Know Your Soul: The Music of A Lifetime is simply about how the culture of the time created Black music and vice versa. Mankind chronicles history, but most of music and in this case Black music, is a direct reflection of the culture elements of the time. The following are a few selections from the book that will give you a sense of this magical era.
“The 1960’s provided a political platform that reflected a nation in change and turmoil that delivered a new source of lyrical content for black music. This decade ushered in the dismantling of legal segregation, Vietnam War, nuclear gamesmanship, Inner-city rebellions, emergence of Black Pride, sexual permissiveness, Black Panthers, explosion in drug use/abuse and the assassinations of some of America’s most iconic leaders. All of these dramatic events provided emerging songwriters, producers and artists’ societal fodder from which to draw their creative inspiration”
WAR/PEACE & PROTEST
“There was an incredible camaraderie that was created in Vietnam among the black soldiers that returned to the states and became part of American culture. Societal elements such as the extended handshakes, descriptors such as homeboy/hommie and strong racial pride were brought “back to the world”-the phrase used to describing coming back to the U.S.A. The song themes were about the soldier’s lost in battle, the craziness associated with war and the loneliness with those left in the States.”
“Although much of the Motown imagery is reflected in the precision of the Temptations, sophistication of the Supremes, elegance of Marvin Gaye and the vocal artistry of the Four Tops, the company was much more. As the story is retold the gritty soul, gutbucket sounds and the funky beats of Junior Walker, Shorty Long, Contours, Barrett Strong and others in the company stable should not be overlooked. Before they ascended into becoming the Sound of Young America, they were the soundtrack of Black America with the many changing musical styles and sounds that were Motown”.
‘The emphasis on racial pride transformed African-American culture, particularly in the arts, creating a cultural awakening that had not been seen since the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. From literature, poetry, cinema and most visibly music this new found quest for definition on their own term was being manifested. Musicians, as diverse as James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, and Cannonball Adderley integrated the social events and ideology of the time in their music”.
“One can look at Soul Train as a television show, but it was so much more. It has been described as a transformative cultural moment that opened pages of America that were totally blank and virtually unavailable for people of color. It was pioneering, given it was the first show that African-Americans were the complete focal point and not an ancillary entertainment by-product. It visually depicted young black people celebrating themselves in a lively professional setting, which was consistent with the “for us by us” mentality that was developing during the time period. Orchestrated by the cool cosmopolitan look and vernacular of Don Cornelius, plus sponsored by one of the largest African-American own companies at the time, Johnson Products, the formula was established for success and successful, it definitely was”.
AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE
“Reinventing the language to enhance their self-worth or flipping a phrase that has historically been used as a negative term has been a cultural self-defense mechanism. Being trendsetters and creating new language is at the roots of African-American existence in this country. Very simply American culture is dominant in the world and black culture is a primary influencer in the United States”.
THE GOSPEL IN SONG
“The church and gospel music have been and continues to be the foundation for much of Black life. When the story of 20th century African-American music is told inherently it starts in the church, with the music of the gospel being foundational in the development of almost all genres. When opportunities and the possibilities of life were short for Black people, the church and gospel music were the hope for a brighter tomorrow. The gospel is defined in many diverse ways, but gospel and secular icon Mavis Staples distinctly defined gospel as “the truth”.