Fight the power: the 70s political soul renaissance
Time: 18:50 - 21:00
late 60s/1970s soul music, producing landmark work by Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott Heron.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: MD912
Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)
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.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
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?
This course is suitable for all levels. There will be much social/historical discussion and some of this will include music terminology. You do not, however, need to read music to take this course but it is hoped that you will already have enjoyed listening to some of the music that is to be discussed and be keen to do some more reading/listening outside of class time.
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, and video 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 Music history courses in London and online 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.
Toby Manning teaches and writes about music, literature, television and film. As a music journalist he wrote regularly for NME, Select, Q, The Word, The Big Issue, and has also contributed to The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, Arena, The Quietus and The Face. He is the author of the Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (2006; 2016) (link to the new version: https://www.thisdayinmusic.com/books/the-dead-straight-guide-to-pink-floyd/). He is also the author of John le Carré and the Cold War (2018). He is currently working on a book of new music writing and a book about Cold War books, film and music.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.