31 Days of Faves: Johnny Rivers – Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)

#10 Johnny Rivers – Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)

In the days when radio announcers still did “record hops”, there were certain songs we could always count on the fill the dance floor. In 1977 Johnny Rivers – “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)” was one of them. Written by Jack Tempchin, who gave the EaglesPeaceful Easy Feeling” and co-wrote  “Already Gone“, it’s simple lyrics and memorable chorus were perfect for Johnny’s vocal style and became to the 1970s what “Cherish” and “Never My Love” were for The Association in the 1960s: A signature love song.

The tune was a minor hit for Tempchin’s band, The Funky Kings a year earlier, known then as “Slow Dancing”. When the River’s version was released, Swayin’ to the Music was quickly added, so as not to be confused with a parallel release, “Slow Dancing Don’t Turn Me On” by the Addrisi Brothers. The audience wasn’t confused by the title change and 45s flew off of the record shelves, making the record one of Johnny’s most successful releases and his last top ten hit.

Fast forward 35 years. It’s a Wednesday night and my wife is in the hospital, recovering from a second surgery in her battle with ovarian cancer. Every Wednesday since we were married had religiously been “Date Night”. She assumed that this particular evening would be the first one we would miss.

The women at the nurses station did a double take when a guy appeared in a tuxedo, with a red rose and a boom box, heading for her room. My queen awoke from her morphine slumber to see a two wine glasses on her table, one for me with the genuine article and one with apple juice for her. The red rose was in a small vase between them. I was leaning back against the wall, arms crossed and smiling.

“May I have this dance?” I asked.

With the entire nursing staff watching from the doorway, I lifted my wife out of the bed, being careful not to disconnect her from the IV and monitors. Johnny Rivers began to sing and we made small circles in the tight confines of the hospital room as tears flowed from every pair of eyes who were there.

Eight years later, we still think about that special date night, and how words and music can so mix to create a cocktail of sensation and emotion that become an indelible memory.