Sometimes while discussing Soul/Funk music we tend to forget that the music did not exist in a vacuum. The music was a product of the existing environment of the time in which the musicians who created it lived.. If the period of Soul is roughly defined as 1955 - 1970. It very much parallels the Civil Rights movement.
I would maintain that Soul music and the Civil Rights movement had a duel impact on each other.
One example that I can think of right off the top of my head is A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.
Another would be the image of Aretha Frankin singing at the funeral of Dr. King.
When Chuck Berry announces to the world that he is in fact "A Brown Eyed Handsome Man" in 1956, he is telling the listener that he is a Black man, who is here to stay. Just a few short years later Berry Gordy took Chuck's notion and turned it in to a record company that would quietly achieve all of the objectives of the American Civil Rights movement while never uttering a single sentence about it !!
Stax records was perhaps the ultimate, as a unique black/white partnership created gut bucket raw soul music for the masses.
I would also maintain that FUNK music and the "Black Pride" movement had a duel impact on each other.
Some example that I can think of right off the top of my head is recalling for the first time seing a Black man (JimiHendrix) wearing an Afro, hearing the inspirational lyrics of Earth Wind and Fire. or listening Say it Loud and turning the volume way up on my transistor radio nearly destroying
its tiny speaker.
This was a time when folks were walking around wearing Afros, Dashikis and red black & green buttons on their shirts. The connection between "the music, the people and the one", was never more clear !!
Read on to see the viewpoints of others that we hang out with online
|SOUL/FUNK & CIVIL RIGHTS
Our music, and it is truly OUR music..is our foundation.. How many of you can remember listening to "Say it Loud..Im Black and I'm Proud"..and walking down the street with your head held a little higher..a lot more confidence in your step.. and what about.."Young gifted and Black...the music and the message within...we were told by Bob Marley to "Get up Stand Up, Stand Up for Your Rights". At no time before the Civil Rights era and the 70"s and sadly enough at no time after have we come together on one accord as a people ,as a community, and really as "one"...As Curtis Mayfield says on his latest.."Its a New World Order" and "We Need ToGet Back To Livin Again"...
WE NEED TO GET BACK TO LIVIN AGAIN........
We must also remember that Marvin Gaye wrote about the struggle of the Black Man then and now. In fact most of Marvin's music was the future being told. When he sang about Save the Babies he was not only talking about the Babies whose mothers are on welfare but the babies that are being killed now not by the hands of strangers but by their family members, are being molested by family members and are sufferring abuse at the hands of society. He also sang about War. The wars are still being fought. It was not just about the war inVietnam but the wars that are still being fought all over the world. The wars that are being fought right here in our own country. War against crime, War against drugs and the war against poverty. These are battles that are being fought here in our countrry and are not being resolved because the people in power have so much control over all of this. They gave us crime to get us off the street and or to have just cause to assinate us, crime to help us kill one another instead of loving one another. They gave us the drugs to help eliminate us. They don't sell them they give them to us ang let us sell them to each other and at some point we eliminate someone through drug overdose or just some bad drugs. Again we are destroying the black race for them, They gave us poverty to keep us down and out. If we can just sit home and live in slums as they want us to then we will remain out of their way. They are fighting the war on welfare. They have to now because statistics show that there are more whites on welfare than blacks. So that battle has to be fought and won and they know it will be. You know the worse enemy of the white man is an educated black man. Soul music played such an important role in our lives. Like myself and so many otherswe only listened to the music. We didn't bother to understand it. We never realized that they were singing about the injustices that were happening to us then and now. Music has always been our way of expressing how we feel even back to SLAVERY DAYS. Civil Rights leaders listened to the songs that were being sung. So many of them marched to the beat because they knew what the struggle was all about. But as Dr. Martin Luther King said in his famous speech. I have been to the Mountain Top. He had seen the promise land. We are struggling to see it. In the future when the civil rights movement has been concluded we will be joining hands with people of races and nationalities and saying to them weare FREE AT LAST!!!!!!!!!! THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE ARE FREE AT LAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One of the things that I find most interesting as I think about this subject is the notion that "soul music" is associated with the idea of the civil rights movement and funk is associated with the ideals of the black power movement.
In the minds of many people both the civil rights movement and soul music have been regarded as sucessful. Integration has been achived (by and large) and soul music artists are regarded as being at the top of the entertainment hierarchy. While on the other hand both funk music and the Black Power movement can be viewed as failures. The Black Power movement fizzled out during the 70's and seems to have been replaced with nothing. Many people think of funk music as being a thing of the past & it's key artists are regarded as freaks, drug abusers, etc.
Why do you suppose that this has happened and what does the fact that the connection between the music and the politics no longer seems to be prominent say for the future ?
I can see that the album "What's Going On" has touched your life much as it touched my own. This was truly a watershed album on many levels:
1. It briges the gap between Soul & Funk.
2. The first Black....concept album.
3. Highly charged political/social commentary
4. Represents for Marvin a break from the Motown "factory approach".
Just a note to illistrate just how far backwards we have gone: back in 1972 - 1973 WBLS in New York would use the song "What's Going On" as the intro for their news broadcasts.
Today the station barley has any news at all !!
While it may be true that "they" have given us these things, it has been "our" choice to take them !!
In my opinion as long as "we" continue to behave like victums. then we will be victums !!
Drugs, poverty and crime have always been with us throught history and will continue to be there.
It is up to each one of us as individuals to make these kind of "life impacting decisions" with respect to drugs, poverty and crime.
Part of the definition of "slavery" is" dependancy".... In my opinion when folks begin to realize that we all as individuls hold the key to our own future. That is what the legacy of the civil rights movement has provided for all of us something called....."individual choice".............. ....& we should all take advantage of that !!
I seem to remember someone saying something about "content of charecter"
As we get closer to the start of Black History Month..I think we all need to examine..what role does music continue to play in our society ? Does music even have a role today ? Are we influenced by the music of today..and if so how? Do you find that lyrical content of todays music is not as "positive" as it once was ? And do you feel that recording artists have a responsibility to the public to try and get a more "positive" message across...does freedom of speech mean its ok to say whatever.no matter what kind of impact it may have on someone ??????
Just wondering if anyone else had had these same questions.
I like your questions a great deal & I'm very interested in the responses that people will have to them. Some people have commented to me that they feel that is simply 'a nostalga topic'.
Well nothing could be further from the truth....the time period when " Soul" ruled our nations airwaves was an inportant one for the advancement of human rights in the world. The music and the lyrics had a big impact on people and on events of that time. Your questions are . very relavent. When I hear the music that is called ."Today's R&B" it causes me to wonder if something hasn't been lost and just what the future impact of that loss will be.
I know that this music is very popular with younger people today but to be quite honest with you. I'm not sure that I would want my child to be listening to it !!
I keep the radio in his daughters room tuned
to a 24 hr/day jazz station !!
"Say It Loud", was the song which told us all that it was okay to be a proud of our race. When schools were being integrated and the Negro National Anthem was not a part of every Black person's education, James Brown and the streets gave us a new tune to sing.
When we were demonstrating at the lunch counters and getting hit by police clubs "A Change is Gonna Come" aided in repairing the souls while we administering aid to repair the battered and bruised bodies.
When there seemed to be so much division between us as to how to get ALL that we deserved, "We Are Family" and "Family Reunion" served as reminders that the core of our existance, the well from which we drew our strength, was what was most important except for God.
The music and the words did more than entertain. They educated, they motivated, they strengthed and they provided hope for a race who was in turmoil and transition.
The music of today? No I am not impressed even though I have had a few surprises. But the music is as sexual and violent as the world that hears it
During the Civil rights era as well as today, the music did not create the mood, the mood created the music.
Now to work on getting back on a more positive groove.
The music is only a reflection of the present environment. Many of our younger citizens feel that indeed this is the beginning of the end of civilization. The music, which talks of drugs, sex, and killing are the cries of a hopeless society.
How to change it? Change the environment.
Very well stated and thought out. To quote the great FUNK philosopher Ronald Bell "the message is in the music and the music is the message".
The music certainly is a reflection of the times and today's music is a perfect example.
Collectivly figuring out a way to get back to that "positive groove" is one of the key reasons for the the existance of the Urban Sounds BB. We know that this music has had a positive influence on the society that we live in the past and in order for our society to once again become more positive we know that music will play a role in that change.
This BB gives all who post and read it the oppurtunity for a positive expression with respect to the music that we all know has been a force for change in the way that we all think and live.
In my opinion it is one of the best ways that is available to US in cyberspace to discuss the some of the most criticalissues confronting US from a perspective that will always lead us to a positive resolution, because of the music ...itself. Almost all of the music that is discussed here is emotional in that it has had an impact on our lives, it carries memories both public and private that we can share
if we like.
The discussion of this particular subject has caused me to reflect on the very existance of this Buliten Board, Our Chat area, Web pages, Newsletters, etc.
Before the Civil Rights movement someone such as myself would not have even been permitted to participate in a communications medium such as this one. Today anybody is free to participate in the various activities that we have here in Urban Sounds as we reflect back on what was.....
....both good and bad from a musical perspective and try to develop some ideas for the future.
"Soul - a positive music from a positive people" !!
As we all strive to become more aware of the social and political problems of today.. I wonder..do you feel that music plays an important part in todays society ?? Are the recording artists as motivated by social issues as they oncewhere. Do we still hear the "make u feel good bout yourself" kind of songs we once heard...I wonder sometimes..What kind of message are the youth of today getting from the music..is
there even still a "message in the music " ?????????
Back during the late 80's and early 90's my answer to your question would have been quite different that it is right now. Remember it wasn't all that long ago when we had people like Public Enemy, BDP, Paris, Kool Moe D, etc making music that was very much like that of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets. Their purpose was to educate as well as entertain and to make you think along the way (accompanied by a SLAMMIN beat of course !!). It also wasn't too long ago when you could see the fans of this music wearing "X Caps" and other "afrocentric" clothing. At that time I was hoping... ....that what we were witnessing a rebirth of the "Spirt of the FUNK".
Unfortunately that has not proven to be the case as we watch that particular movement fade in to history. Now it seems that if a song doesn't somehow either denigrate Black women or glorify the "thug life" it can't even get played on the radio.
What happened ????
"ARE YOU OUT THERE, CC? A CHOCOLATE CITY IS NO DREAM IT'S MY PIECE OF THE ROCK"
Ouch the truth really hurts !!! My view is that record companies want even look at a musical act unless it's laced with "Classism,materialism,and just flat out self hate.I'm amazed how some people could set back and watch these talentless clowns destroy a whole life time of work(Black Music)in a few short years.Now I remember Quincy Jones on his "Back on the Block"Album saying rap is here to stay,now i wonder how he feels about that statement after 94 when "Gangta Rap" took off? Well to make a long story short,there goes years of Blood,sweat, and tears of the musical masters gone down the Drain.
Things have really gotten pretty bad at this point when even James Brown (who is making money via royaly's off of sampling) says that things have gone too far.
Recently I heard an interview on the radio with a hip hop star who has had two hit albums over the past 2 years and is currently enjoying a VERY high profile in the hip hop community and on television.
He had called in to the radio station to apologize to the DJ because of an "incident of violence" (re: shooting) that had taken place during a video wrap party that had been held in his honor.
His apology was not for the violence which had occured, but was for the fact that the DJ couldn't get in because the police had blocked off the area...
.....he then proceeded to explain that (in a slured almost uninteligble voice) if he would make it up to her if she would come over to his crib that evening where he had plenty of "chiba, cane & Remy" sitting there waiting just for her.
This "hip hop star" is 19 year old !! ...........The female DJ is in her 30's.
She of course declined his offer and suggested that he might not want to talk about stuff like that on the radio. "Black Pride" seemed to be the furthest thing from this discussion.
Is this what the future of Black music looks like ?