FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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?”

DeskScan
(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/

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary: Ordinarily Awful or Uncommonly Awful?
Rob Urie
Liberal Pragmatism and the End of Political Possibility
Pam Martens
Clinton Says Wall Street Banks Aren’t the Threat, But Her Platform Writers Think They are
Michael Hudson
The Silence of the Left: Brexit, Euro-Austerity and the T-TIP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Marx on Financial Bubbles: Much Keener Insights Than Contemporary Economists
Evan Jones
Ancillary Lessons from Brexit
Jason Hirthler
Washington’s Not-So-Invisible Hand: It’s Not Economics, It’s Empire
Mike Whitney
Another Fed Fiasco: U.S. Bond Yields Fall to Record Lows
Aidan O'Brien
Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment
Jeremy R. Hammond
How Turkey’s Reconciliation Deal with Israel Harms the Palestinians
Margaret Kimberley
Beneficial Chaos: the Good News About Brexit
Phyllis Bennis
From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks
Dan Bacher
Ventura Oil Spill Highlights Big Oil Regulatory Capture
Ishmael Reed
OJ and Jeffrey Toobin: Black Bogeyman Auctioneer
Ron Jacobs
Let There Be Rock
Ajamu Baraka
Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence
Pete Dolack
Brexit Will Only Count If Everybody Leaves the EU
Robert Fantina
The First Amendment, BDS and Third-Party Candidates
Julian Vigo
Xenophobia in the UK
David Rosen
Whatever Happened to Utopia?
Andre Vltchek
Brexit – Let the UK Screw Itself!
Jonathan Latham
107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators
Steve Horn
Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal
Robert Koehler
The Right to Bear Courage
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”
Eoin Higgins
Running on Empty: Sanders’s Influence on the Democratic Party Platform
Binoy Kampmark
Who is Special Now? The Mythology Behind the US-British Relationship
Mark B. Baldwin
Russia to the Grexit?
Andrew Wimmer
Killer Grief
Manuel E. Yepe
Sanders, Socialism and the New Times
Franklin Lamb
ISIS is Gone, But Its Barbarity Still Haunts Palmyra
Mark Weisbrot
A Policy of Non-Intervention in Venezuela Would be a Welcome Change
Matthew Stevenson
Larry Cameron Explains Brexit
Cesar Chelala
How Tobacco Became the Opium War of the 21st Century
Joseph Natoli
How We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other
Andrew Stewart
Skip “Hamilton” and Read Gore Vidal’s “Burr”
George Wuerthner
Ranching and the Future of the Sage Grouse
Thomas Knapp
Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible
Gilbert Mercier
Democracy Is Dead
Missy Comley Beattie
A Big F#*K You to Voters
Charles R. Larson
Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education”
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
David Yearsley
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Walking the Bad Streets of Houston’s Super-Elites
Christopher Brauchli
Educating Kansas
Andy Piascik
The Hills of Connecticut: Where Theatre and Life Became One
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail