From negro spirituals to protest songs, Black music has traditionally been used as a catalyst for social change. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, popular artists like James Brown encouraged people to stand in their Blackness with songs like "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" and Nina Simone challenged politics with "Mississippi Goddam." The revolution in the songs ever-present as systemic change was being widely demanded.
By the turn of the decade, songs became more fun as Black artists moved from obvious protest-inspired lyrics to funk, disco and what is now known as classic soul, where they buried the revolution under infectious grooves. Parliament-Funkadelic laced in extraterrestrial costumes and psychedelic drugs told audiences to lay their socio-political burdens on the funk. And smooth-crooning, sex symbol Marvin Gaye challenged the Motown machine to put out a Vietnam War-themed project that followed his brother Frankie home from war to the land of "trigger happy policing."
As the old saying suggests, history always repeats itself. When it comes to social issues facing Black folks in the United States, the lyrics in these songs are not so much a matter of history repeating as much as they are a prophecy of what was to come or the story of what had never truly ended.
Here are five songs from the '70s that remain relevant to today's revolution.