Fire Music: When Jazz Speaks Out - Part 1

Ludovico Granvassu BY

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Music often distills the truth in ways that make it hard to ignore. The history of jazz is intertwined with the struggle for the advancement of the African-American society that birthed it. Many of its masterpieces were inspired by events that marked the civil rights movement, which, in turn, drew inspiration from them. Let's look back at the amazing body of music that has come out of the African-American struggle for social justice and equal rights, through the works of Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins, Mahalia Jackson, Herbie Hancock and many more.


  • Ben Allison "Mondo Jazz Theme (feat. Ted Nash & Pyeng Threadgill)" 0:00
  • The Mothers of Invention "Trouble Every Day" Freak Out! (Zappa) 0:16
  • John Lee Hooker "The Motor City Is Burning" Urban Blues (BluesWay) 5:49
  • Host talks 8:38
  • Gil Scott-Heron "Whitey on the Moon" Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (Flying Dutchman) 10:46
  • Terence Blanchard "Breathless" Breathless (Blue Note) 12:12
  • Billie Holiday "Strange Fruit" Lady Sings the Blues (Verve) 16:45
  • Mahalia Jackson "How I Got Over" Sings the Best-Loved Hymns of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Columbia) 19:46
  • Host talks 25:08
  • Herbie Hancock "I Have a Dream" The Prisoner (Blue Note) 28:36
  • Working Week "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" Working Nights (Virgin) 39:31
  • Marlena Shaw "Woman of the Ghetto" The Spice of Life (Verve/Cadet) 44:31
  • Host talks 50:30
  • Sonny Rollins "The Freedom Suite" Freedom Suite (Prestige) 53:06
Photo credit: Henri Cartier-Bresson

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