Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 1
It was difficult to come up with a name for this mix, and if “protest” implies the kind of angry, black voices that has many whites scared, then that is not quite an accurate reflection of the tone of the songs. Even if some songs are righteously angry and even militant, most are conciliatory, and a few even quite naive.
This is a mix of soul songs that appeal for a social justice, racial equality and harmony, for black consciousness, and for political activism — some deal with one or two of these issues, some with all of them.
It covers roughly the era after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King and subsequent uprisings, to the decline of the civil rights movement towards the mid-to-late 1970s. So this mix not only addresses the racism and its effects of the time, but also the conversation within black activism between the heirs of MLK and the Black Panthers.
The timing of this post is not by chance. On January 20 — just four days after Martin Luther King Day — the most corrupt and racist US president of modern times will be sworn in. Donald Trump is, of course, a bigot of many badges: he is a xenophobe, a misogynist, a racist and so on. He despises the poor and serves the rich. He mocks the disabled and encourages the bullies. He was endorsed by the Ku Klax Klan and he did not distance himself from them. His impeachment cannot come soon enough, if the venal slimeballs in the GOP can muster enough self-interest to make real what should be inevitable.
Which brings us to 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected president. If we call Trump a racist, then on scale it is fair to describe Nixon in rather more diplomatic terms. Let’s say that Tricky Dick was not an unequivocal friend of African-Americans. There are a few echoes from 1968 in 2016. In both years, right-wing presidents were elected during times of war on the Asian continent; both were elected at a time when the hope for a better future by black Americans — raised by the Civil Rights Act and the election of a black president respectively — was followed by unrest which only the willfully ignorant or the terminally racist would see as unprovoked.
The songs on this mix speak to the Nixon era, but substitute the dated political and cultural references with current ones, and they have application even today. There were plenty more such songs than what will appear on subsequent mixes (to start with, I keep to my usual rule of one song per artist, with a couple of exceptions. I’m guessing there will be three mixes). Since the 1970s, the art of catchy black protest soul songs nearly died out. The corporatisation of music has seen to it. The militant hip hop of the 1980s was a necessary reaction to the jheri-curled soul singers of the age who kept it strictly romantic. But in the 1990s, hip hop became a vehicle for gangsta bling, spinning rims, bustin’ caps in yo ass and rampant misogyny of the kind even Donald Trump would blanche at, rather than to mobilise for social change. Pac died, and Snoop won.
Now Kanye West, that fraudster in charlatan’s clothes, requests an audience with the racist Trump. But we must take courage, there are some artists who do social commentary well — from Eykah Badu, The Fugees or The Roots in the Clinton/Bush era to Frank Ocean, Gregory Porter, Solange or her sister Beyoncé (who did so with Formation, which is no Gil Scott-Heron, though he might have approved anyway) in 2016/17. The protest soul song is making a comeback, in time to stand up to the racists who say racism is dead while revving up the racism. Now it must return to the mainstream, as it did 40+ years ago.
Maybe there is value in reviving the memory of protest and social commentary of the Nixon generation and give it meaning in the Trump era, when it is politically correct again to be racist because the racists have taken off their white hoods or “see no colour”. And if all of the above (other than my empirical views on Donald Trump and his racist pals) is rubbish, take this mix as my contribution to Black History Month.
As always, this mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-blackpowered covers. PW in comments.
1. The Temptations – Ball of Confusion (1970)
2. The Chi-Lites – Give More Power To The People (1970)
3. The Main Ingredient – Black Seeds Keep On Growing (1971)
4. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
5. The Impressions – Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey) (1969)
6. Grady Tate – Be Black (1968)
7. Syl Johnson – I’m Talkin’ ’Bout Freedom (1970)
8. Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (1972)
9. Lou Rawls – The Politician (1972)
10. Z.Z. Hill – Think People (1971)
11. James Carr – Freedom Train (1969)
12. Lee Dorsey – Yes We Can (Part 1) (1970)
13. S.O.U.L. – Tell It Like It Is (1972)
14. Jackie Moore – If (1973)
15. Ernie Hines – A Better World (For Everyone) (1972)
16. George Soulé – Get Involved (1973)
17. The Bar Kays – Six O’Clock News Report (1971)
18. Darondo – Let My People Go (1974)
19. Marion Black – Listen Black Brother (1972)
20. Swamp Dogg – I Was Born Blue (1970)
21. The Isley Brothers – Fight The Power (Parts 1&2) (1975)
22. Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971)