Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966

Various Artists

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Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966 Review

by Richie Unterberger

The civil rights movement used freedom songs to spread their message, adapting folk and pop tunes with contemporary topical lyrics, or writing new songs addressing social injustice in general, and injustice for African-Americans in particular. This is a two-CD, 43-song compilation of such songs, recorded live in mass meetings in churches between 1960 and 1966. The SNCC Freedom Singers, including in their ranks future Sweet Honey in the Rock mainstay Bernice Johnson Reagon (who wrote the liner notes), contribute quite a few tracks, but the majority are by less professional soloists and choirs. Historically speaking, this is a valuable document of a movement whose importance cannot be underestimated; if nothing else, it's interesting to see how folk and pop songs (including such unlikely candidates as Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack") were changed to reflect struggle for equality. Musically speaking, it's not that captivating; the fidelity is sometimes rough, and the performances interesting purely from an archival standpoint. This isn't meant to diminish in any way the significance of these songs, just to say that they were effective mostly as organizing tools, not as pure musical statements. Listeners will need to have a strong interest in the historical context of these recordings to justify their purchase, because as music it can make for a dry experience. Some of the SNCC performances, however, do stand up on their own as fine folk/gospel, especially "In the Mississippi River," "Governor Wallace," and "Oginga Odinga," imaginative compositions that are movingly sung.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 The Freedom Singers 01:56 Amazon
2 The Freedom Singers 04:16 Amazon
3 The Freedom Singers 03:02 Amazon
4 The Freedom Singers 02:47 Amazon
5 The Freedom Singers 02:07 Amazon
6 The Freedom Singers 06:27 Amazon
7
The Freedom Singers 00:25 Amazon
8 The Freedom Singers 03:06 Amazon
9 The Freedom Singers 01:47 Amazon
10 The Freedom Singers 01:13 Amazon
11
The Freedom Singers 06:35 Amazon
12
The Freedom Singers 03:22 Amazon
13 The Freedom Singers 03:00 Amazon
14 The Freedom Singers 02:30 Amazon
15
The Freedom Singers 05:22 Amazon
16 The Freedom Singers 01:34 Amazon
17 The Freedom Singers 03:31 Amazon
18 The Freedom Singers 04:33 Amazon
19
The Freedom Singers 03:29 Amazon
20
The Freedom Singers 02:29 Amazon
21 The Freedom Singers 03:03 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
The Freedom Singers 03:28 Amazon
2 The Freedom Singers 02:08 Amazon
3 The Freedom Singers 02:03 Amazon
4 The Freedom Singers 03:47 Amazon
5 The Freedom Singers 01:55 Amazon
6 The Freedom Singers 02:27 Amazon
7 The Freedom Singers 03:51 Amazon
8 The Freedom Singers 02:30 Amazon
9
The Freedom Singers 02:25 Amazon
10 The Freedom Singers 02:12 Amazon
11 The Freedom Singers 03:16 Amazon
12 The Freedom Singers 02:26 Amazon
13 The Freedom Singers 03:36 Amazon
14 The Freedom Singers 09:13 Amazon
15 The Freedom Singers 03:36 Amazon
16 The Freedom Singers 02:12 Amazon
17 03:06 Amazon
18
The Freedom Singers 02:32 Amazon
19 The Freedom Singers 04:28 Amazon
20 The Freedom Singers 01:07 Amazon
21 The Freedom Singers 02:45 Amazon
22 The Freedom Singers 03:20 Amazon
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