The Ghetto Vol. 1
The word ghetto comes from the Venetian island of Ghèto, where Jews were forced to live (Shakespeare’s Shylock from The Merchant of Venice lived there). In fact, it is a Jewish quarter even today, though the residents are no longer compelled to live there.
Of course, we now understand that term to refer to underdeveloped and overcrowded suburbs populated mainly by African Americans. In the early 1970s, the ghetto inspired a cinematic genre, the so-called blaxploitation movies, and several songs, most of which reside in the arenas of funk, jazz-funk or up-beat soul. Often the lyrics had a social message, sometimes the ghetto served as a metaphor.
The most famous artist here probably is Sammy Davis Jr, singing the most famous song with the word “ghetto” in the title: Elvis’ In The Ghetto. I can’t make out whether Sammy, a product of the ghetto and yet an admirer of Richard Nixon, is ripping the piss or whether he is being hip. Dig!
Perhaps the second most famous song with the word “ghetto” in the title is War’s “The World Is A Ghetto”. It is featured here in a quite brilliant jazz version by the great Ahmad Jamal.
Boris Gardiner might be best remembered for his insipid 1986 reggae ballad I Want To Wake Up With You, but he was actually a serious purveyor of reggae and funk in his day. On his 1973 soundtrack to a forgotten flick titled Every Nigger Is A Star, he drew from both genres, and included three songs with the word “ghetto” in the title. His instrumental number here is followed by another track from a blaxploitation soundtrack.
The Ghetto Brothers could have been the subject of such movies. In the ’70s they were a highly politicised Puerto Rican gang in the South Bronx with a progressive attitude to women that also recorded music. In the 1990s they merged with another gang to form Los Solidos.
The Philadelphia All-Stars were the stars of the Gamble & Huff’s PIR label: Lou Rawls. Billy Paul, Archie Bell, Teddy Pendergrass, The O’Jays, and Dee Dee Sharp Gamble.
The most unexpected track here must be Paul Ngozi’s In The Ghetto (no relation to the famous hit song). Paul Ngozi – real name Paul Dobson Nyirongo – was a Zambian psychedelic funk-rock (or Zamrock) musician whose lyrics were always socially aware. He died in 1989 at the age of 40. Earlier this year he was posthumously awarded the inaugural Zambia Music Pioneer prize.
As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-baked cover. Password in the Comments section.
1. Chris Hills – Comin’ Outta The Ghetto (1971)
2. Bobby Patterson – This Whole Funky World Is A Ghetto (1972)
3. The Boris Gardiner Happening – Ghetto Funk (1973)
4. Curtis Mayfield – Ghetto Child (1972)
5. Leroy Hutson – The Ghetto ’74 (1974)
6. Jon Lucien – The Ghetto Song (1974)
7. The Sons Of Truth – The Ghetto (1972)
8. Al Wilson – Queen Of The Ghetto (1973)
9. The Spinners – Ghetto Child (1973)
10. Donny Hathaway – Little Ghetto Boy (1972)
11. Willie Hutch – Life’s No Fun Living In The Ghetto (1974)
12. Gil Scott-Heron – The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues (1972)
13. Paul Ngozi – In The Ghetto (1976)
14. Sammy Davis Jr – In The Ghetto (1970)
15. Ahmad Jamal – The World Is A Ghetto (1973)
16. Graham Central Station – Ghetto (1973)
17. Ghetto Brothers – Ghetto Brothers Power (1971)
18. Sons Of Slum – 16 Miles Of Plastic Ghetto (c.1971)
19. The Philadelphia All-Stars – Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto (1977)