SXSW Music Festival

South X Lullaby: Timmy Thomas

In the 1970s and '80s, Timmy Thomas was the heart and soul of Miami's rhythm and blues wing. Not only was he a musical cornerstone of the local TK Records (KC & the Sunshine Band, George McRae) and a songwriter/producer for singers like Betty Wright and Gwen McRae; he was also a hit-maker, most importantly with the iconic 1973 soul No. 1, "Why Can't We Live Together," a song written at the height of the Vietnam War protests that today's music fans might identify as the "Hotline Bling" music. And one thing about the 71-year-old Thomas: he never stopped caring, remaining unabashedly emo, even when being emo isn't cool. (Maybe Drake is onto something after all?)

"Dizzy Dizzy World," the song that Thomas performed for NPR Music as part of our South X Lullaby tapings in Austin last week, also appeared on the album, Why Can't We Live Together. And it disposes with the songwriting metaphors in its address of a world gone wrong. Is it sad that the song's notions of "stepping on each other's hand" and "status-climbing" and only identifying with one's own issues at the expense of our brothers and sisters, is as prevalent now as it was then? Undoubtedly. Is it important to have masterful soul songs to serve as reminders in reappraising our moral and ethical centers? Well, isn't that what art is for? Thank you, Mr. Thomas – and good luck to us all.

Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Mito Habe-Evans; Videographers: Nickolai Hammar, Cameron Robert; Editor: Nickolai Hammar; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann; Special Thanks: St. David's Episcopal Church.

Support for NPR Music comes from Blue Microphone.

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