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Wnew's Story of Selma / Various

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  • On April 18, 1965, three-and-a-half weeks after the completion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, on March 25, New York City radio station WNEW broadcast a program focusing on the songs marchers sang, featuring folksingers Len Chandler and Pete Seeger, who had been at the march, and a vocal quartet, the Freedom Voices. This album is an expanded version of that half-hour broadcast. The two principals take different approaches to the material. Seeger, as is his wont, has a professorial, musicological bent, fascinated by the development of songs by the crowd itself, as old spirituals or folk songs are given new lyrics spontaneously to refer to aspects of the march. (Prominent foes, such as segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, are much mentioned in the newly penned words.) Chandler tends to emphasize his own primacy as a songwriter and song leader. In fact, at one point, Seeger marvels at a lyric about how marching can lead to weight loss, only to have Chandler claim to be the inspiration for it in a song he wrote some time earlier. In any case, the songs themselves relate directly to the circumstances of the particular march; this is not a Civil Rights "greatest-hits" set ("We Shall Overcome" is not heard), and it isn't a radio news report explaining the circumstances of the march. It is a songfest consisting of the music that arose from the marchers as they walked the highway, with a few of the tracks being actual recordings from the event, but most re-created in a New York studio. ~ William Ruhlmann
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