Why is Aristotle's On the Soul usually referred to by its latin name, De Anima?
Keep it Real,
As with ever so many queries I receive, there is the answer short and the answer lengthy.
The Answer Short: People, por lo general, do not permit themselves to face just how very funky Aristotle was.
The Answer Somewhat Longer: After leaving Motown Records, there was a protracted legal battle between Aristotle and record-company owner Berry Gordy (also known as The Last Dragon), as Gordy claimed there was significant consumer confusion risked because of the similarity of the titles of Aristotle's only credited Motown album, "On the Soul," and his major philosophical treatise on the nature of living organisms, written after he and Motown Records parted paths.
If the truth is to be told, these litigious pugilistics were truly in the least part about the titles of Aristotle's album (overwrought lyrics and overstrained vocal stylings noted), or his confused notions of the Spiritus Animus, and much more the result of years of abuse at Gordy's hands. Although Gordy credited himself as the major early creative force driving Motown Record's stable of talent—for example claiming to have co-written "Lonely Teardrops" with Jackie Wilson—it was in fact Aristotle who penned this and many other songs. A shy young man and tutor to Alexander the Great, Aristotle had an early passion for Roots and Gospel music, but his creaky singing voice and thick Greek accent only magnified his naturally self-effacing shyness, forever chasing him from the limelight. Gordy, ever the opportunist, convinced Aristotle to turn his voluble talents to song writing. Recognizing Motown Records to be an important milestone in African-American cultural striving, Gordy went to great lengths to conceal Aristotle's involvement in the song production process. This tendency was also compounded by Gordy's sadistic belief that the best musical art was produced under a condition of constant, low-grade psycho-emotional duress. For example, there was a period of three-and-one-half weeks during which Gordy kept Aristotle virtually imprisoned in the rat and radon-infused basement of Hitsville, U.S.A., feeding him naught but olives, ouzo and a steady stream of lies to the effect that his companion, Xenocrates, had taken up with the young Mica-A-El Jackson, of the Jackson Pentalogy, and no longer craved Aristotle's company. On another occasion, Gordy hired a triad of Ethiopes to haunt Aristotle's dreams for a fortnight. So pleased was he with their harmonious disquieting of the philosopher's nightly respite that Gordy ultimately contracted them to sing for Motown's Records under the name Martha Reeves and Her Vandellas—a "Vandella" being the name of a tribe of ghost-walking, spectre-like Ethiopes. In among these major strokes of cruelty, Gordy also dealt out innumerable tiny slights, kicks to the shins, indian burns, purple nurples, titty's twisters, noogies and a wide variety of specialized and innovative wedgies, some of which (including the "Michigan Marching Band," "Flossy's Revenge" and "the Shoe Wedgie") have become as much signatures of the City of Motors as have inefficient and overpowered internal-combustion engines or the very music produced in Gordy's studios under Aristotle's tutelage.
Gordy also consistently referred to Aristotle as "My Fairy Godmother," and insisted on introducing him to new acquaintances as Greek and then noting:
And you know how they separate the men from the boys in Greece? With a crow bar! C'mon, Airy; I'm just kidding, just kidding. This old fart is a great guy, folks.
With hearty back-slapping all around.
But most bothersome to Aristotle was that Gordy almost invariably credited Aristotle's work to Gordy's own sniveling young protege, Smokey Robinson. Robinson held Gordy in his thrall, as it was Smokey who daringly stole Kaiser Wilhelm II's enchanted glockenspiel from the estate of Henry Ford, ultimately gifting it to Gordy, and tainting Gordy's spirit with its dark Power to Success. Gordy firmly believed that this glockenspiel was the initial font of his voluble talents in business-craft, a secret he guarded as jealously as he did the true identity of his master songsmith.
Later musicologists have verified that at least four popular songs and four philosophical treatises, all credited to Robinson, were actually written by Aristotle during this period: "You Better Shop Around," "On Marvellous Things Heard," "My Guy," "Tracks of My Tears," "On Generation and Corruption," "History of Animals," "Mechanical Problems," and "Can't Get Next to You" (this last originally having been writ as a meditation on Zeno's Paradox.) The Poetics, initially attributed to Aristotle, is now believed to have been penned by Mary Wells and Barrett Strong during an early "Motortown Revue" tour of the "Chitlin Circuit."
In the final analysis, many critics believe the signature Motown sound—including the utilization of tambourine, glockenspiel and Hammond organ, as well as reliance upon strong bass-lines and call-and-response song structure—were largely introduced by Aristotle himself. As the years wore on, made the butt of Gordy's frequent barbs (and consistently denied the opportunity to mate with any of the handsome boy-ingénues who habituated the Motown studios), Aristotle's frustration grew geometrically, ever spurred by living in the talentless shadow of Robinson. Finally he stole Gordy's enchanted glockenspiel, and threatened to destroy it unless Gordy would produce an album for him, on which he was credited and sang his own works himself. Ever wily, Gordy immediately agreed to these conditions, cunningly sensing that Aristotle's tragic hubris would be his downfall.
Aristotle's album, an LP entitled "On the Soul," was intended as a tour du force of Aristotle's song writing talent. Unfortunately, as Gordy held all of the rights to his early—and much finer—work, Aristotle was obliged to write an entirely new portfolio of songs in two short, feverish weeks, and record them in just 22 hours with only two of the Funk Brothers at his aid, Jack Ashford and Jack Brokensha, meaning that the album's musical accompaniment could only consist of vibraphone and marimba, with Aristotle himself alternately playing the Wilhelm-Ford-Gordy glockenspiel, tambourine and claves—instruments with which he had little or no prior experience, save for the tambourine, a device on which he had done early pioneering work under the tutelage his own transgendered mentors, Plato and Köçek.
Given no real marketing budget, denied a slot on the Motortown Revue promotional tour, and composed of Aristotle's rushed musical composition, turgid and exhausted lyrics, and feculent vocal stylings, "On the Soul" sold fewer than 1500 copies in total, many of these purchased only years later, first during the Irish "Northern Soul" nostalgia craze, and later by campy and ironical fin de siècle encore New York hipsters. Shortly thereafter Aristotle left Motown, and record production as a whole, in ignominy, henceforward focusing on his dialogues, and the treatise "On the Soul" in particular.
It is rumored that Aristotle's disappearance can be linked to Berry Gordy's shadowy assassin, Sho 'Nuff the Shogun of Harlem. This is obviously well before Sho 'Nuff's legendary defeat at the hands and fists of Bruce LeRoy.
The final result of the courtroom imbroglio was that Aristotle, although himself of Greek birth, agreed to refer to his book solely by a Latin title, De Anima, and his record by the English title, On the Soul.
Although it was long-rumored that Aristotle was working upon latin-tonality-infused solo project—possibly featuring either Perez Prado or the reanimated corpse of Perez Prado—to be entitled On the Funk, this album is never known to have materialized. A clay disk discovered in 1900 by British archaeologist Arthur Evans and inscribed with Linear B script was initially heralded as an early single from this fabled LP release, but later decipherment by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick verified that this was nothing more than a relatively common import pressing of Smoky Robinson's "Tears of a Clown"—a song which, ironically, actually was penned by Robinson, and beloved by millions, reaching the zenith of the Pop and R&B charts in both the United Kingdom and these United States.
Your Giant Squid
Love the Giant Squid? Buy his first book.
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this Piece
Poor Mojo's Tip Jar:
Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson