Recognize this man? Well if your a fan of 70’s funk or the Ohio Players you do instantly. He was Leroy Sugarfoot Bonner-lead singer/guitarist for the Ohio Players. Visually famous for his enormous Afro hairstyle and double necked guitar,his band also bought us many hit songs we know today such as “Love Rollercoaster ,”Fire” and “Skin Tight”. On the other hand there was also another side to the mans musical legacy. In the same band,during the same decade he also produced other lesser known songs such as “Sweet Sticky Thing”,”O.H.I.O” and “Funk O Nots” . One thing that stands out in my mind about them is that the Ohio Players also produced an excellent electronic jazz/funk fusion type soundtrack recording in 1977 called Mr.Mean,which has been somewhat forgotten and was voted for years as their worst album. This actually somewhat points to some of the issues that the sad passing of an important musical figure (at least in my life) has pointed out to me about the place of music in society in general.
A few days before this writing,I did a YouTube tribute to Sugarfoot. While it’s gotten 400 views during that time,it’s still hard to get away from my own unlikely cynicism that the majority of those views come from the basis of the word “SEX”,written that way all in capital letters,before the rest of the title of the video. It points to the fact America,if not the world,has become a far more sensational and less of an implicit culture. Funny thing is,with their sexually liberated album covers featuring naked female models,the Ohio Players aggressively championed the sexual revolution (as a thing of beauty) in their heyday. Still the idea that the name of a musician alone cannot sell viewership on a heavily trafficked website like YouTube still tells the same story. I’ve talked a lot to people online and even in public. And at the end of a long day at collage or at work,it would seem music is merely what comes from their car stereo on their way home. When they return there,they tend to be inclined to either read a magazine,watch television or a movie. If that isn’t an example of a societal turn from the aural to a visual aesthetic I’m not sure what is.
That’s not to say there isn’t relieving ironies about this. MTV and VH1 have been televising music through videos and other methods for decades now. And with the advent of the internet MP3’s,YouTube and even highly controversial methods of information exchange such as file sharing/downloading have made music more accessible. The Ohio Players are actually not a bad example in this regard either. There many albums,including Mr.Mean for example,were not too long ago nearly impossible to find on CD in ones local record stores. Today Amazon.com and iTunes both offer such albums as MP3 downloads. So the music actually is there for those who want it. And whenever I am doing my acrylic/watercolor painting,music is much more often played in the back round than the drone of television audio. So with the passing of Leroy Sugarfoot Bonner,for example if your coming come from an odd date instead of watching another romantic comedy DVD go online and listen to an Ohio Players song called “Good Luck Charm”. There’s a list I recently saw in a magazine of how certain rock songs can stimulate chemical reactions that enhance certain moods. And in terms of funk,as George Clinton once said, it not only moves but removes. As for Sugarfoot,I’ll never forget the man and his music.