When we were asked to choose songs from the 1960s to perform at this year’s I Heard It Through the Grapevine spring concert, the choices were staggering.
There is Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Elvis, Pete Seeger, Smokey Robinson, John Denver, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel and that just scratches the surface.
Historically, the world was 15 years removed from the end of the Second World War.
The Cold War was firmly entrenched into two armed camps; each side with the capability to reduce land masses to radioactive dead zones. No place could really be safe.
The United States was finishing a decade of prosperity and starting a new one, promising much the same and emerging as the leader of the free world.
All at home was not peaceful though. Civil rights issues were coming to a head, the government was preparing for military involvement in Vietnam and the Cuban Missile Crisis had many on edge.
Folk music was one way of shining a light onto the social consciousness of the nation and advocating human dignity.
It had a lustrous history since the Dirty Thirties.
Songsters such as Woody Guthrie were followed by Pete Seeger and the Weavers and then Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary.
Many folk singers helped organize and perform at protest rallies nation-wide.
The use of songs for protest has never really died, as exampled by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Lennon was shot to death just before he was to appear at a miners rally.
In the late-1950s, there was emerging a new form of music.
Black music didn’t share the same level of popularity as mainstream white music.
It was open to feeling, spoke freely of life and had a raw power.
Young white artists looking for new material connected to the blues.
Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were influenced in their early years and affected by its pulsing beat.
They put their stamp on it as the doors were being opened for Black musicians to enjoy the fame and fortune through writing and playing their own songs.
Jimi Hendrix himself went to England and started the “Experience” there and then became famous at home in the U.S.A.
I Heard it Through the Grapevine takes place at the Centennial Auditorium at Grand Forks Secondary School on Saturday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at Thistle Pot Gifts and at the door.