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This Is My Country - the Impressions

It was difficult in the 1960's, just as it is now, for groups to bring out songs that overtly supported statements that spoke out against racism, for fear that the radio stations wouldn't play them, that the record companies wouldn't market them and would even terminate their contracts. Sam Cooke did it in 1964 with "A Change is Gonna Come", Joe Tex did too in 1966 with "The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)" (see post Feb 6, 2017) and the Impressions had hits with the coded "Keep on Pushing" and "People Get Ready" (see post April 2018) in 1964 and '65 respectively. But the Impressions really broke out with ""This is my Country", explicitly identifying racism as the subject matter, asserting that the USA was their country, ie the country of black people as well as white people. Extraordinarily Curtis Mayfield addresses white people rather than black people as black singers would normally do, proclaiming clearly that "this is my country" as much as it is theirs. The words don't look radical today - or maybe they do in the climate of the current presidential election- but in 1968 this was a radical statement. The words are as strong as anything seen since, referencing as they do slavery, civil rights and racial prejudice, but they hold out hope for the black version of the American dream. Sadly this hope is still a central theme in the current election, whether the Trump voting African Americans realise it or not. It's amazing that a successful American soul group, the equivalent of the Drifters or the Four Tops, should be making recordings like this in the late sixties, risking everything for the main thing they believe in. Hats off to Curtis Mayfield, we salute you and pray the election makes your words closer to a reality.

Some people think we don't have the right to say it's my country before they give in, they'd rather fuss and fight than say it's my country. I've paid three hundred years or more of slave driving, sweat, and welts on my back - this is my country.

Too many have died in protecting my pride for me to go second class. We've survived a hard blow and I want you to know that you'll face us at last and I know you will give consideration - Shall we perish unjust or live equal as a nation? This is my country.


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