Black music inspired by famous quotes


Mickella Anderson Youthlink Writer

They say a song can make us, break us or shake us. A song can help us relive the past and retain the memories and teachings of yesterday's greats, or celebrate the present and propel values and attitudes into the future. It's Black History Month, and this week we're taking a look at songs that were inspired by famous quotes; those that have helped us to remember those who've paved the way for us. 

'Equal Rights' by Peter Tosh

In Equal Rights, Tosh chants "I don't want no peace, I need equal rights and justice." The song is from his second studio album, which bears the same name, and was released in 1977. In it, he makes several biblical references and also draws on the famous Garvey quote: "There can be no peace among men and nations so long as the strong continues to oppress the weak, so long as injustice is done to other peoples."

'Africa Unite' by Bob Marley

In Africa Unite, Marley shares Garvey's sentiments of a unified African community. In the song, Marley repeatedly chants, "Africa, unite!" In 1914, Garvey organised the Universal Negro Improvement Association (the UNIA). He said: "You may ask 'what organisation is that?' The UNIA is an organisation that seeks to unite into one solid body the four hundred million Negroes in the world." 

'Redemption Song' by Bob Marley

Marley's incredibly popular and powerful Redemption Song, in which he cries "emancipate yourselves from mental slavery", borrows from a 1937 Marcus Garvey speech titled 'The Work That Has Been Done'. In Garvey's original words: "We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is our only ruler; sovereign." 

'A Dream' by CommonMartin

  Luther King Jr's historical 'I Have a Dream' speech comes to life in rapper Common's A Dream. The 2006 single is from the soundtrack to the film Freedom Writers and is produced by Will.I.Am, who also sings the chorus. The song, like King's speech, addresses racism and inequality. In the speech, King declares: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character." 

'War' by Bob Marley and The Wailers

 War is almost literally derived from a speech made by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1963. Quoting Selassie directly, the song asserts that until the day of an equal society, regardless of class, racial origin or nationality, there will be war. Selassie's original words were: "That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned ... .We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win as we are confident in the victory of good over evil."