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Morning Song – Make Me Feel

Best non-Prince, Prince song ever?

At the very least, “Make Me Feel” is the best non-Prince, Prince song since the Purple One “passed on to another frequency“, as Janelle Monae puts it in this interview with The Guardian.

Also, the best non-“Kiss” “Kiss” song ever.

P. S. Lyrics NSFW.



Morning Song – Steer

In 2006, after three years of intensive touring, writing and recording, Missy Higgins dropped out of the Australian (and American, and European) music scene and went about as far north and west as it’s possible to go in Australia, to the small town of Broome where, among other things, she could walk out into the countryside and see the sky at night.

Which is where she found the freedom and fierceness and buoyancy that became “Steer”.

“But the search ends here,
Where the night is totally clear;
And your heart is fierce,
So now you finally know,
That you control where you go;
You can steer.

So hold this feeling like a newborn,
Of freedom surging through your veins;
You have opened up a new door,
So bring on the wind, the fire and the rain….”

Morning Song – I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Before Creedence Clearwater Revival, before Marvin Gaye, it was Gladys Knight and the Pips who first recorded the classic Whitfield/Strong song, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”.

What I love about their version (aside from every vocal harmony and in-sync dance step of the Pips) is the way Gladys Knight’s voice belies the meaning of the lyrics.

She sings in the character of the most resilient teenage girl ever: “I heard you’re going with some other girl, and it’s breaking my heart…but by Saturday night I’ll be over you and onto some other guy who’s even better.”

Morning Song – Rivers Of Babylon

When The Melodians released “Rivers Of Babylon” in 1970, it was banned by the Jamaican government because “its overt Rastafarian references were considered subversive and potentially inflammatory“.

After it was pointed out to the government that Jamaican Christians had been singing Psalm 137 for centuries, the ban was lifted.

Three weeks later, “Rivers Of Babylon” was the #1 song in the country. There’s a lesson in there, children.

h/t: PLD

Morning Song – You Are My Sunshine

From that time Booker T. & the MGs went into the Stax Studio on McLemore Avenue and decided they were tired of just covering other folks’ songs in their own inimitable style…and decided to cover “You Are My Sunshine” in not one, not two, but three different ways (one for each verse)…each in their own inimitable style.


Afternoon Song – Lift Every Voice And Sing

I love this video of the Howard Gospel Choir singing “Lift Every Voice And Sing” in Denmark several years ago.

First, though there are only nine singers, they fill the room more completely than many choirs two and three times their size. Second, they embody—with their gestures, movements and facial expressions—the call-and-response tradition, continually inviting this church filled with Scandinavian Lutherans to fuller participation in their song. Third, they demonstrate the abiding accuracy of Imani Perry’s observation in May We Forever Stand: A History Of The Black National Anthem:

“Post-desegregation, historically black colleges and universities were the one type of educational institution where one could be assured that ritual singing of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ remained. At HBCUs, it was part of weekly chapel services, graduations, and programs when honored guests visited campus. Black Greek letter fraternity and sorority members were expected to learn all three verses.” (p. 189)

Given the student body’s incredible diversity at Howard and other HBCUs, it’s all but certain that at least one of the Howard singers didn’t know “Lift Every Voice And Sing” before stepping on campus, while another can’t remember a time when she didn’t know the song; and that one of the singers had never left the United States before the Choir’s 2010 Northern Scandinavian tour, while another had traveled to dozens of countries on multiple continents. Despite all their differences, through countless hours of hard work, practice and striving for excellence, they’ve made themselves a community in and through song.

As Prof. Perry notes at the conclusion of May We Forever Stand, “We learn to be through repetition. We are who we are through the regularity of our doings…. That ritual community, that deliberate meaning-making and learning, that repetition, meditation, and fellow feeling, that epic story, that sense of courage, inspiration, promise, and resilience, that love and beauty that once sustained black struggle in song…“, it’s all here in this little clip. (p. 225)

Morning Song – The House I Live In

The Books Department here at MassCommons World Headquarters is, as you might imagine, generally a quiet, even stodgy, place (yes, it’s housed in the oldest building on campus, and they like it that way).

But the publication of Imani Perry’s brilliant May We Forever Stand: A History Of The Black National Anthem has all the bibliophiles and historians so excited they’ve been making more noise than the Sports Department (who are themselves insanely pumped up about the juxtaposition of the Winter Olympics and the NBA All-Star Game).

So, in deference to our colleagues—and to Prof. Perry’s excellent and enlivening scholarship—we’re outsourcing the commentary on Sonny Rollins’ searching, soulful, swinging 1956 recording of “The House I Live In” (written by the then-blacklisted Earl Robinson, with lyrics by Abel Meeropol, first popularized by Frank Sinatra during World War II) to her.

“Rollins said he was moved to record ‘The House I Live In’ because ‘Earl Robinson had written “Ballad for Americans” for Paul Robeson, which meant a lot to me when I was growing up,’ and he wanted to put in his own political commentary by quoting the Negro National Anthem. Placing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing‘ within ‘The House I Live In’ suggested a house within a house, the contained unfree amid the ‘land of the free’ out of which the black American freedom struggle emerged. But it also paid homage to the interwoven nature of the radical left tradition, the black formalist and associationalist one, and the black creative imagination as twisting, turning, and sometimes overlapping threads in the black freedom struggle.” (p. 139)