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Name that groove.

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News item: Ray Sawyer, eyepatch-sporting vocalist of Dr. Hook, is dead at age 81.

Dr. Hook never made any deep connection with me. In retrospect, their journey from freaky counterculturalists to smoove purveyors of mellow gold — in other words, from “Cover of the Rolling Stone” to “Better Love Next Time” — is mildly interesting; not too many bands rebrand that drastically and that successfully.

(I like “Cover of the Rolling Stone” in a shaggy-dog way if I don’t actually have to hear it that often. “Better Love Next Time” … nah, thanks.)

The thought of Dr. Hook does bring back a long-ago musical question from the old blog that never got answered, so I’ll bring it up again. (The same three people who used to read me there now read me here, but maybe one of them has learned the answer in the intervening years.)

Bring “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” up on the mental Magnavox for a minute … and then see if you can tell me:

What is that groove called?

Y’know, the sort of slinky sashaying beat that the Hues Corporation perfected on “Rock the Boat,” and Dr. Hook more or less nicked for “When You’re In Love…,” and that sortakinda shows up in the bridge of Andy Kim’s “Fire, Baby, I’m On Fire.”

If I wanted to get a drummer to play that, what would I ask him for?

(I said “him” rather than “her” because most women have the good sense and innate propriety to not become drummers. Hi, Mark!)

The Wiki entry for “Rock the Boat” includes a clue that I don’t think was there the first time I asked this. It mentions (in an unsourced and questionably punctuated sentence) that session drummer Bobby Perez brought “that Cumbia beat” to the song, which on previous attempts had had a different feel.

Wiki tells me that cumbia is a rhythm and dance from Colombia that has percolated over the decades to other Latin American countries.

My only knowledge of cumbia comes from the work of Los Lobos, which has at least two cumbias (“Chuco’s Cumbia” and “Cumbia Raza”) in its repertoire. I don’t quite hear that beat in either of them, but perhaps they are deploying the rhythm more subtly than Top 40 demands:

A little more YouTube diving turns up a fair amount of rhythmic variation under the cumbia label. I did find some roughly similar examples, like the first songs off each of these compilations. (Both albums make for interesting listening, or at least skimming, though they depart pretty significantly from that beat from song to song.)

I don’t have the time or energy for further ethnomusical adventuring tonight, so it looks like I’ll have to continue living my life without an answer to this important musical question.

The Net’s a big and unpredictable place; maybe it will pop up yet.


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