3,104 Plays

Inner City Blues: Urban pessimism in the 1970s


<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial">70s funk wasn't all about feel-good dancefloor numbers; pointed social commentary was often a key ingredient of the music. The songs in this list focus on the city as a zone of poverty, racism, crime and emotional alienation.</span></p>

<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial">For many African Americans, the optimism of the civil rights movement had turned sour. The persistence of social deprivation among the inhabitants of 'the ghetto' became a common complaint in songs from the 70s. It's a theme that often crops up in the soundtracks to 'blaxploitation' movies of the period (there are at least four film soundtracks represented here).</span></p>

<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial">This playlist takes its title from the closing track of Marvin Gaye's landmark <i>What's Going On</i> album (1971) - one of the first and best known examples of the genre. (I've also included two of the better covers of <i>Inner City Blues</i>.) Following Gaye, writers such as Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Gill Scott-Heron would pen politically-conscious songs that detailed the perils of the city in terms of frustrated dreams, destructive addictions and broken relationships. Other artists, like Bill Withers and Bobby Bland, preferred to dwell on the loneliness of urban living. (I couldn't make my mind up between the equally excellent live and studio versions of Withers' </span><i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family: Arial">Lonely</span></i><i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial"> </span></i><i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family: Arial">Town</span></i><i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial">, </span></i><i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family: Arial">Lonely Street</span></i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial">... so I've included them both.)</span></p>

<p><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Arial;Times New Roman&quot">But don't let the bleak messages of these songs put you off! The backing tracks contain such blissful concoctions of infectious grooves and smouldering vamps that they turn out to be some of the best dancefloor tunes of their era.</span></p>

<p>Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)<br />

Stevie Wonder - Living For The City<br />

Phyllis Dillon - Woman Of The Ghetto<br />

Donny Hathaway - Little Ghetto Boy<br />

Gil Scott-Heron - Billy Green Is Dead - 2001 Remastered - Master Take<br />

Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead<br />

Aaron Neville - Hercules<br />

Stevie Wonder - Village Ghetto Land<br />

Bill Withers - Lonely Town, Lonely Street<br />

James Brown - King Heroin<br />

Sly & The Family Stone - Family Affair - Single Version<br />

Grover Washington, Jr. - Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)<br />

Bobby Bland - Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City - Single Version<br />

Diana Ross - Love Child - Single Version (Mono)<br />

Marlena Shaw - Woman Of The Ghetto (Live)<br />

War - The World Is A Ghetto<br />

Curtis Mayfield - The Other Side Of Town<br />

Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street<br />

Booker T. & The MG's - Cleveland Now - Instrumental<br />

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Concrete Jungle - Original Album Version<br />

Donny Hathaway - The Ghetto<br />

James Brown - The Boss<br />

Curtis Mayfield - Superfly<br />

The Staple Singers - The Ghetto - Single Version<br />

Gil Scott-Heron - Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)<br />

Bill Withers - Lonely Town, Lonely Street - Live</p>


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