DAVID NATHAN'S DIARY - November 3, 2020: Message In The Music, Keepers Of The Flame

Carl Bean-Byron Motley


In these everchanging and ever challenging times, I reflect on the power of music to make a tangible difference in dealing with life.  Going back to my earliest memory of hearing a song that gave me pause to consider the state of the world, so to speak, it was – probably much to the surprise of many – the actress/entertainer Marlene Dietrich’s 1962 version of a 1955 Pete Seeger folk song, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” which was considered an ‘anti-war’ song.  Interesting the connections within music…none other than Burt Bacharach was the arranger and producer, who was also Dietrich’s musical director and it was Burt’s work with a certain New Jersey miss, Dionne Warwick in collaboration with the brilliant lyricist Hal David that literally changed the course of my life circa 1963.  And…talking connection…none other than Maurice White, who would also have a lasting impact on my personal and spiritual evolution, chose the song as one of the cuts on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Last Days and Time” LP, the pioneering group’s Columbia Records’ debut…

I digress, if ever so slightly. In the mid-‘60s and on through the entire ‘70s in particular, the likes of James Brown, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye utilized their status as recording artists and performers to impart messages of hope, pride and empowerment along with social commentary that was relevant to everyday life universally. Undeniably, the uplifting music of Earth, Wind & Fire and the exceptional body of work created by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and the producers and songwriters at Philadelphia International Records, groups like Frankie Beverly & Maze and musical poets like Bill Withers and Gil Scott-Heron among others crafted recordings that reflected the challenges of 20th century life. While the theme of love has remained a lyrical constant, the power of music to rally, provoke thought and uplevel consciousness is as relevant now as it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, times of great social and spiritual change.

So many of my own personal favourite tracks from the last forty-plus years have provided illumination and inspiration - including EW&F’s “Be Ever Wonderful,” Leroy Hutson’s “Closer To The Source,” the Maze classic “We Are One,” “Optimistic” by The Sounds Of Blackness, Brenda Russell’s “Expect A Miracle” and the New York Community Choir’s “Make Every Day Count” among dozens of songs that have helped me make it through the day and night.

Thankfully, the potency of music with relevant messages continues to this day.  A longtime friend and songwriting collaborator, BYRON MOTLEY recently released two tracks that very much address conditions and situations we are dealing with globally – “If Not Now…When?” and “Enough’s Enough,” the latter a vibrant new song based on an original composition by Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson (who is featured on the recently-released track).


CARL BEAN, renowned for the classic “I Was Born This Way” and a consistent advocate for justice and freedom expressed through music is back with “Two Nations,” a propulsive groove that is particularly germane to what America is facing in what is considered the ‘battle’ for the soul of the nation…


Love & Compassion 3

Love and compassion are at the essence of what’s needed as we traverse a world that is undergoing massive change in every way: I’m elated that as a result of working with the exceptionally talented and award-winning music man PRESTON GLASS, the third volume in a series which bears the title related to those two vital aspects of life is now available digitally through SoulMusic Reords.  “Love And Compassion 3” includes recordings by Preston himself along with tracks by the likes of Ron Tyson, Chubby Tavares, Larry Graham and Debbie Sledge among others. 


As a vital art form that has affected the lives of millions the world over, soul music and its’ allied roots and branches continues to nourish our hearts and minds, lifting us up when we’re down and giving voice to the ongoing need for change and evolution.  It’s personally heartening to see friends and colleagues who are – in the words of a song recorded many decades ago by the iconic Nina Simone (who first gave me life lessons in the importance of courage, dignity and freedom through musical expression as a London teenager with an Aquarian thirst for a world of peace and harmony) – ‘keepers of the flame’…



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