AAMAM: Screamin’ The Gospel! Part 28 of 30


Archie Brownlee is on the far right. (1936-1960)

The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi were no doubt one of the greatest, if not THE greatest singing group in gospel music.  Noted for their strong harmonies and hard gospel singing style the group delivered deeply emotional and spiritual Christian messages in song. Helping to catapult the group, which had its beginnings in the Piney Woods School for the blind near Jackson, Mississippi, was lead vocalist Archie Brownlee.  His vocal presence was commanding and felt immensely in every song.  Brownlee became famous for his ability to release an intense guttural scream in song.  In a spiritual sense he was attempting to connect with the Angels and God in heaven.

Vocals like Brownlee’s were, for the most part, unprecedented in recorded gospel music of the era, rather, vocals like his were most familiar within the walls of the Black church.  Many of Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi’s contemporaries heavily borrowed from their hard gospel harmonic singing style and the guttural screams of Brownlee.  Pop artist such as James Brown, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke, who have their roots in gospel music, cited The Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi and Archie Brown as influential in their craft.

Take a listen to the Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi and the screams of Archie Brownlee.

Enjoy AAMAM!


AAMAM: We Shall Overcome, Charleston! Part 19 of 30

churchToday 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!

AAMAM: Mahalia Jackson Sings His Eye Is On The Sparrow. Part 14 0f 30

Mahalia-JacksonSometimes when it comes to listening to spirituals the less said the better. Just listen and be free!

For those of you who know the music of the Black church and are listening to her be warned you might just stand up where you are, wave to heaven, and catch the quicken! Nuff said!

AAMAM: Oh Happy Day! Beyond The Walls Of The Black Church. Part 6 of 30


Edwin Hawkins Singers singing “Oh Happy Day” 1970.

Those whom are intimately familiar with the music of the Black church are compelled to rejoice upon hearing the rhythmic chord progressions of “Oh Happy Day.”  The song relays the joyous moment after having one’s sins washed away—a baptism by water.  “Oh Happy Day” reiterates faith and hope the Black church has in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

The song “Oh Happy Day” stems from an 18th century hymn. It was rearranged by contemporary gospel musician and singer, Edwin Hawkins. The song was sung by the Edwin Hawkins Singers and released on the album Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord in 1968 and became a huge hit in 1969.  Its rhythmic groove, which was similar to popular soul music of the era, allowed it to easily cross over onto the soul and urban charts of the day.  Not only was it a spiritually rejuvenating song but also one, which appealed to a pop audience.  Hawkins’ song went on to sell upward of two million copies.

“Oh Happy Day” set the foundation of contemporary gospel music with its pop rhythm and blues bounce that pushed and challenged the boundaries of gospel music of the late 60s.  Today contemporary gospel music expands in such a way that continues to set new bench marks and push gospel music boundaries.  As well, today, “Oh Happy Day” has found its place among the traditional standards of great gospel songs.

Oh happy day, AAMAM!

Completing Selma to Montgomery: The Power of Song!



King and Marchers singing (photo by Matt Herron)

King and Marchers sing on their way to Montgomery  (photo by Matt Herron)

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning and completion of the historic voting rights march from the sleepy town of Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. Just a few weeks earlier in March 1965 several failed attempts to conduct a march led by Dr. King and civil rights groups were stalled by Alabama’s governor, George Wallace. Wallace fought to maintain a segregated society. He used State Police, who joined forces with a hostile citizenry, to violently strike down the mass of folks marching for their voting rights. One of those failed attempts was known as “Bloody Sunday,” which took place on March 7th. This event was gracefully depicted in the film Selma and nationally remembered with great ceremony earlier this month in 2015.

In the days following “Bloody Sunday,” Dr. King, the SCLC, and SNCC assembled an unprecedented troop of national supporters from a wide variety of clergy, civil rights groups, and laymen. Together they pressured President Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act to Congress, which he did so on March 17th. At this point, with voting rights legislation moving forward, Dr. King and his national supporters were Federally sanctioned to begin and complete the march with full protection by the Alabama National Guardsmen and the FBI (courtesy of LBJ).

The Selma to Montgomery march began its great 54 mile stride to completion on March 21, 1965. The marchers were driven by the urgency of the situation and to complete

(Photo by Matt Herron)

(Photo by Matt Herron)

what they started so they covered 10 to 12 miles a day. They slept the cold nights in the yards and fields of sympathetic citizens on the route to Montgomery. But more succinctly, what drove them and carried them step by step for mile after mile was music.

The march from Selma to Montgomery was not a quiet one.  It was filled with hums and moans and Negro Spirituals familiar in the Black church. Melodic singing voices soared over the sound of moving bodies and the shuffling of shoes on the road.  Hand claps, repeating choruses, solo voices, and call and response filled the air with an electric rhythm that maintained the movement and spirit of the March.  Song was a present and palpable force during the long march.

Photo by Spider Martin

(Photo by Spider Martin)

It lifted spirits in moments of doubt; it joined folks from all walks of life in support of a common goal. Music permeated and propelled their march from Selma to Montgomery.

On the fourth of five days of marching, everyone gathered just outside the city limits of Montgomery on the campus of The City of St. Jude High School to rest one more night before marching to the Capital of Montgomery in the morning. With the cooperation of Dr. King, singer and actor Harry Belafonte organized a grand rally to continue to motivate and uplift the marchers who were nearing the end of their journey.

Sammy Davis, Jr. sings the National Anthem at the Stars for Freedom rally. (photo by Robert Abbot sengstacke)

Sammy Davis, Jr. sings the National Anthem at the Stars for Freedom rally. (photo by Robert Abbot Sengstacke)

Belafonte organized the Stars for Freedom rally.  The rally was a musical showcase of stars which included the likes of Tony Bennett, Pete Seeger, Sammy Davis, Jr., Odetta Holmes, singing group Peter, Paul and Mary, Nina Simone, and many others.  The stars sang about hope, freedom, love, and the Savior. Music washed over the crowd filling them with joy and a sense of accomplishment. The marchers rejoiced in song until 2am.

Nina Simone sings! (photo by Robert Abbot Sengstacke)

Nina Simone sings! (photo by Robert Abbot Sengstacke)

Odetta Holmes and Belafonte sing of hope (photo by Robert Abbot Sengstacke)

Odetta Holmes and Belafonte sing of hope (photo by Robert Abbot Sengstacke)

King and wife Coretta enjoy the songs! (photo by Spider Martin)

King and wife Coretta enjoy the songs! (photo by Spider Martin)

On March 25, 1965 the Marchers completed their five day 54 mile trek to the state capital in Montgomery. They marched right up to the capital building singing “we shall overcome.” And they did.

After a few false starts, the gathering of like minded freedom fighters, the turnaround of a President, and the promise of a safe passage the March from Selma to Montgomery was completed all the while inspired and supported by music.

Belafonte, Leon Bibb, and Joan Baez sing on the capital steps in  Montgomery (photo by Matt Herron)

Belafonte, Leon Bibb, and Joan Baez sing on the capital steps in Montgomery (photo by Matt Herron)

Your Sunday iPod Add: Valerie June and Organic Moonshine Roots Music

val 1When Tennessee born, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Valerie June is asked about the type of music she plays she simply responds by saying “it’s Organic Moonshine Roots Music!” Of course it is! Valerie June writes and records music reminiscent of the serendipitous Seeger family re-discovery, Elizabeth Cotton. Cotton was indeed one of the many progenitors of turn of early century guitar based root blues and gospel music of the South. June easily fits in that genre with a little soul, country and R&B added in the mix. Her latest and first studio produced album Pushin’ Against A Stone (2013) is a grand example of her stated style of music–Organic Moonshine Roots Music (OMRM). Co-Produced by Dan Auerbach of the awesome Black Keys and features legendary artist Booker T. Jones (Booker T. & The M.G.’s), this album is entirely grooving down a decidedly different road–a respite excursion from any terrestrial radio today. For me, it hits the spot on my quest of listening to good music this year!

June’s album features the song “You Can’t Be Told”. This is a bold and catchy mid tempo song that will make one hum its chorus long after the song has ended. It begins with a crunchy and gritty guitar riff as well as handclaps that keep the listener (well the indoctrinated listener) rooted in raw Southern gospel. val 2This establishes the chorus. You are instantly hooked! Junes voice, piercing and shinny, slides in to the verse to sustain the songs momentum. She soon takes a guitar solo that is skillful and compelling. This joint is rockin’!

Also not to be missed on June’s album are “Workin’ Woman Blues” and “Somebody To Love”. Yes I’m enjoying Valerie June’s OMRM! Add Valerie June’s “You Can’t Be Told” to your iPod and you will thank me later!


Check out June’s video for “You Can’t Be Told” and an awesome interview below:

I, Too, Sing America!

Welcome to Black Music Month (BMM) on Justsoulyouknow.  All month long I will be posting photos that are both historic and iconic as well as cool and awesome.  Every other day or so, I will feature an amazing photo then give a little detail about that photo or the individuals contained in the photo.  I intend to connect you to the amazing history of Black Music as well as demonstrate why Black Music maters.

Patti wasn't the first to kick off her shoes and sing a verse

Patti wasn’t the first to kick off her shoes and sing a verse!

First up is this amazing photo of Mahalia Jackson and Dean Martin sharing a good hearty laugh together.  Life Magazine’s Allen Grant took this photo on Oct 1, 1958 during rehearsals for Bing Crosby’s new T.V. show called The Bing Crosby Show: Presented by Oldsmobile.  During the time of this photo Mahalia Jackson was at the top of her game.  She had just recorded her latest gospel album titled Live at Newport ’58, where she was part of the first ever Gospel Showcase of the Newport show.  Her album was released in early ’59 and would later be consistently touted as one of the greatest live gospel albums ever recorded.  Jackson was riding high on her new found fame as a singer/actor on the silver screen as well.  Her performance in the film St Louis Blues, where she beautifully sang and acted, garnered great reviews from critics.  Her appearance on the Bing Crosby’s show, which brought her image directly into the living rooms of America, was risky and bold.  America was in the midst of an epic battle, which involved African Americans attempt to gain inclusion in American society while powerful whites labored to hold onto a segregated America.  Jackson’s appearance threatened the national sponsorship of the show because America had yet to fully embrace an integrated performance on TV.  However, as history has informed us, it was in part though the power of Black music that the civil rights struggle changed minds and freed a nation.

Check out the result of their rehearsal below: