Friday, June 27, 2014

The Freedom Singers - Fighting For My Rights

First published in 1962, Broadside (magazine) was not only THE most important publication of the folk boom, but also set the scene for all 'zines (covering any style of non-mainstream music) that followed in its footsteps. Broadside was incredibly influential and also highly opinionated as to what constituted 'real' folk music. Several artists (most famous of which is Bob Dylan) recorded exclusive tracks (with a focus on protest/ political action) for the magazine with the purpose of the lyrics to be printed in Broadside.

1963 was a watershed year for crucial changes in the United States. The Civil Rights movement made a massive mark upon the world with the March On Washington on May 15th and representatives of the folk scene (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary) made (controversial in the case of the white artists)  appearances alongside the power and majesty of the march and Dr. King's 'I Had A Dream' speech. While the appearance of white performers may have been criticized, Dylan's performance of 'When The Ship Comes In' at the March is one of the most powerful and moving social/ musical commentaries I've ever seen or heard.

The Newport Folk Festival, held at the end of July in 1963, was a fully integrated event that had the Civil Rights movement completely at heart. Vanguard Records released the Newport Broadside that focused on the most politaclly charged performances of the festival, as a companion piece to Blues At Newport, Country Music And Bluegrass At Newport, Old Time Music At Newport, and Evening Concerts At Newport; all of which were drawn from the 1963 festival.

With an earnest and powerful introduction by Pete Seeger, Albany, GA's Freedom Singers adaptation of Doc Pomus' 'Lonely Avenue' (made famous by Ray Charles) into a gorgeous and goose bump inducing 'Fighting For My Rights' is the sound of heroes who went up against the bigoted police of the south to do exactly what the lyrics of the song state. These men and women put their lives on the line to help make the United States a better place, and their singing here is a great gift to the world as well. Their names are Bernice Johnson, Rutha Harris, Cordell Hall Reagon, and Charles Nesbitt- let them and their work never be forgotten.

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