Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
For the past several years—really, I’m not entirely sure how many, but it could easily be a decade—I’ve been in a musical pickle of sorts. I’ve been on a melodious scavenger hunt to find a song I heard many moons ago. Shazam, the song finder app that presumably all who enjoy music utilize, was unavailable to me at the time I heard the song because, well, I left my phone at home that day. I was among the throngs, easily in the trillions of people, who have heard a song they can’t get out of their heads, except they don’t know the title nor any of the words—just a man stuck with a melody and a broken musical heart.
You see, yesterday, I found the song I’d been looking for. After years of Google and YouTube searches, even combing through radio playlists—true story—I happened upon the song in the car when my Apple Music randomly started playing a song by a group that sounded vaguely familiar with a voice that reminded me of the voice I vaguely remembered from the song. Victory was mine. But let me tell you a story about this song.
Years and years ago, I constantly used to listen to Howard University’s WHUR during the Quiet Storm. This served two purposes: 1) the music was always amazing, and 2) I’d hear songs that I might want to try to sample for music production purposes. For instance, I can still VIVIDLY remember the time I heard Phyllis Hyman’s “The Answer Is You” during the radio program. I almost lost my mind driving over the 14th Street Bridge. Thankfully, I knew her voice, but I’d never heard the song before despite owning a few “best of” CDs of Phyllis. But more importantly, I had my phone and my Shazam app at the ready. I’ve discovered hundreds of songs in this manner. And I used that song to make a beat for one of the homies.
But what happens when you forget your phone at home on a quick run to the store? I found out the hard way, and it turned into a multiyear wild goose chase. One night, I’m in the car making a run up the street to the grocery store, and this song comes on that I absolutely loved. I reached for my phone only to realize that I didn’t have it but figured I’d just sit in the car and wait for them to tell me the name of the song. They never did. I don’t know if I’m just that unlucky or if sometimes they don’t feel like sharing—which is rude—but this particular day, I absolutely waited and never got an answer. Now, at this immediate time, I ran back home, found my phone and started googling what I thought were the lyrics. Apparently, I was wrong since the results never turned up the right song. It’s no exaggeration to say that I spent hours that night trying to find out. I would do this randomly over the course of the next several years, trying to put in songs that were similar in vibe hoping that YouTube would reveal the song. Then I started searching via Spotify hoping the algorithm would help me out. Over time, I just thought the song was lost to my personal history and moved on. I’ve literally not heard the song again on the radio since.
But once, randomly, I was at home, and there was a huge block party happening in my neighborhood with a DJ and light setups, the whole nine. One thing I can say about the frequent parties in my neighborhood, the music spans decades, and all manner of Black music is represented. Well one night, this DJ throws on the song, and I knew this because of the piano intro, and I IMMEDIATELY grabbed my phone. I thought I’d just found gold and you literally cannot imagine how excited I was to find this song that I’d, to that point, been waiting years to find. Except, the DJ literally turned the song off for some odd reason—likely because it did not fit the rest of the night’s tunes—and I was standing there SO hurt. I thought I had it. I really did. I was absolutely despondent.
I’d pretty much given up on finding it, hoping that, one day, God would just send me the song out of the kindness of his heart. And then it happened.
Yesterday, I got in my car to go pick up two of my kids from school. Usually, I’ll plug my phone into my car, and the last podcast I was listening to or whatever was on Spotify pops up. I didn’t do that yesterday. I just let the Bluetooth pick up whatever signal my phone was sending and let it go. And do you know what song it started playing??
Chapter 8’s “Ready For Your Love.” Who is Chapter 8? I’m glad you asked. Chapter 8 is a group out of Detroit that at one point included Anita Baker, who sang lead on their self-titled debut album, 1979’s “Chapter 8.” This is important. See, when “Ready For Your Love” came on—a song I’ve heard before because of liner notes and because of songs that have sampled it—I recognized the female voice because who doesn’t love Anita Baker, ya know? But then I started thinking, waitaminute…hmmmmm….was that Anita Baker singing on that song I loved? No way. Impossible. There’s no way that I’ve spent years trying to find a song in which freakin’ Anita Baker was the lead vocalist.
Yeah, it was. While Anita is singing on “Ready For Love,” I pulled up other songs by this group on the one album available and IMMEDIATELY zeroed in on the song “I Just Wanna Be Your Girl.”
It was the song I’d been trying to find for years. The whole thing just fell right into place, and I let out the biggest sigh of relief and started laughing uncontrollably in the car. The piano intro is still there, and the music is right, and the feel is there, and my goodness, it’s like a tremendous burden has been lifted off of my soul. I have been listening to “I Just Wanna Be Your Girl” on repeat for hours now and will never lose this song again. I’ve forced my children to listen to it. Life is different today than it was yesterday.
I found my lost song and you can, too. If you have a song you’ve been searching for, for years, just know that I found my true love song. Your song is out there looking for you, too.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.