On this second to last day of Black History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight an uplifting and prideful song by one of the greatest soul music artists ever who left us far too soon. Donny Hathaway, though not always as celebrated as Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and many of the other big names 1970s soul music, made some amazing contributions to the genre. One of his greatest accomplishments has got to be this tune. In the same vein as Mayfield’s “Move On Up” and Wonder’s “Black Man”, “Some Day We’ll All Be Free” is a composition that’s powerful and haunting. This is mainly due to the fact that there is so much emotion and candor in Hathaway’s voice from beginning to end. But what makes it even more ironic was the singer’s own struggles with depression and self doubt that would unfortunately cut his life entirely too short. Though he’s no longer with us in the physical, he left us a bevy of classic music, this being one of his most inspired and positive statements, and one that future generations can definitely use.
Nearly 40 years ago upon the release of this song, Stevie Wonder was doing things that no other artist, be they pop, rock, R&B or soul, could even dream of doing. He had already released some of the most innovative, genre-defining and musically masterful albums of the 1970s with Talking Book and Innervisions, and the monumental Songs In The Key Of Life was only two years away. But Stevie also realized just how powerful he was as an artist, and with a growing militancy and sense of social consciousness and awareness, he began creating music that spoke to the issues of every day America from the vantage point of black people, people of color, poor people, frustrated people, and so much more. And who could blame him? As suckey as the 1970s seemed at times, he had a lot of material to work with. Enter “You Haven’t Done Nothin”, an unapologetic dismantling of Richard Nixon and his administration while they were fully embroiled in the Watergate scandal. With famous back vocals from the Jackson 5, Wonder pulled no punches and pretty much ripped Washington a new one with his almost venomous lyrics on a song that is a mix of Sly and the Family Stone-inspired funk, adult contemporary pop and big band jazz. Appearing on the album Fulfillingness’ First Finale in 1974, Wonder pretty much set the stage for everything he would do on Songs In The Key Of Life with this song. Back in the 70s when Stevie would get mad, and subsequently get topical with his music, there’s no way the powers that be were safe from his clutches.