Credit is given to many things for the liberation of Black Americans but nothing deserves more credit than Black Music. It was the music that gave directions for the Slaves seeking a do-it-yourself solution to and onto freedom road. It was the music that gave direction to the Underground Railroad as to where the next station was.
The music told the Slaves that it was time to “Steal Away” and take flight tonight, rather than tomorrow, through the river or over land facing danger everywhere. The music served as a psychology lesson for Slaves. The music was about the souls of black folks and had the Slaves singing , “Oh freedom, Oh freedom, Oh freedom…, before I’ll be a Slave I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my lord and be free”.
These songs kept the fighting spirit alive, kept the motivation to gain freedom alive and in the front of the Slaves’ mind, always listening for a song, giving the next signal to escape to freedom and the Spirituals directing how to get to the promised land of. On the other side, at a later time in life there were The Blues which blacks sang about everyday life with little thought of heaven but about life’s disappointments and disillusionment with little hope for a better life.
Many of the disappointments related to their love life with songs like, “If you don’t want me baby, you don’t have to carry no stall, I can get more women than a train can haul. The blues singer they call Leadbelly said, “To be black is to be blue because all black folks like the blues”.
Many songs related to feelings like, “Sometimes I Feel like a motherless child a long way from home.” A catalog of Spirituals, Jazz and Blues would give a music lover Black Music and a look at Black Life, including the spiritual and everyday life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It resonates in the soul and makes a person move. It’s a mood regulator. It creates moods from shouts to tears.
Entertainers like James Brown, Nina Simone, Lady Day, and groups like The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Mavis Staples and her dad, Pop Staples, and their group; John P. Kee, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, and hundreds more black artists who found their freedom by singing or playing their way out of poverty.
The blues has a philosophical edge without the Language of Karl Marx or other philosophers, for example, says, “Feeling tomorrow like I feel today, if I feel tomorrow like I feel today, I’ll pack my suitcase and make my getaway.” Other popular blues phrases include demonstrating despair and hope say, “I’d rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log, than stay in this town, treated like a dirty dog” or “Sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I ain’t got so many, and I ain’t got far to go.”
The blues has as an important and repeated storyline, for example, “Gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside (3×) ain't gonna study war no more.” Or “Gwine lay my head down by de railroad track (3x) Cause my baby won’t take me back.” Or “You know my woman left me, left me cold in hand, wouldn’t hate it so bad, But she left with another man.”
With the Blues, Gospel, Spirituals, Jazz, and Pop songs, comes the history of Black America and their struggle to survive and thrive as it grows. We come from Slave ships and Outhouses, from Cabins to Colleges and seats in the Congress, to the White House. Where the Journey will end is not known, but our music will pave the way as it always has.