I thought I knew every bit of trivia there was to know about my old hometown of Yonkers, New York. Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born there. So was Ella Fitzgerald. So was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Son of Sam lived there. So did the great jazz drummer Gene Krupa.
But holy friggin’ God — I had no idea that Chip Taylor, the guy who wrote “Wild Thing,” grew up in my old neighborhood, off Lockwood Avenue near the Saw Mill River Parkway! What’s more, I didn’t know that he also wrote the great song “Angel of the Morning,” which was a big hit in the late 1960s for Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts!
OK, I knew that Angelina Jolie’s father, the actor Jon Voight, grew up in Yonkers. But I had no clue that Jon Voight is Chip Taylor’s brother, and that they grew up on Ball Avenue — about 15 years before moved to that neighborhood with my parents — just a few blocks from where my mother still lives and where I lived from age 11 until I went off to college.
I’m stunned. Learning this today….well, it just made everything grooooooovy!
Here’s Merrilee Rush singing “Angel of the Morning:”
Here are The Troggs doing “Wild Thing:”
Here’s Jimi Hendrix doing “Wild Thing:”
And here’s Chip Taylor himself doing a song he wrote, titled “Yonkers, NY,” in which he refers to several landmarks and touchstones of my childhood and adolescence in that city — including the old Getty Square business district (where my parents met, at age 15, at a movie theater where my young father was working as an usher); the Herald Statesman newspaper (which I delivered for about four years when I was a paperboy) and Roosevelt High (where I graduated — and did my first creative writing, in Mrs. Diven’s creative writing class for the literary magazine Reflections).