….it changed the movement.

One of the better parts of my job is to attend classes that are bi-continental. In short, I’m a disk jockey of technology support. I work in classrooms around GU campus and perform maintenance and support tasks all day. One part of this job involves classes with our sister school in Doha, Qatar. Every morning I sit in on classes that are being taught using an RPX room. This week, there is a class called Jazz, Civil Rights, and American Society taught by one Maurice Jackson. Love this Prof. He is someone I feel I grew up with. Great pride in his culture, great love for everything his culture has struggled for and has devoted his life to understanding the ins and outs of it.

When I was a kid, high school specifically, I spent a large amount of time devoted to the study of Detroit. I was born and raised there, and still to this day would LOVE to go back. But I’m sure if you know anything about Detroit, it’s that its been hit hard, harder than most anywhere else, because of the economy. In other words, I can’t find employment there. (major sad face). Any way, in thinking about all these music posts, and how music has always come to affect me, I have but one influence to place the blame. Detroit. What this has to do with Prof. Jackson will become clear in a minute (I hope). Now Detroit is/was/will be the center of Motown sound. In my mind, Detroit invented the 1950’s and 60’s rock and roll sound that is so popular today. Many hours were spent by Quincy Jones and Chuck Barry to perfect the songs you and I know as the hits of those two decades. In fact, it was one of the first know instances of a QC panel for music hits.

What Detroit also is, is black. Unless you live under a rock you already know this. 90% black to be correct. Why is this important you ask? If you know anything about this culture, you know there are three things of great importance, that while can be stereotyped for all sorts of bad, are still true from my growing up in it and are truly good:

God, Music and Barbecue.

1. God means EVERYTHING to this community. As Steve Harvey once said, “We love ourselves some God, don’t we? Ain’t nobody love God like black people.” In terms of this post, think mostly of the hymnals and the power of music in a church.

2. Music is a way of life. Music is involved in almost all aspects of being, which I think is reflexive of the first in this list.

3. BBQ. Now this is not in the sense of eating fried chicken and ribs and watermelon.. Please get that image out of your head right now… Lets all grow up shall we? No. This is more of a sense of community. While media will often portray this culture as being one without male figures and mothers having babies out-of-wedlock, the truth of the matter is, community is the core of their values. Again I think this is reflexive of the first in the list. BBQ is just a means to get people together.

Back to Prof. Jackson….

While setting him up for his class he pulls out the PBS special Let Freedom Sing. I have the soundtrack to this as it is just AMAZING. It documents the history of music in the civil rights movement and its influences on the movement. One song in particular has stuck out and that is called “Change is Gonna Come” written by Sam Cooke, but performed by Otis Redding (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay fame). If you don’t know this song, I highly rec checking it out here. Listen to the way Otis strains with the third chorus. honestly, if you knew nothing about the movement, this song and his voice will tell you all you needed to know.

Originally (according to Wikipedia) this song was written by Cooke after hearing Dylans “Blowen in the Wind”. It moved him so greatly to hear a song written by a non-black about racism that he basically went home and said, ya know, there’s nothing that’s gonna stop this change from happening. The song was born.

The song, very much a departure for Cooke, reflected two major incidents in his life. The first was the death of Cooke’s 18-month-old son, Vincent, who died of an accidental drowning in June of that year. The second major incident came on October 8, 1963, when Cooke and his band tried to register at a “whites only” motel in Shreveport, Louisiana and were summarily arrested for disturbing the peace. Both incidents are represented in the weary tone and lyrics of the piece, especially the final verse: There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long/but now I think I’m able to carry on/It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.

(wikipedia)

The truly sad part of this story, Cooke never heard the song recorded. He died before it was ever put on tape. But it changed the movement. Aside from “We Shall Overcome” this is the single most widely recognized song to represent the struggle of the civil rights movement.

Sitting there, watching the film again in class, made me want to just rant about how awesome it is. One song. One song among many, but one song stood out and changed the movement. CHANGED THE WHOLE MOVEMENT. How incredible is that? Remember when the sheriff down in Birmingham released all the “disturbers of the peace” freedom riders from jail? He said he did it because the singing was driving him crazy. That’s right. People would sing as they were being beaten in jail cells. Sing as people poured milk and trash all over their hair at sit-ins. Sing when they were being hosed with fire hoses. Sing sing sing.

Film’s make me leave my living room and games transport me to other worlds, but ONLY music makes me feel invincible. Unstoppable. Hopeful.

All I have to do is listen.


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Half as Hard and Twice as Good

What a fantastic notion! My sis put this up as a post last week or the week before about Sara Groves’ song Twice as Good and I simply can NOT get it out of my head. I feel compelled to send this to every female I know. I have no idea why. Once again I see myself unable to explain what I feel, however this song has nailed it on the head. I just love the idea of things being half as hard and twice as good. I think back on some really crap times in my life and the people who have gotten me through them. How horrible it would have been to have done them alone. I also think we don’t tell each other enough how awesome a friend one is. We need to do this more often. We need to reaffirm the aged old idea of everything that is good in me, is because someone like you is in my life.

While my sis continues to say she knows little of friendship, I find this quite ironic. I can’t speak for everyone in her life, but what she knows about friendship from how she’s treated as a friend, I can guarantee that most would say the same about her and how she treats us. I think most people learn about friendship this way. Many times it works the other way around, where you have not so good friends, and thus you don’t understand friendship like others do. This song pretty much is a guide for anyone who doesn’t get it, or doesn’t know what to do. How much simpler could it be than to strive for half as hard and twice as good? No matter what that entails, that’s your pleasure as a friend. Make things half as hard and twice as good. Yeah. I likes.

The Lyrics:

When I am down and need to cry till morning,
I know just where I am going.
When I’m in need of sweet commiseration
To speak out loud.
Raise a glass to friendship
And to knowing you don’t have to go alone.
We’ll raise out hearts to share each other’s burdens
On this road.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy–it’s understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

With my good news you’re dancing on the table:
Baby’s born, to celebration.
The joy of life, oh what a sweet communion,
Shared with you.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy–it’s understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy–it’s understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

I know we’re growing older,
Can you imagine what that will bring?
It’s all a mystery to me now,
Except this one thing:
It’ll be half as hard, and twice as good.

Mixed Tape

So I’ve built this cd for my Italian sister but the mix is really quite excellent. If you read the post before, the cd is based on a couple of conversations I’ve had with her about how many heels my head is over in love with my husband. Like I said, music does what my mouth can’t. I know there’s a “that’s what she said”  joke in there somewhere, but I’ll leave that to others. :)

Playlist:

What a Weird Feeling This Is…

So I’ve been married for exactly 6 months today. And what a ride it has been. I was trying to explain to my Italian sister why I can’t wait for her to experience this once she’s 6 months in. All I could do was play a soundtrack for her that pretty much summed it up. Words rarely can do justice to what I feel towards my beau which is why I am so very thankful for music. And that’s not to say that others couldn’t express the same feelings, I’m just not that articulate. Been listening to the Moldy Peaches a lot with some Sonic Youth mixed in. An odd combo but it works I think. One is mostly lyrics, and the other is mostly noise. One is super campy/cheesy the other is as cynical as it gets. It keeps my ears on their metaphorical toes. So as a parting gift, here are two songs that are playing in my list as we type/read. Enjoy.

Sonic Youth: Incinerate

Moldy Peaches: Anyone Else But You

Anyone Else But You, Moldy Peaches