Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ain't No Sunshine on Locust Street

On Locust Street one fair November day, an old trombonist squats on the curb playing a familar melody. The popular song, Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone by Bill Withers, harkens back to the 1970s before disco tolled the death knell for soul. Across the street, other indigents cluster on the steps of the New Life Evangelistic Center, a homeless shelter operated by the Rev. Larry Rice, St. Louis' most prominent advocate for the poor. As they wait for their noonday meal, the solo can be heard for blocks, echoing off the buildings on the western edge of downtown, the trombone mimicking the voice in the chorus: " ... ain't no sunshine when she's gone, only darkness everyday, ... and I know, I know, I know...." As the chorus stretches on, a hunched pedestrian's gait quickens, shoulders straightening as he steps to the beat of the music, the late autumn sun glinting off the windows of nearby office towers. The saddest of songs bringing smiles to passersby.