The Crusaders – Street Life

20th February 2023 · 1970s, 1977, Funk, Jazz, Music

Randy Crawford joined The Crusaders to sing what became their biggest hit, Street Life in 1979. Or, as my old colleague used to call it, Street Light.

When I worked on the Hackney Gazette, my first proper job, in the late 70s, I had an Australian colleague called John Sinott.

He was older than me, very tall, with glasses, a moustache, and a very dry sense of humour. More importantly for me, he had a car while I only had a Honda 70 scooter, so we young reporters could go out drinking with John as the designated driver.
Mostly we would stay in Hackney, where we all lived and worked – our offices were on the Kingsland Road by the canal bridge in Haggerston, and I lived in a seedy garrett by Clapton Pond.

Occasionally we would venture to boozers further afield, sometimes to Homerton – a place he always pronouned as “Homer-ton” like the Greek poet, or the yet-to-be-invented cartoon character.

Anyway, I don’t remember whether he was much of a drinker, but he was partial to a smoke now and then, as we all were. And when he indulged, he would drive at a steady 15mph, convinced we were travelling close the speed limit, while we all yelled through a fug of smoke for him to speed up.

He was also partial to a strand of popular music more middle-of-the-road than my own punky-reggae tastes at the time, and as he was driving his own car he got to choose the tunes.

This was one of his favourites. But what I mostly remember is him singing it at the wheel.

He had a nice enough voice, and could carry a tune, but no matter how often we advised him otherwise, he was convinced it was about a “street light” and that is what he sang.

Consequently those are the words that come into my head whenever I heard The Crusaders’ smooth signature song.

It turns out that Will Jennings’ lyrics, sung so mellifluously by Randy Crawford, were actually inspired not by some bustling metropolis but by the sight of skiers bumping into each other on the nursery slopes at a California resort.

Street Life reached no.5 in the UK charts, launching the career of Randy Crawford and, by coincidence, marking the beginning of the end for Joe Sample’s Crusaders after 20 years.

As for John, I occasionally wonder what became of him…