"These guys are dumb-- dumb . All they think about is themselves. Responsibility? Forget it. They cause a lot of pain and are too dumb to care."
Who are the villains that Mrs. E. M. Anderson of Compton's Teen Mothers Program was ranting about?
The teen-agers who father children out of wedlock and then say goodby to the prospective mothers.
Anderson struck out at the delinquent fathers when asked about one of the most talked-about singles of the year: Cheryl (Pepsii) Riley's "Thanks for My Child."
The record, released by Columbia, is already No. 1 on Billboard magazine's black music chart and is rising quickly on its pop chart.
The single stirs up some of the same issues as Madonna's controversial 1986 single "Papa Don't Preach," which was criticized by some religious, parental and abortion groups as romanticizing teen pregnancy.
Anderson, however, believes Riley's song--a positive statement of a mother's love for her child--is a helpful reminder to young people of the dangers of premarital sex.
"The song does a service if it exposes the problem of these young kids getting pregnant out of wedlock by these guys who don't want any part of being fathers," she said when asked about the song by The Times.
The heart of Riley's R&B ballad describes a chance meeting between a young woman who has a 4-year-old and the child's father, who ran out on the woman when he found she was pregnant.
Wrapped around Riley's vocal is a dialogue between the couple. Things start out on a civil note but turn bitter when the father inquires about the child and offers a lame excuse for skipping out. In the heart-felt vocal sections, the mother explains how her love for her child pulled her through.
The Compton counselor isn't alone in having strong feelings about the record.
"There's been a lot of phone action on this song," said Steve Washington, music director for radio station KDAY-AM, which has been playing the record regularly for weeks. "It definitely stimulates and touches the audience."
Pepsii Riley, a 28-year-old singer from Brooklyn, didn't have controversy in mind when she recorded "Thanks for My Child."
It was just another song for her debut album, "Me, Myself and I," which was written and produced by the hit composing/performing/production team Full Force.
Riley doesn't have any children, but she was a nurse for handicapped children for eight years until the demands of having a hit record forced her to quit just a few weeks ago. Those nursing duties led indirectly to "Thanks for My Child."
"While we were doing the album, Bowlegged Lou (of Full Force) saw me at work with the kids," Riley recalled in a phone interview from New York. "He got an idea for a song about a strong love for children."
The original version of the single, on her album, is the ballad with no dialogue. The chance-encounter conversation between the mother and the father was added to what's known as the "Confrontation Mix," which, available on the single only, has become the most popular version. The idea to include dialogue was an afterthought, Riley said.
"When we decided on 'Thanks for My Child' as the first single, we wanted to put something different on the other side," she said. "The original version is very mellow. We wanted a chance for me to really wail, so they thought of doing a version with dialogue (Bowlegged Lou does the male voice) about a woman meeting the father of her child after four years."
Though it comes across as a message song, Riley contended that the composers were just trying to make a nice, feel-good song.
"So people are wrong when they say we were trying to promote single parenthood or knock young blacks like the one in the song," Riley said. "We weren't looking to stir up controversy. We didn't even think that mix would get that much attention. Boy, were we wrong."
find that it really touches single Jeff Wyatt, program director of 'I children in general.'
Los Angles' KPWR-FM, said the biggest response to the single has come from female listeners:
"The message really touches them--the mother-child aspect of it," he said. "Women identify with the woman in the song. Maybe some of them know young ladies who have been in that situation. Maybe some of them have been in that situation themselves."
Mike Archie, music director of WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C., agreed that women--especially black women--are responding strongly to the record, which has been the most requested single at the station for weeks.
"The single focuses on the inner strength of black women, which makes it appeal strongly to black women," said Archie, whose station has a predominantly black audience.
"I find that it really touches single female parents--or women with children in general. In the song this woman is saying how much she really loves her child and that love can carry her through anything."
What about male reaction?
"There's not a lot for them to identify with," Archie said. "We don't get much reaction from males. It probably makes (some of them) feel guilty. It says they're not responsible people."
Wes Hall, dean of students at Compton High School, said:
"The guys who father these kids have all the excuses for ignoring their responsibilities. If no one makes the young man see his responsibility, he'll go scot-free and father more kids. The burden falls on the teen-age girls who are too young to handle it. Maybe this song will get a message to some of these young men--that what they've doing is very wrong."