Gentle Giant: “Proclamation” (The Power and the Glory, 1974)
I don’t know how many times I watched The Jeffersons as a kid, but it must have been a lot, because I can sing you the whole theme song without even thinking about it, and the character of George Jefferson in particular is wandering around in the back of my brain, doing a crazy little dance where his upper body stays mostly still while his legs go crazy.
The man who played George Jefferson, Sherman Hemsley, died yesterday, and reading obituaries, I learned a lot about him. For instance, I had no idea that he shared my love of 70s progressive rock. And it’s not as though he had a couple yes albums. He was into Nektar and Gong, knew the music in detail, and even made an unreleased album with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson (Hemsley was an accomplished keyboardist).
YouTube is a never-ending font of amazing cultural tidbits, but one that’s not up there is Hemsley’s appearance on Dinah Shore’s talk show, during which he performed a dance routine to Gentle Giant’s “Proclamation.”
I wish it was, because I’d love to see what a person who was passionate about this music and also a really good dancer (really, his George Jefferson dance was meant to be comical, but it takes some skill to move like that) would have come up with to match it, especially around the three-and-a-half minute mark when the rhythm shifts and the beat drops out in favor of some grinding stop-time guitar work.
Up to that point, I can really see moving to this, though. The verses are funky, with some great backing vocals (vocals being a general strength of Gentle Giant), and unusual instrumental choices. And it does come back strong on the last verse—I suppose whatever dance one might do in the middle section would be interpretive to some degree.
If you want to hear more of the sounds Hemsley was digging, I do happen to be between volumes 13 and 14 of a massive overview series of progressive rock from the UK. Even if you’re skeptical of prog rock, you might find something to love, too.
Anyway, this one’s for you, Sherman.