The 1960’s were difficult times in American history. African-American’s weathered a storm of tragic events. The assassinations of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April) and the presumed Democratic Presidential nominee, Robert F. Kennedy (June), was more than many could bear.
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. The most “real” famous person you could ever meet, released, “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” in August. Black Power as a movement had gained momentum, especially follow the riots of 1965 in Watts and Compton (a suburb of Los Angeles, Ca.) and the riots that broke out in at least 100 cities following the death of Dr. King.
Arguable the lyric in the song that stood out for many was and still is:
“We rather die on our feet than keep living on our knees.” It set a defiant tone. A message to both the white and black community. A message that strengthened the resolve of those wanting a positive change in the civil treatment of African-Americans. Mr. Brown stood up and confronted difficult times in a aggressive response. No doubt his career was impacted from the release of this song.
In the 60’s, no one was as hot as James Brown in the black community. Growing up in Queens, NY, the kids in the neighborhood told rumors about the black and purple house with the moat. It was said to be Mr. Brown’s house. That rumor was confirmed, it was. The little 4 foot bridge over the moat was kind of cool.
Years later, recounting to Mr. Brown about the day the kids at the local park thought he was coming to give away records. Seemed like a “long shot”.
Amazingly, he remembered that day. However, his team thought that only a few kids would be in the park but hundreds had shown up. Since they only planned to distribute a few records they decided not to stop. His recollection was more than 30 years later, has had an indescribable impact.
Artists, celebrities, or athletes have not lived up to their responsibility and contribute to the “Struggle” today, as James Brown did.
Great examples of those difficult days were Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali and others, they said it loud.