Tag Archives: February Music et al

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Brothers Lift Every Voice

An American Boomer growing up during the mid-20th century learned many patriotic songs. The National Anthem. God Bless American. America the Beautiful.

The songs praised American goodness and godliness. Boomers were proud of their country, but like any country’s story, books often minimized or simply left out the discomforting  pieces.

Text books certainly included slavery and that Lincoln ended it, but often,  that was that.  Curricula rarely mentioned the continued vicious mistreatment and terrorism that followed emancipation at the end of the Civil War.

In 1900, James Weldon Johnson, born in the 19th century, wrote a poem. Here is some of its history that I didn’t learn until the 21st century.

Brothers Lift Every Voice
James Weldon and John Rosamond Jonnson
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” poem

February 12, 1900: as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida recited “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by their school principal, James Weldon Johnson.  He wrote the words as an introduction to that day’s honored guest: Booker T. Washington. 

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Lift Every Voice and Sing

In 1905, James’s brother John Rosamond put music to the poem.

In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it “The Negro National Anthem” for its power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people. 

Brothers Lift Every Voice

James W Johnson dies

Brothers Lift Every Voice

June 26, 1938: James Weldon Johnson died while vacationing in Wiscasset, Maine. The car his wife, Grace, was driving was hit by a train. She survived.

Johnson’s funeral in Harlem was attended by more than 2000 people. His ashes are interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” sculpture

In 1939 the New York World’s Fair commissioned Augusta Savage to create a sculpture. She made a 16-foot plaster sculpture called Lift Every Voice and Sing. The piece was was destroyed at the close of the Fair. (see Savage for her expanded story about her) 

Brothers Lift Every Voice

John Rosamond Johnson dies

Brothers Lift Every Voice
photo credit: Carl Van Vechten

November 11, 1954: John Rosamond Johnson died.  A Black Past article stated that, “He was a renowned performer and made his acting debut in the first African American show on Broadway, John W. Isham’s Oriental America (1897). He eventually secured leading roles in Porgy and Bess (1935), Mamba’s Daughters (1939), and Cabin in the Sky (1940).

“One of Johnson’s major accomplishments was the 1918 founding of his school in Harlem called the New York Music School Settlement for Colored People. Atlanta University awarded him an honorary master’s degree in 1917 and he was made a subchief of the Iroquois in honor of his stage musical Red Moon (1908) and its respectful portrayal of Native Americans. He was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for most of his career.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

In 1969: Maya Angelou‘s published her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In it, she relates the story of her 8th grade graduation when class and audience sang the “Lift Every Voice and Sing” anthem  after a white school official spoke in a derogatory manner about the educational aspirations of her class. 

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Star Spangled Banner/Lift Every Voice

In 2008,  Rene Marie performed the national anthem at a civic event in Denver, Colorado, where she caused a controversy by substituting the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” into the melody.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

Barak Obama’s inauguration

January 20, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was formerly president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, used a near-verbatim recitation of the song’s third stanza to begin his benediction at the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

 National Museum of African American History and Culture

September 24, 2016, this song was sung by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and chorus at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, at which Obama delivered the keynote address.

Brothers Lift Every Voice

White nationalist Richard Spencer

October 19, 2017, when white nationalist leader Richard Spencer spoke at the University of Florida, the university’s carillon played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to convey a message of unity.

Brothers Lift Every Voice
Winston-Salem State University Choir, Alumni Choir and Friends
First Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC 3/26/17

Brothers Lift Every Voice

February Music et al

February Music et al

Gil Evans

February Music et al

In February 1961: Gil Evans’s “Out of the Cool” released. Recorded at Van Gelder Studio. The Penguin Guide to Jazz selected this album as part of its suggested “Core Collection” calling it “Evans’ masterpiece under his own name and one of the best examples of jazz orchestration since the early Ellington bands.”

February Music et al

Bob Dylan

Freewheelin’ photo

In February 1963: Columbia staff photographer Don Hunstein photographed Dylan and Suze Rotolo, together again after seven months’ separation, for the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Hunstein recalled: “We went down to Dylan’s place on Fourth Street, just off Sixth Avenue, right in the heart of the Village. It was winter, dirty snow on the ground . . . Well, I can’t tell you why I did it, but I said, Just walk up and down the street. There wasn’t very much thought to it. It was late afternoon you can tell that the sun was low behind them. It must have been pretty uncomfortable, out there in the slush.” (see Dylan for additional chronolgy;  see FW for more)

Song writing burst

February – December 1967: during this span, Dylan composed more than thirty songs, which he and The Hawks (still minus Levon Helm) recorded as well as numerous cover songs on a two-track reel-to-reel system that Garth Hudson had set up. Most songs were recorded at the rented house that Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel had rented, Big Pink. (see May 17)

Bob Dylan

In February 1973: in California, Dylan completes his work on the sound track to Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Musicians included Booker T Jones, Roger McGuinn, and Bruce Langhorne. One of Dylan’s best known songs, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door came out of these sessions. [thesound article] (see January 3, 1974)

February Music et al

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

In February 1963: Duke Ellington (64 years old) and John Coltrane (37 years old) released Duke Ellington & John Coltrane.  In a Sentimental Mood, written by Ellington in 1936 as an instrumental and later given lyrics was one of the songs done on the album The song had been theme song for at least nine radio shows; included in eight movie soundtracks; and two Broadway shows.

February Music et al

Jimi Hendrix

In February 1964: won first prize in an Apollo Theater amateur contest.  First prize was twenty-five dollars. (see March 1964)

February Music et al

LSD/Owsley Stanley

February Music et al

In February 1965: Owsley Bear Stanley first succeeded in synthesizing crystalline LSD. Earliest distribution was March 1965. (see Feb 21)

February Music et al

Ken Kesey

In February 1966: newspapers began reporting that Ken Kesey was not dead but in Mexico.  (2008 NYT article) (see Feb 5)

February Music et al

A Love Supreme

In February 1965: John Coltrane released A Love Supreme album. Recorded at Van Gelder Studios.

February Music et al

News Music

In February 1965: the Impressions released People Get Ready, a Curtis Mayfield composition. (see Mar 25)

February Music et al

The Beatles  & Monterey Pop

February Peace Love Activism

In February 1967, organizers asked the Beatles to contribute a drawing to the upcoming Monterey International Pop Festival The Beatles’ publicist Derek Taylor. Paul McCartney was on the Board of Governors for the Festival and he insisted that the relatively unknown Jimi Hendrix appear at the show.

The Beatles had stopped touring, so they did not want to appear at the festival. Instead, the Art Director for the Festival, Tom Wilkes, asked Derek Taylor if the Beatles could contribute something for the official festival program. The Beatles created an original illustration with felt marker, colored pencil and ink which said “Peace to Monterey” at the top.

The Beatles were busy working on their landmark album, Sgt. Pepper, at the time, so the drawing is “from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The message on the drawing continues: “Loving You, it happened in Monterey a long time ago.” In classic Beatles humor, the drawing is signed “Sincerely, John, Paul, George and Harold.”

February Music et al

February 19 Music et al

February 19 Music et al

Rock Venues

February 19, 1966: Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin performed at the Fillmore Auditorium. (see March 8, 1968)

February 19 Music et al

Billboard Hot 100

February 19 Music et al

February 19 – 25, 1966 – “Lightnin’ Strikes” by Lou Christie #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

From Songfacts dot comThe song was released as a single on Christmas day 1965…. Speaking about the song in the September 16, 2005 issue of Goldmine magazine, Lou Christie said: “And they didn’t even like it! (Label head) Lenny Shear threw it in the wastebasket and said it was a piece of crap! So we put up our own money to get it played around the country, and it started taking off once it got played. Three months later, Lenny was taking a picture with me for Billboard magazine, handing me a gold record. I loved that.”

February 19 Music et al

Billboard #1 album

February 19 – March 4, 1966 — Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights is the Billboard #1 album. It is one of the most famous album covers of all time. (see Whipped Cream for more)

February 19 Music et al

February 19 Music et al

The Beatles

Paul McCartney and Wings

February 19, 1972: Paul McCartney released “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” BBC immediately banned the song.

From Songfacts dot com: Music and political historian Alexander Baron writes: “In March 1972, the British music weekly Melody Maker published a 2 page article called “CENSORED” which reported on a number of songs that had been banned – that the BBC, the official British government broadcasting body, had refused to play. Surprisingly, most of the article was devoted to a Paul McCartney composition, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish.”

The song was written as a protest against Bloody Sunday, a notorious incident which took place in Northern Ireland on January 30 that year in which British troops shot dead a number of protesters. At the time of the Melody Maker article the song was #23 in the paper’s chart and #19 in the BBC chart but was banned as “unsuitable for broadcasting.” The DJ Alan Freeman refused even to mention the song directly, and in his rundown of the Radio One chart referred to it only as “a song by a group called Wings.” (see Mar 23) (also see Sunday Bloody Sunday for more about the event)

February 19 Music et al

George Harrison

February 19, 1981:  George Harrison was ordered to pay ABKCO Music the sum of $587,000 for “subconscious plagiarism” between his song, “My Sweet Lord” and the Chiffons “He’s So Fine.”

From Song Facts dot com: In 1976, Bright Tunes Music sued Harrison because this sounded too much like the 1963 Chiffons hit “He’s So Fine.” Bright Tunes was controlled by The Tokens, who set it up when they formed the production company that recorded “He’s So Fine” – they owned the publishing rights to the song.

During the convoluted court case, Harrison explained how he composed the song: He said that in December 1969, he was playing a show in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the group Delaney and Bonnie, whose piano player was Billy Preston (who contributed to some Beatles recordings). Harrison said that he started writing the song after a press conference when he slipped away and started playing some guitar chords around the words “Hallelujah” and “Hare Krishna.” He then brought the song to the band, who helped him work it out as he came up with lyrics. When he returned to London, Harrison worked on Billy Preston’s album Encouraging Words. They recorded the song for the album, which was released on Apple Records later in 1970, and Harrison filed a copyright application for the melody, words and harmony of the song. Preston’s version remained an album cut, and it was Harrison’s single that was the huge hit and provoked the lawsuit, which was filed on February 10, 1971, while the song was still on the chart.

In further testimony, Harrison claimed he got the idea for “My Sweet Lord” from The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day,” not “He’s So Fine.” (see May 11)

February 19 Music et al
Chiffons He’s So Fine

George Harrison My Sweet Lord

He’s So Fine versus My Sweet Lord

February 19 Music et al