Bernie Ebbers and Temptations.
If you don’t give a heck about man with Bible in his hand. . . . --Mack Rice
No. Not those temptations.
I mean The Temptations. And I am not talking about whoever is touring under name today. I am talking about Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin. The real Temptations.
Having all, except for Otis Williams, moved on . . . .
I wonder if Bernie Ebbers, frowning and dour, white beard and cheap, stained raincoat, pushing his way past TV cameras on Manhattan sidewalk; I wonder if Bernie maybe just for a split second heard a street radio, that great bass line holding up introduction so well that tune immediately gets ingrained in your soul so deeply that you don’t even know how it got there; I wonder if Bernie heard same song I did when I learned he’d been convicted and pronounced guilty on all counts; I wonder if Bernie heard:
“I got sunshine, on a cloudy day!”
And as we walked through throng, his lawyers clearing a path, I wonder if Bernie looked up into narrow band of New York City Sky; and saw all five original smiling Temptations on a floating Motown stage that hovered just in front and above Bernie Ebbers head, an unseen orchestra playing as Temptations came alive above packed and vibrating New York City street. Bernie watched them dance:
And when it’s cold outside. I got month of May. I guess you say What can make me feel this way?
As Bernie looked up, not really sure what he was seeing or why he was seeing it, he thought: “Nothing can surprise me now. I didn’t now it would all turn out this way. But nothing, nothing can surprise me now.
And who exactly are these five black men, all smiling, dressed in fine white silk suits?”
Bernie didn’t really even hear shouts of reporters and they all bounced into some unseen and unknown compartment in his brain. A compartment he kept locked. Forgetting long ago where he had hid golden key. But he could hear Temptations sing and he marveled at unity in their dancing moves.
I got so much honey The bees envy me I got a sweeter song Then birds in trees I guess you say What can make me feel this way. . . .
He watched dancing spin like flowing silk. He was entranced that there was such unity. It was as if dance and tune and words were all same. Coursing like blood through some sort of larger life force, some sort of life force in way those five men smiled and moved on that floating stage that hovered just above Bernie’s line of sight. He heard and watched them sing:
My girl, My girl, My girl Talking bout my girl!
And as we was jarred into a back seat of a big black car, 5 men who sang and danced with a unity of some sort of spirit Bernie had just never known before, 5 men vanished---Bernie closed his eyes and heard only sound of bass—the lines “My girl” fading and then bass rising again to a newer, even more powerful line.
The newer bass line rose into a groove that was even deeper, not loud---but deep. it was as if this single bass line packed power of a locomotive, a brutal black metal, coal fueled fire box locomotive just like one that ran between Winona Mississippi where Roebuck Staples was born in 1915; and Clinton Mississippi where in late 1990’s most everyone worked for Bernie; a locomotive bass line, that just shook earth---not from its noise---but from its simple power. And then voice of old Pops Staples asking Bernie: