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Guilty Pleasures: Al Jarreau

David Hochman on the ’80s crooner

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Personally, I don’t understand why my editors have placed a towering musical talent like Al Jarreau among admittedly guilty pleasures like break-dancing movies and a rapping basketball star. Obviously, they’ve never twisted the cap off a nice Chablis and really listened to the musical masterpiece that is Jarreau’s 1983 ”Mornin”’ (”Mornin’ Mr. Radio/Mornin’ Mr. Cheerio/Mornin’ Sister Oreo”). Nor, it seems, did they witness Al’s transcendant solo in that ”We Are the World” video. (He was the guy right after Willie Nelson who flailed his hands, scrunched up his face, and let out, from somewhere deep within his soul, ”and so we all…must lend…a helping ha-a-a-and….”)

With his jazzy flabba-dabba-doobies in songs like 1981’s ”We’re in This Love Together,” 1983’s ”Trouble in Paradise,” and the ’83 classic ”Boogie Down,” Al always seemed the picture of big-city sophistication to a small-town Pennsylvania boy like myself. There he was on the cover of 1981’s Breakin’ Away sporting a pink Izod (collar up) and an unselfconscious authority that could have sent Lou Ferrigno running scared. And with his uncanny ability to stretch words like Silly Putty, Al’s every song comes off as a vocal decathlon. Face it: His Moonlighting theme song (”We’re moonlighting strangers who just met on the way-a-a-a-a-a-a-aay”) was one of the best things about the series.

Frankly, I don’t care if my editors think Jarreau’s so unhip that he’s cool. Even if he hadn’t been there for me through myriad amounts of dental work, I’d still think listening to A.J. is the be-bop-a-boopiest way for anyone, no matter what their age, to connect with their inner 40-year-old. A very good mornin’, indeed, Mr. Cheerio!

Guilt-o-meter: 10