Civil Rights Music

Music of the Civil Rights Era

Music played an essential role in uplifting, motivating, and uniting people during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and '60s. In honor of Black History Month, hosts Jim and Greg explore the powerful music of the Civil Rights Movement, from Mahalia Jackson to Curtis Mayfield and beyond.

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Music of the Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Music

When you think about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, perhaps the powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr. or the horrific images of Emmett Till come to mind. But, for Jim and Greg, the music equally lingers. Songs by Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke and more captured the mood and inspired action. Here are some that continue to resonate:

  1. "Driva Man" by Max Roach & Oscar Brown Jr. featuring Abbey Lincoln, 1960
  2. "How I Got Over" performed by Mahalia Jackson at the March on Washington, 1963
  3. "In the Mississippi River" by the Freedom Singers, 1965
  4. "Mississippi Goddamn" performed by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall, 1964
  5. "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, 1964
  6. "Keep On Pushing" by The Impressions, 1964
  7. "Freedom Highway" by The Staple Singers, 1965
  8. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" performed by Kim Weston at Wattstax, 1972

Featured Songs

  1. Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream – March for Jobs – Washington, August 28, 1963, Speeches by Martin Luther King: The Ultimate Collection, BN Publishing, 2010
  2. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, When the Ship Comes In, live performance at the March on Washington, N/A, 1963
  3. Mahalia Jackson, How I Got Over, live performance at the March on Washington, N/A, 1963
  4. Charles Mingus, Fables of Faubus, Mingus Ah Um, Columbia, 1959
  5. Max Roach ft. Abbey Lincoln, Driva Man, We Insist!, Candid, 1960
  6. The Freedom Singers, In the Mississippi River, Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 1997
  7. Mahalia Jackson, We Shall Overcome, Let Freedom Sing! Music of the Civil Rights Movement, Time Life Entertainment, 2009
  8. Odetta, Spiritual Triology, Odetta Sings Ballads and Blue, Tradition, 1965
  9. Nina Simone, Mississippi Goddamn, In Concert, Philips, 1964
  10. Grant Green, The Selma March, His Majesty King Funk, Verve, 1965
  11. Bob Dylan, Blowin' in the Wind, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Columbia, 1963
  12. Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come, Ain't That Good News, RCA Victor, 1964
  13. Sam Cooke, This Little Light of Mine, Sam Cooke At the Copa (Live), ABKCO Music & Records, Inc., 2003
  14. Little Milton, We're Gonna Make It, We're Gonna Make It, Checker, 1965
  15. The Impressions, Keep On Pushing, Keep On Pushing, ABC-Paramount, 1964
  16. Martin Luther King Jr., Address Concluding the Selma to Montgomery - March 25, 1965, Speeches by Martin Luther King: The Ultimate Collection, BN Publishing, 2010
  17. The Staple Singers, Freedom Highway, Freedom Highway, Legacy/Columbia, 2004
  18. Kim Weston, Lift Every Voice and Sing, Wattstax: Music From The Wattstax Festival & Film, Stax, 1972
  19. The Temptations, Message From a Black Man, Puzzle People, Gordy, 1969
  20. Barbra Streisand, Calling You, The Movie Album, Columbia, 2003
  21. Los Lobos (covering Neil Young), Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Reprise, 1969
  22. Los Lobos, La Pistola y El Corazón (Live Acoustic), La Pistola y El Corazón, Slash/WB, 1988
  23. Los Lobs, When the Circus Comes, Kiko, Slash, 1992

Footnotes Greg Kot on Mahalia Jackson Greg's Civil Rights Soundtrack Herb Kent