Published on May 21st, 2011 | by Mikey The Footlocker0
Not Every Voice Is Heard: Salsoul Records’ Outreach To the Black Community
Following the civil rights movement, social unrest plagued America — we can hear it in the music of the period.
Thirty years beyond Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” the 1970’s had its own variety of musical “calls to action” as spearheaded by James Brown. In his crusade against “the man,” Brown dedicated an album to inner-city slums titled “Hell” and aggrandized Muhammad Ali’s defiant spirit with the track, “Refuse to Lose.” Even if Brown was awarded a “black” record by a young Al Sharpton on Soul Train (yes, this really did happen), I hold a special affinity for the underdogs of ‘70s social conflict pied pipers: Salsoul Records.
Salsoul is a Philly-based company, predominantly known for its disco incantations as performed by the Salsoul Orchestra. This comparable success helped fund the label’s moderately successful singing ensembles modeled after The Temptations: Double Exposure and Love Committee (quartet member Ron Tyson-Presson later became a member of The Temptations).
All danceability and love-making aside, the songs made for these two groups were designed by Salsoul producers to speak to the black community on issues they themselves could control. Though these songs were intended for black audiences, the undirected lyrics lay open for more broad appeal onto white “disco” radio.
The Love Committee performed the song, “Cheaters Never Win,” which uses the “aw shucks” approach to adultery and crime. The way that the song illustrates a specific problem but gives no clear resolution other than the chorus is comically naive. Also from the Committee, we have “Law and Order” which, simply put, is an epic and desperate cry for judicial resolution to the black plight of the 70’s.
“It’s your duty to report a crime,” they sing — a concept totally opposing other media influences at the time such as Shaft. The long version of this track treats us to a breakdown featuring the line, “Somebody stop that man from taking that lady’s pocket-book!”
In the long haul, the Salsoul band Double Exposure received the most exposure due to the group’s remixed dance track, “Ten Percent.” However, another track was not so well-received. The song “Everyman” is clearly a twin brother of “Law and Order” right down to the vocals, but the lyrics of the former caused more than simply an introspective journey. Check it out:
A friend of mine, he said he had to bare his own weight y’all…
Man, my brother, my brother, my brother!
My brother was down and out.
He said “Can you help me?
Can ‘ya take, can ‘ya, can ‘ya take, take, take the load?
I said, ‘No.’
Everyman got to make his own stand, yes he does.
The message was too much for the public and this track was edited or barred from many radio stations because of the lyrics. James Brown openly defied The Man with his music and performances, blurring the lines between black politics and entertainment. Those same efforts by Salsoul records, no matter how vague and expertly woven into disco tracks, still had been undercut by the censors. Sorry Salsoul. ♦ ♦ ♦
“Everyman,” Double Exposure
“Law and Order,” Love Committee
Mikey The Footlocker may be accumulated from several different steel pipes running underneath Chicago’s city streets. Several eye-witness accounts report uncertainty in their findings. Please consider ability in this unwise.