Jazz & Protest
Here in the United States, we recently celebrated the birthday of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This weekend saw millions of people following in his footsteps in Washington, D.C.
Jazz musicians have often used their platform to speak up about important social issues. Here are some examples.
Charles Mingus – “Fables of Faubus” / “Original Faubus Fables”
Mingus recorded this song as a commentary on Arkansas governor, and noted segregationist, Orville Faubus. It appeared on the Mingus Ah Um album, although the record label made Mingus record it without the words. Here it is with the lyrics restored.
Max Roach with Abbey Lincoln – We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
Max Roach and Oscar Brown collaborated on this 1960 album, which deals with African-American history in America from the Emancipation Proclamation through the movements of the 1950s.
Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit”
We’ll close with this, perhaps the most famous piece of protest music in the jazz genre. Originally published as a poem in The New York Teacher in 1937, Abel Meeropol later set his words to music. This song eventually caught the ear of Billie Holiday, who sang it as no one else could, leaving an idelible mark on the American consciousness.
Do you have a favorite jazz protest song? Let us know in the comments.