Every generation has a song or group that speaks directly to them. Black folks have always had music that we felt belonged to us.
In slavery times, we’ve learned that Negro spirituals like “Hush, Somebody’s Calling Your Name,” were more than songs that made them feel closer to God. They were often actual messages or codes to alert the other slaves to be quiet because the master was near by. But some songs were just sending the message that they were tired and weren’t going to take much more. One song’s lyrics were “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.” Negroes bold enough to sing that song weren’t playing and declared their intention to remain free at any cost.
Fast forward to the civil rights movement, where music was an important backdrop. “We Shall Not Be Moved” was another early song of protest: “Just like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved.” “We Shall Overcome” had a message, but it was more about peace and hope for a better tomorrow. Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” also defines an era when black folks knew that there had to be something better, somewhere.
Throughout the 60s, groups like the Impressions, led by the great Curtis Mayfield, recorded songs that gently urged people to demand more, with hits like “Keep on Pushing.” The late 60’s and 70s brought new sets of problems for the country in general and black folks in particular. Already struggling for equal rights, the Vietnam war had a huge impact on black families and communities. Almost everyone knew someone who had gone to Vietnam, and almost no one understood why. Sound familiar? Edwin Starr, Freda Payne, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye recorded war protest songs that were big hits: “War … what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” were bold lyrics belted out by Edwin Starr, while Freda Payne pleaded “bring ‘em back alive, bring the boys home.”
The Temptations went from singing songs about love being as sweet as honey written by Smokey Robinson to grittier message music written by the late Norman Whitfield. “Ball of Confusion,” “Stop the War” and “Take a Look Around” were deep songs about a world and a country weighed down with a senseless war, runaway inflation, racial unrest, and inner cities over-run with crime. Sound familiar? Soon, more and more R&B singers and groups (or their writers, at least) became socially conscious and put out a long roster hits including “Power to the People,” by the Chi-Lites and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” by James Brown.
One of the most outstanding albums of the 70s was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” The title song begged for an answer to the war in Vietnam and the violence on the streets at home: “Picket lines, picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality, talk to me so you can see what’s going on.” On that same album, “Mercy Mercy Me” is as relevant now as it was then. So are James Brown’s “Say It Loud,” The Isley Brothers’ “Fight the Power” and “ The Message” by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five.
From Tupac’s “Keep Your Head Up,” and Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” to India Arie’s “I am Not My Hair” and “Will I Am’s” “It’s a New Day,” black music keeps on entertaining, empowering and inspiring us. Old Negro spirituals, hip-hop, gospel and neo-soul all have their place. And their messages never get old.
The “For Real, For Real” poll asks about the messages in your children’s music. What are they listening to, and what are they learning from it? You’ll never know if you don’t take the ear phones out of their ears and experience what they’re hearing. Ipods allow us to listen to it, but black radio has allowed us to share the politics, the passion and the power of black music.
I’m proud to be a part of a medium that brings the message to you.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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