Given the widespread outrage at the killing of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests on both sides of the Atlantic, I thought it might be timely to post up on Facebook some important songs of the past that brought the struggle of black people into the popular arena, especially during the Civil Rights era. All are classics, loved by millions, but hopefully this will offer some context with regards to the times in which they were made and the weight of their subsequent cultural significance. Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | Martin Luther King
The recent Childish Gambino video to ‘This Is America’ provided a genuine cultural moment, reminding us of the long-standing tradition of the protest song, and how well-chosen words (combined with imagery in this case) can pierce us on a deeper level.
David Frost, who died of a heart attack last Saturday, aged 74, first made his name as the host of one of the most influential TV shows of the ’60s, ‘That Was The Week That Was’ (aka ‘TW3’). With the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from 50 years ago also in the news, this clip, which was broadcast on ‘TW3’ the same year (and features the programme’s resident singer, Millicent Martin) provides a cutting critique on both the racism of America’s Deep South, and a British culture that embraced the Black & White Minstrels (a troupe of blacked-up white performers singing songs of the ‘good ol’ south’), who were major TV stars at the time (and, remarkably, remained on prime-time BBC for another 15 years, until 1978).
Rufus Thomas ‘The Breakdown’ & ‘Do The Funky Chicken’
From ‘Wattstax’ 1972
Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest sportsman of the 20th Century, and certainly one of its foremost historical figures, is 70 years old today.
The photo above shows a man walking down the street past a wall that’s been sprayed with some graffiti – it says ‘Powell For P.M’. I’d imagine that most people under a certain age would completely miss the relevance of this image, having no idea who this Powell was. Maybe they might pick up on the clue that it has some reference to race, as the man in the picture is black, but without understanding the context its message has been lost with the passage of time. Anyone looking at it in the years following the milestone date of April 20th 1968 would be left in no doubt of its potency, but whilst children in British schools are now taught about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and key aspects of the US Civil Rights movement during the ’50s and ’60s, the story of what happened in this country, following the mass immigration of the post-war period, remains a largely hidden history. Without the knowledge of what went on back then, it’s impossible to properly understand what’s going on now, for Enoch Powell MP, and what he had to say in Birmingham that fateful April day almost 44 years ago (which, at the time, a Gallup poll told us was supported by almost three quarters of the UK population), set the agenda for the race debate in this country – a heated debate which has very much reignited in the past few months.
ARTIST: JAMES BROWN
ALBUM: LIVE AT THE APOLLO
This Sunday (Sept 4th), at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:
Looking deeper into Folk and Country music has been a case of overcoming the final prejudice in many respects. These were always genres I shied away from, even though I’ve happily cherry picked tracks that I’ve liked along the way. I suppose I dismissed Folk as antiquated, and Country as over-sentimental, and although I’ve had a basic understanding of their roles in shaping popular music, I’ve never had the inclination to look beneath the surface. Until more recently that is.