Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unofficial Anthems of the Civil Rights Movement

When remembering Dr. Martin Luther King in music, the two songs that come to mind most readily are We Shall Overcome and Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing the two songs most associated with demonstrations and the civil rights movement in general.  But the movement also infused popular culture, inspiring some now-classic R & B hits, such as:

Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud) by James Brown

Respect Yourself, and I'll Take you There by The Staple Singers

Think and R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha Franklin

What's Goin' On? by Marvin Gaye

Ball of Confusion, by The Temptations

Smiling Faces Sometimes, by The Undisputed Truth

One of the most iconic topical songs of the era was "The Revolution Will Not be Televised," by Gil Scott-Heron.  Though its style is still unclassifiable, it is sometimes credited as the "first rap song."

Other songs had socially conscious lyrics while not specifically addressing the Movement.  A common theme was a noble family or individual living in poverty as portrayed in such songs as "Patches" by Clarence Carter, "In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley, and Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" and "Uptight" (Everything's Alright).

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