Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Music of the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement

When I teach about the civil rights and Black Power movements, I like to use a lot of music. Here is the 2-CD set I put together this semester...

CD1 - "'Freedom Songs': The Music of the Civil Rights Movement"

• A few earlier “race songs” (the blues impulse):
Track 1: Hellhounds On My Trail, Robert Johnson
Track 2: Black, Brown, And White Blues Song, Big Bill Broonzy
Track 3: Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
Track 4: Mannish Boy, Muddy Waters

• The gospel impulse:
Track 5: We Shall Overcome, SNCC Freedom Singers
Track 6: This Little Light of Mine, Odetta
Track 7: Oh Freedom, Gospel Choir
Track 8: Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, Julius Lester
Track 9: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize, Mahalia Jackson
Track 10: Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Set on Freedom, SNCC Freedom Singers
Track 11: Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, Julius Lester
Track 12: I shall not be moved (1992 version), Ry Cooder & Pop Staples (from Staple Singers)

• The jazz impulse:
Track 13: Alabama (excerpt), John Coltrane

• Songs from/about Mississippi (the folk impulse?):
Track 14: I'm Going Down to Mississippi, Phil Ochs
Track 15: Mississippi Goddamn, Nina Simone
Track 16: The Ballad of Medgar Evers, Bob Dylan
Track 17: Freedom School Song, Jack Landron
Track 18: Shadows on the Light, Mathew Jones
Track 19: Ella's Song, Sweet Honey In The Rock
Track 20: Fannie Lou Hamer, Sweet Honey In The Rock

• Soul music as freedom music:
Track 21: Keep On Pushin', Curtis Mayfield
Track 22: A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

CD2 - "'Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)': The Music of the Black Power Movement"

Track 1: "Power To The People,” Huey P. Newton
Track 2: Living For The City, Stevie Wonder
Track 3: Chocolate City, Parliament
Track 4: Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud), James Brown
Track 5: Blackenize, Hank Ballard
Track 6: Am I Black Enough For You, Billy Paul
Track 7: Mighty Mighty (Spade And Whitey), Curtis Mayfield
Track 8: Dance to the Music, Sly & the Family Stone
Track 9: Makes Me Wanna Holler, Marvin Gaye
Track 10: We're A Winner, Curtis Mayfield
Track 11: Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead) [Live], Nina Simone
Track 12: The Backlash Blues, Nina Simone
Track 13: I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open the Door and I'll Get It Myself), James Brown
Track 14: Fight The Power, The Isley Brothers
Track 15: Give The People What They Want, The O'Jays
Track 16: (For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People, The Chi-Lites
Track 17: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron
Track 18: Whitey On The Moon, Gil Scott-Heron
Track 19: "Change It,” Kathleen Cleaver



  1. How about some Max Roach in the "jazz impulse"? Archie Shepp?

  2. Hi Joe,

    Yeah. Yeah. I do the Hard-Bop and freer stuff in class. Last semester I included a third CD with all that on it. This semester I dropped it to streamline things. But, I hear you. What tunes, in particular would you put on a jazz CD? Sun Ra?

  3. For starters, Jazz is problematic (isn't it always) because it's mostly instrumental, which often makes the political implications less clear.

    Or take Sun Ra, for example. Not all that much of his music, as best I know, was explicit, except titles like "Aethiopia" and "Watusi" which directly evoke Africa; of course you could get into the idea of space as a futuristic Promised Land. I'm pretty sure that most of his explicit addressing of race was in his writings, of which I haven't read much at all. The film Space is the Place definitely handles race head-on, if you want to show clips along with the audio, and then he taught an AfAm studies class at Berkeley!

    You can (and maybe do) definitely make some points about the reclamation of Africa, mostly in titles of albums and songs. This was already happening in the early 50's. No doubt you know a lot of them, but a good (alas out of print) overview of the subject is Norman Weinstein's A Night in Tunisia.

    Max Roach had the Freedom Now Suite, although I'm more familiar with the great Percussion Bitter Suite, with "Garvey's Goast" and "Praise for a Martyr" among others. (My copy is loaned out; I'm not sure which martyr!)

    From Archie Shepp? "Attica Blues", perhaps?

    Getting further from the mainstream, Phil Cohran's Malcolm X memorial was just reissued.

    For the "earlier" section, you could add something from Duke Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige...

    Another interesting consideration is the unfortunate cases of certain musicians being accused of being "not black enough." Anthony Braxton addresses this in segments of the book Forces in Motion, which I bet you'd find interesting even if you don't really care for Braxton's music.

    Also getting more conceptual and harder to represent in the music on the CD itself is the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, who were guided by the slogan "Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future"; their St. Louis intellectual counterparts called themselves the Black Artists Group, and Horace Tapscott in Los Angeles did a lot of community-focused arts work, including a group called the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra. (I haven't read it, but just found this book about his operations: The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles.) Of course, Val Wilmer's classic As Serious as Your Life weaves in the relevance of race to the free jazz movement. You should definitely read that book.

    If you haven't seen this, I found some stuff while checking some stuff for this post...
    Jazz and Race: Black, White, and Beyond. It's the transcript to a panel discussion including Nat Henthoff and Angela Davis among others... Also a book, Color of Jazz: Race and Representation in Postwar American Culture -- have you read that? And this journal entry from Design Issues:
    "The Coloring of Jazz: Race and Record Cover Design in American Jazz, 1950 to 1970" (that's just a cite page; you'll need to use your research mojo to actually read it.)

    And here's an index of You Tube clips of the Sun Ra documentary Brother from Another Planet

    I'll keep an eye out for other music that might make the point more directly on a mix...

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  5. Here is the track list for a third CD that I used last Spring in one of my classes. It combines some jazz with spoen word from Malcolm X, Kathleen Cleaver and Huey Newton.

    Track 1: "There's No Such Thing as a Non-Violent Revolution" Malcolm X
    Track 2: Haitian Fight Song Charles Mingus
    Track 3: "Change It" Kathleen Cleaver
    Track 4: The Loud Minority Donald Byrd
    Track 5: american nightmare Malcolm X
    Track 6: Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace Max Roach
    Track 7: Malcolm X White Man's Law Malcolm X
    Track 8: Riot Miles Davis
    Track 9: Evolution (And Flashback) Gil Scott-Heron
    Track 10: Compared to What Les McCann
    Track 11: "Power To The People" Huey P. Newton
    Track 12: Whitey On The Moon Gil Scott-Heron
    Track 13: Black Power Malcolm X
    Track 14: Red, Black & Green Pharoah Sanders
    Track 15: A Love Supreme, pt. 1, "Acknowledgement" John Coltrane

  6. Joe,

    It is precisely the less clear political implications of jazz that you mention that makes it interesting to me as a teaching tool. Students enjoy the more straight-forward freedom song/Black Power stuff, but in a way that stuff is "easy" to get. So, in terms of teaching, I am mainly turning them on to songs and not much more. With a good listen and maybe a little interpretation, they get it. With jazz, I can do more teaching by trying to open up my students to other ways of thinking about freedom and liberation. It is precisely the lack of lyrics that lets us break free from those other "easier" kinds of political music. Hard-bop, free jazz, afrocentric work, etc., really opens up these issues nicely... And, if I can help them think about the music differently, and maybe even understand it a little better, that is awesome, and they might then be more interested in these kinds of more challenging musics in the future...

  7. Just stumbled across this extensive history of St. Louis' Black Artists Group (BAG), whose best known members are probably Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett, Baikida Carroll, and Joe Bowie, formerly of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble.

    Bookmarking it to read later, but probably worth checking out for more on the theme of self-determination. Also, given your interest in the movement outside of major media centers, the St. Louis focus is probably of interest.

    Let me know if you need to hear any of this music; I've got a smattering of stuff by most of the folks, including the World Saxophone Quartet, which featured Hemphill before he got ill, and still includes founding members Lake and Bluiett.

  8. Very cool. Hey, I'd love a CD of whatever you've got on these tips... always looking to expand the circle. I'm not versed in Sun Ra or Anthony Braxton, so perhaps a few of their cuts, too? Do you have that Phil Cohran you mentioned? Hook a brother up!

    For the record, it is my great pleasure to have friends - like Joe and TJ - who are really, intensely deep in their knowledge of music! Seriously. Amazing...

  9. I just read that BAG article tonight and it's very interesting.

    I also found out that that book about Horace Tapscott is on fire sale at the UC Press website; I ordered a copy for $10 (sale ends 10/31, lots and lots of stuff is on sale)

    I don't know if you got a chance to catch that Trane documentary on Friday, but it also dealt a lot with the racial component of the music. Unfortunately, that doc was never published and can only be gotten from the producer.

    P, I'll contact you out-of-band regarding sounds.

  10. Great tunes -- I am so excited to hear them. I'll no doubt have more to say after I have heard them,. but I anticipate being moved to tears. Thank you!

  11. I think I told Patrick about this through another channel, but I had the pleasure of seeing a performance by the Freedom Singers at Chicago's Woodson Regional Library. They still have the spirit, and it was really heart-warming to be part of it. I could recognize the voice of Matthew Jones from his leads on the Folkways Sing for Freedom compilation. Betty Mae Fikes was there as well -- in fact, I think I found almost all of them in pictures in the booklet for that release.

    If you get the chance, be sure to see them. And if you know anyone in Chicago who might have anything to contribute to the Chicago SNCC History Project, let them know -- the concert was meant to spread the word.

  12. Sing For Freedom: The Story Of The Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs

    You update this ablum's cover, but actually the songlist you paste is different with the album.
    I like it ,but I can not download.I do not know why. could u reupload them? Thanx!!!!

  13. Hi - does anyone know where the quote "we are a part of a loud minority" etc. originally comes from? Is it a film?

  14. Professor Jones,

    When I took your class we used this music. I originally just had it on my itunes in a playlist without the individual music keyed in. I still listen to the playlist but thought it was time to add titles and artists. I was googling various lyrics to find this information when I stumbled across this. Thank you so much for the info, the music, and an amazing class.