The Afro-American songbook to me

The vocals of Afro-American singers performing in the studios or live on stage with professional musicians songs about suffering painted onto our ears on the developed rhythms and syncopated beats and added harmonies you hear they really are feeling it to me is the beautiful flowering of anguish and hope made into field songs flung skyward from the painful roots of their previous existence.

I perceived for no reason I know of yet exactly but was real feeling to me that the Afro-American songs recorded in the 50’s during the rock’n’roll boom times for all America, that those particular recordings sounded far away to my ears, like they had been recorded under water, and this provoked very somber sad feelings in my heart. They still evoke the same feelings today in me and it’s because the vocalists were done that way, their own emotions of love given or received or stripped away or blossoming or needy, or of their inner city sufferings had all been separated from the mainstream of the national experience in all its vitality and flow of mutual existence.

Some recordings didn’t feel like that, maybe was the star power got them better gigs, like some made by Sam Cook, the Coasters or Harry Belafonte.

I grew up in Brooklyn before civil rights laws were signed and went to a progressive public school the City had just built in ‘60. In the fifth grade, following the LBJ signing in June, our school did a concert for a black school and they put on a musical show for ours. We did a group of 5th graders playing the recorders, they put on the Broadway show, Oklahoma. I remember everyone wanted to go meet the fifth grader who played the part of Curly.

It’s no real accident that Jim Crow took over from Reconstruction but it never was confined to the South either. Nor was it really racism based on color and physical differences which were just used to make separation easy peasy. It was then and it is now and more so now, a way to keep out the competition. It was always, “the economy, stupid”, and make sure economic wealth stayed within the WASP society.

Why would they have cared what the black folks in Tulsa had produced on their own and for themselves in their own community back in 1920-21? Because times were tough and the black community made a go of it for themselves and were doing good by G-d. That must have made the white politicians mad enough to have their own constituents being outshined by the black Tulsa crowd. So the politicians in the nearby white communities incited the voters, probably in a way reminiscent of today so it could look like the patriotic thing to do, to burn the MF down. And they did. And got away with it in this life but with another strike against their own souls in another life.

You know, I’m a reader, and I’m gifted I believe with the innate understandings of association. It’s nothing I knew about before, it seems I was led to find it. But in any case I do associate some things here from reading. Mr. Muhammed Ali would have extolled the virtues of the black Tulsa community’s success fitting into his idea ( I’m no expert on him ok) that blacks got to do for themselves, can do it for themselves, just give them the same opportunities that don’t need to include integration. Yet here we have Dr. & Mrs. Coretta Scott King at the same moment in history. Yet there’s a third, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz and his wife, Betty, him being known as Malcolm X. There’s power in three. But only one had monetary power which is probably all that kept him alive just ahead of being exiled. How many people in the world we live in today, know the name of Muhammed Ali with joy for it? And those who denied him, their names? And Dr. & Mrs. King, can there be shown any more deep abiding respect for them for anyone else in the world? As for Mr. Malcolm X who I understood was so open to all his potential he converted three times: first from a scary criminal in jail to a well educated debater, second to Black Nationalist Islam and leadership role, then went further, a third time to Mohammedan global Islam, having by his experience at hajj in Mecca saw all the world’s different types of people, white skin, brown, blue eyed green eyed red haired, white haired, who professed the Islamic faith all together worshipping. It changed him automatically and makes him my favorite because when we can open ourselves to really see what we are looking at, turn it in on ourselves to understand it, then be moved by it, well, that’s what WOKE is really all about. I’m going to end on that note. So long folks. If you read this far, let me know what you feel about it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s