination of all of these sounds truly has something for every music fan, and it is much the reason that "I Gotcha" is able to light up a room just as easily today as it did nearly four decades ago.

Along with the unique musical tone, there is simply no way that one can mistake the voice of Joe Tex for any other performer in the entire history of music.  In both his sound and swagger, Joe Tex was one-of-a-kind, and it is often the way that he approaches the lyrics as opposed to the lyrics themselves that make his music so amazing.  Throughout "I Gotcha," Tex brings an amazing level of energy, and it is the punch with which he delivers every word that makes the song impossible to forget.  Though he can be aligned with the other greats of soul singing due to his more straightforward, almost "unsung" style, there is an edge and grittiness to his sound that makes him completely distinctive.  It is due to this more raw and unpolished sound that the link to the hip-hop style is more apparent, and once one hears "I Gotcha," there is simply no question that the song was one of the most important building blocks in the development of the later style.  Even during the more melodic verses, Joe Tex's vocals are more "reading rhymes" that singing, and it is this slight tilt in the balance that would influence so many followers.  Yet the subject matter of "I Gotcha" is certainly up to debate, as it is perhaps a bit questionable in morality, as the singer seems to scold a woman for not coming to him after she left her previous relationship.  However, regardless of the intent behind the words, the song has an overall upbeat and spirited tone, and the key to this is the unrestrained manner with which Joe Tex delivers every line.

As the years have passed, "I Gotcha" has become far more of a pivotal moment in music than one would have expected when it was first released.  Though it was without question Joe Tex's most commercially successful song, it would be its lasting impact in all areas of media that would serve as the true testament to its greatness.  While one can easily find samples and references to the song all throughout hip-hop history, "I Gotcha" also continues to appear in countless films and television shows, most notably in Quentin Tarantino's movie, Reservoir Dogs.  The fact that the song continues to find relevance within modern society proves what a seminal recording it was, as it embodies the power and spirit of the classic soul sound, as well as adapting to the culture of the time during which it was recorded.  Though one might be inclined to cite another soul icon as the only source of hip-hop music's development, it is impossible to make such a solitary argument once one experiences the stunning masterpiece that is "I Gotcha."  From the hard hitting horns to the brilliant bassline, the song overflows with energy and musical perfection, and it is much the reason that all these decades later, there are few songs that can compare on any level to what one can find within Joe Tex's extraordinary 1972 classic, "I Gotcha."

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