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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Dick Swanson: Diamond in the Back: Chain Links and Row Houses, Philadelphia, 1973 (I)


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North Philadelphia jobless Blacks. Man standing at right Is Gerald "Heat Wave" Jones, who works For "the Network", a resource center sponsored by The Urban Coalition




Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac Gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back You may not have a car at all But remember brothers and sisters You can still stand tall Just be thankful for what you got Diamond in the back, sunroof top Diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean


Be Thankful for What You Got (excerpt): Willliam De Vaughn, recorded at Sigma Sound Studio, Philadelphia, 1972, released 1974





Street scene, North Philadelphia


 


Street gang members, North Philadelphia


Street gang members, North Philadelphia


Member of a street gang in North Philadelphia



Mounted policeman on busy downtown thoroughfare, Philadelphia


Noontime rally in downtown Philadelphia




Fisheye from center courtyard of City Hall, Philadelphia


Center city, Philadelphia



Traffic on Market Street, Philadelphia's main east-west artery, looking west






Traffic on Market Street, Philadelphia's main east-west artery, looking west



Walt Whitman Bridge crosses the Delaware River at South Philadelphia, leads to New Jersey suburbs



Walt Whitman Bridge crosses the Delaware River at South Philadelphia, leads to New Jersey suburbs




Schuykill Expressway (I-76) speeds traffic between center city and the northern and western suburbs, Philadelphia




Schuykill Expressway (I-76) speeds traffic between center city and the northern and western suburbs, Philadelphia




Railroad switching yards just west of center city, along the Schuykill Expressway, Philadelphia




Abandoned car in trash-strewn lot, North Philadelphia




Two men sit silently on stoops of abandoned North Philadelphia houses



Child on steps of a North Philadelphia row house


Row houses in North Philadelphia


School girl on street in North Philadelphia




Playground, North Philadelphia


Boy in back alley in North Philadelphia


Housing project in North Philadelphia


Black neighborhood in North Philadelphia


Woman looks out of window of her apartment in North Philadelphia


Neighborhood medical center in North Philadelphia





Killing time in North Philadelphia


Inner city, Philadelphia

Photos by Dick Swanson, August 1973 for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA Project (U.S. National Archives)

5 comments:

TC said...

William De Vaughn: Be thankful for what you've got

TC said...

This in any case is the music one remembers these years by.

The world historical narrative here remains hidden, the Seaboard a submarine mythic place as might have been sung by an exiled Greek like Ritsos.

Did Jesus die for a box of Newports in the Soft-Pack?

Omar collection (Part II)

Jonathan Chant said...

Thought provoking series of images. Difficult to associate Leaves Of Grass with that bridge scene. Something eerie in seeing the time frozen at 5:10...

Wooden Boy said...

The William De Vaughn track goes well with those images of The Great Aspiration filling up the freeways.

Dick Swanson could have walked with his camera a few streets up from where we are and taken some very similar photos.

TC said...

The De Vaughn track -- possibly the best record ever made.

Breath of Life: William De Vaughn: Be Thankful

Other night late I was having a chat with a longtime friend who perseveres heroically with anachronistic ambitions (not to mention considerable skills) in attempting to make a career as an r & b singer and songwriter. He is a soulful man who makes soulful music, that lost thing. But his all consuming "real" job as a night maintenance man, cleaning up after educated spoiled brats, has put his daughter through school and kept a wolf from a thin door. And kept his real passion, his music, under a lid, apart from the occasional CD and club gig.

We got to talking about the time of his release from the military service in the early 1970s, that time Curtis Mayfield captured in the album Back in the World.

"The first music we were listening to when we got off the plane was Curtis -- and William De Vaughn, Diamond in the Back."

His eyes lit up.

"Now that's when the music was real. But kids nowadays...they just don't get it."

Sad shake of the head.

A lot of people have mistakenly attributed William De Vaughn's song to Curtis. But it even outdoes that lyric master, in the capture of a moment of victory for a quiet attitude of ghetto pride and self-respect -- "you might not even have a car at all".

At the time William De Vaughn (b. 1948) wrote this song he worked as a US government employee in the Washington, DC post office. He was a drafting engineer, designing sewers. Having the one hit record convinced him to quit his government job.

After his brief but decisive role in helping design the Philadelphia Sound on record, and a brief public performing career in which he employed the stage as a preaching pulpit (he was a practising Jehovah's Witness), he left the music business in the mid-70s (it was reported he had been screwed out of proper royalties, not an uncommon fate for r & b artists), worked in a record store and went back to drafting.