1001 Songs Challenge #304: (To Be) Young, Gifted and Black (1970)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Bob and Marcia – (To Be) Young, Gifted and Black (1970)
We’re leaving the US behind, dear reader, but taking a relatively short flight over to Jamaica. We have enjoyed a few visits to this beautiful island already and today we’re in the company of a duo by the name of Bob and Marcia. Their time in the limelight was, sadly, brief but they did enough to find a place on this list with a cover version of (To Be) Young, Gifted and Black, which was written by Weldon Irvine and originally recorded by Nina Simone in 1969.
(To Be) Young, Gifted and Black was written in honour of civil rights playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, who died of cancer at the age of 34. In the song, Bob and Marcia use the refrain of the song’s title and address the black communities around the world. They tell them that being “young, gifted and black” ensures the stability of one’s soul. They recognise that the world is not the best of places and that opportunities for black people may seem minimal. However, they assure their audience that the chance of great things really is out there and that this message must be passed on to all adults but especially to children growing up thinking they will have nothing.
Nina Simone’s version of (To Be) Young, Gifted and Black became an anthem of sorts for the civil rights movement and looking at the lyrics it isn’t difficult to understand why. Bob and Marcia’s version is very upbeat and celebratory of black communities, urging their audience to realise their dreams and to seize the day. The song would prove popular in the UK where it landed at no.5 in the charts. Bob and Marcia released a few more records but disbanded before the 1970s were over having found music not financially viable. A great shame.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)