On April 10, 2012 at 7:30pm, our friends at The Booksmith will host reissue producer/music scholar Pat Thomas for a signing of his new book LISTEN, WHITEY! Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965 – 1975 and the companion album (out now on Light in the Attic Records), which is being called the definitive Black Power aural document!
Over a five year period, Pat Thomas befriended key leaders of the seminal Black Power Movement, dug through Huey Newton’s archives at Stanford University, spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on eBay, and talked to rank and file Black Panther Party members, uncovering dozens of obscure albums, singles, and stray tapes. Along the way, he began to piece together a time period (1967-1974) when revolutionaries like Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, and Stokely Carmichael were seen as pop culture icons and musicians like Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon were seen as revolutionaries.
LISTEN, WHITEY! chronicles the forgotten history of Motown Records; from 1970 to 1973, Motown’s Black Power subsidiary label, Black Forum, released politically charged albums by Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, Bill Cosby and Ossie Davis, and many others, and explores the musical connections between Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Graham Nash, the Partridge Family (!?!) and the Black Power movement. Obscure recordings produced by SNCC, Ron Karenga’s US, the Tribe and other African-American sociopolitical organizations of the late 1960s and early ’70s are examined along with the Isley Brothers, Nina Simone, Archie Shepp, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Clifford Thornton, Watts Prophets, The Last Poets, Gene McDaniels, Roland Kirk, Horace Silver, Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, Stanley Crouch, and others that spoke out against oppression. Thomas further focuses on Black Consciousness poetry (from the likes of Jayne Cortez, wife of Ornette Coleman), inspired religious recordings that infused god and Black Nationalism, and obscure regional and privately pressed Black Power 7-inch soul singles from across America. The text is accompanied by over 200 large sized, full-color reproductions of album covers and 45 rpm singles, most of which readers will have never seen before.
I know what you’re thinking: How can it be that it’s Black History Month again, already? It seems to come up faster with each passing year. No sooner do I finish cleaning up all the gift wrap and decorations from 2009’s BHM festivities when – BAM! – time to break ‘em out again for 2010.
But I am excited! I love draping my house in the traditional BHM crushed-velvet flour sacks, heated bear skins, and twinkling, sapphire, mailboxes. We gather together around the hot oil printing press and sing BHM carols, get tipsy on Pancake-Sausage Nog, and remind each other, with love in our hearts, not to forget to turn off the air conditioner before leaving the house. Oh, joy! Oh sweet, unmitigated joy!
Of all these rituals, my favorite is the singing of the carols. I thought I’d share some of them with you, and invite you to sing along with me! Just click on a song below and belt one out. If you’re at work, or reading this on your iPhone while standing in the check-out line at Trader Joe’s, or simultaneously looking at Internet porn (way to multi-task!) – no matter! Sing all the louder! Let everyone know: You’re Black and You’re Proud!
All of which is pretty intimate, don’t you think? I mean, you’re trusting me enough to allow whatever I decided to write to enter into your consciousness via language, not necessarily knowing what I’m going to type. I mean, what if I wrote this sentence:
We oftentimes remove the hamster’s eyes and replace them with fresh-churned butter, which allows them to see less and makes their faces smell vaguely of movie theatre concession stands.
In celebration of the Amoeba Hollywood Jazz Blowout sale, I’ve been spending time on my computer checking out older Jazz videos. In the process, I have rediscovered the many great performances from the Montreux Jazz Festival, which is held in Switzerland during the month of July. The festival, which started in 1967, was originally held at the old Montreux Casino until, of course, it burned down in 1971. The fire was apparently caused by “some stupid with a flare gun” while Frank Zappa was playing. You might heard about it in a little ditty by Deep Purple called “Smoke On The Water.” The casino was rebuilt but due to the enormity of the festival, it is now held at the larger Convention Centre in Montreux with two main stages and several small stages.
Perhaps every legendary jazz artist you can think of has played Montreux. Over the years the festival has become less about jazz and has opened its doors to all kinds of music. Still, for any musician, this is the place to be seen. Over two hundred thousand people attend the festival every year and even more see the performances via television, web casts and through the many DVDs that have been released over the years.
Just watching the highlights of the forty-two year history of the festival on Youtube was overwhelming. There have been thousands of solos of all kinds and excellent musicianship throughout; however, it's the vocalists that provide some of my favorites performances. I picked three videos that feature Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Elis Regina.