Protest without words.

Posted: February 3, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I was going to do a post (and still will) about the 10 greatest protest songs of the 60’s era.  In doing some research, I came across a song that I knew about, but hadn’t truly experienced.

After the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, John Coltrane wrote “Alabama”.  He used the cadences of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech at the funeral of the four little girls as the template for his saxophone, and did it so beautifully

From the liner notes of the “Live at Birdland” album:

 “If you have heard “Slow Dance” or “After the Rain,” then you might be prepared for the kind of feeling that “Alabama” carries. I didn’t realize until now what a beautiful word Alabama is. That is one function of art, to reveal beauty, common or uncommon, uncommonly. And that’s what Trane does. Bob Thiele (the session producer) asked Trane if the title “had any significance to today’s problems.” I suppose he meant literally. Coltrane answered, “It represents, musically, something that I saw down there translated into music from inside me.” Which is to say, Listen. And what we’re given is a slow delicate introspective sadness, almost hopelessness, except for Elvin (Jones, the drummer), rising in the background like something out of nature…a fattening thunder, storm clouds or jungle war clouds. The whole is a frightening emotional portrait of some place, of these musicians’ feelings. If the “real” Alabama was the catalyst, more power to it, and may it be this beautiful, even in its destruction.”

The anger and determination represented on the drums referred to (starting at about 5:10) is palpable.


  1. Cat says:

    This was amazing. Thank you for posting it.

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