From the week that Martin Luther King died, we learned some lessons from the chart.
April 4, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s murder. The week he died, America’s soul and R&B were in high water.
On the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s day, the murder on the 50th of his day led us to images and voices that were surrounded on the day of 1968: the balcony of the lorraine motel; Dr. King spoke in Memphis the day before the assassination. The anniversary was even heavier than usual, perhaps because I had just arrived in Washington, d.c., where some of the worst riots took place. It prompts me to think about how it will feel on that day: impossible, inevitable, terrible, outrageous, tragic, chaotic, the end of the world.
In order to understand such moments, I think musicians might listen on the same day, the next and the next, and the role it might play in daily life. Those who turn on the radio in the kitchen or car, or hear the radio at the lunch counter or the beauty parlor, or stand in the thick smell of the car store. Although FM radio and LP grew in early 68, the top 10 and AM radios still reflect the heart of the popular music listening experience. Millions of people must hear the news on the radio, through clicks, weather and advertising. Does BBB 0 help? Does it feel irrelevant? Disrespect?
On March 30, 1968, Billboard’s 20 big R&B charts told us what many people were listening to, especially african-americans. Soul music is booming on all sides – possibly at high water levels.
The song shows the diversity and creativity of the soul in the late 1960s. You can hear the latest versions of the classic Stax and Atlantic lineup, such as Sam&Dave’s “I Thank You” and Percy Sledge’s “take the time to get to know her”; Aretha franklin named Lady Soul after her (” since you left “has been a great success), this is The beginning of The sound of The Delfonics Philadelphia; From the first crushing cunning and mixed family stone, rock and soul, James brown 2 songs (he has five top ten R&B hit this year, and three first-round draft), and a Dionne Warwick’s big crossover hit. Motown is losing some control, but in Smokey Robinson is still strong and a miracle “if you want it”.
I went back to The Impressions of “we are a winner,” which was The last of The group’s final strike before Curtis mayfield’s solo, and a signpost for his social consciousness. How do confident lyrics feel on April 5 or 6? Bitter? Call the future?
Then there is the “temptation” deep blues “I hope it will rain” and Otis reading’s “sitting on the bay dock”. I have to believe that these songs offer a little comfort, or a way to express condolences. The bay dock, which was released in January of 68, was the first in March and the top 20 for another month.
I’ve heard “bay port” and “I hope it rains” so many times that I’ve stopped hearing their greatness. But in the context of the assassination of the king they opened up new avenues for them and those who loved them before their “legend”.
Dr. King’s death is part of a heartbreaking continuum. The songs were heard the day before he died when he went to Memphis to support health workers calling for racism and demanding better working conditions. They were in Washington, d.c., to hear the riots that erupted late on April 4 in the African-American community. The paradox of “we are winners” and “bay pier” tells us that we are happy to hear the reality of this terrible day.