Soundtrack for a Revolution Examines the Role of Music in the Civil Rights Movement
When I chose to watch Soundtrack for a Revolution, I was interested in the music. With archival footage and interviews, this newly released DVD traces the civil rights movement from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first involvement up to his death. Among those interviewed are Coretta Scott King (who shares memories of being in her home with her daughter when it was bombed), Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Harry Belafonte, and a host of civil rights activists.
Recently, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an essay that told the story of the grass-roots Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in; in this uneasy documentary, veterans of that protest share their experiences and old news films give graphic evidence to the brutality southern lawmen felt was necessary to control non-violent protesters . Photographs of the bombing of a freedom riders’ bus startle modern viewers who are too young or too old to remember. Some of the most striking images are found in the mugshots of people--both black and white--who were arrested for participating in movement activities--they were smiling.
Music that served as the Soundtrack for a Revolution ranged from old spirituals (often with new lyrics) to songs that formed as the words were spoken in protest. Guy Carawan is credited with bringing “We Shall Overcome” to the movement, and the stirring renditions shown in this documentary bring tears to one’s eyes.
Particularly interesting--in a weird and scary way--are clips of white people talking about African-Americans like they were wild animals or invaders from another planet (“I’m not used to sitting next to them...”). “Keep Alabama White” posters carried by middle class white men and women seem like artifacts from an evil culture.
Performances by current artists (John Legend, Wyclef Jean, Joss Stone, Blind Boys of Alabama, and more) are woven throughout the story (DVD extras include 41 minutes of performance videos), but the touching moments occur when interviewees remembering their involvement in the movement spontaneously start singing.Continued on the next page