To the degree that Black America and White America have always been two different worlds, music is one big beautiful bridge between them.
On my Vox audio stash I’m streaming songs by black songwriters, as interpreted by white female vocalists. Next week I’ll flip it: black singers, white songs.
Click the song titles below to spin the tunes. Then let me know some of your personal favorite white-singer/black-song combinations.
1. “A Change Is Gonna Come” – The Gits
Only in recent months have I discovered the music of the Gits, a Seattle punk-rock band, after reading about the rape and murder of lead singer Mia Zapata (pictured above) in 1993.
Zapata gives a hard, passionate performance of Sam Cooke’s inspirational ballad. The passion was hard for me to handle at first (not to mention lyrics like “It’s been too hard livin’ but I’m afraid to die”), knowing how her life was taken.
From the 2003 re-issue of the band’s 1994 album “Enter: The Conquering Chicken.” Available on eMusic and iTunes.
2. “Baby, I Need Your Loving” – Phoebe Snow
You can imagine how well-suited this Holland-Dozier-Holland masterpiece would be to a slowed-down, emotion-drenched reading by Phoebe Snow. Simply lovely. From her 2003 CD “Natural Wonder.” Available on eMusic and iTunes.
3. “All Blues” – Ann Hampton Callaway
The late, great Oscar Brown, Jr., added lyrics to this Miles Davis compostition. Cabaret singer Callaway knocked it out the box on her 1997 CD “After Ours.” Available on iTunes.
4. “Pastime Paradise” – Patti Smith
Ms. Smith brings a touch of melodrama to this Stevie Wonder tune, from her recently released album of rock and pop covers, “Twelve.” (Makes me feel old to realize that Stevie wrote this more than 30 years ago.) Available on iTunes.
5. “I’m So Proud/Dedicated to the One I Love” – Laura Nyro
I love Laura Nyro’s singing. She always had so much soul. This is a live-concert two-fer, just Laura and her piano, blending one of Curtis Mayfield’s sweetest songs and a girl-group classic originally co-written by Lowman Pauling of the “5” Royales.
From the CD “Live from Mountain Stage,” recorded in 1990 but not released until 2000, several years after Ms. Nyro’s death. Available on eMusic and iTunes.