Friday, February 17, 2006

The Soul of the Movement: The Opposite Side

EDITOR'S NOTE - Today's selection includes adult language. Listener discretion is advised.

The Johnny Otis Show - It's Good to Be Free

An avenue that has so far gone unexplored in this month's series has been that of songs displaying criticism/cynicism/disappointment in the progress of the fight for change. By the end of 1968 the civil rights era was entering its final stages: Martin Luther King was killed in April; riots were erupting in urban America; the election of Richard Nixon (aided in part by the successful Southern campaign of George Wallace) established the political might of the "silent majority"; and the non-violence message in the struggle was being challenged by militants. Not surprisingly, the message of soul music began to change all the same.

Today's selection came from the multi-racial Johnny Otis Show, whose black-in-all-ways-but-skin-color leader had been involved in the R&B business since the 1940s. Otis and his group, featuring black vocalist Delmer Evans, jazz saxophonist Preston Love and Otis' guitar prodigy son, Shuggie, were by this time recording for the Kent label. Two colorful albums, "Cold Shot" and "Snatch and the Poontangs" were released on Kent and today's track, unissued at the time, appeared on the reissue of these two albums by Ace Records. In the blues-based "It's Good to Be Free," Delmer contemplates how despite all of the positive things that had happened for black people, there was still so much left to do.

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