Sunday, April 21, 2019

`We Shall Overcome! Songs of the Southern Freedom Movement' 1963 Introduction: An Excerpt

In 1963, the introduction to the We Shall Overcome! Songs of the Southern Freedom Movement songbook (that was compiled by Guy and Candie Carawan for SNCC and published by Moe Asch's Oak Publications) indicated how non-commercially-motivated Freedom Movement protest folk songs, that working-class people of various racial backgrounds and Movement activist/organizers collectively created in 20th century, differ from most of the commercially-motivated pop songs that get played on corporate media conglomerate radio and television station programs in 21st-century, in the following way:

"Freedom songs today are sung in many kinds of situations: at mass meetings, prayer vigils, demonstrations, before Freedom Rides and Sit-Ins, in paddy wagons and jails, at conferences, work-shops and informal gatherings. They are sung to bolster spirits, to gain new courage and to increase the sense of unity...

"The freedom songs are of many kinds and range through many moods. The important ones are the old, slow-paced spirituals and hymns (some in the minor mode) that sing of hope and determination, and, the rhythmic jubilee spirituals and bright gospel songs that protest boldly and celebrate eventual victory. These are in the majority and usually have new or revised words to old tunes...Finally, there is a small miscellany of songs imported from the north, including a couple of revised union songs and a handful of newly adapted folk songs. These have come from exchange students, freedom riders, folk singers and hit records...The students have been responsible for making up most of the new lyrics and singing new life into the old songs...

"...No other songs have been able to express so closely the feelings of the participants or have been so easily adapted to fit current situations as some of the old spirituals. When sung with anything approximating the old time style and spirit, they are unbeatable..."

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