A message somewhere in the night

I’ve been hunting for reassurance in this long season of isolation, infection, and grisly math. Several times each day I find myself asking, “What is the most comforting thing that I know?” And tonight I remembered the Electrifying Mojo.

I became a night owl thanks to this mysterious Detroit radio voice whose eclectic sets from the 1970s through the 1990s featured Parliament, Kraftwerk, Devo, and Cybotron—and set the stage for techno music. The Electrifying Mojo is a ghost, never photographed yet his spirit runs through nearly everything we hear today. Each night the Electrifying Mojo opened his show with a question: “Will the members of the Midnight Funk Association please rise?” He is a man without biographical detail yet his fingerprints are everywhere. He is a concept that requires a definite article: The.

The Electrifying Mojo brought the city together while the theme from Star Wars blared behind his voice. “I want you to show some solidarity tonight,” he’d say. “If you’re in the car, flash your lights. If you’re sitting on your porch, blink your porch light. And if you’re in bed, then dance on your back. In Technicolor.” I remember driving down Woodward while a white Cadillac in the opposite lane flashed its headlights. I did the same in my beat-to-shit Pontiac. Two strangers responding to a lone voice on the radio, drawing the city into a brotherhood of sound and light.

He was one of the first deejays to put Prince on the air. He interrupted songs with social commentary from “the mental machine.” He rocked a twenty-minute version of “Flashlight.” I stayed awake into the small hours, hunched over my cassette player and riding the pause/record button to make mixtapes culled from his show. The 120-minute Maxell cassettes were the best for this.

But here’s the point. Every night the Electrifying Mojo would sign off with the same message, delivered in a slow baritone with a grin around the edges: “Whenever you feel like you’re nearing the end of your rope, don’t slide off. Tie a knot. Keep hanging. Keep remembering that ain’t nobody bad like you.”

Cybotron – Alleys of Your Mind

Fantasy Records, 1981 | More

One of the most formative songs that the Electrifying Mojo played. You can see the steam rising from the street grates where people blow smoke and wonder what will happen next. And it’s nearly forty years old. Read more about Mojo here and you can hear some clips of his voice here.

Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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[…] thing: staying up late with the radio when I was a teenager in metro Detroit, listening to the Electrifying Mojo at the top of the dial. This was the early 1990s, after Mojo had been on the air for ages, quietly […]

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