From a musician’s perspective, the South Africa of my youth — that would be White South Africa — was very similar to the southern states of Murka, in that they loved country music. Demographically, White South Africa outside the cities was largely rural in character, and I think that other than cowboy hats and stitched boots, those people had more in common with the American South than, say, New Yorkers of the Manhattan persuasion.
So we had a lot of country music in our repertoire when not playing in and around Johannesburg — and sometimes even then. Here’s a sample:
Mr. Bojangles — Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (killed two birds with one stone by playing this song: country, and a waltz)
If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body — Bellamy Brothers (cheesy as hell — but man, people loved this song, as they did the next one)
Kiss You All Over — Exile (note: for the time — mid-1970s — the lyrics for this and the previous song were unbelievably suggestive. Sometimes I still miss that innocence.)
Lying Eyes — Eagles (I know, some would say the Eagles weren’t a country band; I would suggest that before Joe Walsh joined them, they were. Another crowd-pleaser, this one: I think we performed it every time we played outside a club.)
Sunday Morning Coming Down — Kris Kristofferson (and by the way, our guitarist Martin had a MUCH better voice than Kristofferson: pure velvet)
It’s A Heartache — Bonnie Tyler (I know, she’s a Brit; but the song is pure Nashville. And I used to sing it, because I could — and still can — do that raspy-voice thing like Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker.)
Stranger In My House — Ronnie Milsap (his version is a little too country; we hardened it up into a rock song. By the way: I saw Milsap live after I came over to the U.S., and to this day I think he’s the greatest percussive pianist ever.)
Love Is In The Air — John Paul Young (everyone in the band hated this thing — and everyone in the audience loved it. Talk about selling out…)
Next week: old-time rock ‘n roll.