A Civil Rights Playlist

Welcome to my new blog. I will be covering topics primarily in the world of historic preservation as well as estate planning and administration. From time to time, there may be more general, legal themes presented. And like that random log that occasionally floats down the river, I may share personal thoughts or insight into non-legal topics that seem appropriate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to wear different hats and learn new skills as our lives have been upended in the last few months. Those with school-aged children have now dusted off their teacher caps. I worked on an assignment with my child that yielded an encouraging albeit offbeat product that should appeal to many readers. The assignment was to create a playlist of songs that would fit with the Civil Rights Movement. Rather than sticking with spirituals and the like, I started with that genre.

First, I start with “We Shall Overcome.” In hymnbooks, the tune is name “Martin.” This song was popular with MLK in his protest marches. Of course, Dr. King is the obvious face of civil rights in America.

The next two songs are from one of my favorite bands, U2. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” references the assassination of MLK and tracks the Irish protest movement through which the band gained fame. The song built on the MLK movement. A lesser-known song in U2’s repertoire from the early 1980s is my third song—“MLK.” It was written as a lullaby or requiem almost with simple, repeated phrases “Sleep, sleep tonight” and “. . . let it rain [ ] on him.”

Having moved from MLK through his death and memorialization, I turned back to the early 1960s for my fourth song, Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” Cooke wrote this song after he and his band were turned away from motels on the road in Louisiana.

Finally, I returned to the earliest days of the Civil Rights Movement with 1959’s “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The song is important not because of lyrics or the story told through the song itself, but because of Brubeck’s lifelong belief in equality and desegregation. Brubeck played with an integrated ensemble in the army and continued to have a black bassist in his band in the late 1950s and 1960s. Despite the huge popularity of “Take Five” at the time, he refused to perform on college campuses or television shows when he was told that he couldn’t have his bassist perform with the group. It is that resolve and the continued recognition of the song even today that make it the appropriate conclusion to this eclectic playlist.

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