It's Time To Party Now - RAY PARKER Jr. And RAYDIO '1980 |BEST|
SZ: Well, the service was in Hebrew. There was no English. She felt like there were just a bunch of old men, just reciting gibberish, and the rabbi was very conservative and there was so much happening in the world in the 1960s that my mother didn't relate to what was happening there. It was a big deal at the time. We broke away from the Orthodox synagogue and went to the Reform synagogue. ... In 1967 we went to the reform synagogue. The whole family became very active there. My father became president of the synagogue. My mother was very involved; sat on some of the boards. My sister and I would go to services every Friday night, Saturday morning, and Hebrew School a couple days a week. We were involved in some of the youth groups there. So, yes, religion was an important part. When I was about eleven or twelve years, during the summer, I would take the cantor's place and chant the service on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. The choir director at synagogue begged my father to have my voice trained. My father just didn't do it. I don't know if it was the money or if he just didn't like the idea of his son taking voice lessons. It just didn't sit well with him. I never really figured out why, but I never got voice lessons. They would let me take the guitar. I studied the guitar, but the voice lessons they didn't go for. I begged them to buy a piano so I could do that and study voice, but it just didn't happen. I took guitar lessons when I was eleven, twelve, thirteen and learned a little bit. I didn't really come back to music until I was eighteen or nineteen. I studied music more, not even as a minor, just took a couple of music courses in college and got into it after college. I studied with Mark Elf, who's a really great bebop guitarist in New York, and Harry Leahey--his heyday was being in the Phil Woods Six. I took classes with Vishnu Wood, who was in Randy Weston's band, and just got into it. I mean, it's just something that came to me. We haven't really talked about Livingston, but a lot of it was the experience at Livingston. I always liked jazz. I guess for me, jazz was like listening to Count Basie. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra and those bands and all the bands with Nelson Riddle and Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, those albums. But it wasn't until I got to Livingston that Larry Ridley would give talks on jazz and just opened us up to a whole universe of music that I didn't really know that much about. I wasn't good enough to be in stage band in high school, but I remember really liking stage band in high school and they played some Coltrane tunes and things like that. Livingston was just such a great environment in those days. It's really kind of sad that by 1980, for all intents and purposes, except for keeping the name, they pretty much phased out what the college was.
It's Time To Party Now - RAY PARKER Jr. And RAYDIO '1980
SZ: '73, 1973. I was talking about this with my wife. I never was really that much engaged. I just wasn't engaged. I went through my life. I did what I was supposed to do. I got decent grades, not great grades. I wasn't involved in a lot of extracurricular activities in high school. I wasn't overly motivated. I played sports with my friends. Later on, I got into music. I mean, it was the height of the rock era, so I was into that, but I wasn't engaged in high school like the way I was at college and I don't know what it was. I think sometimes people need to be away from home and solve problems on their own. For example, my older son, he's out in California now and it's been the best thing for him, being out at grad school in California. So, I don't know. Ask me anything specific you want to know about either my middle school years or high school years.
SZ: The first year was more like an extension of high school. There were a lot of kids who came down to Livingston and spent a year or two there and never graduated. So, I wound up hanging around with some of the people I knew from Clifton, but then met people as I went along and met people in classes. The first year was just a party. I wasn't really engaged until my sophomore year when I started writing for the newspaper and spent time with a better group of students, a better group of kids, and just got focused on becoming a reporter.
SZ: Yes, at nights or on weekends there'd be rap sessions and everyone would air stuff out about like why are the white kids just kind of hanging together? Why do the black kids stay together and there'd be conversations about, "Well, black folks really don't want to be with white folks and white folks don't want to be with black folks," and this sort of thing. ... I think the fact that we did it and that we broke those barriers and we had them in a fully integrated school with integrated faculty was just a really profound thing to do. I think, you take it for granted today. Particularly here in Columbia, Maryland. Columbia was founded in the 1960s and Columbia welcomes people from all walks of life and all religious backgrounds and all racial backgrounds. There are no restrictive covenants and they build housing for moderate and low-income people. So, anyway, I'm talking about Columbia. Its forty years ago. It's hard to remember. For me it was just really a great place. At that point in my life, my sister had anorexia nervosa and she was hospitalized a number of times and it was really traumatic for the whole family. At Livingston I had a really good group of friends, I got into journalism and everything that I wanted to do was there. People were motivated to talk politics and we all read the paper and followed the news and the professors were motivated. I mean, they recruited a young faculty. In poli sci you had Wilson Carey McWilliams whose dad was Carey McWilliams, the editor of The Nation and Gerald Pomper, who was an expert on political polling and so forth. You had intellectuals like Dennis Bathory and Gordon Schochet, who were experts in political philosophy. In the history department you had John Gillis who was an eminent historian. Writing had Mark Crawford, who's a really respected journalist. Jerry Aumtente was a young guy then and he built that journalism program and was just really dynamic. I mean, I really loved the place. The music kind of permeated the whole tenant of just living there. There were just cool things that would happen. One night, Larry Ridley brought Teddy Wilson to play. I don't know if you know Teddy Wilson, the piano player; he played with Benny Goodman. Teddy Wilson did a trio with Billy Cobham on drums and Larry Ridley on bass. So it's this really cool piano trio. It was free. You'd never see it again because Teddy is long gone. You wouldn't get Billy Cobham, who was really big in the '70s, to do that necessarily, but they did it at Livingston and things like that would just be commonplace. Ted Dunbar, who was a great guitar player, would hold clinics outside on a nice day like today in the spring. There'd be students throwing Frisbees, and reading, just studying. The jazz band, one of the ensembles would be playing. It launched the career of Steve Nelson who's like this really great vibist and composer. Steve would always be playing there and George Naha, the guitar player. I just have fond memories of it. I think what really helped me was just getting involved in the newspaper. I mean, there are things that I would change. I have to say, I didn't make that many black friends. I was one of the few white kids who played basketball in the gym and wasn't afraid of the gym. A lot of the white kids were. I'm just talking about this in really terse ways. But, maybe there were like five or six of us who'd be in the gym all the time back in those days. But I still think it was a good thing to do. I still think it was a good thing to try Livingston because it led to other universities opening up higher education to minorities and women, universities opening up faculty positions for women and minorities. Without that, without those early experiments, we wouldn't have Barack Obama. You wouldn't have had a country ready to vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton this time around, if Hillary wins the nomination. I think in our small way we had an impact. I often feel remorseful that by 1980 the university ended Livingston College as we knew it and integrated it into the broader university. Livingston was a product of the times. I think in a large respect they needed to do something. The riots of the '60s happened and they wanted to bring minorities into the university. Then, there was just this tremendous demand for higher education. So, it killed a lot of birds with one stone in the sense that they were able to bring minorities in, bring minority faculty in, bring students like me who might not have been academically competitive for Rutgers College, but could do university level work. So, it worked out through the 1970s.
SZ: A little bit, but it was more like once I was in it, a nice byproduct of that job was that I got closer to my father. My father really liked the idea that I was on the magazine and we'd talk about the business a lot more. He always wanted me to be in the business. I think he always wanted to start a small company. His father never passed the business on to my father and my father wanted to pass the business on to me. I wasn't really interested in the business. I think at a certain point because my journalism career really wasn't taking off, if my father had a business that was worth going into, I might have done it. I might have done it, but it's just hard to know. There was never really a business to go into. I did interview at A&J Friedman I think in '82 or '83 and by that time I think it was pretty clear they weren't going to continue the business and they didn't want me there. They didn't want me there. I didn't really want to be there. The job didn't pay that well. Whatever they were going to pay me I could make working on a low-end publishing job, so I always felt that I was just better off doing that; at least I was headed down a path. 041b061a72