Friday, March 06, 2015

Selma and 'People by Get Ready' by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions

This weekend, looking forward to seeing some of the coverage of commemorations of the heroic march in Selma. Hard to believe it's been fifty years.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other heroes of the civil rights movement, informed by their faith in Jesus Christ, are owed a debt of gratitude and honor for calling us to enact both the American creed of "all...are created equal" and, for we Christians, Jesus' command that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Below, from the same year as the Selma march, Curtis Mayfield's classic, People Get Ready. Like the slave songs of more than a century earlier, People Get Ready can be sung and heard as a straight-up expression of the gospel message that salvation from sin and death is a free gift of grace available all who trust Christ--taking a ride to the promised land of eternity with God through Christ alone. "You don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord."

But, like those earlier freedom songs, Mayfield, using the Biblical motifs of freedom and grace, meant the song to be an anthem for the slaves' descendants longing for freedom. And it became just that.

The later prominent version by Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck did the song musical justice, but its quality as a communal anthem is lost, giving way to a more post-modern song of individual defiance. That hardly fits the tone set by Mayfield himself.

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