When I was a kid there was a TV show I watched every sunday called Wonderama. I really only remember a couple of things about the show…the songs mostly. One song in particular was performed by a black man, short of stature but with a name larger than life in the black community. He stood up there with all his jewelry, his perm looking Afro, and his glass eye and sang of this mysterious man who “could make the world taste good.”
Being a candy lover at the time, naturally I loved him, for the song he sang was called, The Candy Man. Every kid I knew loved him.
He would remain merely that, the candy man, for a while. Well, that and this very famous name that went around kissing famous white people: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, President Nixon, Archie Bunker…just loved kissing white people.
As the years went on, I’d pick up other little tidbits about him here and there, overhearing my parents, in barber shops and at my unique little school. I’d hear things like he was yet another Uncle Tom, in a long line of Toms, kissing white ass to get ahead…loved them so much he went out and became Jewish, which was about as white as you could get and still be black.
That he had hobbies like dating white women and hoarding diamonds, even had a diamond in his eye socket to replace the eye he’d lost. Soon, even the name Sammy became synonymous with sellout.
I remember the day I started questioning the opinion I had ignorantly formed of the man. You see, til this point I had only heard him sing or act…I hadn’t really seen him dance.
There’s something about dance…
Like most art forms, it’s founded, at least when it’s at it’s best, on truth. This is what most artists are looking to arrive at when they set out on a journey towards being artists, whether they’re aware of it or not. The truth about themselves and if possible some indelible truths about the world around them. And when an artist does arrive at this destination, it’s virtually impossible for it to go unnoticed…not by humans anyway. The truth steps out from the shadows of fraud and deception, knocks down walls of misinformation and misunderstandings, reverses unfair judgments and overthrows unjust verdicts, removes the veil of envy and low self-esteem that hides it, emerges from the darkness and shines.
Sammy shined. On his worst day he was merely blinding, but on his best he cauterized souls.
Even my teenage ultra-rebellious, white ass-kisser hating, shucking-and-jiving negro eviscerating ass saw the truth when Sammy danced.
I made it my business to learn what I could about the man…people like Gregory Hines and Savion Glover made it easier, not just to learn about Sammy but to learn about a whole slew of other dancers who used their huffing feet to pave the way for the entertainers that followed.
Sammy, among them, mostly in the spotlight, took most of the heat and flack…took it like only a one-eyed negro jew could, like a man on a crusade, his gifts on parade. The world’s greatest living entertainer, he was dubbed in his day. A title even Michael Jackson would be hard-pressed to strip him of. In fact, I think MJ put it best:
Sammy took the hits for all of us…and he did it with style and a grace I can hardly fathom.
He was beautiful…just beautiful.
Thank you for mixing it with love, Baby! You still make the world taste good!