How I Got Over Last Week

by The Hand Of The Father, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group Advance)

Amy Ray sings “Become You,” the title track of the Indigo Girls’ new album, while fingering a 500 year old wound. “I heard you sing a rebel song, sing it loud and all alone,” she begins. “…I see you walking in the glare down the county road we share. Our southern blood, my heresy, damn that ol’ confederacy.”

When Ray sings that verse, I see my friend and CounterPunch contributor Kevin Gray on the statehouse lawn in South Carolina, with a Confederate flag in one hand, a Nazi flag in the other, both in flames. She couldn’t come closer to that spirit if she’d lit the match. “The center holds, so they say.” “It never held too well for me,” responds her Indigo partner, Emily Sellers, her voice muted as a conscience. Then Ray summons her nerve and explains: “The center held the bonded slave for the sake of industry. The center held the bloody hand of the executioner man.”

When Ray sings that line, I see the face of my brother Byron Parker, executed by the state of Georgia last December. And I see the faces of the SNCC Freedom Singers, who always, it seemed, looked up for the light while their voices blended.

At the end Ray makes a declaration, “It took a long time to become the thing I am to you. And you won’t tear it apart without a fight, without a heart,” and then for the last line, no anger, no exultation, no freedom, just pain: “It took a long time to become you, become you.”

When Ray sings that, I see my father’s face. Yet “Become You” isn’t a song about being trapped so much as it’s a song about freedom. It can’t be a freedom song in the great tradition of “We Shall Overcome.” You need a movement for that. But it’s a brilliant attempt to testify about what the civil rights movement left undone. It is, as Craig Werner, author of the great Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race and the Soul of America, recognized as soon as he heard it, the great record about the South that Tom Petty and Michael Stipe have groped to make for years, and it’s that not only because it’s so beautiful but because it hits the issue head on.

Just as I discovered “Become You,” the news came that Dorothy Love Coates, leader of the Gospel Harmonettes, had died in Birmingham, Alabama, the hometown she never left except for extended journeys on the gospel highway. Dot’s brilliant songs–“That’s Enough,” “The Separation Line,” “No Hiding Place,” “The Hymn” and above all, “Strange Man,” her rendition of Jesus as fully human miracle–portray a religion that carries you through all life’s tribulations and promises a salvation identical with justice. In short, they define the social gospel. It’ll take more than “Become You” to replace them, but it’s a great start.

Dot sings her songs in a uniquely powerful voice, using a preacher’s cadence that makes all the old stories come alive and brings new ones into focus. Just before we learned that she’d passed, Daniel Wolff, author of The Memphis Blues Again, and I were talking about “The Hymn,” from the VeeJay album below, where Dot sermonizes on topics including the assassination of JFK and the bombing murders of four little girls in 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. She has no answers except “In God’s own time and in God’s own way he’s gonna make everything all right.” But then she turns to a song, a very very old one. “It’s getting late, late in the evening,” she sings, in a voice meant as a reminder. At the end, she sings still another tune. “I got my cross on my shoulder, Lord, comin’ on home, comin’ on home.”

I don’t know how many roads home there may be. Dot’s has unquestionably led her where she wanted to be. Amy Ray’s very different route has just taken a leap. Both of them have blessed us by letting us share their route. They leave me feeling that to honor them we need to ask ourselves one question, albeit the fiercest of all: “Are you coming along?”

(what’s playing in my office):

1. The Soul of the Gospel Harmonettes / Peace in the Valley, Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes (VeeJay/Collectables)

2. The Best of Dorothy Love Coates and the Original Gospel Harmonettes (Specialty/Fantasy)

3. Become You, Indigo Girls (Epic)

4. The Gospel Sound (Columbia, includes “Strange Man”)

5. 1000 Kisses, Patty Griffin

6. By the Hand of the Father, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group advance)

7. Truth, The Jeff Beck Group (Epic)

8. The Best of Both Worlds, R. Kelly & Jay-Z (Jive/Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)

9. Stop Breakin’ Down, Baby Boy Warren (Official)

10. Global, Carl Cox (FFRR/Warner)


Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. He can be reached at: marsh6@optonline.net

Dave Marsh’s Previous DeskScan Top 10 Lists:

April 9, 2002

April 2, 2002

March 25, 2002

March 18, 2002

March 11, 2002

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving