My Dear Friends and Family,
The Confession: I love music. However, I am not now or have I ever considered myself expert in the field of music… modern, classical, R&B, pop. I simply know what I like and what I don’t like. I think I would qualify as your average, every day, listener, EXCEPT for my opinionated Big Mouth.
The Disclaimer: Yes I was a singer. Yes I was a dancer. Yes I played a very bad piano. All to say I knew about music… definitively not as an expert but as a participating viewer, listener and performer.
This information is leading you to an adventure I had in the world of music and, oh, so much more, on Hulu Streaming last Friday evening: Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Over the course of six weeks during the summer of 1969, thousands of people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival to celebrate Black history, culture, music and fashion held in Morris Park in the Bronx (an almost as infamous borough as Brooklyn, but not quite).
I am and always will be the Brooklyn girl who had friends and went to school with all races and religions. In 1969, I was thirty-six. OMG was I ever 36? I guess I had to have been to get to 37 and on up and up and up. My life was circumscribed by my children and my career. In combination, there was not a spare breath for any other activity. I was living and working in Washington, D.C., a recently desegregated Southern city that had been rocked by the recent assassinations of Malcom X, Martin Luther King, JFK, Bobby Kennedy. Of course I was aware of the Happening in Woodstock… the crazies invading a bucolic setting in New York State where wild men and women made music, love, drank wine, did drugs and more… a veritable hippie Sodom and Gomorrah.
In 1969, the whole world knew about Woodstock.
In 1969, no one knew about the Summer of Soul concerts in Morris Park.
The only people that knew about the Summer of Soul concerts in Morris Park were the 40,000 to 50,000 people who attended them. Definitely a Black majority coming out of Harlem… which is where the subtitle (When The Revolution Could Not be Televised) comes from. Woodstock had television and movie studios vying for the rights to film the concert. Summer of Soul sponsors had to beg for money to film and record their concerts. And we are thankful for those sponsors that had the foresight to make a record of an historical and cultural moment in Black History 52 years before BLACK LIVES MATTER.
I could do chapter and verse about the difference between Woodstock and Morris Park… it wouldn’t work… it’d be comparing apples and oranges. They are just two different fruits or vegetables. There is a striking difference, however, other than color in the demeanor of the attendees of Woodstock and Morris Park. A psychologist would have a grand time looking at the behavioral differences. Considering the line up of this concert, it will be no hardship for you to watch this concert and make your own evaluation. A picture is worth a thousand words.
These artists are enough to pump even this ‘ole soul. Stevie Wonder (looking like he’s 12), Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, The 5th Dimension, The Chamber Brothers, David Ruffin (I didn’t know him, but I did know My Girl), Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Jesse Jackson (not singing but speaking eloquently), and an unbelievably incredible and stirring performance by Nina Simone. There are so many more and I am showing my ignorance by not knowing them before this documentary.
The point is I know them now. To watch these beautiful artists, is to be reminded of how long it takes this nation , indivisible (we hope), under God, to change a light bulb and the way it thinks.
Yup, as the privileged white woman watching this concert, I went through it all. From despair to hope. I am happy to report I came out on the side of HOPE. That is what good music always does for me.
Right??? Of course, right!!!!
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️