Episode 38. Something in the Air

Episode 38. Something in the Air



Letta Mbulu

This week I continue our exploration of the movement for social justice as expressed in song. This constitutes not just the fight in the United States for racial and class equity but also the worldwide struggle against imperialism, focusing in particular on African and South American singing freedom fighters, including Miriam Makeba, Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, Letta Mbulu, Mercedes Sosa, Milton Nascimento, and Víctor Jara. Other artists heard include Marvin Gaye, Leontyne Price, Nanci Griffith, Frederica von Stade, Nina Simone, David Crosby, Pete Seeger, Marin Mazzie, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jefferson Airplane, Sam Cooke, Joséphine Baker, Joan Baez, Tracy Chapman, Thunderclap Newman (whose song lends the episode its title), Harry Belafonte, Dawn Upshaw, Phil Ochs, Rosemary Clooney, Curtis Mayfield, and Mahalia Jackson, as well as number of present-day troubadors. Composers represented include Kurt Weill, Duke Ellington, John Adams, Silvio Rodríguez, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Stephen Foster, Violeta Parra, Jason Mark Brown, Ary Barroso, and Caiphus Semenya. I address the spectrum of emotions that persons of conscience are experiencing right now, including despair, rage, anger, struggle, ending with faith, hope, and resolve. Don’t miss this episode!


Billy Taylor, Dick Dallas, arr. Margaret Bonds: I Wish I Know How It Would Feel To Be Free. Leontyne Price, Rust College Choir

Tom Prasado-Rao: $20 Bill (for George Floyd)

Stephen Foster: Hard Times Come Again No More. Nanci Griffith and Friends

Industrial Folk Song, based on “The Alcoholic Blues” by Albert Von Tilzer and Edward Laska: The Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Pete Seeger

Frederic Rzewski

I mentioned on the podcast that the American composer Frederic Rzewski had composed a set of variations for piano on The Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Here is a link to a performance of that work played by the composer himself. And here is a link to his live 2016 performance of his even more famous set of variations for piano on The People United Will Never Be Divided.

Harry Belafonte photographed by Carl Van Vechten.

Jamaican Folk Song: Day-O (Banana Boat Song). Harry Belafonte

Ary Barroso, Albert Bossy (French words): Terre sèche [Tera seca]. Joséphine Baker; Jo Bouillon

Ary Barroso, composer of Tera seca and Aquarela do Brasil (better known simply as Brazil).

Sam Cooke: A Change Is Gonna Come.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: My Country, ’tis of Thy People You’re Dying

Don’t fuck with me, fellas.

Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Marc Blitzstein (English words, adapted Nina Simone). Pirate Jenny (Threepenny Opera). Nina Simone [live from Carnegie Hall 1964]

Phil Ochs: Outside of a Small Circle of Friends

(from L to R): Jimmy McCullough, Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman, and John ‘Speedy’ Keen

Speedy Kean: Something in the Air. Thunderclap Newman

Curtis Mayfield: Power to the People

Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Al Cleveland, Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On. Marvin Gaye

Jefferson Airplane in 1967. From L to R: Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick,
Marty Balin (in window), Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner

Paul Kantner: We Can Be Together. Jefferson Airplane

Tracy Chapman: Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution

Vuyisile Mini: Ndodemnyama we Verwoerd [Beware, Verwoerd]. Miriam Makeba

Salif Keita: Soros (Afriki)

Youssou N’Dour, Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Habib Faye, Thomas Rome, Lamine Faye: No More. Youssou N’Dour

Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya

Caiphus Semenya: Mamani, Letta Mbulu

Silvio Rodríguez: Sueño con serpientes. Mercedes Sosa, Milton Nascimento

Víctor Jara: Manifiesto

Violeta Parra: Gracias a la vida. Mercedes Sosa, Joan Baez

Michael League, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, and David Crosby

Joni Mitchell: Woodstock. David Crosby and The Lighthouse Band [Becca Stevens, Michael League, and Michelle Willis]

Our Native Daughters, L to R: Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah

Amythyst Kiah: Black Myself. Our Native Daughters [Amythyst Kiah, Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell]

John Adams, Alice Goodman: This Is Prophetic (Nixon in China). Dawn Upshaw; David Zinman, Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Marc Blitzstein: I Wish It So (Juno). Rosemary Clooney; Nelson Riddle

Marin Mazzie

Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens: Back to Before (Ragtime). Marin Mazzie

Frederica von Stade photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe

Leonard Bernstein, Alan Jay Lerner: Take Care of this House (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). Frederica von Stade, Leonard Bernstein, National Philharmonic [live performance 16 January 1977]

Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington: Come Sunday (Black, Brown and Beige). Mahalia Jackson

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