The Politics of Music

The Politics of Music

The Politics of Music
I do see spirituals and gospels as being political overt but only to the African Americans, most slaves, who could genuinely understand and interpret its true meaning.  Many of the spirituals and gospels were sang in a coded language that subliminally spoke of their plans to escape on the Underground Railroad, such as in the spiritual, “Run Old Jeremiah:”
One mornin'
Before the evening
Sun was goin' down
Behind them western hills.
Old number 12
Comin' down the track.
See that black smoke.
See that old engineer.
See that engineer.

African American music was a liberating force. Paul Roberson once said that the artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery. The people were suffering through oppression caused from slavery and used music in a catharsis manner. His song, “Go Down Moses,” lyrically speaks about biblical events in the bible but symbolically it was a demand, from the slaves (symbolic to Israel), to be released from their master’s (symbolic to old Pharaoh). In Thomas Dorsey’s, “Precious Lord Take My Hand,” he used music as a way to emotionally be liberated. Thomas had suffered the deaths of his wife and child when he composed this song. He needed a sweet release and through his melodies he called on God, it was a musical prayer. A musical prayer prayed not only by himself but by other’s as well:
When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call

Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Many of the spirituals and gospels were what musicologist refer to as Call and Response songs. These songs brought a sense of unity throughout its audience. In this type of lyricism the leader calls out a response and the audience responds by either repeating the lyrics or completing the thought. In my Music class we used the example by James Brown in which he would shout, “Say it loud” and the audience would respond, “I’m...

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