Soft and warm, a quiet storm. Quiet as when flowers talk at break of dawn, break of dawn. A power source of tender force generatin’, radiatin’. Turn me on, turn them on.” Smokey Robinson, “Quiet Storm”

If you lived in Washington, DC, WHUR’s Melvin Lindsey was playing “Quiet Storm”,  as intro music devoted to three hours of slow tunes and love music. What Melvin Lindsey began at Howard University’s WHUR station would become a universal clock.  In Chicago, WJPC exchanged Smokey for Teddy, and every night at 7pm, WJPC would go down-tempo and slow-drag with the “Love for Two” program.  The program opened with a full play of Teddy Pendergrass’s  1985 hit single “Love 4/2”.   It signaled we could leave behind the fescennine promise that we’d be “moving on up” through devotion to the slaughterhouse 9:5 hustle. We exchanged the encumberances of our proletariat uniforms for freedom expressed through the honey soaked mercies of Minnie Riperton or  wood-aged agony of Bobby Womack.

Whether it was sensual Smokey, or Ready Teddy, the close of the evening bought the best in slow jams, relaxed soul and love songs. If you weren’t in love, you wanted to be in love. Brilliant interpretations were delivered by falsetto-singing men, alto-swearing women, and the harmonies of EWF, LTD, Enchantment, ConFunkShun, The Emotions, The Manhattans, The Dramatics.  Ear pressed to speakers, we sank into epiphoric melodies delivered on lips swollen and bruised from bursting air into horns and fingers scathed from a bare run across strings.

It was tortured love, everlasting love, forbidden love, first love, and lust. In as much as we looked for a mellow end to a hectic day, the DJ could pick a selection that drove us into the insane, darker corners of our heart. One night everything could be cured with Luther Vandross, a hot bath and a completely inoffensive glass of White Zinfandel. Other nights, rotating Enchantment’s “It’s You that I Need”, Al Green’s “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart”,  Sade’s “You’re Not the Man” and  ConFunkShun’s “Love Train” led to uncut Hennessy X.O.measured by the cup rather than the ounce, burning letters, ripping mementos, knocking phones off the hook, and waking up on a cold wooden floor in a puddle of tears and drained by a night screaming at the walls and cursing out shadows.

Forbidden and ridiculed in daylight, we seek loves’ favor with moonrise, and admit our desire for tenderness and the vulnerability of need.  Marvin or Anita, Roberta or Will, Peabo or Jill..gives us professional recitations of poetry that amplify our lamentations, exalt our desperation and scold our lust. Sounds extract mirrors from our heart, a matelasse reflection of soldered heartbreaks and triumphs.

The Pleasure Palace is incapable of matching the selections from the crates of the grates. In this inaugural episode of the Sunday Slowdown, we’ve gerrymandered a sample of the best by the best. It probably helps to be on the evening shade of 35 to enjoy this love affair with the classics. Whether these sounds make you walk backwards in your mind or it’s your freshman course in Love Songs,  experience love as it is meant to sound…..

Sunday Slowdown Ep. 1: Back to the Old School.

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