Every movement - labor, women, civil rights - has its music. No American political effort used music more effectively and burrowed itself into the national song track like the 1960s Civil Rights fight.
Drawing on gospel, jazz, blues and spirituals, a rich musical texture overlaid the effort. We Shall Overcome became an international anthem, adapted to many causes and efforts. The song originally began as a spiritual, I Shall Overcome and was adapted by union tobacco workers, who passed it on to the Civil Rights effort.
Western Illinois folk and roots musician Chris Vallillo has gathered these songs together in his latest CD: Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Often these songs are performed by gospel choirs, not always in a folk or country tradition, with slide guitar, mandolin and harmonica. Chris, backed by Rocky Maffit on percussion and vocals, weaves together richly textured and spirited renditions of these classic songs.
For those who were around in the ‘60s, this a poignant reminder of music’s power to awaken a nation’s conscience and power people to the sacrifices of a non-violent movement.
For the younger generation, who might have heard snippets of these songs on documentary films, this is a wonderful and accessible introduction to an historic and moving genre.
Helpfully, Chris includes a short paragraph on each song, details its roots, evolution and use.
The civil rights story is still not fully resolved in our culture; this CD is a great reminder of those efforts and its unfinished legacy. See http://www.chrisvallillo.com to download or order.
Livingston & McLean Counties Bldg & Trades Council