Memory, Dancing and “Funk 49” on Valentine’s Day at Haight & Clayton


Good Evening:

If you can recall when The James Gang released the rock classic song “Funk 49,” you’re pretty old, even if you were in grade school, as I was back then. The busker who was trying to play an acoustic guitar version of the song looked about 60 with a steel grey ponytail and beard, but I’m afraid the song was a bit too much for his abilities; the syncopated rhythm during the bridge is trickier than it seems.

So most of the passersby during their walks home from work didn’t pay him much mind or coins. Then a very elderly couple, about 70-80 years old, happened to stroll past the musician, her hand hooked around his elbow, as it probably has been for the past half-century at the minimum. They were both short and squat, him looking like a retired banker, her looking like a retired banker’s wife, in matching camel hair overcoats and plaid scarves, but only he wore the bowler and wire-rim eyeglasses.

When the couple passed the guitarist, still struggling with “Funk 49,” they stopped and listened for a moment. I was too far away to hear them, but they did look puzzled as they spoke to each other. I’m sure they were asking each other a series of questions. Then at the same moment, their faces lit up with 500 watt smiles.

And the very elderly couple danced in the middle of the sidewalk. Good old fashioned shake-your-booty-do-your-own-thing-to-the-sound-of-that-backbeat-you-can’t-lose-it kind of dancing. The young people hurrying home from work cast only a glance and kept on hurrying home from work, but the old lovers had all the time in the world for dancing, even at their age, especially at their age. When the busker finished his song, the gentleman peeled a few bills out of his wallet and dropped them in the open guitar case at the musician’s feet. Then the elderly couple walked on, skipping a bit (yes, skipping!), her hand hooked around his elbow, as it probably has been for the past half-century. Those bills could not have been singles, judging from how quickly the artist scooped them up and stuffed them into his pocket.

My guess? The song was a big part of a very happy memory from decades ago, but having forgotten the song decades ago, they had forgotten the memory. Song heard again, song remembered, and a valuable memory resurrected.

Vonn Scott Bair


One response »

  1. Pingback: The Streets of London, Or, the Return of Forgotten Memories « The San Francisco Scene–Seen!

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