Fighting Blues

Last update: March 28, 2016 à 1:58 PM

Belkacem2

 « Message from a black man »

 THE FUNKY SOUL OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS

From Luther King’s non-violence to Black Power, Black music has always accompanied Black community’s fight for the recognition of his civil rights. Mingus and Archie Shepp’s Jazz, Curtis Mayfield’s Soul, James Brown’s Funk, Gil Scott Heron and Last Poets’ Spoken word, Public Enemy’s Rap, they’d all contribute to this struggle still going on in spite of Obama election.

Here’s « Freedom Fighters’story »…  Keep on pushin’!

( This article is pretty long, so you can jump to a particular item using Table of Contents ).

  • Preamble: music of the civil rights at the beginning of the 20th century.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

220px-JamesweldonjohnsonMany people are suprised to learn that « Lift Every Voice and Sing » was first written as a poem. Created by James Weldon Johnson, it was performed for the first time by 500 school children in celebration of President Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900 in Jacksonville, FL. The poem was set to music by Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and soon adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its official song. Today “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is one of the most cherished songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement and is often referred to as the Black National Anthem.

 

 

Lift Every Voice and Sing (1900/1902)

By James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

The blues wouldn’t exist without Jim Crow. It’s the American system of racial inequality that made life hell for African-Americans in the South. The law institutionalized racism. The term comes from an old minstrel song by 19th century blackface performer Thomas Rice.

maggie-jones-north-bound-blues-L-1

 

Once the blues era began, the term starts to show up in several songs that make overt protest against the racist system.

An early one from singer Maggie Jones, Northbound Blues from 1925 talks about heading away from Jim Crow.

 

 

 

Northbound Blues (1925)

Got my trunk and grip all packed
Goodbye, I ain’t coming back
Going to leave this Jim Crow town
Lord, sweet pape, New York bound

Got my ticket in my hand
And I’m leaving dixieland

Going north child, where I can be free
Going north child, where I can be free
Where there’s no hardships, like in Tennessee

Going where they don’t have Jim Crow laws
Going where they don’t have Jim Crow laws
Don’t have to work there, like in Arkansas

When I cross the Mason-Dixon Line
When I cross the Mason-Dixon Line
Goodbye old gal, yon mama’s gonna fly

Going to daddy, got no time to lose
Going to daddy, got no time to lose
I’ll be alone, can’t hear my northbound blues

« Supper Time«  is a popular song written by Irving Berlin for the 1933 musical As Thousands Cheer, where it was introduced by Ethel Waters.
It is about a wife’s reaction to news of her husband’s lynching.

 

Ethel-Waters-9524982-1-402

 

Supper Time (1933) by Ethel Waters

 

 



I should set the table
‘Cause it’s supper time
Somehow I’m not able

‘Cause that man of mine
Ain’t coming home no more
Oh, supper time
Kids will soon be yelling

For this supper time
While I keep from telling
That that man of mine
Ain’t coming home no more

While I keep explaining
When they ask me where he’s gone
While I keep from crying
When I bring the supper on

How can I remind them
To pray at their humble board
How can I be thankful
When they start to thank the lord,

Oh, lord!
Supper time,
I should set the table
‘Cause it’s supper time

Somehow I’m not able
‘Cause that man of mine
Ain’t coming home no more
Ain’t coming home no more

(What Did I Do To Be So) Black And Blue (1929)

This song was ordered by a white New York gangster DutchSchultz who invested in a show performed in a nightclub that served wealthy whites, especially by providing alcohol during prohibition. The song was intended to be sung by a woman about a “colored girl singing about how hard it is to be black. » and its intention was to allow “the audience to laugh at the expense of black people” . The song was performed initially by Edith Wilson, a woman star of African American theatre (Edith Wilson ).

Original Lyrics
Copyright ©1929 Santly Brothers, Inc. and renewed by Chappell & Co.
Fats Waller, lyrics by Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf.

Out in the street, shufflin’ feet, Couples passin’ two by two, While here am I, left high and dry, Black, and ’cause I’m black I’m blue.
Browns and yellers, all have fellers, Gentlemen prefer them light, Wish I could fade, can’t make the grade, Nothing but dark days in sight:
Cold, empty bed, Springs hard as lead, Pains in my head, Feel like old Ned. What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?
No joys for me, No company, Even the mouse ran from my house, All my life through, I’ve been so Black And Blue.
I’m white inside, It don’t help my case ‘Cause I can’t hide, what is on my face, oh! I’m so forlorn, Life’s just a thorn, My heart is torn, Why was I born? What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?
‘Cause you’re black, Folks think you lack They laugh at you, And scorn you too, What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?
When you are near, they laugh and sneer, Set you aside and you’re denied, What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?
How sad I am, each day I feel worse, My mark of Ham seems to be a curse! How will it end? Ain’t got a friend, My only sin Is my skin. What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?

Armstrong

Later, Louis Armstrong performed and recorded the version of this song with altered lyrics and with a significant shift in meaning.

 

 

 

Black And Blue
Lyrics as Recorded by Louis Armstrong, July 22, 1929

Old empty bed … springs hard as lead
Feels like old Ned … wish I was dead
All my life through … I’ve been so black and blue
Even the mouse … ran from my house
They laugh at you … and scorn you too
What did I do … to be so black and blue

I’m white … inside … but that don’t help my case
‘Cause I … can’t hide … what is in my face

How will it end … ain’t got a friend
My only sin … is in my skin
What did I do … to be so black and blue
(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue

 Steal Away (1934)

« Steal Away to Jesus », and « Swing Low, Sweet Chariot », « Wade in the Water » and the « Gospel Train » are secret codes, not only about having faith in God, but containing hidden messages for slaves to run away on their own, or with the Underground Railroad.

Paul Robeson

 

Paul Leroy Robeson was an African-American singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement.

 

 

Steal Away
composed by Wallace Willis, Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory, sometime before 1862.

Steal away, steal away,
Steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home
I ain’t got long to stay here my lord calls me,
He calls me by the thunder
The trumpet sound within my soul
I ain’t got long to stay here

Steal away, steal away,
Steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home
I ain’t got long to stay here

Green trees are bending,
Poor sinner stands a trembling
The trumpet sound within my soul
I ain’t got long to stay here

  1. Role of Blues, Folk Song and American left in the 30’s and 40’s
  • The folk song militant blues of LeadBelly and Big Bill Broonzy

Leadbelly

220px-Lead_Belly_publicity_shot

 

Huddie William Ledbetter was an American folk and blues musician, and multi-instrumentalist, notable for his strong vocals, virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, and the songbook of folk standards he introduced.The topics of Lead Belly’s music covered a wide range of subjects, including gospel ; blues about women, liquor, prison life, and racism.

 

In the early 1930s, no case brought more attention to the Jim Crow system than thetrials of the Scottsboro Boys. 9 black teenagers were accused of raping two white women aboard a train. The series of trials in Alabama brought up issues of false accusation, the legal ability of black men to serve on Alabama juries, and how the entire Southern legal system treated black defendants. In 1938, Leadbelly recorded Scottsboro Boys it where he discusses Jim Crow in Alabama.

Scottsboro Boys (1936)

Now this is a song, « Scottsboro Boys. » When I about Scottsboro Boys
cause I’ve been all over Alabama, Birmingham,
Montgomery. And in Alabama must be Jim Crow or something like that because
they turn loose some men and try to keep the others. I don’t see why they
don’t turn all of them loose. And this is the song, « Scottsboro Boys »:
Go to Alabama and you better watch out
The landlord will get you, gonna jump and shout Scottsboro, Scottsboro, Scottsboro Boys
They can tell you what it’s all about

I’m gonna talk to Joe Louis, ask him to listen to me
Dont he never try to make no bout in Alabamy
I’m gonna tell all the colored people, living on Sugar Hill
Don’t you never go to Alabama to try to live

I’m gonna tell all the colored people, living in Harlem Swing
Don’t you never go to Alabama to try to sing

Tell about the Scottsboro boys, where were they going to?
Tell about the Scottsboro boys, what happened to them?
This song is about the Scottsboro Boys.
The boys left on a trip, you know, they was riding a freight train.
And they met two white women in there, you know, the white women
was boosting too, what we call it. And they was beating there way along and they
met up with these boys. There was about nine boys and they rode along with them
and they went out. One of the women said it wasn’t so and one of the said it
was. Now they goign to hold all of them for just one sentence, which I don’t
think none of it was true. But they turned loose four and now they got a few
more. I think they ought to turn them all loose. That’s what they call happened.
So they put the boys in jail. Give some of ’em life and some got loose, but I
don’t think it’s true. But, anyhow, the last word is this:

I’m gonna tell all the colored people, living in Harlem Swing
Don’t you never go to Alabama to try to sing

This is a protest song  written and preformed by the great blues musician Leadbelly against the laws that prevented African Americans and other minorities from having the same rights as Whites.

Jim Crow Blues (1936)

Bunk Johnson told me too, This old Jim Crowism dead bad luck for me and you
I been traveling, i been traveling from shore to shore
Everywhere I have been I find some old Jim Crow

One thing, people, I want everybody to know
You’re gonna find some Jim Crow, every place you go

Down in Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia’s a mighty good place to go
And get together, break up this old Jim Crow

I told everybody over the radio
Make up their mind and get together, break up this old Jim Crow

I want to tell you people something that you don’t know
It’s a lotta Jim Crow in a moving picture show

I’m gonna sing this verse, I ain’t gonna sing no more
Please get together, break up this old Jim Crow

« Bourgeois Blues, » a song he wrote during his visit to Washington, D.C., on June 22, 1937. And as a first impression of Washington, it was an incisive, damning indictment of the city’s rampant Jim Crow segregation conveyed in 3 minutes of rippling 12-string blues.Lead Belly’s journey to Washington came at the request of Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge of the Archive of Folk Song of the Library of Congress.Lead Belly and his wife, Martha, came up to spend the night in his little apartment . The landlady objected, and Lead Belly and Martha, at the head of the stairs, heard the argument that he had with the lady – she said she was going to call the police and have us all put out.

Bourgeois Blues (1938)

Me and my wife went all over town
And everywhere we went people turned us down
Lord, in a bourgeois town
It’s a bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Well, me and my wife we were standing upstairs
We heard the white man say’n I don’t want no niggers up there
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Home of the brave, land of the free
I don’t wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Well, them white folks in Washington they know how
To call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow
Lord, it’s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

I tell all the colored folks to listen to me
Don’t try to find you no home in Washington, DC
‘Cause it’s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Influenced by the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, LeadBelly wrote the song « The Titanic about champion African-American boxer Jack Johnson’s being denied passage on the Titanic. While Johnson had in fact been denied passage on a ship for being Black, it had not been the Titanic. Still, the verse sang: « Jack Johnson tried to get on board. The Captain, he says, ‘I ain’t haulin’ no coal!’ Fare thee, Titanic! Fare thee well! » a passage Ledbetter noted he had to leave out when playing in front of white audiences.

Titanic (1948)

It was midnight on the sea
Band playing, « nearer My God to Thee »
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Titanic, when it got its load,
Captain hollered, « All aboard »
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Jack Johnson want to get on board,
Captain said, « I ain’t haulin’ no coal. »
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Titanic was comin’ ’round the curve
When it ran into that great big iceberg
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Titanic was sinking down,
Had them lifeboats all around.
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Had them lifeboats around,
Savin’ the women and children, lettin’ the men go down.
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Jack Johnson heard the mighty shock,
Might ‘a’ seen him doin’ the Eagle Rock.
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

When the women and children got on the land,
Cryin’ « Lord have mercy on my man. »
Cryin’ fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well

Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Broonzy

Mississippi-born Big Bill Broonzy was a blues guitar player, singer, songwriter, early civil-rights activist and musician’s musician. Across his career, Big Bill Broonzy negotiated identities and formed communities through exchanges with and among his African American, white American, and European audiences. One of the most important of the pre-World War II Chicago blues singers, recorded over 250 songs from 1925 to 1952.Broonzy’s reputation grew and in 1938 he was asked to fill in for the recently deceased Robert Johnson at the John H. Hammond-produced « From Spirituals to Swing » concert at Carnegie Hall. A milestone in the civil rights movement, « From Spirituals to Swing « was sponsored by the Marxist New Masses magazine after no other group, including the NAACP, would touch it because of its combination of integrated cast and target audience.He also appeared in the 1939 concert at the same venue.

Just A Dream (On My Mind) – 1939

It was a dream, Lord, what a dream I had on my mind
It was a dream, Lord, what a dream I had on my mind
Now, and when I woke up, baby, not a thing there could I find

I dreamed I went out with an angel, and had a good time
I dreamed I was satisfied, and nothin’ to worry my mind
But that was just a dream, Lord, what a dream I had on my mind,
Now, and when I woke up, baby, not an angel could I find

I dreamed I caught the horses, and caught the number too
I dreamed I won so much money, I didn’t know what to do
But that was just a dream, Lord, what a dream I had on my mind,
Now, and when I woke up, baby, not a penny there could I find

Dreamed I was in the White House, sittin’ in the president’s chair
I dreamed he’s shaking my hand, and he said « Bill, I’m so glad you’re here »
But that was just a dream, Lord, what a dream I had on my mind
Now, and when I woke up, baby, not a chair there could I find

I dreamed I got married, and started me a family
I dreamed I had ten children, and they all looked just like me
But that was just a dream, Lord, what a dream I had on my mind
And when I woke up baby, not a child could I find.

When do I get to be called a man (1951)

Like many like many other African-American vets, on his return he found life in the South intolerable. As his song « When Will I Get to be Called a Man » states.

When I was born into this world, this is what happened to me
I was never called a man, and now I’m fifty-three
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
When Uncle Sam called me, I know’ed I’d be called a real McCoy
But I got none of this, they just called me soldier boy
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
When I got back from overseas, that night we had a ball
Next day I met the old boss, he said « Boy get you some overalls »
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
I’ve worked on the levee
camps, and axer gangs too
Black man’s a boy, don’t care what he can do
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
They said I was uneducated, my clothes were dirty and torn
Now I’ve got a little education, but I’m still a boy right on
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three

Black, Brown, and White (1951)

One of Broonzy’s best known songs, the protest song, « Black, Brown, and White », addressed the experiences of black war vets and the painful issue of preferential treatment by gradations of skin color.

This little song that i’m singin’ about,
People you know it’s true
If you’re black and gotta work for a living,
This is what they will say to you,
They says, « if you was white, should be all right,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you’s black, hmm brother, get back, get back, get back »
I was in a place one night
They was all having fun
They was all buyin’ beer and wine,
But they would not sell me none
They said, « if you was white, should be all right,
If you was brown, stick around,
But if you black, hmm brother, get back, get back, get back »
Me and a man was workin’ side by side
This is what it meant
They was paying him a dollar an hour,
And they was paying me fifty cent
They said, « if you was white, ‘t should be all right,
If you was brown, could stick around,
But as you black, hmm boy, get back, get back, get back »
I went to an employment office,
Got a number ‘n’ i got in line
They called everybody’s number,
But they never did call mine
They said, « if you was white, should be all right,
If you was brown, could stick around,
But as you black, hmm brother, get back, get back, get back »
I hope when sweet victory,
With my plough and hoe
Now i want you to tell me brother,
What you gonna do about the old jim crow?
Now if you was white, should be all right,
If you was brown, could stick around,
But if you black, whoa brother, get back, get back, get back

  • Woodie Guthrie, Peter Seeger and after 1929 crisis’ « Protest Music ».

The Almanac Singers

almanacsingers

The Almanac Singers began in 1940, much the same as it continued—in a rather informal manner. Millard Lampell and Lee Hays were roommates. Hays had been playing together with Pete Seeger for labor union events and at union halls for some time. The three men started playing out together for different political groups and labor unions.

Also typical of many traditional folk songs, when the tune became an anthem of the labor movement, verses were adjusted to be appropriate to union organization. When the song was sung during the civil rights movement, verses were adjusted to reflect racial unity.

 

We Shall Not Be Moved (1941)

We shall not, we shall not be moved, (2x)
Just like a tree that’s planted by the water
We shall not be moved

The union is behind us, we shall not be moved, (2x)
Just like a tree that’s planted by the water
We shall not be moved

CHORUS

We will stand and fight together, we shall not be moved, (2x)
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water
We shall not be moved

CHORUS

We’re black and white together we shall not be moved, (2x)
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water
We shall not be moved

Woody Guhtrie

220px-Woody_Guthrie_2

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in 1912 in Okemah, Okla. He recorded « This Land Is Your Land » during a  marathon April 1944 session in New York for Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records.The song was  originally written in February 1940, when Woody Guthrie first arrived in New York City from Oklahoma.

Some have called « This Land Is Your Land » an alternative national anthem. Others say it’s a Marxist  response to « God Bless America. »It was written and first sung by Woody Guthrie . Over time, it’s been sung by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

 

This Land Is Your Land(1944)
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

A 1945 pamphlet which omitted the last two verses has caused some question as to whether the original song did in fact contain the full text. The original manuscript confirms both of these verses.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

The Weavers

weaversThe Weavers were an American folk music quartet based in the Greenwich Village area of New York City formed in November 1948 by Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Pete Seeger.

« We Shall Overcome » began as a gospel hymn « I’ll Overcome Some Day » or « I’ll be Alright » and union song « We Will Overcome », but it was transformed by its four authors into the rallying cry of the black Freedom Movement for civil rights.Pete Seeger, who had the greatest hand in fashioning the song, also thinks it originated from the 19th century hymn, « I’ll Be All Right » with an additional lyrical debt to Rev. Charles Tindley’s 1903 « I’ll Overcome Some Day »

 

We Shall Overcome (1947)

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

  • Cafe Society,  » The Wrong Place for The Right People »!

Café Society was a New York City nightclub opened in 1938 at 1 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village[1] by Barney Josephson to showcase African American talent and to be an American version of the political cabarets he had seen in Europe earlier.The club also prided itself on treating black and white customers equally, unlike many venues, such as the Cotton Club, that featured black performers but barred black customers except for prominent blacks in the entertainment industry. The club featured many of the greatest black musicians of the day, from a wide range of backgrounds, often presented with a strongly political bent.

Billie Holiday

téléchargementBillie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed « Lady Day » by her friend and musicalpartner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo.She also became famous for singing « Strange Fruit », a protest song which became one of her standards and was made famous with her 1939 recording.

« Strange Fruit », a song written by the teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem, exposed American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. Such lynchings had occurred chiefly in the South but also in other regions of the United States. Meeropol set it to music and with his wife and the singer Laura Duncan, performed it as a protest song in New York venues, including Madison Square Garden.

Strange Fruit (1939)

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Joss White

Joss White

Joshua Daniel White (February 11, 1914 – September 5, 1969), known as Josh White, was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, and civil rights activist.White’s anti-segregationist and international human rights political stance presented in many of his recordings and in his speeches at rallies resulted in the McCarthyites assuming him to be a Communist. Accordingly, from 1947 through the mid-1960s, White became caught up in the anti-Communist Red Scare, and combined with the resulting attempt to clear his name, his career was damaged.

 

« Uncle Sam Says », is White’s protest against the transfer of Jim Crow, the Southern segregation system, into the military, at the sight of the expected entry of the United States into World War II

Uncle Sam Says (1941)
Written by Joshua White and Waring Cuney

Well, airplanes flyin’ ‘cross the land and sea
Everybody flyin’ but a Negro like me
Uncle Sam says, « Your place is on the ground.
When I fly my airplanes, don’t want no Negro ’round. »

The same thing for the Navy when ships goes to sea
All they got is a mess boy’s job for me
Uncle Sam says, « Keep on your apron son.
You know I ain’t gonna let you shoot my big Navy gun. »

Got my long government letters, my time to go
When I got to the Army, found the same old Jim Crow
Uncle Sam says, « Two camps for black and white. »
But when trouble starts, we’ll all be in that same big fight.

If you ask me I think Democracy is fine
I mean Democracy without the color line
Uncle Sam says, « We’ll live the American Way. »
Let’s get together and kill Jim Crow today.

Like Leadbelly, Josh White began to address political issues in a straightforward manner in his songs. In 1941, he recorded Jim Crow Train, a classic protest song against the Southern system.

Jim Crow Train (1941)

Can’t you hear that train whistle blow?
Can’t you hear that train whistle blow?
Can’t you hear that train whistle blow?
Lord, I wish that train wasn’t Jim Crow.

Stop the train so I can ride this train.
Stop Jim Crow so I can ride this train.
Stop Jim Crow so I can ride this train.
Black and White folks ridin side by side.

Now hear that train whistle blow.
Can’t you hear that train whistle blow.
Can’t you hear that train whistle blow
Oh-o Lord this train is Jim crow.

Damn that Jim Crow.

Josh White joins with poet Langston Hughes in the song “Freedom Road,” in which he attempts to link the war abroad to the struggle for racial justice at home.

Freedom Road (1944)
written by: Langston Hughes

Hand me my gun, let the bugle blow loud
I’m on my way with my head up proud
One objective I’ve got in view
Is to keep ahold of freedom for me and you

That’s why I’m marching, yes, I’m marching
Marching down Freedom’s Road
Ain’t nobody gonna stop me, nobody gonna keep me
From marching down Freedom’s Road

It ought to be plain as the nose on your face
There’s room in this land for every race
Some folks think that freedom just ain’t right
Those are the very people I want to fight . . .

United we stand, divided we fall
Let’s make this land safe for one and all
I’ve got a message and you know it’s right
Black and white together, unite and fight!

Josh White’s « Free and Equal Blues » is a protest-style take. What the hell, while I’m at I might as well reproduce the lyrics. But remember, much of it is a talking blues. A few phrases are sung, but most is talking, some decades before rap and even before Oscar Brown Jr.

Free and Equal Blues (1946)

I went down to that St. James Infirmary, and I saw some plasma there,
I ups and asks the doctor man, « Say was the donor dark or fair? »
The doctor laughed a great big laugh, and he puffed it right in my face,
He said, « A molecule is a molecule, son, and the damn thing has no race. »

And that was news, yes that was news,
That was very, very, very special news.
‘Cause ever since that day we’ve had those free and equal blues.

« You mean you heard that doc declare
That the plasma in that test tube there could be
White man, black man, yellow man, red? »
« That’s just what that doctor said. »
The doc put down his doctor book and gave me a very scientific look
And he spoke out plain and clear and rational,
He said, « Metabolism is international. »

(Chorus)

Then the doc rigged up his microscope with some Berlin blue blood,
And, by gosh, it was the same as Chun King, Quebechef, Chattanooga, Timbuktoo blood
Why, those men who think they’re noble
Don’t even know that the corpuscle is global
Trying to disunite us with their racial supremacy,
And flying in the face of old man chemistry,
Taking all the facts and trying to twist ’em,
But you can’t overthrow the circulatory system.

(Chorus)

So I stayed at that St. James Infirmary.
(I couldn’t leave that place, it was too interesting)
But I said to the doctor, « Give me some more of that scientific talk talk, » and he did:
He said, « Melt yourself down into a crucible
Pour yourself out into a test tube and what have you got?
Thirty-five hundred cubic feet of gas,
The same for the upper and lower class. »
Well, I let that pass . . .
« Carbon, 22 pounds, 10 ounces »
« You mean that goes for princes, dukeses and countses? »
« Whatever you are, that’s what the amounts is:
Carbon, 22 pounds, 10 ounces; iron, 57 grains. »
Not enough to keep a man in chains.
« 50 ounces of phosophorus, that’s whether you’re poor or prosperous. »
« Say buddy, can you spare a match? »
« Sugar, 60 ordinary lumps, free and equal rations for all nations.
Then you take 20 teaspoons of sodium chloride (that’s salt), and you add 38 quarts of H2O (that’s water), mix two ounces of lime, a pinch of chloride of potash, a drop of magnesium, a bit of sulfur, and a soupÁon of hydrochloric acid, and you stir it all up, and what are you? »
« You’re a walking drugstore. »
« It’s an international, metabolistic cartel. »

And that was news, yes that was news,
So listen, you African and Indian and Mexican, Mongolian, Tyrolean and Tartar,
The doctor’s right behind the Atlantic Charter.
The doc’s behind the new brotherhood of man,
As prescribed at San Francisco and Yalta, Dumbarton Oaks, and at Potsdam:
Every man, everywhere is the same, when he’s got his skin off.
And that’s news, yes that’s news,
That’s the free and equal blues!

  • Role of The Highlander Folk School in Civil Rights’ music

Between 1932 and 1962, the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, provided a valuable training ground for two generations of southern labor organizers and Civil Rights activists. During the 1930s and 1main940s, the school was instrumental in unionizing textile, timber, and mine workers throughout the region, often working in concert with national organizations such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations. In the 1950s, Highlander became a seedbed of Civil Rights activism, holding regular educational workshops to promote nonviolent protest and encourage black voter registration.Because it was so controversial, the Highlander Folk School was shut down by the state government and its assets seized. However, a successor organization, known as the Highlander Research and Education Center, still exists in East Tennessee.

This photo, taken by an FBI agent, shows Martin Luther King Jr., Pete Seeger, Rosa Parks and Ralph Abernathy at Highlander in 1957.

PHOTO: Highlander Research and Education Center

Pete Seeger

« Keep Your Eyes on the Prize » is a folk song that became influential during the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. It is based on the traditional song, « Gospel Plow », also known as « Hold On », « Keep Your Hand on the Plow », and various permutations thereof.

Keep your eyes on the prize (1963)
Lyrics attributed to civil rights activist Alice Wine.
Carnegie Hall Concert Live June 8, 1963

Paul and Silas bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The very moment I thought they was lost
Dungeon shook and the chains come off
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Only thing I did was wrong
Stayin’ in the wilderness too long
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The only thing we did was right
Was the day we begun to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

SNCC Freedom Singers

On February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, four African American college students protested segregation and Jim Crow laws by sitting at a « whites-only » lunch counter. Using sit-ins as a means of protest became increasingly popular throughout the South, and the anti-segregationist organizers began to see college students as a potential resource. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), played a central role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded in early 1960 in Raleigh, North Carolina in response to the success of a surge of sit-ins in Southern college towns, where black students refused to leave restaurants in which they were denied service based on their race.

SNCC Freedom Singers

 

The Freedom Singers, a group that formed in 1962 in Albany, Georgia to educate communities about civil rights issues through song, consisted of four black members all under the age of twenty-one: Cordell Reagon (tenor), Bernice Johnson Reagon (alto), Charles Neblett (bass), and Rutha Mae Harris (soprano).

 

 

We shall not be moved (1963)

We shall not
We shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters
We shall not be moved

On our way to victory
We shall not be moved
We’re on our way to victory
We shall not be moved

Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters
We shall not be moved

I’m not going to move y’all
I want my freedom
And I’m gonna get my freedom
We’re on our way to victory

I believe we’re gonna set it free
Yes, I believe we’re gonna get there
We’re gonna get there

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke took an active part in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.He sang the songs that brought relief to the civil rights movement. He sang the songs that formed a bridge. He sang the songs that healed. His furious will and feral tenor brought people to their knees, and lifted them to their feet. Cooke died in a motel shooting on Dec. 11, 1964. He was 33.

In the mid-’60s, he took « This little light of mine » that people were singing at sit-ins and marches and brought it into America’s toniest nightclubs, putting the music of The Movement in front of an audience that probably didn’t spend much time at sit-ins and marches. Cooke performed this joyful and uplifting version of « This Little Light of Mine » in 1964 in New York’s Copacabana.

Its lyrics talks about the importance of unity in the face of adversity. Its refrain sings of the light in each individual and how, whether standing up alone or joining together, each little bit of light can break the darkness. The song has since been applied to many struggles, but was an anthem of the civil rights movement at the time.
Lyrics written by Harry Dixon Loes in 1920.ince Loes first introduced the song, there have been many verses added for various reasons and occasions.

This little light of mine (1964)

Amen

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine

This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine,
Let it shine
Let it shine to show my love

Everywhere I go I’m gonna let it shine
Everywhere I go I’m gonna let it shine
Everywhere I go I’m gonna let it shine
I let it shine to show my love

Even in my home I’m gonna let is shine
I let it shine to show my love

When I see my neighbor coming I’m gonna let it shine

Amen

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia_Jackson_1962,_van_Vechten,_LC-USZ62-91314

Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. She was referred to as « The Queen of Gospel ».Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as « the single most powerful black woman in the United States ».Jackson was known to have played an important role during the civil rights movement.Jackson said she hoped her music could « break down some of the hate and fear that divide the white and black people in this country ».She also contributed financially to the movement. 

Sometimes referred to as the anthem of the Freedom Movement, for the general public this song is certainly the best known and most iconic of all the freedom songs. We Shall Overcome was, in effect, an oath of commitment and solidarity with each other and an avowal of steadfast determination in the face of oppression. For some, it was the song they instinctively turned to when in great danger or enduring physical attack, and for most everyone it was the ceremonial song of ritual that closed gatherings and sent us out into action.

Mahalia sang « We Shall Overcome » at Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968.

We shall overcome (1968)

We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome someday

The Lord will see us through, the Lord will see us through
The Lord will see us through someday
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome someday

We’re on to victory, we’re on to victory
We’re on to victory someday
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We’re on to victory someday

We’ll walk hand-in-hand, we’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand-in-hand someday
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We’ll walk hand-in-hand someday

We are not afraid, we are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We are not afraid today

The truth shall make us free, the truth shall make us free
The truth shall make us free someday
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
The truth shall make us free someday

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace
We shall live in peace someday
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall live in peace someday

       2. 1954/64 – School segregation’s laws*, Death of Emett Till*, Montgomery bus’ boycott*: the beginning of a new era for the Civil Rights’ Fight.

*On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, which declared that racially segregated public schools were inherently unequal.In the most famous comment on the case, Chief Justice Earl Warren declared, “In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

*Emmett Louis Till was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. Till was beaten and shot to death and his body weighted and dumped in a river in Mississippi. His mother insisted on having an open casket to show the damage done to his body.Till’s murder is counted as a major reason for the start of the African American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.

*In December of 1955, 42,000 black residents of Montgomery began a year-long boycott of city buses to protest racially segregated seating. After 381 days of taking taxis, carpooling, and walking the hostile streets of Montgomery, African Americans eventually won their fight to desegregate seating on public buses, not only in Montgomery, but throughout the United States.The protest was first organized by the Women’s Political Council as a one-day boycott to coincide with the trial of Rosa Parks, who had been arrested on December 2, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated Montgomery bus.

  • The Freedom songs:

Written by SNCC Freedom Singer Charles Neblett to the tune of the traditional Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Don’t You Mourn. A mainstay of the Freedom Movement, the song’s rhyme scheme was highly adaptable to struggles all over the South.

Pete Seeger

If you miss me from the back of the bus(1964)

If you miss me at the back of the bus
you can’t find me nowhere
come on over to the front of the bus
I’ll be riding up there.

If you miss me on the picket line
you can’t find me nowhere
come on over to the city jail
I’ll be roaming over there.

If you miss me in the Mississippi River
you can’t find me nowhere
come on over to the swimming pool
I’ll be swimming right there.

If you miss me in the cotton fields
you can’t find me nowhere
come on over to the courthouse
I’ll be voting right there.

If you miss me at the back of the bus
you can’t find me nowhere
come on over to the front of the bus
I’ll be riding up there.

Fannie Lou Hammer

Fannie-Lou-Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. In 1944, she met civil rights activists who encouraged blacks to register to vote, and soon became active in helping. Hamer also worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which  fought racial segregation and injustice in the South. In 1964, she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.        

 

Wade in the water°

Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children,
Wade in the water
God’s a-going to trouble the water

See that host all dressed in white
God’s a-going to trouble the water
The leader looks like the Israelite
God’s a-going to trouble the water

See that band all dressed in red
God’s a-going to trouble the water
Looks like the band that Moses led
God’s a-going to trouble the water

Look over yonder, what do you see?
God’s a-going to trouble the water
The Holy Ghost a-coming on me
God’s a-going to trouble the water

If you don’t believe I’ve been redeemed
God’s a-going to trouble the water
Just follow me down to the Jordan’s stream
God’s a-going to trouble the water

CORE** Freedom Singers
**(Congress of Racial Equality )

This song, based on « Hit the Road Jack » by Ray Charles, is accompanied by a piano line in counterpoint to the vocal. In the freedom lyrics, the chorus urges Jack, a Black man, to get his rights and be a Tom no more. Jack speaks in verses, pleading with CORE and Mississippi’s Govenor Barnett to give him relief.

Get your rights Jack° (1963)
Composed by Percy Mayfield

Get your rights, Jack
And don’t be a « Tom » no more,
no more, no more, no more, no more,
Get your rights, Jack,
And don’t be a « Tom » no more.

Oh CORE, Oh CORE, don’t you treat me this way,
I’ll take my freedom ride someday,
Oh no, you won’t, ’cause it’s understood
You’re an Uncle Tom And you’re just no good.
Well, Iguess if you say so,
I’ll have my ticket and I’ll go (that’s right)

Oh ROS, Oh Ross,don’t you treat me this way
I’ll get my civil rights someday
Oh no, you won’t, cause it’s understood
Your skin is black and you’re just no good
Well, I guess if you say no
I’ll have to take it to the CORE.

°From « Voices of The Civil Rights Movement » – Black American Freedom Songs 1960/66.

  • Odetta Holmes, « the voice of the civil rights movement »

Odetta Holmes

odetta holmesOdetta Holmes was born in December 1930, in Birmingham, Alabama. She grew up in Los Angeles, where she studied music at the Los Angeles City College. Odetta moved to New York in 1953, and began playing at the legendary Blue Angel club. By 1954, she had recorded her debut album on Fantasy Records. By the end of the decade, she had achieved some notoriety through the help of Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger.
Odetta’s blues and spirituals led directly to her work for the civil rights movement. They were two rivers running together, she said in her interview with The Times. The words and music captured “the fury and frustration that I had growing up.”

 

Buked and scorned (1954)
Traditional Gospel song.

I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned,
I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned,
Children, I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned,
Tryin’ to make this journey all alone

You may talk about me sure as you please
Talk about me sure as you please
Children, talk about me sure as you please
Your talk will never drive me down to my knees

Jesus died to set me free
Jesus died to set me free
Children, Jesus died to set me free
Nailed to that cross on Calvary

I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned
I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned
Children, I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned
Tryin’ to make this journey all alone

Odetta’s rendition of a traditional prison work song written originally by Leadbelly.For almost a hundred years after the abolition of slavery, convicts, mostly African American, were leased to work as forced labor in the mines, railroad camps, brickyards, turpentine farms, and then on road gangs of the American South. Forced labor on chain gangs, levees, and huge, plantation-like prison farms continued well into the twentieth century. It was not unusual for work songs like « Take this Hammer » to drift between occupations along with the itinerant laborers who sang them.

Take this hammer (1954)
Prison and work song, Words and Music by Huddie Ledbetter.

Ah you can take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Ah you can take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Ah you can take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Tell him I’m gone, boys
Tell him I’m gone

If he ask you, was I running
if he ask you, was I running
if he ask you, was I running
Tell him I’m flying, boys
Tell him I’m flying

I don’t want your cold iron shackles
I don’t want your cold iron shackles
I don’t want your cold iron shackles
Around my leg, boys
Around my leg

If he ask you, was I laughing
if he ask you, was I laughing
if he ask you, was I laughing
Tell him I’m crying, boys
Tell him I’m crying

I don’t want your corn bread and molasses
I don’t want your corn bread and molasses
I don’t want your corn bread and molasses
It’s my pride, boys
It’s my pride

Ah you can take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Ah you can take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Ah you can take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Tell him I’m gone, boys
Tell him I’m gone

Oh, Freedom is a post Civil War African American freedom song, often associated with Odetta.The spiritual Oh Freedom! probably came into being soon after the end of slavery. Like many African American spirituals, the song has more than one meaning. Not only does it refer to freedom in the world to come after death, as many slave spirituals do, but it celebrates their new freedom in the here and now. In the 1950s and 1960s, the song was commonly sung as part of the Civil Rights Movement.

O Freedom (1963)

Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

No more mourning, no more mourning, no more mourning over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

No more crying, no more crying, no more crying over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

There’ll be singin’, there’ll be singin’, there’ll be singin’ over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

There’ll be glory, there’ll be glory, there’ll glory over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

 

 

  • Harry Belafonte, « The King of Calypso ».

Harry Belafonte

belafonte

Readily known as the King of Calypso, Harry Belafonte of New York is an accomplished actor, singer, producer and international human rights activist. Celebrated throughout the world, his career has included wide-ranging accomplishment during the past half century.Although Belafonte had become an accomplished singer and actor, the life of a black citizen in 1960s America was far from easy and he was still confronted with the same Jim Crow laws and prejudices of the time.He began to emerge as a strong voice for the civil rights movement and provided financial backing for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council and participated in numerous rallies and protests.

 

Day O is a traditional Jamaican song that was sung by dock workers who worked throughout the night loading bananas onto ships. It’s daylight, and they look forward to the arrival of the Tallyman (who will take inventory) so they can go home.

 

Day O (Banana boat song) (1956)
Songwriters: LORD BURGESS, WILLIAM ATTAWAY

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Work all night on a drink of rum
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Stack banana till de mornin’ come
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day…
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

A beautiful bunch o’ ripe banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Hide the deadly black tarantula
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day…
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Swing Dat Hammer is a chain gang work song.

 

Swing Dat Hammer (1960)

Swing dat hammer, swing dat hammer
Swing it higher ´bove your head
Making little ones out of big ones
Hammer kill you almost dead

If I ever leave this chain gang
I’m coming home once more
Mama, mama do not scorn me
Do not turn me from your door

Swing it high boys, swing it low boys
Swing dat hammer till you dead
Swing it high boys, swing it low boys
Swing dat hammer till you dead

Yes, yes but I’m back in dear ol´ Georgie
And I got to serve this time
Swing it high boys, swing it low boys
Swing dat hammer till you dead
Swing it high boys, swing it low boys
Swing dat hammer till you dead

Mama, mama, mama, mama
Ain’t you ´shamed of your dear son
Ain’t you sorry that you born me
When you see what I’ve done done
Swing it high boys, swing it low boys
Look a here ma what I’ve done done

Swing it high boys, swing it low boys
Swing dat hammer till you dead

« Midnight Special » is a traditional folk song thought to have originated among prisoners in the American South.The song is historically performed in the country-blues style from the viewpoint of the prisoner and has been covered by many artists.

 

Midnight Special (1962)

Well, you wake up in the mornin’
And the ding dong rings
You go a marchin’ to the table
You see the same old thing
Baby, all I want to tell ya
A knife, a fork and a pan
And if you say a thing about it
Your in trouble with the man

Let the Midnight Special
Shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special
Shine it’s everlovin’ light on me
Yes, let the Midnight Special
Shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special
Shine it’s everlovin’ light on me

If you’re ever in Houston,
Then you walk or ride
You better not gamble
And you better not skive, boy
‘Cause sheriff Benson will arrest ya
He’ll carry you on down
And if the jury finds you guilty
You’re penitentiary bound

So, let the Midnight Special
Shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special
Shine it’s everlovin’ light on me

Yonder comes miss Rosie
How I wonder did you know
Well, I know about apron
And the dress she wore
Umbrella on her shoulder,
Piece of paper in her hand
She goes a-walkin’ to the captain
Says, I’m losing my man

So, let the Midnight Special
Shine it’s light on me
Let the Midnight Special
Shine it’s everlovin’ light on me
Let the Midnight Special

  • Miriam Makeba: Civil Rights and apartheid, equal struggle!.

Miriam Makeba

makebaMiriam Makeba, nicknamed Mama Africa, was a Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil rights activist.She recorded and toured with many popular artists, such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon.Makeba campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. The South African government responded by revoking her passport in 1960 and her citizenship and right of return in 1963.Miriam Makeba continued making music and fighting for causes that she believed in until her death, following a heart attack on November 9, 2008, at the age of 76, in Castel Volturno, Italy.

 

Recorded in 1965, after the assassination of Malcolm X, Miriam Makeba delivers a joyous song (written by her daughter Bongi Makeba), praising the greatest parts of a great man. We can only imagine what a bright light such a song was at such a dark time.

Malcolm X (1965)

(No found any lyrics, if anyone can catch some and send me, I’ll appreciate.)

Mabayeke is a traditional antiapartheid zulu song.

Give us our land (Mabayeke) (1966)

Tina sizwe, tina sizwe esinsundu,
Sikhalela, sikhalela izwelethu
Elathathwa, elathathwa ngabamhlope
Mabayeke, mabayek’umhlaba wethu

Abantwana, abantwana be Africa
Bakhalela, bakhalela izwe labo
Elathathwa, elathathwa ngabamhlope
Mabayeke, mabayek’umhlaba wethu

Tina sizwe, tina sizwe esinsundu,
Sikhalela, sikhalela izwelethu
Elathathwa, elathathwa ngabamhlope
Mabayeke, mabayek’umhlaba wethu

We the nation, we the black nation,
We mourn, we mourn for our land
Stolen from us, stolen from us by the white man.
They must leave our land alone
They must leave our land alone

We, the children of Africa,
Are crying for Africa
That was taken by the white people.
They must leave our land alone
They must leave our land alone

We the nation, we the black nation,
We mourn, we mourn for our land
Stolen from us, stolen from us by the white man.
They must leave our land alone
They must leave our land alone

  • Nina Simone, « young, gifted and black! »

Nina Simone

nina-simone-_229744Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist,arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music.Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that drew upon her African-American origins. A civil rights message was standard in Simone’s recording repertoire, becoming a part of her live performances. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period, rather than Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach, and she hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state. Nevertheless, she wrote in her autobiography that she and her family regarded all races as equal.

« Brown Baby », written by Oscar Brown Jr., is both hopeful and defiant in its call for freedom.

Brown baby (1961)

Brown baby brown baby
As you grow up I want you to drink from the plenty cup
I want you to stand up tall and proud
And I want you to speak up clear and loud
Brown baby brown baby brown baby

As years go by I want you to go with your head up high
I want you to live by the justice code
And I want you to walk down freedom’s road
You little brown baby

So lie away lie away spleeping lie away singing
Lie away sleeping lie away safe in my arms
Till your daddy and you mama protect you
? nd keep you safe from harm
Brown baby

It makes me glad you gonna have things that I never had
When out of men’s heart all hate is hurled
Sweetie you gonna live in a better world
Brown baby brown baby brown baby

« Mississipi Goddamn » is her response to the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi; and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four black children. On the recording she cynically announces the song as « a show tune, but the show hasn’t been written for it yet ». The song begins jauntily, with a show tune feel, but demonstrates its political focus early on with its refrain « Alabama’s got me so upset, Tennessee’s made me lose my rest, and everybody knows about Mississippi goddam ». In the song she says: « Keep on sayin’ ‘go slow’…to do things gradually would bring more tragedy. Why don’t you see it? Why don’t you feel it? I don’t know, I don’t know. You don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality! »The song was released as a single and became a civil rights activist anthem. It was banned in several Southern states, ostensibly because of the word ‘goddam’ in the title.

Mississipi Goddamn (1964)

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can’t you see it
Can’t you feel it
It’s all in the air
I can’t stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer

Don’t tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I’ve been there so I know
They keep on saying ‘Go slow!’

But that’s just the trouble
‘Do it slow’
Washing the windows
‘Do it slow’
Picking the cotton
‘Do it slow’
You’re just plain rotten
‘Do it slow’
You’re too damn lazy
‘Do it slow’
The thinking’s crazy
‘Do it slow’
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don’t know
I don’t know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I made you thought I was kiddin’

Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say it’s a communist plot
All I want is equality
For my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you any more
You keep on saying ‘Go slow!’
‘Go slow!’

But that’s just the trouble
‘Do it slow’
Desegregation
‘Do it slow’
Mass participation
‘Do it slow’
Reunification
‘Do it slow’
Do things gradually
‘Do it slow’
But bring more tragedy
‘Do it slow’
Why don’t you see it
Why don’t you feel it
I don’t know
I don’t know

You don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Simone wrote « Four Women », a song about four different stereotypes of African-American women. »The women in the song are black, but their skin tones range from light to dark and their ideas of beauty and their own importance are deeply influenced by that. All the song did was to tell what entered the minds of most black women in America when they thought about themselves: their complexions, their hair … and what other women thought of them. »(Nina Simone).

Four women (1965)

My skin is black
My arms are long
My hair is woolly
My back is strong
Strong enough to take the pain
inflicted again and again
What do they call me
My name is AUNT SARAH
My name is Aunt Sarah

My skin is yellow
My hair is long
Between two worlds
I do belong
My father was rich and white
He forced my mother late one night
What do they call me
My name is SAFFRONIA
My name is Saffronia

My skin is tan
My hair is fine
My hips invite you
my mouth like wine
Whose little girl am I?
Anyone who has money to buy
What do they call me
My name is SWEET THING
My name is Sweet Thing

My skin is brown
my manner is tough
I’ll kill the first mother I see
my life has been too rough
I’m awfully bitter these days
because my parents were slaves
What do they call me
My name is PEACHES

The song « Backlash Blues », composed by Nina Simone and Langston Hughes, referenced the Vietnam War in the first verse, making a connection between the war and civil rights. Like J.B. Lenoir, this song questioned why the government sent African-Americans to fight in Vietnam, while back home in the US, African-Americans faced discrimination, and were treated as second class citizens through segregation.

Backlash blues (1967)

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just who do think I am
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my son to vietnam

You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that all the colored folks
Are just second class fools
Mr. Backlash, I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues

When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash
All you got to offer
Is your mean old white backlash
But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it’s full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige and brown
Mr. Backlash, I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just what do you think I got to lose
I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
You’re the one will have the blues
Not me, just wait and see

“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” originally composed by Billy Taylor in 1963, but the song was popularized when it was recorded in 1967 by Nina Simone. When sung by an already well-known Nina Simone, the song was widely circulated and became one of the anthems of the Civil Right’s Movement in which Simone was actively involved.1967 was a critical time in both the Women’s movement and the Black Civil Right’s Movement which possibily may have influenced the recording and release of this song.

I wish I knew it would to be free (1967)

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
I wish I could say all the things that I should say
Say ’em loud, say ’em clear

For the whole round world to hear
I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the bars that keep us apart
I wish you could know what it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every man should be free

I wish I could give all I’m longing to give
I wish I could live like I’m longing to live
I wish that I could do all the things that I can do
Though I’m way overdue I’d be starting anew
Well I wish I could be like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be if I found I could fly

Oh I’d soar to the sun and look down at the sea
And I’d sing cos I’d know that
And I’d sing cos I’d know that
And I’d sing cos I’d know that
I’d know how it feels to be free
I’d know how it feels to be free
I’d know how it feels to be free

« Why? (The King of Love Is Dead) » was written by Simone’s bass player Gene Taylor after the news of Martin Luther King’s death had reached him. She performed it at Westbury Music Fair for the first time at Westbury Music Fair in New York, three days after his murder.

Why?(The King of Love is dead) (1968)

Once upon this planet earth
Lived a man humble down
Preaching Love and freedom
For his fellow man

He was dreaming our day
Peace would come to us to stay
And he‘d spread his message
All across the land

Turn the other cheek
He’d plead
Love thy neighbor
Was his creed
Pain, humiliation, death
He did not dread

With his bible at his side
From his foes he did not hide
It’s hard to think
That this great man is dead
Oh Yeah!

For the murders never cease
Are they men or are they beast
What do they ever hope?
Ever hope to gain

Will my country
For us, stand up tall
Is it too late for us all?
And did Martin Luther King
Just die In Vain

Cause he’d seen the mountain top
And he knew he could not stop
Always living
With the threat of death ahead

Folks you’d better
Stop and think
Cause we’re headed for the brink
What will happen now?
That he is dead

He was for equality
For all people you and me

With love and good will
Hate was not his way
He was not a violent man
Tell me folks if you can
Just Why
Why was he shot down?
The other day

You would say
He had seen
The mountain top
And he knew he could not stop
Always living with the
Threat of death ahead
Folks you’d better stop and think
And Feel Again
Cause we’re headed for the brink

What’s going to happen?
Now that the King of love
Is dead!

« To Be Young, Gifted and Black » is a song written in memory of Simone’s late friend Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play « Raisin in the Sun ». The song was originally recorded by Simone and was a Civil Rights anthem.

To be young gifted and black (1969)
(Nina Simone, lyrics by Weldon Irvine)

To be young, gifted and black,
Oh what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black,
Open your heart to what I mean

In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that’s a fact!

Young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
There’s a world waiting for you
This is a quest that’s just begun

When you feel really low
Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know
When you’re young, gifted and black
Your soul’s intact

Young, gifted and black
How I long to know the truth
There are times when I look back
And I am haunted by my youth

Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it’s at

  • The claiming poetry of jazz singer Oscar Brown Jr.

Oscar Brown Jr

index

Oscar Brown, Jr was not a man easily defined. Labels like songwriter, composer, actor, singer, director, producer, playwright all fit, but not quite. He was also an activist, a visionary, and a social commentator. As influenced by the Harlem Renaissance as he was by the Civil Rights Movement, Brown had a desire to create and to communicate.Though he never received the recognition many felt he deserved during his life, his music and words have had a continued influence on a whole new generation of artists and activists.

 

 

Work song (1960)
Oscar Brown, Jr., Nat Adderly

Breaking up big rocks on the chain gang
Breaking rocks and serving my time
Breaking rocks out here on the chain gang
‘Cause they convicted me of crime

Hold it steady right there while I hit it
Well, reckon that ought to get it
Been workin’ and workin’
But I still got so terribly long to go

I committed crime, Lord I needed
Crime of bein’ hungry and poor
I left the grocery store man bleeding
When they caught me robbin’ his store

Hold it steady right there while I hit it
Well, reckon that ought to get it
Been workin’ and workin’
But I still got so terribly long to go

And judges say five years o’ hard labor
On chain-gang you gonna go
I heard the judge say five years o’ labor
I heard my old man scream, »Lordy, no! »

Oh, hold it steady right there while I hit it
Well, reckon that ought to get it
Been workin’ and workin’
But I still got so terribly long to go

Wanna see my sweet honey baby
Wanna break this chain off to run
Wanna lay down somewhere shady
Lord, I sure it’s hot in the sun

Hold it right there while I hit it
Well, reckon that ought to get it
Been workin’ and workin’
But I still got so terribly long to go

Breaking up big rocks on the chain gang
Breaking rocks and serving my time

 

“Bid ‘em in” captures the ugliness of one of the more horrific events in world history, – slavery in America. In capturing the American slave auction in his poetic rendering “Bid ‘em in”, Brown shines the spotlight on the inhumanity of auctioning human beings, bringing to light the viciousness of a people obsessed with perpetuating slavery. Auctioning humans and slave trafficking were further underscored by the commercialization of female slaves through rape and forced childbearing.

Bid’em in (1960)

Bid ’em in! Get ’em in!
That sun is hot and plenty bright.
Let’s get down to business and get home tonight.
Bid ’em in!

Auctioning slaves is a real high art.
Bring that young gal, Roy. She’s good for a start.
Bid ’em in! Get ’em in!

Now here’s a real good buy only about 15.
Her great grandmammy was a Dahomey queen.
Just look at her face, she sure ain’t homely.
Like Sheba in the Bible, she’s black but comely.
Bid ’em in!

Gonna start her at three. Can I hear three?
Step up gents. Take a good look see.
Cause I know you’ll want her once you’ve seen her.
She’s young and ripe. Make a darn good breeder.
Bid ’em in!

She’s good in the fields. She can sew and cook.
Strip her down Roy, let the gentlemen look.
She’s full up front and ample behind.
Examine her teeth if you’ve got a mind.
Bid ’em in! Get ’em in!

Here’s a bid of three from a man who’s thrifty.
Three twenty five! Can I hear three fifty?
Your money ain’t earning you much in the banks.
Turn her around Roy, let ’em look at her flanks.
Bid ’em in!

Three fifty’s bid. I’m looking for four.
At four hundred dollars she’s a bargain sure.
Four is the bid. Four fifty. Five!
Five hundred dollars. Now look alive!
Bid ’em in! Get ’em in!

Don’t mind them tears, that’s one of her tricks.
Five fifty’s bid and who’ll say six?
She’s healthy and strong and well equipped.
Make a fine lady’s maid when she’s properly whipped.
Bid ’em in!

Six! Six fifty! Don’t be slow.
Seven is the bid. Gonna let her go.
At seven she’s going!
Going!
Gone!
Pull her down Roy, bring the next one on.
Bid ’em in! Get ’em in! Bid ’em in!

 


Brother where are you (1965)

A small boy walked down a city street
And hope was in his eyes
As he searched the faces of the people he’d meet
For one he could recognize

Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way
Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way

The eyes of the people who passed him by
Were cold and as hard as stone
The poor boy whimpered and began to cry
Because he was all alone

Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way, yeah
Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way

Now there are many who swear it’s true
That brothers all we are
Yet it seems there are very few
Who will answer a brother’s call?

Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way, yeah
Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way

Now there are many who will swear it’s true
That brothers all we are
Yet it seems there are so few
Who will answer a brother’s call?

Brother, where are you?
They said you came this way, yeah
Brother, where are you?
They told me you came this way

 

 

« Forty Acres and a Mule, » a phrase echoed throughout the South in the aftermath of the Civil War, asserting the right of newly freed African Americans to redistributed lands—particularly those plantations confiscated by U.S. troops during the war—as compensation for unpaid labor during slavery. Despite the efforts of Radical Republicans during the Reconstruction period, however, significant land redistribution measures ultimately were abandoned, and virtually all southern lands were returned to white owners.The phrase itself continued to live vividly in the minds of most African Americans throughout the twentieth century, symbolizing to many the « unfinished business » of the Civil War.’40 Acres and a Mule’, recorded in 1964 (released in 1965 on the LP ‘Mr Oscar Brown Jr Goes to Washington’), is simultaneously swinging, humorous, cutting and incisive.

Forty acres and a mule (1965)

  • Hard Bop, Soul Jazz, Free Jazz, Avant-garde: »The Black Power’s Jazz ».

Jazz music was also profoundly affected by the high tide of struggle. Not only did so much jazz in the 1960s get radical in intention, it also became radical in form. Civil Rights activism along with the liberation of African Nations inspired compositions and performances by jazz musicians that incorporated elements of West African music with jazz.

Horace Silver

Horace Silver

Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers is a 1955 album by jazz pianist Horace Silver with drummer Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. It was an important album in the establishment of the hard bop style, and was the first album released under the band name Jazz Messengers, which Blakey would use for the rest of his career.

 

 

The Preacher (1955)

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

Art Blakey

 

Art Blakey and the Messengers seemed determined to display the emotional and artistic validity of their music, as well as a strong commitment to the civil rights movement.

 

 

Moanin’ (1958)

Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith

 

James Oscar « Jimmy » Smith was an African-American jazz musician. Smith helped popularize the Hammond B-3 electric organ, creating an indelible link between sixties soul and jazz improvisation.

 

 

 

 

The Sermon (1958)

Max Roach

Max Roach

 

Maxwell Lemuel « Max » Roach was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history.Roach also led his own groups, and made numerous musical statements relating to the Africans Americans Civil Rights.

 

Freedom Day (1960)

Whisper, listen, whisper, listen. Whispers say we’re free.
Rumors flyin’, must be lyin’. Can it really be?
Can’t conceive it, can’t believe it. But that’s what they say.
Slave no longer, slave no longer, this is Freedom Day.

Freedom Day, it’s Freedom Day. Throw those shackle n’ chains away.
Everybody that I see says it’s really true, we’re free.

Whisper, listen, whisper, listen. Whispers say we’re free.
Rumors flyin’, must be lyin’. Can it really be?
Can’t conceive it, don’t believe it. But that’s what they say.
Slave no longer, slave no longer, this is Freedom Day.

Freedom Day, it’s Freedom Day. Throw those shackle n’ chains away.
Everybody that I see says it’s really true, we’re free.

Freedom Day, it’s Freedom Day. Free to vote and earn my pay.
Dim my path and hide the way. But we’ve made it Freedom Day.

Charles Mingus

Charles_Mingus

Charles Mingus Jr. was a highly influential American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader. Mingus’s compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music.
« Fables of Faubus » is one of Mingus’s most explicitly political works, the song was written as a direct protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus, who in 1957 sent out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School by nine African American teenagers.

 

Fables of Faubus (1960)

Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don’t let ’em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

Name me someone who’s ridiculous, Danny.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won’t permit integrated schools.

Then he’s a fool! Oh Boo!
Boo! Nazi Fascist supremacists
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

Name me a handful that’s ridiculous, Danny.
Faubus, Nelson Rockefeller, Eisenhower
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?

Two, four, six, eight:
They brainwash and teach you hate.
H-E-L-L-O, Hello

Cannonball Adderley

NatAdderleyTrumpeter and composer Nat Adderley had a surprising range as a performer, producing a growling tone at low G in one breath and then soaring through the hard bop stratosphere in the next. Always slouched with his cornet braced on his chest, he stood nearly a head shorter than his more famous older brother, sxophonist Julian « Cannonball » Adderley. Cannonball was active in civil rights and support for the arts. » Adderley’s contributions to the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Operation Bread Basket and as a member of the Jazz Advisory Board of the National Endowment for the Arts reflected his commitment to the role of art and artists in social change.

 

 

Work song (1960)

John Coltrane

johncoltraneJohn William Coltrane, also known as « Trane » was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.While not an outspoken activist, he was a deeply spiritual man who believed his music was a vehicle for the message of a higher power. Coltrane was drawn to the civil rights movement after 1963. That was the year that Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the August 28th March on Washington, raising public awareness of the movement for racial equality.

On the Sunday morning of 15 September 1963 a dozen sticks of dynamite were planted by white racists in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. At 10.45am the bomb went off, killing four young black girls aged between 11 and 14.Coltrane wrote the song ‘Alabama’ in response to the bombing.

 

Alabama (1964)

Phil Cohran & The Artistic Heritage Ensemble

Kelan Phil Cohran

Kelan Phil Cohran is a jazz musician. He is known most for his trumpet contributions in the Sun Ra Arkestra in Chicago during 1959-1961 and for his involvement in the foundation of the AACM.After parting company with the AACM, Cohran attempted once more to found an organisation that would adequately reflect his musical aims, opening the Affro-Arts Theatre in Chicago in 1967. Similar in aspects to the community ideals of the AACM, Cohran used the Affro-Arts Theatre to guide participants and musicians towards an understanding of their African musical heritage.

 

 

Unity (1967)

  • A new generation of Folk singers & Protest songs writers.

Protest songs are a big part of the history of American folk music – from anti-war songs to civil rights songs, labor songs, and songs about peace and justice.The most remarkable thing about protest music is that it helps people realize they’re not alone in feeling a spirit of dissent against certain injustices, whether on a personal or more overarching governmental level.

Bob Dylan

Dylan

Bob Dylan has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s,a number of Dylan’s early songs, such as « Blowin’ in the Wind » became anthems for the US civil rights and anti-war movements.Dylan’s lyrics have incorporated a variety of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences.

 

 

Blowin’ In The Wind » bore little or no resemblance to the highly topical, highly literal protest songs of the day, but that may have been precisely what made it so effective as a protest song. A lyric like « How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? » lends itself perfectly to those seeking racial justice, just as « How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand? » does to those seeking peace.

Blowin’ in the wind (1963)

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

In 1963, Dylan penned a song that was never formally released, entitled, “The Death of Emmett Till,” In it, Dylan tells the true story of Emmet Till, a black man from Mississippi, who was murdered by two white brothers in 1955. Dylan appeals to the masses and calls people to action by berating them for just sitting by and allowing this kind of injustice to go on. Dylan first sang the song for a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) benefit in February 1962

The Death of Emmet Till (1963)

’Twas down in Mississippi not so long ago
When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door
This boy’s dreadful tragedy I can still remember well
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up
They said they had a reason, but I can’t remember what
They tortured him and did some things too evil to repeat
There were screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds
out on the street

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain
The reason that they killed him there, and I’m sure it ain’t no lie
Was just for the fun of killin’ him and to watch him slowly die

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this
awful crime
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind

I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin’ down the courthouse stairs
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free
While Emmett’s body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea

If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that’s so unjust
Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt, your mind is filled with dust
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood
it must refuse to flow
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live

Oxford Town was composed in response to an open invitation from Broadside magazine for songs about one of the top news events of 1962: the enrollment of a black student, James Meredith, in the University of Mississippi on October 1.

Oxford Town (1963)

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev’rybody’s got their heads bowed down
The sun don’t shine above the ground
Ain’t a-goin’ down to Oxford Town

He went down to Oxford Town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face was brown
Better get away from Oxford Town

Oxford Town around the bend
He come in to the door, he couldn’t get in
All because of the color of his skin
What do you think about that, my frien’?

Me and my gal, my gal’s son
We got met with a tear gas bomb
I don’t even know why we come
Goin’ back where we come from

Oxford Town in the afternoon
Ev’rybody singin’ a sorrowful tune
Two men died ’neath the Mississippi moon
Somebody better investigate soon

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev’rybody’s got their heads bowed down
The sun don’t shine above the ground
Ain’t a-goin’ down to Oxford Town

« Only a Pawn in Their Game » is a song written about the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.The song suggests that Evers’ killer does not bear sole blame for his crime, as he was only a pawn of rich white elites who incensed poor whites against blacks so as to distract them from their position on « the caboose of the train ».

Only a pawn in their game (1964)

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
’Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ’neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game

Peter, Paul & Mary

 

PPM

Peter, Paul and Mary were a United States folk-singing trio whose nearly 50-year career began with their rise to become a paradigm for 1960s folk music. The trio was composed of folk song writer Peter Yarrow, (Noel) Paul Stookey and Mary Travers.In the decades prior to the ‘60s, through the work of such avatars as Woody Guthrie, the Weavers and Pete Seeger, folk music had become identified with sociopolitical commentary, but the idiom had been forced underground in the Senator Joe McCarthy witch-hunting era of the late ‘50s. By the time Peter, Paul and Mary arrived on the scene, for the majority of America, folk was viewed merely as a side-bar to pop music which employed acoustic instruments. At this critical historic juncture, with the nation still recovering from the McCarthy era, the Civil Rights Movement taking shape, the Cold War heating up and a nascent spirit of activism in the air, Peter, Paul and Mary came together to juxtapose these cross currents and thus to reclaim folk’s potency as a social, cultural and political force. But few at the time could have realized how fervently and pervasively the group’s message of humanity, hope and activism would be embraced.

« If I had a hammer » was first performed publicly by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays on June 3, 1949 at St. Nicholas Arena in New York at a testimonial dinner for the leaders of the Communist Party of the United States, who were then on trial in federal court, charged with violating the Smith Act by advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government.Although The Weavers didn’t achieve great commercial success with the song, it did resound in certain circles. By the time Peter, Paul and Mary recorded it in 1962, the tune’s meaning had evolved to fit the emerging civil rights movement. The hammer and bell symbols were still powerful images, but the more key line at this time was the refrain that sang about « love between my brothers and my sisters, » and the final verse’s « hammer of justice »/ »bell of freedom » line.

 

If I had a Hammer (1962)
(Seeger/Hays)

If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land

I’d hammer out danger,
I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a bell,
I’d ring it in the morning,
I’d ring it in the evening,
All over this land

I’d ring out danger,
I’d ring out a warning
I’d ring out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a song,
I’d sing it in the morning,
I’d sing it in the evening,
All over this land

I’d sing out danger,
I’d sing out a warning
I’d sing out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

Well I got a hammer,
And I got a bell,
And I got a song to sing, all over this land.

It’s the hammer of Justice,
It’s the bell of Freedom,
It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

It’s the hammer of Justice,
It’s the bell of Freedom,
It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

 

 

Joan Baez

 

JBaez

Joan Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. The early years of Joan Baez’s career saw the civil-rights movement in the U.S. become a prominent issue.She was a frequent participant in anti-war marches and rallies. She was a frequent participant in anti-war marches and rallies. Throughout most of her career, Joan Baez remained apprehensive about involving herself in party politics.

« Birmingham Sunday » was written by Richard Farina. It is about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the United States 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Birmingham Sunday (1964)
(Richard Farina)

Come round by my side and I’ll sing you a song.
I’ll sing it so softly, it’ll do no one wrong.
On Birmingham Sunday the blood ran like wine,
And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
That cold autumn morning no eyes saw the sun,
And Addie Mae Collins, her number was one.
In an old Baptist church there was no need to run.
And the choir kept singing of Freedom,
The clouds they were dark and the autumn wind blew,
And Denise McNair brought the number to two.
The falcon of death was a creature they knew,
And the choir kept singing of Freedom,
The church it was crowded, and no one could see
That Cynthia Wesley’s dark number was three.
Her prayers and her feelings would shame you and me.
And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
Young Carol Robertson entered the door
And the number her killers had given was four.
She asked for a blessing but asked for no more,
And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
On Birmingham Sunday a noise shook the ground.
And people all over the earth turned around.
For no one recalled a more cowardly sound.
And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
The men in the forest they once asked of me,
How many black berries grow in the Blue Sea.
I asked them right back with a tear in my eye.
How many dark ships in the forest?
A Sunday has come a Sunday has gone.
And I can’t do much more than to sing you a song.
I’ll sing it so softly, it’ll do no one wrong.
And the choir keeps singing of Freedom.

 

 

Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs

Philip David « Phil » Ochs was an American protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism,insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice.Ochs performed at many political events during the 1960s counterculture era, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a « left social democrat » who became an « early revolutionary » after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.

« Too Many Martyrs » is a Phil Ochs/Bob Gibson song about the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. It was inspired by the 1963 death of which NAACP field worker, whose name is included in the alternative title for this song. this song also refers to the death of Emmett Till, and laments all the deaths over many years associated with the struggle for equality in an ostensibly free and democratic society.

 

The Ballad of Medgar Evers (Too many martyrs) (1964)

In the state of Mississippi many years ago
A boy of 14 years got a taste of southern law
He saw his friend a hanging and his color was his crime
And the blood upon his jacket left a brand upon his mind

CHORUS:
Too many martyrs and too many dead
Too many lies too many empty words were said
Too many times for too many angry men
Oh let it never be again

His name was Medgar Evers and he walked his road alone
Like Emmett Till and thousands more whose names we’ll never know
They tried to burn his home and they beat him to the ground
But deep inside they both knew what it took to bring him down

Chorus

The killer waited by his home hidden by the night
As Evers stepped out from his car into the rifle sight
he slowly squeezed the trigger, the bullet left his side
It struck the heart of every man when Evers fell and died.

Chorus

And they laid him in his grave while the bugle sounded clear
laid him in his grave when the victory was near
While we waited for the future for freedom through the land
The country gained a killer and the country lost a man

 

Simon & Garfunkel

S&G

Simon & Garfunkel were an American music duo consisting of guitarist,singer-songwriter Paul Simon and singer Art Garfunkel.In 1963, they found prominence as part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene. Simon, who had finished college but dropped out of Brooklyn Law School, had—like Garfunkel—developed an interest in the folk scene.

 

This song was written in memory of Andrew Goodman, a fellow college student and civil rights activist, who was slain in 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan along with two other people.

 

He Was my brother (1964)

He was my brother
Five years older than I
He was my brother
Twenty-three years old the day he died

Freedom writer
They cursed my brother to his face
Go home outsider
This town’s gonna be your buryin’ place

He was singin’ on his knees
An angry mob trailed along
They shot my brother dead
Because he hated what was wrong

He was my brother
Tears can’t bring him back to me
He was my brother
And he died so his brothers could be free
He died so his brothers could be free

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Tom Paxton

 

Paxton

Tom Paxton is a Folk singer, composer and guitar player born in 1937. He began in Greenwich Village NY in the 1960’s and he still sings. He wrote a lot of songs about war, racism, slavery like his fathers Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and his much known contemporaries Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Peter Paul & Mary, Joan Baez…A lot of singers covered his songs.

Here is a song about an african slave and his descent. His name Beau John was given to all of his descendants born in America from slavery to the Civil rights era. Paxton tells the story of african american people who has worked as slaves, died as soldiers and didn’t get the basic human rights. Great song from the1966’s Outward bound album.

 

Beau John (1965)

Beau John was a king in his own native land,
He ruled for a thousand days,
Till the slave traders came and they locked him in irons,
And they told him he’d have to go away.
And they told him he’d have to go away.

Beau John got sick on the long ocean voyage.
All around him people died.
They took his friends and they threw them overboard.
John hung down his head and he cried.
John hung down his head and he cried.

They sold Beau John down in New Orleans,
To a man with a whip in his hand.
He said farewell to his wife and his child,
And they took him to a strange new land.
They took him to a strange new land.

Beau John worked hard for thirty-seven years.
He worked with a woman by his side.
And on the morn that his last son was born,
Beau John laid down and he died.
Beau John laid down and he died.

His son grew up just as big as his dad.
They called him Beau John too.
And for one hundred years Beau John and his sons,
Did just what the master made them do.
They did just what the master made them do.

Until one day when the cannon fire roared.
The master’s wife and children did flee.
Some men in blue coats rode into the yard,
And they told Beau John that he was free.
And they told Beau John that he was free.

When the nightriders came for old Beau John,
Little Beau John hid behind a tree.
He saw what they did and he hit the northern trails,
Saying maybe up there they’ll let me be.
Saying maybe up there they’ll let me be.

But they pushed Beau John and they shoved him around,
Till he didn’t know where to turn.
Some folks up in Harlem took him into their home,
And Beau John started into learn.
And Beau John started into learn.

He fought for his country in World War One.
His son fought in World War Two.
And they learned no matter what price they paid,
There were certain things they weren’t allowed to do.
There were certain things they weren’t allowed to do.

And then one night on the television screen,
He saw that Medgar Evers was dead.
He took his wife in his arms in the night,
And these are the words that he said, Beau John,
These are the words that he said.

Well they made me a slave and I worked in their fields.
They made me fight in their war.
They kept me down for four hundred years.
But I ain’t gonna take it any more.
No I ain’t gonna take it any more.

His wife got a letter from a Georgia jail,
From a town called Albany,
Saying I am proud to be your own Beau John,
And I ain’t coming home till we’re free.
No, And I ain’t coming home till we’re free.

 

Len Chandler

 

len chandlerLen Hunt Chandler, Jr., better known as Len Chandler, is a folk musician from Akron, Ohio.By the early 1960s, Chandler began to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He sang at demonstrations and rallies, and won a reputation as a protest songwriter.One of his most famous songs was « Beans in My Ears », which was covered by the Serendipity Singers, as well as Pete Seeger. He also served as one of the original crew members of Seeger’s CLEARWATER organization in working to save the environment around the Hudson River Valley.
Murders on the roads of Alabama (1965)

I was on Highway 80 on my way to Selma,
when we passed about 30 or 40 police cars
and lots of lights and lots of activity and we
thought that the car we saw poked half way
through a fence off the right side of the road
has just been involved in an accident. We uh
found out that a lady had been shot to death an
Highway 80.

Oh it’s murder on the roads of Alabama
Oh it’s murder on the roads of Alabama
If you’re fightin’ for what’s right
If you’re black or if you ‘ re white
You’re a target in the night in Alabama
Oh we’d marched right by that spot in Alabama
Oh we’d marched right by that spot in Alabama
Oh we’d marched right by that spot
Where the Klansman fired the shots
Where the coward fired the shots in
Alabama
Oh we know who is to blame in Alabama
Oh we know who is to blame in Alabama
She caught two bullets in the brain
Before we learned to say her name
And George Wallace is the shame of
Alabama
There’s a man behind the guns of Alabama
There’s a man behind the guns of Alabama
There’s a man behind the guns
He kills for hate, for fear, for fun
And George Wallace is top gun in
Alabama
It was Jackson on the roads of Alabama
It was Reeb on the roads of Alabama
William Moore’s dead and gone
And this killin’ still goes on
Now Liuzzo’ s on the road of Alabama
There’s a movement on the road in
Alabama
There’s a movement on the road of
Alabama
Black man, White man, Christian, Jew
We got to keep on marchin’ through
Oh, the tyrant’s days are few in Alabama
It was murder on the road of Alabama
It was murder on the roads of Alabama
If you’re fightin’ for what’ s right
If you’ re Black or you are white
You’re a target in the night in Alabama.

 

Richie Havens

richie havensRichard Pierce Havens, known as Richie Havens, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues.The Brooklyn-born musician was famous for his distinctive, husky baritone, and was a skilled and tough guitar player who could turn strummed rhythms into rhapsodies.Most famous for stepping in to open up the Woodstock concert, Havens devoted considerable energy to educating young people about the critical urgency of environmental activism. In 1975, he founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx. He did too many benefit concerts to count on behalf of environmental, antiwar, civil rights and anti-nuclear causes.
The Klan (1967)

The countryside was cold and still
There were three crosses on the hill
Each one wore a burning hood
To hide too rotten core of the wood
And I cried
Father, I hear an iron sound
Hey, hoof beats on the frozen ground
Down the hills the riders came
Lord, it was a crying shame
To see the blood upon their whips
To hear the snarling of their lips
And I cried
Mother, I feel a stabbing pain
Hey, blood flows down like a summer?s rain
Summer?s rain
Each one wore a mask of white
To hide his cruel face from sight
Each one sucked the hungry breath
Out of the empty lungs of death
And I cried
Sister,
Hey sister, raise my bloody head
Hey, it’s so lonesome to be dead
He who rides with the Klan
Is a devil, and not a man
For underneath his white disguise
I have looked into his eyes
And I cried
Brother, stand by me
It’s not too easy to be free
Brother, Sister
Hey Mother, Hey Father
Stand by me
Hey, it’s not too easy to be free

 

 

Freedom (1969)

Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long way from my home

Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom

Sometimes I feel like Im almost gone
Sometimes I feel like Im almost gone
Sometimes I feel like Im almost gone
A long, long, long, way, way from my home

Clap your hands, clap your hands
Clap your hands, clap your hands
Clap your hands, clap your hands
Clap your hands, clap your hands
Hey, yeah

I got a telephone in my bosom
And I can call him up from my heart
I got a telephone in my bosom
And I can call him up from my heart

When I need my brother, brother
When I need my mother, mother
Hey, yeah

 


« Freedom » was based on a folk song called « Motherless Child ». Richie improvised the song and added the Freedom lyric on the spot because the Woodstock Festival’s crowd had called him back for multiple encores and he had ran out of songs.

 

« SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD »

from « American Negro Spirituals»
by J. W. Johnson, J. R. Johnson, 1926

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long ways from home
A long ways from home
True believer
A long ways from home
Along ways from home

Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone
Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone
Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone
Way up in de heab’nly land
Way up in de heab’nly land
True believer
Way up in de heab’nly land
Way up in de heab’nly land

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long ways from home
There’s praying everywhere

Sam Cooke, « The Man who invented Soul ».

Sam Cooke

samcookeSamuel Cook, known by his stage name Sam Cooke, was an American recording artist, singer-songwriter and entrepreneur. Cooke is considered to be one of the pioneers and founders of soul music and is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocal abilities and influence on the modern world of music.Cooke was also among the first modern Black people performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the African-American African-American Civil Rights Movement.

The song « Chain Gang » was inspired after a chance meeting with an actual chain-gang of prisoners on a highway, seen while Sam was on tour. According to legend, Cooke and his brother Charles felt sorry for the men and gave them several cartons of cigarettes.
Chain Gang (1960)

(Hoh! Ah!) I hear something saying (Hoh! Ah!)

(Hoh! Ah!)(Well don’t you know)
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, ga-ang
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, gang

All day long they’re singing (Hoh! Ah!)

(Well don’t you know)
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, ga-ang
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, gang

All day long they work so hard till the sun is going down
Working on the highways and byways and wearing, wearing a frown
You hear they moaning their lives away
Then you hear somebody say

That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, ga-ang
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, gang

Can’t you hear them singing, mmm (Hoh! Ah!)
I’m going home one of these days
I’m going home, see my woman
Whom I love so dear
But meanwhile I gotta work right here

(Well don’t you know)
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, ga-ang
That’s the sound of the men,
Working on the chain, gang

All day long they’re singing, mmm (Hoh! Ah!)
My work is so hard
Give me water
I’m thirsty, my work is so hard
Woah ooo
My work is so hard

 

 

« A Change is gonna come » concerns African-Americans and was inspired by various personal events in Cooke’s life, most prominently an event in which he and his entourage were turned away from a whites only motel in Louisiana. Cooke felt compelled to write a song that spoke to his and the struggle of those around him. This song became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement. The song is widely considered Cooke’s best composition and has been voted among the best songs ever released by various publications.

 

A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river I’ve been running ever since

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will

It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
Cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go down town
Somebody keep telling me don’t hang around

Its been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say, « Brother, help me please. »
But he winds up knockin’ me
Back down on my knees

There been times when I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will

 

 

The Civil Rights spirit embodied by « The Impressions ».

The Impressions

TheImpressionsThe Impressions are an American music group from Chicago, originally formed in 1958. Their repertoire includes doo-wop, gospel, soul, and R&B. After briefly touring with the now-solo Butler as his guitarist, Curtis Mayfield became the group’s new lead singer and songwriter, and Fred Cash, a returning original Roosters member, was appointed as the new fifth member.1964 brought the first of Mayfield’s Black pride anthem compositions, « Keep on Pushing », which became a Top.The Impressions are best known for their 1960s string of hits, many of which were heavily influenced by gospel music and served as inspirational anthems for the Civil Rights Movement.Curtis Mayfield wrote music that inspired a generation and a movement, he was helping drive the Civil Rights Movement long before he brought the funk.

The year was 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. still had four years to live, and the struggle for civil rights was igniting the nation.The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approaching passage. And then a song was released, one that perfectly summed up the fight so far and imparted the strength to keep going: “Keep on Pushing”.King adopted the song as the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, and Mayfield and the Impressions became some of the first R&B artists to bring social consciousness to their music.

Keep on Pushin’ (1964)
(Songwriters Curtis Mayfield)

Keep on pushin’
Keep on pushin’

I’ve got to keep on pushing
I can’t stop now
Move up a little higher
Someway or somehow

‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’

Hey, Hallelujah,Hallelujah
Keep on pushin’

Now, maybe some day
I’ll reach that higher goal
I know I can make it
With just a little bit of soul

‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’

Now look a look, look a look
A look a yonder
A what’s that I see
A great big stone wall
Stands there ahead of me

But I’ve got my pride
And I’ll move the wall aside
And keep on pushin’

Hey, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Keep on pushin’
Keep on pushin’

What I say, yeah
Keep on pushin’
Well, that’s alright

The song « Amen » was the first Impressions’ hit that Mayfield did not write.

Amen (1964)
(Songwriters Jester Harrison)

Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
Sing it over
Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
See the little baby
Wrapped in a manger
On Christmas morning

Singing in a temple
Talking with the elders
Tomorrow there’s wisdom

Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
Hallelujah
Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
Down at the Jordan
John was baptizing
And saving all sinners

See him at the seaside
Talking with the fisherman
And made them disciples

Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
Keep on pushin’ now
Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
Hallelujah now
Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen

 

The gospel-influenced track « People Get Ready » was a Curtis Mayfield composition, and displayed the growing sense of social and political awareness in his writing. « People Get Ready » was written in the year after the March on Washington.For many, it captured the spirit of the march — the song reaches across racial and religious lines to offer a message of redemption and forgiveness.In fact, since its debut in 1965, « People Get Ready » has become a classic for black and white musicians.

People Get Ready (1965)

People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord

People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There’s room for all
Among the loved the most

There ain’t no room
For the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just
To save his own
Have pity on those
Whose chances are thinner
Cause there’s no hiding place
From the Kingdom’s Throne

So people get ready
For the train a-comin’
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank, you just thank the Lord

Yeah
Oh
Yeah
Oh

I’m getting ready
I’m getting ready
This time I’m ready
This time I’m ready

 

“Meeting Over Yonder,” is a version of a song Mayfield remembered from the store frontchurch his grandmother pastored on the West Side, not far from where Martin Luther King had taken up residence. “Meeting Over Yonder” snuck onto popular radio (at the time highly resistant to any mention of religion or politics) mostly because it felt apolitical and safe. The song became a direct call to action like the music that inspired and empowered the movement in the South, an active part of the movement, a source of information and a way of transmitting the movement’s vision to potential supporters, especially young whites who encountered the songs primarily via radio and records.

Meeting over Yonder (1965)

Children, are you ready?
There’s gonna be a meeting over yonder
Children, are you ready?
There’s gonna be a meeting over yonder

All the boys and the girls’ gonna be there
Young and old, weak and strong’s gonna be there
So children, are you ready?
For the meeting over yonder

Get my coat, got to go
To the meeting over yonder
I’ve got to learn what I don’t know
At the meeting over yonder
At the talkin’, I’m sure all will agree
The best thing for you, you and me
Is go to the meeting over yonder

Go to the meeting over yonder
Keep on pushin’ now
Children, are you ready?
There’s gonna be a meeting over yonder
Children, are you ready?
For the meeting over yonder

All the boys and the girls’ gonna be there
Young and old, weak and strong’s gonna be there
So children, are you ready?
For the meeting over yonder
There’s gonna be a meeting over yonder

For the meeting over yonder
For the meeting over yonder
For the meeting over yonder
For the meeting over yonder

 

 

  3. 1964/71 Congress passes decisive laws on the voting right and for the schooling. At the same moment the fight becomes intensified:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a sweeping federal law that seeks to prevent voting discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a language minority group. The act was passed in the aftermath of one of the more violent episodes in the history of the civil rights movement. In 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., led a group of civil rights supporters on a march to Selma, Alabama, to demand voting rights. They were met by police violence that resulted in the deaths of several marchers. The Selma violence galvanized voting rights supporters in Congress.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act was a watershed event in U.S. history. For the first time the federal government undertook voting reforms that had traditionally been left to the states. The act prohibits the states and their political subdivisions from imposing voting qualifications or prerequisites to voting or from imposing standards, practices, or procedures that deny or curtail the right of a U.S. citizen to vote because of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.

  • 3.1 The racial riots in the black districts of big cities..

Despite the momentous achievement of two landmark Civil Rights Acts, northern cities exploded the long hot summer (1965). It seems incongrous why the riots would occur just at the time that the Civil Rights movement had accomplished its major objectives, ending segregation and achieving voting rights in the south. This would seem a time to celebrate rather than riot. Perhaps the national dialog and new coverage on race was a factor. The first major urban riot conducted by blacks was in Watts, a suburb of Los Angeles (1965).The assasination of Dr. King (April 4, 1968) brought spasms of violence in many cities, this time including southern cities. Often this was mixed with local grievances.

John Lee Hooker 

190px-John_Lee_Hooker_twoJohn Lee Hooker was an American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. He was born in Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper, and rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. He worked in factories in various cities during World War II, drifting until he found himself in Detroit in 1948 working at Ford Motor Company. He felt right at home near the blues venues and saloons on Hastings Street, the heart of black entertainment on Detroit’s east side.

The 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 12th Street riot, was a violent public disorder that turned into a civil disturbance in Detroit, Michigan. It began on a Saturday night in the early morning hours of July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig on the city’s Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in United States history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit’s 1943 race riot.Hooker had attended the racial riots which, already in 1943, had shaken the city. In 1967, facing this new explosion, he reacts by making up a piece more than inspired: « Motor City is Burning ».

 

Motor City Is Burning (1967)

Ooh, the Motor City is burning, babe, there ain’t a thing in the world that I can do
Don’t you know, don’t you know, the big D is burning, ain’t a thing in the world lil’ Johnny can do
My hometown burning down to the ground, worser than Vietnam

It started on 12th Clair Mount that morning, I just don’t know what it’s all about
It started on 12th Clair Mount that morning, I don’t know what it’s all about
The fire wagons kept comin’, the snipers just wouldn’t let them put it out

Fire bombs bursting all around me, and soldiers was everywhere
Oh fire bombs falling all around me, and soldiers standin’ everywhere
I can hear the people screaming, sirens fill the air

I don’t know what the trouble is, I can’t stay around to find it out
I don’t know, I don’t know what the trouble is this morning, I just can’t stay around to find it out
Takin’ my wife and my family, and lil’ Johnny Lee is ??? out

The Motor City is burning, ain’t a thing that I can do
Ooh the Motor City is burning, ain’t a thing that I can do
I just hope people, it’d never happen to you

Yes yes, I can hear the firemen
He said « hey get out of here »

 

 

Gordon Lightfoot

220px-GordonLightfoot_Interlochen

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot is a Canadian singer-songwriter who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music, and has been credited for helping define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.

 

« Black day in July » was released in April 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. « Motor city madness has touched the countryside.. » so begins Lightfoot’s Black Day In July, a song Lightfoot wrote about the 1967 race riots in Detroit. But after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. a week earlier(on April 4, 1968) many top-40 radio stations in the U.S. refuse to play the song. They fear the lyrics will ignite violence.Lightfoot believed radio stations banned the song because they didn’t want to further stir up existing racial tensions stemming from the assassination.

 

Black Day In July (1967)
Black day in July
Motor city madness has touched the countryside
And through the smoke and cinders
You can hear it far and wide
The doors are quickly bolted
And the children locked inside

Black day in July
Black day in July
And the soul of Motor City is bared across the land
As the book of law and order is taken in the hands
Of the sons of the fathers who were carried to this land

Black day in July
Black day in July
In the streets of Motor City is a deadly silent sound
And the body of a dead youth lies stretched upon the ground
Upon the filthy pavement
No reason can be found

Black day in July
Black day in July
Motor City madness has touched the countryside
And the people rise in anger
And the streets begin to fill
And there’s gunfire from the rooftops
And the blood begins to spill

Black day in July

In the mansion of the governor
There’s nothing that is known for sure
The telephone is ringing
And the pendulum is swinging
And they wonder how it happened
And they really know the reason
And it wasn’t just the temperature
And it wasn’t just the season

Black day in July
Black day in July
Motor City’s burning and the flames are running wild
They reflect upon the waters of the river and the lake
And everyone is listening
And everyone’s awake

Black day in July
Black day in July
The printing press is turning
And the news is quickly flashed
And you read your morning paper
And you sip your cup of tea
And you wonder just in passing
Is it him or is it me

Black day in July

In the office of the President
The deed is done the troops are sent
There’s really not much choice you see
It looks to us like anarchy
And then the tanks go rolling in
To patch things up as best they can
There is no time to hesitate
The speech is made the dues can wait

Black day in July
Black day in July
The streets of Motor City now are quiet and serene
But the shapes of gutted buildings
Strike terror to the heart
And you say how did it happen
And you say how did it start
Why can’t we all be brothers
Why can’t we live in peace
But the hands of the have-nots
Keep falling out of reach

Black day in July
Black day in July
Motor city madness has touched the countryside
And through the smoke and cinders
You can hear it far and wide
The doors are quickly bolted
And the children locked inside

 

 

Sly & The Family Stone

 

Sly-family-stone-1969-promo

Sly and the Family Stone was an American band from San Francisco, active from 1967 to 1983. The Family Stone was comprised of men and women, and blacks and whites, making the band the first fully integrated group in rock’s history. That integration shone through the music, as well as the group’s message. Before Stone, very few soul and R&B groups delved into political and social commentary; after him, it became a tradition in soul, funk, and hip-hop.

 

Don’t Burn, Baby Burn (1968)

I can understand frustration
Joined by agitation
Creates aggravation
Led by a congregation

But don’t burn baby, burn
You just learn, baby, learn
Don’t burn baby, burn
You just learn, baby

I can understand confusion
Creates bad illusion
Sometime the wrong one losin’
Everybody abusin’

But don’t burn baby, burn
You just learn, baby, learn
Don’t burn baby, burn
You just learn, baby, baby

Don’t burn, baby, burn
You got to learn, baby, learn
So that you can earn, baby, earn
Get a little something called yearn, baby, yearn

You’d be sittin’ around like the underdog
One of these days
Talkin about dearn, baby, dearn
So get yourself together and get together

I want to see you churn, baby, churn
I want to see you churn, baby, churn
I want to see you churn, baby, churn
Hey, hey

Everybody station to station
Help your part of the nation
Understand the proclamation
Retake the emancipation

But don’t burn baby, burn
You just learn, baby, learn
Don’t burn baby, burn
You just learn, baby, baby

The Beatles

 

220px-The_FabsThe Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era.
The Beatles, on their first-ever U.S. concert tour, were astonished to find that the Jacksonville, Florida Gator Bowl where they’d been booked to play was racially segregated — despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 earlier that summer.They refused to play until the promoters and local officials agreed to desegregate the stadium and treat all races the same.
The Beatles didn’t put a lot of politics in their songs, but McCartney’s “Blackbird” was a veiled tribute to the civil rights movement. »Blackbird » was really about the struggle over civil rights: « I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird, » McCartney said. « Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.’

 

Blackbird (1968)

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

 

 

  • 3.2 James Brown: « The most important black man in America?

James Brown
BrownJames Joseph Brown was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. In a career that spanned six decades, Brown influenced the development of several music genres.

On June 7, 1966, James Meredith, the first black American accepted into the University of Mississippi,was shot by a white supremacist near Hernando, Mississippi. Many black activists, including Martin Luther King, descended upon Mississippi and picked up the “March Against Fear” where he had left off. Brown was one of the many public figures to join them.Soon after the “March Against Fear,” Brown catapulted himself further into the political spotlight, recording the stay-in-school anthem “Don’t Be a Drop-Out”. This was Brown’s first instance of social and political activism in the public’s eye since becoming a star.

Don’t Be A Dropout (1966)

Now a good friend of mine
Sat with me and he cried
He told me a story
I know he ain’t lying

Said he went for a job
And Mr. Man said
Without an education
You might as well be dead

Now don’t get me wrong
He said, it’s not who you are
But people come to me
From near and far

But I do just what
And I follow the rules
I didn’t have an education
So I had to go back to school

Tell me one more time, people now
What do you say?
Without an education
You might as well be dead

One more time
What do you say?
Without an education
You might as well be dead

My friends told all his buddies
That he loved so well
And of their personal troubles
I will not tell

Now those guys didn’t seem good
And they didn’t seem bad
They didn’t seem so happy
And I know they weren’t sad

But the point isn’t
That they follow the rules
They got an education
And they all been in school

Now underneath his tears
I could see the true fact
When he dropped out of school
He never, never went back

Tell me one more time, people
What do you say?
Without an education
You might as well be dead

Got to, got to, got to listen now, now
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

So one day he got tired
Of his little spending change
So he looked up his friends
To check their pay range

When he got there, the crib
He found that he was a drag
‘Cause man, they were clean
And his clothes were like rags

One was a business man
With the plenty of dough
He had his thing so set up
You know he couldn’t blow

The other had his job so uptight
He had his whole family
And his kids all out of sight

Tell me one more time now
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

You got to, got to, got to get a little learning
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

What made him so hurt
That these were his friends and he was a drag
They looked at him
And he was in the same old bag

For his friends they worked real hard
When the work day was through
Now, he realized
He should have done the same thing too

Tell me one more time now
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

You got to, got to, got to get a little learning now
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

For the last time, I’m gonna say
They kept on pushing
When the going was tough
And now they know
That things don’t seem so rough

So kids, stay in school
Don’t be no drag
Take a fool’s advise
And stay out of that bag

Look here, tell me, Bobby tell me one more time
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

Tell me, The Jewels, tell me now one more time
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

Everybody, tell me one more time
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

You got to, got to, got to, got to get some learning now
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

Don’t be a drop-out, stay in school now listen to me
What do you say?
Kids, kids
Might as well be dead

No, no
What do you say?
Without an education
Might as well be dead

Stay in school, have a good time
What do you say?
Don’t, don’t, don’t ever blame
Don’t ever blame, don’t ever blame, come on.

 


In 1968, in response to a growing urge of anti-war advocacy during the Vietnam War, Brown recorded the song, « America Is My Home ». In the song, Brown performed a rap, advocating patriotism and exhorting listeners to « stop pitying yoursel[ves] and get up and fight. » At the time of the song’s release, Brown had been participating in performing for troops stationed in Vietnam.

 

America Is My Home (1968)

Talking ’bout me leaving America
You gotta be crazy, man, I like
All the nice thing, Jack
Colonial suits and things, look at here

Now I am sorry for the man
Who don’t love this land
Now black and white, they may fight
But when up the enemy come
We’ll get together and run about all side

I love it

The sun don’t come out in rainy weather
But when you ball it down they are still together
Now let’s not overlook the fact that we are, we are still in reach
You got to chance to make it and you got a freedom of speech

Say what you wanna, tell ’em how you feel
There may be a lot of places, a lot of places that you like to go
But believe me if you get an education you can blow
You can all it blow, dig this

Now you tell me if I’m wrong
America is still the best country
And that’s without a doubt
America is still the best country
Without a doubt

And if anybody says it ain’t, you can try to put him out
They ain’t going nowhere, you got a good fight
When I tell you one time that I was a shoeshine boy
Every word I said, I meant

But name me any other country
You can start out as a shoeshine boy
And shake hand with the president
It ain’t gonna help you gotta had that royal blood to make it
And I ain’t got nothing royal but me
So I can take the chances, I’m gonna stay home

And look at here I got a brand new jet
When I need to move
I saw a brother made it
Now it ain’t that a rule

So look at here
Brothers and sisters and friends, dig this
So quit your dreaming all night
Stop beatin’ yourself and get up and fight

Don’t give up, you might give up, but just don’t give out
I know if you give out don’t give up
There’s no quick going, I mean like keep it moving you know
‘Cause if you stop like a ball quit rolling

Now we got two of the [Incomprehensible] from Florida to Rome
Which we know there’s one thing we’ll never forget
America’s still our home, hit it bad
God bless America, I’m talking about me too
You know I’m American myself, I like that kind of thing, look at here.

 


In 1969, Brown recorded song of social commentary, « I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing » pleading for equal opportunity and self-reliance rather than entitlement.

 

I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (1969)

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

Don’t give me degeneration
Give me true communication
Don’t give me sorrow
I want equal opportunity
To live tomorrow

Give me schools
And give me better books
So I can read about myself
And gain my truly looks

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself
Do you hear me now, now?

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

Some of us try
As hard as we can
We don’t want no sympathy
We just wanna be a man

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

We got talents we can use
On our side of town
Let’s get our heads together
And get it up from the ground

When some of us make money
People hear about our people
Gotta grab out a honey
Forget about honey
Do you now, let me hear, hey

Come on, I got to have it
Come on, I need it
I got to have it, come on
I got to have it, oh, ha

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy

Play with your bad self
Come on, baby
Come here
Gotta get it

Got to get myself together
So many things I got to do
So many things I got to do
I don’t need no help from you

Tell everybody, everybody else
All of these things, baby
I got to do it myself
Come on, hey

I got to have it
I, said I, said I
Said I, said I, I

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

With you I’ll sweat and blood
To put out any fire and block off every plug

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself
Do you hear me?

I don’t want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I’ll get it myself

 

 

  • 3.3 Continuation of The Impressions & Curtis Mayfield’s solo message.

The Impressions
The ImpressionsThe Impressions are an American music group from Chicago, originally formed in 1958.The group was founded as The Roosters by Chattanooga, Tennessee natives Sam Gooden, Richard Brooks and Arthur Brooks, who moved to Chicago and added Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield to their line-up to become Jerry Butler & the Impressions.The Impressions are best known for their 1960s string of hits, many of which were heavily influenced by gospel music and served as inspirational anthems for the Civil Rights Movement.

« We’re a Winner », included on a 1968 Impressions LP of the same name, became a virtual anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, and its success resulted not only in similar follow-ups from the Impressions, but also marked the beginning of a trend towards increasing social consciousness in soul music.

We’re a winner (1968)
(Writer Curtis Mayfield)

We’re a winner
And never let anybody say
Boy, you can’t make it
‘Cause a feeble mind is in your way
No more tears do we cry
And we have finally dried our eyes
And we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
Lawd have mercy
We’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)

We’re living proof in alls alert
That we’re two from the good black earth
And we’re a winner
And everybody knows it too
We’ll just keep on pushin’
Like your leaders tell you to
At last that blessed day has come
And I don’t care where you come from
We’re all movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
Lawd have mercy
We’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)

Hey, Hey
We’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
Lawd have mercy
We’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)

I don’t mind leavin’ here
To show the world we have no fear
‘Cause we’re a winner
And everybody knows it too
We’ll just keep on pushin’
Like your leaders tell you to
At last that blessed day has come
And I don’t care where you come from
We’re just go move on up (movin’ on up)
Lawd have mercy
We’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
We’ll just keep on pushin’
We’re a winner
Lawd, baby
Everybody
Hey, you know we’re movin’ on up
We’re a winner


Curtis Mayfield

mayfield

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mayfield started his musical career in a gospel choir.He was a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer, and one of the most influential musicians behind soul and politically conscious African-American music. He first achieved success and recognition with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, and later worked as a solo artist.

 

 

Move on up (1970)

Hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, toward your destination
You may find from time to time
Complication

Bight your lip, and take a trip
Though there may be wet road ahead
And you cannot slip
So move on up for peace will find
Into the steeple of beautiful people
Where there’s only one kind

So hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, and keep on wishing
Remember your dream is your only scheme
So keep on pushing

Take nothing less, than the second best
Do not obey, you must keep your say
You can past the test
Just move on up, to a greater day
With just a little faith
If you put your mind to it you can surely do it


To Be Continued…

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