Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes, We Did! Obama's Got Soul

At 10:oopm Central Time on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, all of my anxiety and anger for the past few years was suddenly eased with a chill in my spine. I have been moved by the voice of this country:

"Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope"

On Friday morning, I did a radio show--the HPK stands for Hyde Park-Kenwood, home of the President Elect!--of soul songs that, in part, encompass many of the feelings that accompanied this historic event: freedom, redemption, optimism, unity, service, and mostly, hope for a new day. So many songs from the Civil Rights Era, echoing those same sentiments, seemed suddenly appropriate and re-energized to me, much as many of those themes were for this country during these past 22 months of campaigning. In the enduring words and spirit of Sam Cooke, "It's been a long, long time coming, but I know A Change Gonna Come, Yes it will." Let us all hope it has.

And not to get ahead of our selves, let us remember:

"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."

Many of these songs speak to that for me, and I hope they can for you. Yes, We Can!

Mel & Tim; Yes We Can!; Starting All Over Again
Sam Cooke A Change Is Gonna Come; The Man Who Invented Soul
Aretha Franklin; People Get Ready; Lady Soul; Atlantic
Gene Allison; You Can Make It If You Try; You Can Make It If You Try; Vee Jay
Bettye LaVette; All The Black And White Children; Child Of The Seventies; Rhino
Otis Redding; Amen; Definitive
The Impressions; This Is My Country; This Is My Country; Curtom
Notations; A New Day; Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation (Numero Uno)
The Chambers Brothers; Time Has Come Today [Single Ed]; Time Has Come: The Best of the; Mercury
James Carr; Freedom Train; The Complete Goldwax Singles (Kent)
Solomon Burke; Maggie's Farm; Atlantic 2288
Bill Moss; Sock It To 'Em Soul Brother; Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label (Numero Uno)
Wilson Pickett; You Can't Stand Alone; The Sound of Wilson Pickett; Atlantic
Otis Clay; If I Could Reach Out (And Help Someone); Hi 2252 B;
Johnny Copeland; Blowing in the Wind; Wand 1114
Willie Hightower; Walk a Mile In My Shoes; s/t (Astralwerks/Honest Jon's)
Syl Johnson; Talk Bout Freedom; Is It Because I'm Black; Twinight
Eddie Hinton; We Got It; Very Extremely Dangerous; The Yes We Can Song (Obama for America);
Bob Dylan; Chimes Of Freedom [Live at Newport Folk Fest, 1964]; No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (Columbia)
Mahlia Jackson; We Shall Overcome

(This time I put up a version of the show that eliminates my talking--thanks for listening. And the excess of Dyland songs are in part because Mr. Obama has spoken of how his songs speak to him, specifically, the rebellious spirit of Maggie's Farm).

In that spirit, I have been talking about, and sharing, the following quote from Robert F. Kennedy, while campaigning for President in 1968. And it is my sincere belief and hope that it will be this President who can bring America to judge itself by "the enduring power of our ideals":

"We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the gross national product. For the gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highway carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them. The gross national product includes the destruction of the redwoods, and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads . . . It includes Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.

And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of public officials . . . the gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans."

You can listen to a different version of this speech here.