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People Get Ready - the Impressions

This morning the well intentioned BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme to mark the 50 anniversary of Martin Luther King's death. Namely: Soul Music: Music of the Civil Rights Era which was typical of the uninformed, subject-skimming, broad view that masquerades as expertise in the liberal aristocracy that Auntie has become.

So, they did identify Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" as the most important of the civil rights soul songs, and Nina Simone's powerful musings, especially "Mississippi Goddam". But then went on to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" (whaaaaaa?) and then jumping unnecessarily forward to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?". Why bother doing something if you don't research it properly? The other most important tracks were when moderately successful black artists, such as the Impressions risked their careers to come out in favour of civil rights. How could they omit Joe Tex's "The love you save (may be your own)" of 1966 and George Perkins' "Cryin' in the Street" (1970) both of which have featured previously in the Uncle Stylus collection? The Impressions contributed this beautiful song which marks the point where Curtis Mayfield stands up for what he believes in, and starts to become the iconic figure we now know from black American musical counterculture. Plus what great singing, cool guitar playing and searching lyrics, all by Curtis.

Because it uses the the imagery and call and response patterns of gospel music, don't be fooled: the target audience knew what the Impressions were singing about and it wasn't heaven, it was freedom.

People get ready for the train to Jordan picking up passengers from coast to coast

as Curtis echoes Martin Luther Kings' dream of the day when blacks would be equal to whites and free at last.

People, get ready there's a train a-coming you don't need no ticket you just get on board.

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