Summer Memories Sparked by a Disco Track

For our staff song pick of the week, producer Christopher Johnson chooses Anita Ward's 1979 chart topping disco hit "Ring My Bell," which reminds him of childhood and summertime drives through the park.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And now our staff song pick of the week from producer Christopher Johnson. He's chosen Anita Ward's 1979 disco smash "Ring My Bell."

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Ms. ANITA WARD (Singer): (Singing) You can ring my bell, ring my bell.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) My bell, ding, dong, ding, dong…

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell…

CHIDEYA: "Ring My Bell" made it to number one on black, club and pop charts. It also made Anita a one-hit-one-wonder. For Christopher, though, the song still triggers old memories.

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, but gas must have been cheap because, instead of heading off on expensive vacations, my mom and I would get in the car and roll. Most weekends, I went to stay with Grandma Clara(ph) in D.C. But when I was home on Saturday mornings, I would hope and pray that mom and I would go on for a drive somewhere that day.

And in the summer time, when she grabbed that cooler, oh shucks, that meant we were headed for the park - monkey bars and merry-go-round and a creek to get filthy soaking wet in.

We've stepped out of our little apartment and on to the sunny concrete in the 'hood. And there I was, Mr. Man(ph) struggling to carry that big cooler in one hand while holding proudly on to my momma with the other one.

The first stop was 7-Eleven where she let me handpick my favorite bottles of orange drink and fruit punch, and don't forget potato chips.

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Ms. WARD: (Singing) I'm glad you're home. Now did you really miss me?

JOHNSON: We go cruising through Sligo Creek Park in her big green Ford Granada. Mom would click on the radio, and back then, Anita Ward was a huge hit and the deejays had her song on all the time.

When I hear "Ring My Bell" today, I can still smell that springtime parkway and feel that seatbelt across my little belly. I remember so vividly how happy I was to be headed for our whole day of play. And I remember how safe I felt next to my mom, listening to her sing for me.

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell, ring my bell.

JOHNSON: My mom is not doing so good these days. She's been through a lot in her life taking care of my big brother and I. It's hard sometimes to think back to those drives when she was a lot healthier. But we have these kinds of memories for a reason. The other day, I was flipping through my records and I found the "Ring My Bell" single. Instantly, I was back in that Granada - the 4-year-old doing back up vocals going boo(ph), boo.

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell, you can ring my bell.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Ding, dong, ding, dong.

JOHNSON: I was thinking about my mom so I called her up. I told her some stories and I had got to hear her laugh, and maybe she smiled, too, like a 4-year-old on a bright Saturday morning, surrounded by the best kind of love.

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell.

CHIDEYA: That was NPR producer Christopher Johnson with his staff song pick of the week, "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward.

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell, ring my bell.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) My bell, ring, ring, ring.

Ms. WARD: You can ring my bell, ring my bell.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) My bell, ding, dong, ding.

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell, ring my bell.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) My bell, ding, ding, ding.

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today. Thank you for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org. No spaces, just nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at nprnewsandviews.org.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of song, "Ring My Bell")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Ring, ring, ring.

Ms. WARD: (Singing) You can ring my bell. You can ring my bell.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Ding, dong, ding, dong.

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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