Thursday, 15 January 2009

Behind the Songs: Do What I Have to Do

"Oh, I'm afraid of trouble, yes I'm afraid of jail
But I'm more afraid, lord, not to try
More afraid of what happens, now, if we fail
What happens now if we fail"
--Phil Ochs, "Do What I Have to Do" (1964)

Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs

This 2007 volume of civil rights songs--issued appropriately in the seventy-fifth anniversary year of the Highlander Folk Center--was originally two books. The first, We Shall Overcome, was published in 1963 when the civil rights movement was in full bloom. Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Emmett Till's murder (1955), the Montgomery bus boycott (1955-56), and the Little Rock school crisis (1957-58) were still fresh in the nation's consciousness. And the student sit-in movement, the Freedom Rides, the early stirrings of voter registration, and the major SCLC campaigns in cities like Albany, Birmingham, and St. Augustine were still happening as Guy and Candie Carawan collected the songs they and others were singing in protests, demonstrations, mass meetings, conferences, and jails across the South.

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