When guests first enter first part of the Main Gallery in the museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts they are surrounded by some of the 400,000 people who attended that historic event.Above them is a movie showing with commentary pieces of the festival. While Michael Shrieve does his amazing drum solo with Santana, Country Joe McDonald exclaims, "17!" referring to Shrieve's age. On Saturday 16 August 1969, Michael Shrieve was young, but not that young.Shrieve was born on July 6, 1949. He had just turned 20. We can forgive McDonald. Even on Saturday, it was already a long weekend. Interestingly, even Shrieve's internet site gets it wrong. It states, " As the original drummer for Santana, Michael – at age nineteen – was the youngest performer at Woodstock." Wrong twice as Henry Gross, born on April 4, 1951 and 18 was the youngest performer.Ah well. Such are what history's misty memories are made of.
During a performance at the Fillmore Auditorium, Shrieve came to the attention of Santana's manager. A short time later Shrieve joined the band and became a mainstay. His jazz background helped develop a sound already influenced by the band Latin percussion component.The aforementioned drum solo at Woodstock, it's inclusion on the album as well as the movie put Michael Shrieve forever into the 1960s' musical picture.
Shrieve remained with the Santana band until 1974, but has continued to be active since. He has released several of his own albums and collaborated with or sat in with dozens of other albums. He occasionally rejoined the Santana band which continued to undergo various personnel changes throughout the years.In 1998, the he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The American summer of 1963 was typical in many ways. For some, that was fine. Schools closed. Summer vacation. Ice cream. Iced tea. Pools. Beaches. Tanning. Bikinis. Bulging muscles.For others, typical was not fine. The status quo meant field work. Starvation. Mistreatment. Jim Crow terrorism. The denial of an education and the right to vote.The struggle for civil rights continued and folk singer Bob Dylan often wrote songs about the downtrodden. His Times They Are a'Changin' album had a plethora of such songs: "The Times They Are a'Changin'," "Balled of Hollis Brown," "With God on Our Side," and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."
ONLY A PAWN IN THEIR GAME
It would be difficult to pick the most powerful one among them, but it was in July 1963 that Dylan first sang "Only a Pawn in Their Game." Writing about the June 12, 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers might be an obvious contemporary theme, but pointing out that the assassin was doing the work of the White Establishment, that the White Establishment also kept poor whites poor, and that the White Establishment used the poor whites to do its dirty work? Such a realization is why the song remains so powerful. To write any more about Dylan's lyrics is superfluous. His own lyrics simply say more than any essay:
Only a Pawn in Their Game
A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood A finger fired the trigger to his name A handle hid out in the dark A hand set the spark Two eyes took the aim Behind a man’s brain But he can’t be blamed He’s only a pawn in their game
A South politician preaches to the poor white man “You got more than the blacks, don’t complain. You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain. And the Negro’s name Is used it is plain For the politician’s gain As he rises to fame And the poor white remains On the caboose of the train But it ain’t him to blame He’s only a pawn in their game
The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid And the marshals and cops get the same But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool He’s taught in his school From the start by the rule That the laws are with him To protect his white skin To keep up his hate So he never thinks straight ’Bout the shape that he’s in But it ain’t him to blame He’s only a pawn in their game
From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks And the hoofbeats pound in his brain And he’s taught how to walk in a pack Shoot in the back With his fist in a clinch To hang and to lynch To hide ’neath the hood To kill with no pain Like a dog on a chain He ain’t got no name But it ain’t him to blame He’s only a pawn in their game.
Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught They lowered him down as a king But when the shadowy sun sets on the one That fired the gun He’ll see by his grave On the stone that remains Carved next to his name His epitaph plain: Only a pawn in their game