Sunday, January 19, 2014

Track of the Week: The Chi-Lites "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People"

70s soul group the Chi-Lites are probably best known for their great slow ballads "Oh Girl" and "Have You Seen Her."  ("Letter to Myself" is a lesser-known stunner in the same vein.)  Until I picked up a Brunswick Records compilation a few years back, I did not know that they were also capable of a funky, rocking, stomping political call to arms.  That song is the starkly titled "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People."

The message is pretty straight-forward, but bears repeating today: those that are at the top are using their positions to hoard money and power to the immense detriment of everyone else.  The lyrics are as anti-authority as the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" but their revolutionary import is easily lost in the Chi-Lites' signature harmonizing.  But if you listen beneath the great voices, their words accuse the wealthy of being criminals, and oppression of killing the ability to love.  Pretty heady stuff for a pop song.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day, a day when I try my best to remember not the non-threatening, safe symbol King has been turned into, but rather the fiery prophet decrying America's failure to live up to its creed.  Late in his too short life he was speaking in terms similar to this song, namely that for real change to occur, those with power were going to have to give it up.  These days, when the economic elite seem to have more power with each passing day, the message of Dr. King and this song are needed more than ever.

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