Fight the power: the 70s political soul renaissance

Course Dates: 21/04/20 - 30/06/20
Time: 18:20 - 20:30
Location: International House
Toby Manning

FIGHT THE POWER! Learn how the Civil Rights movement, Black Power and urban unrest sparked a renaissance in late 60s/1970s soul music, producing landmark work by Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott Heron. This course has a scheduled break: 26th May.


What is the course about?

This course is about the musical renaissance that occurred in black American culture in the early late 1960s and early 1970s. A response to the charged, volatile political and social currents of their era, black musicians shook off the constraints of white audiences and black executives alike, and created music that was lyrically and musically radical and challenging, but that also proved hugely commercially successful.

What will we cover?

1) Historical background: slavery; segregation; the 60s Civil Rights Movement; Watts riots (1965); Martin Luther King; Detroit riot (1967); Malcolm X; Black Power; Black Panthers; relationship to world politics, Cold War etc.
1960s conscious soul precursors: Odetta, Nina Simone (from 1964).
The Motown and soul production system: factories for pop.
1968 as pivotal year: The Impressions politicised; James Brown’s contradictory politics (‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’; supporting Richard Nixon); Sly and the Family Stone’s psychedelic soul; Norman Whitfield’s uneasy radicalisation of pop act, The Temptations

2) The 1970s heyday (sessions 2 and 3). Opposed by executives, we will look at several key albums from four creative visionaries. Socially conscious lyrics, musical sophistication and innovation combined to produce high-points not just in soul but in music.
Curtis Mayfield, Curtis (1970), Superfly (1972) and There’s No Place Like America Today (1975) Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On (1971) Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (1972); Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1977)

These albums variously address the Vietnam War, ghetto drug problems, urban poverty, racism, the defeats of the 1960s; Nixon; ecology, while also hymning black culture and achievements.

3) We’ll look at more overlooked 70s acts like Gil Scott Heron, Donnie Hathaway; Allen Toussaint; Parliament-Funkadelic (cartoon humour as satirical social commentary) and The Isley Brothers.

We’ll explore links with film: Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song (1971); then the wave of Blaxploitation movies, including Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972), Coffy (1973) – all featuring ‘militant’ black imagery, urban situations and funky soundtracks. Were these films exploitative or progressive or both? How did their visual imagery (raised fists; Afros; sharp suits) relate to conscious soul?

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- demonstrate a deeper understanding of the music of this period in its social and historical context
- feel more confident when using music-terminology to describe music of the 70s
- feel empowered to go on exploring more music of this era.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

- demonstrate a deeper understanding of the music of this period in its social and historical context
- feel more confident when using music-terminology to describe music of the 70s
- feel empowered to go on exploring more music of this era.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught using a range of techniques including short lectures, slide shows, class discussions, and guided listening sessions. Courses use a variety of materials including audio recordings, DVDs and youtube clips.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No. However, you may wish to buy some of the music or books recommended in class.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

To find out more about music history classes and to read our year-long selection of courses, please see the blog post Music history: your guide to the 2019/20 programme which lists our full programme of classes ordered by term, and by day of the week. You may then click on each title to read the full course outline.

Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: MD662

Tue, eve, 21 Apr - 30 Jun '20

Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)

Full fee: £199.00
Senior fee: £199.00
Concession: £121.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2630

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.