My Classic Soul podcast host David Nathan and music industry Michael Lewis discuss civil rights anthems of the past that continue to resonate with the present.

This week on My Classic Soul podcast, music industry Michael Lewis joins host David Nathan to discuss the role that black music pioneers such as Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and others have played in creating timeless songs that have empowered, uplifted and inspired generations globally in the quest for equal rights, justice and freedom.

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LEWIS: “It would probably be [Marvin Gaye’s] What’s Going On because I was, I guess, about 12 when that came up. That’s the first time I really remember hearing music and attaching to that, the feeling of it and the meaning of it and everything before that, I heard it, but it didn’t really didn’t click in. What’s Going On is the first time that I really paid attention to the lyrics and what Marvin Gaye was singing about.

NATHAN: “Did you know what the songs were about?  I mean, at 12-years-old, I’m assuming you were aware of what was going on.”

LEWIS: “Yeah, I think I had a good sense of, on some level. I didn’t know the depths of it. I can’t really recreate what my thinking process was back then, but I’m sure that it, that it had an effect on me.”

“I distinctly remember my uncle coming over with that album and it was an event where the family, we all got together and listened to it. Definitely, distinctly remember that.

NATHAN: I often hear people talk about that album, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is like the, the, the album that woke people up, in many ways and I find that interesting because there’s a whole group of artists and music prior to Marvin Gaye that sometimes gets, maybe not forgotten, but not given the same kind of credit for the difference it made.”


NATHAN: “There was one record, I guess you could say an anomaly, because I don’t think this is a record most people knew about. Lena Horne, who of course is always thought of as, primarily, as an actress and a singer, certainly as an actress in that time period, recorded a song called, “Now.” It’s very obscure. And of course you can count on me to come up with obscurities.”

LEWIS: “I’ve never heard of that.”

NATHAN: “Most people haven’t and it was really about now as a time, you know, time for people to rise up and not put up with the stuff that’s going on. It was head of its time? It wasn’t a civil rights anthem, but it was specifically about that. And particularly because Lena Horne, I suppose, wasn’t necessarily associated with – maybe she was from a political standpoint, but I don’t know that she was thought of as a recording artist who was known for creating anthems that really were about the times.”


NATHAN: “She played a big role, I think, in being a very outspoken and an unrelenting voice at that time for justice and freedom and civil rights. And she did not back down. So I’m curious, what was your first exposure to her music at that time period, if any. I’m thinking about things like “Four Women” and then, you know, “Mississippi Goddam” and you know, of course later, “Young, Gifted and Black,” but any of those, was it something you heard in your home or on the radio?”

LEWIS: “I encountered Nina Simone on my own later, later in life. I didn’t hear that music growing up. Of course I knew “Young, Gifted and Black” from Aretha’s version, but I wasn’t really familiar, so familiar with her music as a kid.”

Listen to the rest of the podcast here