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African American Life in Songs

D 6 février 2020     A Englishpager    


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Louis Armstrong - "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" :

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is an African-American spiritual song. The earliest known recording was in 1909, by the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. It refers to the Biblical story of the Prophet Elijah’s being taken to heaven by a chariot.
 
Beyonce,- "Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing" :

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" – often referred to as the "Black national anthem" in the United States[1] – is a hymn written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1900 and set to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954), for the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1905.
 
Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939) :

"Strange Fruit" is a song recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, written by Abel Meeropol and published in 1937. It protests the lynching of Black Americans, with lyrics that compare the victims to the fruit of trees. Such lynchings had reached a peak in the Southern United States at the turn of the 20th century, and the great majority of victims were black. The song has been called "a declaration of war" and "the beginning of the civil rights movement".
Key lyrics : “Southern trees bearing strange fruit/Blood on the leaves and blood at the roots/Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze/Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”
 
Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” (1964) :

The song was inspired by various personal events in Cooke’s life, most prominently an event in which he and his entourage were turned away from a whites-only motel in Louisiana.
Key lyrics : “I go to the movie, and I go downtown/Somebody keep tellin’ me don’t hang around/It’s been a long, a long time comin’, but I know a change gon’ come.”
 
Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam” (1964)

The song captures Simone’s response to the racially motivated murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers in Mississippi, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four black children.
Key lyrics : “Picket lines/School boy cots/They try to say it’s a communist plot/All I want is equality/For my sister my brother my people and me.”
 
James Brown, “Say It Loud - I’m Black And I’m Proud” (1968) :

In the song, Brown addresses the prejudice towards blacks in America, and the need for black empowerment.
Key lyrics : “Some people say we got a lot of malice, some say it’s a lotta nerve/But I say we won’t quit movin’ until we get what we deserve”
 
Stevie Wonder, “Black Man” (1976) :

The song was written about Wonder’s desire for worldwide interracial harmony,[2] and criticism of racism.
Key lyrics : “We pledge allegiance all our lives to the magic colors/Red, blue and white/But we all must be given the liberty that we defend/For with justice not for all men/History will repeat again/It’s time we learned/This world was made for all men”
 
2Pac, “Changes” (1992) :

The song makes references to the war on drugs, the treatment of black people by the police, racism (explicitly the reconciliation between the black and white people in America), the perpetuation of poverty and its accompanying vicious-cycle value system in urban African American culture, and the difficulties of life in the ghetto
Key lyrics : “Cops give a damn about a negro/Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero/Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares/One less hungry mouth on the welfare”
 
Public Enemy, “Fight the Power” (1989) :

"Fight the Power" is a song by American hip hop group Public Enemy, released as a single in the summer of 1989 on Motown Records. It was conceived at the request of film director Spike Lee, who sought a musical theme for his 1989 film Do the Right Thing.
Key lyrics : “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me you see/Straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain/Motherfuck him and John Wayne/Cause I’m Black and I’m proud”
 
John Legend and Common, "Glory," (2014) :

The Oscar-winning song from the original motion picture soundtrack to "Selma" directed by Ava Duvernay came at the epicenter of the country’s most recent unrest. Two years after the death of Trayvon Martin, the song was the perfect bridge from the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s depicted in the film into today’s current fight for equality.
 
 

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Related Topics
Slavery in the USA
Jim Crow Laws
The Civil Rights Movement

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