Black Message Tracks, 64-75, Part 3

The third of three programs this month that focus on the original Black Power and Black Pride movements, with commentary by special guest host Ronald E. Smith, and by request. #blackpower #blackpride #blacklivesmatter

NOTE: Some tracks contain language and subject matter that may not suitable for all audiences.

Due to numerous requests, the biographical and historical notes that accompany each of these tracks for Part 3 are listed below the credits. Parts one and two will have notes for that program on the previous post page.

First Part

  • Wake Up Everybody, 1975, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes
  • A Change Is Gonna Come, 1965, Otis Redding
  • Huey Newton’s Birthday (Free Huey), 1968, Stokely Carmichael
  • Who Will Survive America?, 1970, Amiri Baraka
  • Ooh Child, 1970, The 5 Stairsteps
  • Alabama, 1965, J.B. Lenoir
  • Yes We Can Can, 1974, The Pointer Sisters

Second Part

  • Stop Singing and Start Swinging, 1964, Malcolm X
  • Love Child, 1968, Diana Ross and The Supremes
  • Release Speech, 1972, Angela Davis
  • Invitation to Black Power, 1969, Shahid Quintet


  • Someday We’ll All Be Free, 1973, Donny Hathaway

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.

Malcolm X

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher and Writer

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Program 3 Biographical and Historical Notes

Wake Up Everybody, 1975, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes
One of the groups that were signed to the greatest Black-owned label of the 1970’s, Philadelphia International, this act wasn’t fronted by bandleader Melvin, but a former drummer turned singer, Teddy Pendergrass. It was not uncommon for acts at the label to alternate between message songs and love songs, with many of them written or produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. This was the title track to the last album Pendergrass would record with the group before embarking on a highly successful solo career.

A Change Is Gonna Come, 1965, Otis Redding
Originally written and recorded by Sam Cooke a year earlier about an incident where a whites-only hotel refused him and his entourage entry, this song has since become one of the most covered Civil Rights anthems in history. Redding idolized Cooke, and recorded many of his songs. This version, from the 1965 album “Otis Blue”, is considered by critics to be one of the best R&B albums of that decade. Like Cooke, Redding would not live to see the end of the 1960’s, dying in a plane crash in 1967. Redding would go on to have the very first #1 posthumous hit single, the classic “Sitting At The Dock of The Bay” in 1968.

Huey Newton’s Birthday (Free Huey), 1968, Stokely Carmichael
Now known as Kwame Ture, in 1968, he was one of the leaders of the Black Power movement, starting with his involvement in SNCC (“snick”), the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Born in Trinidad but raised and educated in New York, he was often the target of secret surveillance by the FBI. He was also a very vocal opponent of the Vietnam war, which he saw as yet another attempt for the U.S. to practice its historical imperialism.

Who Will Survive America?, 1970, Amiri Baraka
Before this, Baraka, a poet and activist with a fifty year history of work, was known professionally as Leroi Jones during the first half of the 1960’s. He was in the Air Force in the mid-1950’s, where he later stated he was subject to institutional racism, and eventually discharged after being accused of being a Communist during the McCarthy Red Scare of the decade. In addition to his many accolades, including that of college professor and recording artist, he was also the first and only Poet Laureate of New Jersey and even wrote extensively in the field of music criticism.

Ooh Child, 1970, The 5 Stairsteps
Sometimes known as the Staristeps, this family act, was made up of five of the six children of Betty and Clarence Burke, Sr., the latter being a police detective. They hailed from Chicago, Illinois. This track actually charted higher on the Billboard Pop Singles chart than it did on the R&B chart, and is their best known song. Oddly, it wasn’t the original A-side, but the B-side of a cover of The Beatles “Dear Prudence”. Keni Burke, the bass player, would go on to become a highly sought after session musician, playing on recordings by a who’s-who of Black recording artists of the 1970’s, including, among many others, Sly and the Family Stone and Diana Ross.

Alabama, 1965, J.B. Lenoir
Lenoir, originally from Monticello, Mississippi, had originally found some fame as part of the Chicago Blues scene of the 1950’s, even charting a top 20 R&B single, the classic “Mama, Talk To Your Daughter”. Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, he often wrote socially conscious songs, some of which would not be played by DJ’s due to their controversial subject matter, such as racism and being vocal against the Vietnam wars. Lenoir was re-discovered in the mid-1960’s by one of the greatest Bluesmen of all time, Willie Dixon, who produced his last two albums. Lenoir died at the age of 38 due to injuries sustained in a car crash. For the record, J.B. are not initials; that was the actual name he was given on his birth certificate, and his last name, though French and typically pronounced “Len-Wahr”, he preferred to pronounce it “Len-Orr”.

Yes We Can Can, 1974, The Pointer Sisters
Before the mainstream commercial success of Anita, June and Ruth Pointer, starting in 1979 with a series of Richard Perry produced singles, including “Fire”, written by Bruce Springsteen, the Pointer Sisters also included Bonnie Pointer. This was their first chart success, written by Crescent City mainstay Allen Toussaint, and on an independent label, Blue Thumb. Prior to this, they were session singers, and even recorded a well-loved number for the TV program Sesame Street, called “Pinball Number Count.” They were also thrift store fashion and clothing recycling innovators, with their 1940’s outfits starting a major trend at the time. Bonnie Pointer, sadly, left us earlier this month at the age of 69.

Stop Singing and Start Swinging, 1964, Malcolm X
Taken from his speech entitled “Ballot or the Bullet”, Malcolm X was the spokesperson for Black Muslims in the U.S. Interestingly, Malcolm X was friends with openly gay Black writer and activist James Baldwin, with the two of them publicly speaking and debating, sometimes together, about the system that was designed to destroy Black people in the United States. A little known fact: as a young man, Malcolm X, then Malcolm Little, cited Jazz and Blues legend Dinah Washington as his favorite singer in his personal notebooks.

Love Child, 1968, Diana Ross and The Supremes
Imagine hearing a highly popular song today that dealt with a woman not being pressured into sex, not wanting to be a single mother without child support and not wanting to repeat a cycle of poverty and abandonment; if this sounds like heavy stuff, imagine how taboo it was in 1968. This was the 11th out of an eventual 12 number one singles for The Supremes. Contrary to popular belief, members Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson didn’t sing backup on this track, but one of the greatest groups of backing vocalists of all time did, The Andantes, made up of Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps.

Release Speech, 1972, Angela Davis
Often called the godmother of intersectional feminism, Angela Yvonne Davis currently is a professor emeritus at UC Santa Cruz. A Socialist back when the word often got you blacklisted and called anti-American (maybe it still does), Davis gave this brief speech upon her release from prison after a year on trumped up firearms charges. Davis was Time magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1971, and also ran for vice president on the Communist Party ticket twice in the 1980’s.

Invitation to Black Power, 1969, Shahid Quintet
Originally an extremely rare Jazz/Spoken word song split into two sides of a 7″ vinyl single, this release, the only one known to have ever existed by the group on the truly independent label S&M records, was a midwest regional lost jem was given a second life as the lead track to “Listen, Whitey!”, an anthology of tracks not unlike this three-part series. The Shahid Quartet were from one of the cornerstones of Black music in the U.S., Kansas City, Missouri.

Someday We’ll All Be Free, 1973, Donny Hathaway
Our final artist is best known for a series of duets with Roberta Flack, both of whom graduated from Howard University, a historically Black college. However, he also released a series of solo albums starting in 1970 for Atlantic, to which Flack was also signed. The album this track is derived from, “Extensions of Man”, features a dizzying array of some of the best Jazz session players available at the time. Sadly, it was around this period he was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a disability that would lead to his eventual suicide in 1979. He was named one of the top 50 greatest vocalists in history by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in 2010.