“The Way I Am”

NOTE: This post originally contained an embedded link to  a YouTube video that is no longer available. You can see a different copy of the video here in a slightly distorted aspect ratio. The comments mentioned in the post were with the original YouTube video.

One of the many delightful pop tunes Jackie Wilson recorded early in his career is “The Way I Am,” released as a single in 1961 on the other side of “My Heart Belongs to Only You.” The video that survives of this song was produced for a teen movie, “Teenage Millionaire,” a dreadful Jimmy Clanton vehicle which is with us today because it features a number of interesting performance clips, including this one and a second one from Jackie (“Lonely Life“). I honestly cannot remember where I read it, or I would name the source, but Elvis supposedly sat through this horrible flick twice to watch and re-watch Jackie’s performances.

The movie itself was black and white, but all the performance clips were tinted with various color transparencies. Jackie was among the more fortunate artists in getting a sort of pinkish beige wash. Poor Marv Johnson’s “Oh, Mary” was swathed in oceanic blue.

I love reading the YouTube comments on this video. One woman proclaims, “Lawd have mercy! That man was fine and sexy as hell….throwing my panties at my iPad.” Someone responded to her by saying that Jackie had “serious swag.” Another woman wrote, “I feel…flustered. What a babe.” Yet another states that she has “been lovin on this fine ass man since 1965!” And so it goes. I put some screen shots from this video up as a gallery. While I was putting the post together, I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save draft.” I hadn’t removed the default “like” button yet, and when I reopened the post to finish it four minutes later, some woman had already found the photos and “liked them.”

See the screen shots here.

“The Way I Am” is actually a very catchy pop song. The lyrics announce that while the singer’s no saint, he is in love with the woman he addresses, and she can have him as he is. She shouldn’t try to change him. After all, he “ain’t her Sunday hat.” The tune and arrangement, complete with “umms” and “oh, yeahs” are engaging and hummable, but with this video, the song becomes dynamite. Take Jackie the way he is? Utterly gorgeous? Oh, yeah.

I have said many times that one of the things I miss most about the performers of the Fifties and early Sixties is the way they dressed. On stage, the men looked as though they had just come to your door to pick you up for a special date. In this video, Jackie looks as though he’s about to hand you a corsage and take you to your senior prom. You can practically smell his aftershave.

Jackie’s apparel and grooming and, well, Jackie, are so spectacular in this video that a woman starts looking at this man as though he were a birthday gift. You see that bow tie as the package ribbon and that pleated silk shirt and custom-tailored suit as the wrapping paper and before you know it, you’re fixated on what’s inside.

Umm, yeah!

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