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

Edwin_Hawkins_Singers

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!

AAMAM: Sorrow, Memory, and Poetry Part 4 of 30

billieRecorded on April 20, 1939 Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” spoke of the haunting imagery all to familiar to African Americans especially in the South. Holiday’s voice and cadence embodied the sorrows, horrors, loss, and spiritual pain that was lynching.  The lyrics of “Strange Fruit,” which became Holiday’s signature song, was written as a poem by Jewish writer and teacher Abel Meeropol in 1937.  He responded in poetry to a photo image of a lynching.  Meeropol hoped his poem would add voice the atrocities of lynchings and help further the campaign of antilynching laws, which were vigorously shot down in the Senate during era of the song’s popularity.

This is AAMAM. Listen to remember and be well.

AAMAM: Stevie Wonder-Spiritual Redemption and Genius Part 3 of 30

stevie20wonderStevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” released on July 31st 1973, is a tale of second chances given by God and the tremendous effort put forth to make the best of that second chance until life is done or you reach that ‘higher ground’.  The song, for Wonder, took on a more spiritual meaning after his near death experience on August 3rd 1973 a few days after the song was released. Wonder was badly injured in a car accident wherein which he lay in a coma for several days.  After he recovered, he believed the song was a sign of what was to come. From that point on Wonder contends he was thankful to be alive and got his act together.

You musicians will revel in this song because Wonder single handedly  wrote, played all the instruments, and recorded this highly intricate and rhythmically dense track in 3 hrs at the tender age of 22! Genius? Yep!

Listen closely to the lyrics then listen again to the music. Be sure to turn it up!

Happy AAMAM!

AAMAM: Wake Up Everybody, Time For Something New! Part 2 of 30

harold melvin blue notes

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (Harold Melvin far right and Teddy Pendergrass center)

By November 1975, when Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’s song “Wake Up Everybody,” the social and economic conditions in America’s urban cities were in turmoil.  Policies in terms of eradicating poverty and racism, improving city planning, and education (busing) were falling apart. Writers of “Wake Up Everybody,” Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, collectively known as the writing team McFadden & Whitehead, responded to the climate of the times in verse with a since of urgency.  Their song called for a new way of thinking about urban problems–a way of thinking with more compassion for humanity. McFadden & Whitehead’s writing along with the vocals of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes lead singer Teddy Pendergrass connected to the urban masses and served as a soulful and central theme of the era.

Happy AAMAM!

AAMAM Begins With The Godfather Of Soul! Part 1 of 30

James-BrownWow! It’s June already! So that means it’s African American Music Appreciation Month. America has officially recognized and celebrated the contributions of African American composers, musicians, and singers since 1979. Thanks President Jimmy Carter.

To celebrate, I’ll attempt to post a song a day of the best songs ever composed, sung, and recorded by our (yours and mine) favorite and amazing African American musicians and singers ever!

First up, James Brown’s “Say It Lout-I’m Black And I’m Proud!” Released in August of 1968, “Say It Loud” ushered in a bold new perspective of “Blackness” and identity for African Americans in a newly realized post Dr. Martin L. King era. The song became the sonic manifestation of Black empowerment!

Happy 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: Tony Momrelle’s Soul From Across the Pond

momrelle1Welcome to your iPod add.

Today I’m going to introduce you to that new soulful voice you’ve been looking for for some time now.  He’s singer songwriter, Tony Momrelle! He has been laying down amazing groove oriented soul from across the pond for years.  Sorry, your favorite terrestrial radio station may be clueless to who he is and thus will never air his talent in any rotation. Their loss! Momrelle is a talent who has for years been the lead vocalist for the flat out bad ass British band Incognito; a featured vocalist for the dance and smooth grooves group Reel People; as well as a backing vocalist for my girl, Sade. Yep!

Momerelle with Sade

Momerelle with Sade

Momrelle’s Extended Play (EP) titled Fly was release almost a year ago and is still kickin’ today. The standout tracks are the eponymous “Fly”–an up tempo jam with a James Brown “funky drummer” shuffle rhythm which opens up a vast space where Momrelle demonstrates bright flashes of the vocal stylings of Stevie Wonder.  His lyrics are both simple and fantastically poetic.  Upon listening to the song, SoulBounce writer Ivory, stated, “Hope and happiness seem just within reach on this joint” and imagined through the lyrics “getting away from it all could be so simple.”  While his second track Spotlight spins a tale of meeting that special someone amid a crowd of people.  This cut finds Momrelle’s voice settled deep in the soul aesthetic surrounded by a driving groove.

This is Tony Momrelle Ladies and Gentlemen! Take a listen and know this is the soulful voice you been looking for. Add some Momrelle to your iPod and you will thank me later!

Check out “Fly”

Check out “Spotlight”