Slavery is bad.
Despite generations of accumulated evidence to the contrary, that is the controversial implication of “Ship Ahoy”, the title track to latest Lp by the O’Jays. Of course, after last year suggesting that the world, including sworn enemies Egypt and Israel, join a “Love Train”, the Philadelphia International recording artists have found that a little controversy is good for record sales.
Nonetheless, O’Jays singer Eddie Levert couldn’t have been more blunt: “The forcible removal, transportation and enslavement of a group of people on account of their race should not be tolerated,” he announced emphatically, even though people have been doing just that for thousands of years.
Politicians and economists across the US have ridiculed the Canton, Ohio trio’s stance, calling it “naive” and “pie in the sky.” Even respected thinker Jay Gould weighed in, arguing that if “the O’Jays didn’t have the funk, no-one would be taking these cockamamie theories seriously.”
But Levert has not been swayed. “With modern shipping techniques,” he went on to explain, “it make absolutely no economic sense to import slave labor. Sweat shops in developing countries offer the same cost benefits without the additional expenses of food and lodging engendered by a captive work force.”
It remains to be seen if the poor of other countries can be exploited so efficiently.
Editor’s Note: I first heard “Backstabbers” sung by E. Costello on his Imperial Bedroom tour. The following week, I bought the O’Js version on its parent Lp from Tom Ostrander’s music shop in Mount Vernon; there were maybe ten “cut out” records there including that one. Never got around to picking up the follow-up until recently at a Hythe Cricket Ground boot. And it was only a pound.