VOL. 125 | NO. 69 | Friday, April 9, 2010
Memphians: Face it, You’re Funky
funky adjective (funkier, funkiest ) informal
1 (of music) having or using a strong dance rhythm, in particular that of funk : some excellent funky beats.
• modern and stylish in an unconventional or striking way : She likes wearing funky clothes.
2 strongly musty : Cooked greens make the kitchen smell really funky.
Rufus Thomas understood. If a chicken could get funky, it would be in Memphis.
Just look at the definition. It includes quintessential Memphis words. Rhythm. Beats. Unconventional. Striking.
And greens and kitchen are in there.
This part of the world, and Memphis as its capital, gave the rest of the world rhythm and blues, the beat of rock ‘n’ roll, the king and court of unconventional and striking. And, yes, we also gave them greens and cornbread, grits and chitterlings and fried green tomatoes and fried chicken.
We gave them the stuff that sustains vivacity in hard-to-live lives. Soul-stirring music born of abject poverty. Mouthwatering flavor from food easy to grow in the yard. A sense of “I can make it,” “I can change it,” “I can create it,” because the most ordinary of origins have sent such extraordinary gifts to the world from here.
Elvis and Holiday Inns. Self-service groceries and FedEx. Three Six Mafia and modern orthopedics. Stax and St. Jude. Isaac, Al and B.B. Clarence, Fred and Kemmons. Billy Dunavant and Billy Kyle.
Over the years, Memphis has been known as the world’s foremost city for cotton, hardwood, juke joints, mules, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, yellow fever, soul, keelboater fights, air freight, trauma nails and barbecue. And the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
All of that, mixed in our rich and dangerously spicy diversity, baked in our sweat-soaked summers, and left to stand on the kitchen, restaurant and church tables where we gather, has made Memphis one of the funkiest dishes this country serves. And all over the U.S., people can’t wait for a taste.
We’re known the world over for the beat of our mojo, for the depth and breadth of our creativity and the warmth of our hospitality. Yet, if you listen to us talk, you’d never know it.
We think it’s all about or who the mayor is, was, or isn’t; crime, government consolidation or taxes, or what we’ll do about my street/neighborhood/school/Bible/gun.
Those concerns are real ones that need real solutions, but people all over the world have the same trouble, and when we complain mightily as if they were uniquely ours, we can easily lose sight of the good others see in us.
Look at it this way: If everybody sees that funky person you’re with as attractive, fun, imaginative, intelligent, capable, different, open and loaded with potential and you don’t, you’re probably the one who’s wrong.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m funky.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.