Ok people we have come to the end of African American Music Appreciation Month or some of you may know it as Black Music Month (check out part 1 of 30 for more info). It’s been great. We started it off with James Brown and the relevance of his voice in a new era, listened to Milles Davis’ greatest recording ever, acknowledged the death of Ornette Coleman and how he change the sound of jazz, celebrated the life of BB King and my experience with him, we dedicated “We Shall Overcome” to the citizens of Charleston and the tragedy that took place there, and we jammed to the greatest hip hop group ever, the Fugees “Mona Lisa can I get a date on Friday and if you’re busy I wouldn’t mine taking Saturdaaaay aaaay aaay round up the posse fugee coming round the way . . .!” That was just to name a few of the great music experienced over the past 29 days. It’s ok to go back and check out what you missed.
AAMAM is a great time to celebrate the power of black music and the swaying force it has in black culture. It’s also a great time to remember those unique and soulful artist who created it and listen to their messages they addressed in American life as black artist.
So in the end, lets just listen to some thing nice and sweet! No troubling issues about society or a cultural point to be made. Just a nice and easy up tempo contemporary song about enduring love. Justsoulyouknow dedicates this song to AAMAM!
Take a listen to soul crooner Kem and my girl Chrisette Michele work it out on the duet “If It’s Love.” Grab your significant other, pick a part and sing along. Careful, this is for the grown and sexy! Ha!
Glory, the theme song to the 2014 film Selma, about the march for voting rights that began in Selma, Alabama and ended in the state capital of Montgomery. The song, written by rapper Common and singer John Legend, which garnered and Oscar, recalled images of the march and reminded the listener of the struggles that happened not too long ago. Glory also, sadly, sent a message that those struggles long ago still exist today as it made reference to Ferguson, Missouri.
Moreover, Glory continues to speak to the struggles of our time. New verses that include Baltimore and Charleston can easily find their place in between the choruses of this song.
The struggle continues.
Remember. Step up. Press on.
“Now the war is not over
Victory isn’t won
But we’ll fight on to the finish
Then when it’s all done
We’ll cry Glory!
We’ll cry Glory!”
AAMAM is glorious!
The close out of the ‘60s era ended with the release of a song that examined the experience of trying to fit in to a society that struggled to accept individuality to say the least. Sly And The Family Stone released “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” in December 1969.
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” became a hit and remained high on the music charts for the first half of 1970. Sly And The Family Stone was famous for pushing social and cultural messages through their songs. They forced the listener to bop their head, snap their fingers, and stomp their feet to the most current social concerns of that era. “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” was indeed such a song. Filled with personal experiences from Sly, the song created an image of a person struggling with overzealous authority, the awkwardness of high society, and the price to be paid for being different all the while being both thankful and resentful for the experience as ones true self. If you can get past the funkiest of grooves provided by the band (take note of Larry Graham’s ground breaking thumb slapping technique) the message in the lyrics are loud and clear.
Just to mention–upon listening to the first verse, one will notice a seemingly prophetic image of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman take shape:
Lookin’ at the devil, grinnin’ at his gun. Fingers start shakin’, I begin to run. Bullets start chasin’, I begin to stop. We begin to wrestle, I was on the top.
However, this is not prophetic in the least; this type of imagery has been a constant in American society before Sly’s era, during Sly’s era, and sad to say, certainly since Sly’s era.
Take a listen.
Curtis Mayfield. (1942-1999)
The year1970 witnessed the released of Curtis Mayfield’s album Curtis. On it Mayfield acutely addressed the social climate of urban America. Facing forward with the ‘60s in his rearview mirror, Mayfield’s Curtis headed down a highway of new musicality robust in optimism—new found humanity for a people in search of their just rewards for a battle well fought.
Mayfield’s Curtis musically ushered in a bright new future with its uplifting lyrics and music, which could be heard on his single “Move On Up.” Tom Maginnis, music reviewer for Allmuisic .com, best describes the texture of “Move On Up” as he says,
The optimistic atmosphere can be heard from the very opening joyous horn riff, signaling a kind of feel-good fanfare as the song’s brisk rhythm is quickly sustained by a grooving percussion section of congas, Don Simmons’ rollicking drum kit, and a steady strum of clean electric guitar. Mayfield uses a variety of horn and string riffs as an ingenious call and response device to his silky smooth vocal performance at various points throughout the song’s intricate arrangement of a multitude of instruments. The overall effect is one of a unstoppable wave of positive sound, rolling forward, moving on up, as Mayfield offers words of encouragement, of progress through hard work and perseverance.
With that being said, have a listen!
You have a bright future with AAMAM!
Were you “cool like dat” in the early ‘90s? Digable Planets was. They hit the hip hop scene like no other rap group of the era. Combining elements of cool jazz and richly dense, positive, and melodic lyrics they established new boundaries for hip hop music.
Digable Planets, founded by Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving, carried with them new and bold ideas for hip hop into the recording studio. Luckily, recording their hit single “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” on their first album Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space ), the group was afforded the grand opportunity to work solo in terms of producing their single as well as their entire album. As such, they were able to explore the parameters of their ideas and ultimately solidify their distinctive sound. Their unique ground breaking crossover hit “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” became part of the groundswell of positive hip hop of the ‘90s, later known as the Golden Age of hip hop.
“Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” ultimately won a Grammy for best rap performance in 1994.
Yeah, AAMAM is cool like dat, too!
Today I dedicate the song “We Shall Overcome” to the grieving family and friends of the victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. What happened there was a horrible and sad event perpetrated by a lost and hate filled individual. I pray for the healing and the restoration of hope for the city as well.
The song “We Shall Overcome” has served as the hope-filled anthem of the Civil Right movement. Its message contains a powerful sentiment of hope and redemption for those in crisis. The song was popularized by the civil rights activist and folk singer Pete Seeger who taught the song to just about everyone he met. The song “We Shall Overcome” was derived from gospel music composer Rev. Charles Albert Tindley’s song “I’ll Overcome Someday” written at the turn of the century.
Coincidently, research suggests “We Shall Overcome” was first sung in Charleston S.C. by churches and striking food and tobacco workers in the late 40s. As such the song must continue to be sung in the city of Charleston. In fact all of our collective voices should sing in unison to usher in a feeling of hope all across America. Hope is what we need.
We shall overcome, Charleston!
The Power of AAMAM is real!
On March 2, 1959, Miles Davis recorded “So What” at Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York, with legendary musicians Paul Chambers (bassist), Bill Evans (Pianist), John Coltrane (tenor saxophonist), Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (alto saxophonist), and Jimmy Cobb (Drummer). “So What” is the best song ever recorded on the best album ever recorded in the history of recording, Kind Of Blue. Kind Of Blue is consistently among the top 10 non debut jazz albums purchased every year since 1960. You have this album, right?!
“So What” is the supreme model for modal chord structure. “So What” is uncanny in that every solo is perfect—every note is in the right place. “So What” changed the sound of jazz for the entire decade of the 60s.
Sit back, turn it up, and listen. Happy AAMAM!