A prevailing theme in the historical narratives for any struggle for people of color is that some white savior came along and saved the day. People like Abraham Lincoln are emphasized, along with other white allies against oppression like abolitionist John Brown, or earlier forefathers who are seen as revolutionary simply for not being as bigoted as their peers. Meanwhile, nameless people of color by the millions were enduring the hardships, and our attention always seems to turn to the white heroes.
The year is 1968, and The Temptations have a problem. They are one of the biggest groups in the world, but their lead singer is destroying himself, and taking The Temptations with him.
In anticipation of an upcoming reissue of Marvin Gaye's sole live performance of the landmark album What's Going On, Motown has released a new, heartbreaking music video for its title track. Directed by Savanah Leaf, the video uses clips of Marvin performing live with a narrative that involves the horrors of gun violence, racial profiling, the Flint water crisis, and our broken for-profit healthcare system in a four minute package that brought tears to my eyes.
Sam Cooke was essential to desegregating audiences in the United States, but there were still two sides to the man as a performer. The King of Soul had huge crossover success, with songs like “You Send Me” hitting the top of both the Pop and R&B charts, but the Sam Cooke that white audiences saw was different from the Sam Cooke that black audiences did.
This year makes 100 years since the birth of the legendary Nat King Cole. Although he has been gone for even longer than he was here, his influence is felt in every corner of the music world. Cole was a world class pianist in his own right, but found greater fame as a vocalist. Many standards were first sung by Nat King Cole; even more were better sung by him.