People Get Ready: WTJU Celebrates Black History Month
UVA Today’s Robert Hull writes:
Beginning Monday and continuing through Feb. 24, WTJU Radio 91.1 FM – the University’s noncommercial educational radio station – will kick off its fifth annual weeklong celebration of Black History Month with its usual innovative and passionate programming.
Join WTJU’s observance and celebration of Black History Month with special broadcasts showcasing the musical contributions of America’s black artists – the creative force and source behind most of America’s music genres.
“WTJU airs an incredible variety of music and community affairs, but it’s impossible to imagine either the music or the fabric of our community without the contributions of black Americans,” said Nathan Moore, WTJU’s general manager. “From Feb. 18 to 24, we are celebrating that part of our history as a critical and creative part of our collective American history.”
Specially themed programming events at WTJU allow DJs with their specific knowledge to creatively air their expertise. Based on the schedule’s programming descriptions, this WTJU celebration promises to be an inspired and constant groove.
The jazz programming during this event centers around styles such as soul jazz, Afrocubism, and jazz vocalists, as well as artists like Jelly Roll Morton, Herbie Hancock and the Marsalis family, New Orleans’ first family of jazz. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” focuses on the jazz musicians who moved to France during the mid-20th century – Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon, Sidney Bechet, among others, and “Black and Blue Revue” features music by jazz icons such as W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Ruth Brown and Big Maybelle.
And what is American music without soul or gospel? “Rhythm, Romance and Soul” offers simmering and sultry soulsters such as O.V. Wright, Etta James, Otis Redding and Aaron Neville. “Country Soul” samples the sounds of African-American musicians, such as Ray Charles and Solomon Burke, who have blurred the lines between R&B and country music. A special version of “In the Spirit” will feature early recordings of gospel music from the formal sounds of groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers to the early recordings of blues musicians and storefront preachers delivering their gospel messages.
WTJU’s special programming also explores the social and political issues of the Civil Rights movement, African-American pride, and the plight of African people worldwide through music, song and spoken word. “Sepia Soundscapes from Roots to Fruits” tells the story of a people’s journey, moving through the holocaust of enslavement up to the proud quest for self-determination. “Social Commentary: The Minority Report” examines social commentary from the African-American musical community, including the musical political perspectives of Billie Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone, the Last Poets, and, of course, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five with their magnum opus “The Message.” “Traditional African Tales” blends African stories and legends with music from popular African-American artists. “The Freedom Train” explores how the numerous anthems of the Civil Rights struggle for freedom provided inspiration for black musicians such as John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington and many others.
As for the history of popular music, “Good Rocking Tonight” examines a subject that has now become an acceptable fact: the influence of African-American music genres – especially blues, rhythm and blues, swing, jazz and gospel – on the development of rock ’n’ roll from Elvis Presley to the Clash.
In support of this Black History Month celebration, “Soundboard,” WTJU’s one-hour community affairs program, will also feature historical speeches and documentaries on African-American issues as well as interviews focusing on the local African-American community. “Soundboard” programming during this special event will include part of Malcolm X’s 1965 speech “Prospects for Freedom,” recorded a month before his assassination; an interview with Jeanne Theoharis, author of “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”; and a segment about the U.Va.’s “Deseg Center,” a project of the Curry School that assisted with public school desegregation in Virginia from 1967 to 1981.
Of special interest is the program “Dick Clark thru 72.” Everyone knows, of course, “American Bandstand”’s Dick Clark who, before his death, was America’s oldest living teenager and who helped sell teens on a kind of sanitized version of rock ‘n’ roll.
But there was another Dick Clark, also a famous music promoter, who, in the ‘30s, was the first African-American promo man for the record labels. “Dick Clark thru 72” airs the recording of an entertaining speech given by the African-American Dick Clark that offers some informative insights into the early days of the R&B music industry. This recording is rarely played, has rarely been heard and remains the rarest record in the entire history of the great Memphis-based soul label, Stax – a historical moment to be sure, thanks to WTJU.