I was a kid in the 70s. Feathered hair, bell bottoms, banana seat bicycles, Holly Hobbie – this was my time.
My parents were music lovers and they played records at home and the radio in our station wagon was always on. We sang along to James Taylor, The Jackson 5, America, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Diana Ross, and Donna Summer. They were huge Beatles fans and when my parents stopped listening to their records, my brother and I continued, having memorized all the lyrics.
And I loved disco.
At the holidays my favorite album was Christmas Disco. Disco Duck was a regular on our turntable, music sung by Donald Duck to a thumping and syncopated disco beat. The Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever was an 8-Track that we rarely played, yet I’d stick it into the slot on my stereo and attempt to sing along to the falsettos and hard-to-decipher words that garbled together over the synthesized melodies.
But my favorite song of all wasn’t the run-of-the-mill disco that we heard on the radio. It was to become the end-all and be-all of disco tunes that marked my childhood. Seldom heard on the radio, I sang the tune over and over in my head, imagining the story behind the words, the drama played through the swoops and strings and the tragic ending to Barry Manilow’s Copacabana.
She was a showgirl
The love affair between Lola the showgirl and her bartender boyfriend Tony was a grown-up fantasy set in sophisticated New York City, filled with suspense and murder and ending with a poor elderly woman dressed in a thirty year old costume, drowning in her sorrows at the bar where her love began and ended. Don’t fall in love, the lyrics warned. It was the perfect blend of catchy, intrigue, and camp. I loved it.
The hottest spot north of Havana
Still do. To this day, Copacabana is the most frequently played song on my iPod. I could sing all the lyrics right here, right now. And I am. I’m actually singing it.
His name was Rico, he wore a diamond
During high school and college, we requested music on the radio. We'd dial the number to the radio station, stay on the line, and talk to the DJ who might or might not play our requests as part of his line-up. While my friends were waiting to hear Madonna and Duran Duran, I was wishing that the Top 40 DJs would play Copacabana. After all, the song had long been gone from the airwaves, and it never occurred to me to find it in a record store.
Music and passion, always in fashion
In my twenties the 70s found resurgence in various bars and they would play disco music along with the popular music. I made sure we frequented these places and they always played Copacabana. I would spin and twirl and sing when it would play, my husband and our friends surely thinking that I was the weirdest person with the strangest taste in music.
Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola
Later, after I made my first iPod purchase, Copacabana was the first song I bought. I played it for our children, taking their little toddler hands and dancing and singing along and watching their little faces brighten and eyes widen with the drama of the music. We sang the story together, and they never minded when I played it over and over. These days, they listen as I play it in the car on the way to youth group. They tell their friends to listen to the words.
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind
These days, when I hear it, my eyes fill with tears at the first beats of the percussion. It might be memories of my childhood, or leftover emotion from when I first realized the sad story behind the song, or my own sappiness that looms larger and larger with every passing day. Whatever it is, my love for Copacabana is without equal – no other song comes close, can simultaneously make me sing and dance and go there. To the Copa.
This post inspired by:
Prompt #1: An old school song that makes you happy.