Tyrone Davis - I Can't Bump (Pt. 1)
Disco's "do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight" message was well-received in the mid-to-late '70s, as a nation emerging from the horrors of Vietnam and Watergate, the oil embargo and inflation was searching for a release from all the pressure. Although there was not an outright "disco sucks" movement in the world of R&B (probably because it was from '70s R&B that disco arose), some artists did take on the genre, generally either to make gentle fun of it (Joe Tex's "I'm Going Back Again," "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)" and "Rub Down" all covered the risk of physical injury from disco dancing) or to discuss the more common problem, that of the non-dancer who was left out of the fun. Today's selection fits in the latter category.
Chicago soulster Tyrone Davis' 1976 single "I Can't Bump" was one of his last for Dakar before he moved on to Columbia. The tune is generally dismissed in a discussion of Davis' work as a bad attempt at disco, and at first blush the attempt to add a soft disco groove to Davis' vulnerable love man style indeed doesn't seem to fit right. But if one ignores the hi-hat for a moment and listens to the words and Davis' delivery, it's clear that the tune has been underrated. Davis returns to the territory he covered in his earlier hit "I Wish It Was Me" to express his longing for the dancing woman, surrounded by dancing suitors, whom he cannot woo because, as he laments, "I can't bump, I can't hustle." Fortunately, he plans to get his dancing shoes on and learn so he can win the girl by doing the "Watergate, the kung fu, any dance [she wants] to do." Davis would eventually get the disco thing right for Columbia, but he would then be left behind as the genre exploded at the time of Saturday Night Fever. I suppose it just wasn't meant for Tyrone to bump!