Have you seen them? Or: whatever happened to spoken word song intros?

chi-lites

One month ago today I was happy as a lark. But now, I go for walks, to the movies, maybe to the park. I have a seat on the same old bench, to watch the children play. Ha, you know, tomorrow’s their future, but for me it’s just another day.

Now, that’s how you begin a soul song. And the Chi-Lites’ “Have You Seen Her,” which hit #3 on the Billboard pop charts and #1 on the r&b list, was just one of the great soul tunes of the late ’60s/early-to-mid ’70s to kick off with a great spoken word introduction.

For a few years they were on the radio nearly constantly. “Have You Seen Her,” of course, and also “Everybody Plays the Fool,” “Kiss and Say Goodbye,” Isaac Hayes’ awesome “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and on and on. Listen closely and you can hear echoes of Broadway and gospel traditions, plus also the communitarian spirit of the Black Power and hippie movements, too. Sure, “Have You Seen Her” is a lost love song, but don’t forget the name of the album on which it appeared: (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People.

So come in closer, sit down next to the lonely man on the bench and listen to his rueful tale of woe:

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