Voices of Hope: It's Been Said All Along

The Civil Rights Movement was significant in the fight for a democratic society, and music accompanied the struggle -- today, marches still send messages of hope worldwide

In 1961, groups of civil rights activists called Freedom Riders rode interstate buses into the South to challenge segregation. They were harassed, beaten and arrested.

One group of Nashville students rode to Birmingham, Alabama, where they were arrested by Public Safety Director Bull Connor. The jailed students kept up their spirits by singing songs such as “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Connor escorted them back to the Tennessee border saying, “I just couldn’t stand their singing!”

Commentary by Dr. Daniel Walker (September 15, 2020)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Commentary by Dr. Daniel Walker, 2020

Dive into stories around the Rock Hall exhibit It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment. Dr. Daniel Walker discusses songs with messages of hope and how they fit into various social justice movements.

Pops Staples Guitar - Fender Telecaster (c.1990)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Pops Staples Guitar - Fender Telecaster, c. 1990

Inspired by Mississippi-inspired blues guitar, in 1950, Roebuck “Pops” Staples bought his first electric guitar, amp and the tremolo effect that would help define his sound.

No stranger to racism, Pops protected his family while they traveled on the road. Those experiences turned into hit songs like “Respect Yourself,” “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and “Why Am I Treated So Bad,” a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Mavis Staples Dress (c.1975)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Mavis Staples Dress, c. 1975

Prominent in the Civil Rights Movement, the Staple Singers performed at rallies, participated in marches and developed close relationships with civic leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Somebody has got to keep a message out there, that everything is gonna be all right. Don’t give up!” Mavis Staples once said. “I sing because I want to leave people feeling better than I found them. I want them to walk away with a positive message in their hearts..."

"... feeling stronger than they felt before. I’m singing to myself for those same reasons, too.” Both Pops and Mavis were inducted into the Rock Hall as members of the Staple Singers in 1999.

Jimi Hendrix Guitar Strap (c.1969)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Jimi Hendrix Guitar Strap, c. 1969

Jimi  Hendrix was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1992.  Hendrix played the final set at Woodstock. His performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” rebranded the national anthem for the counterculture.  

When asked by an interviewer a few days after Woodstock why his performance was somewhat “unorthodox,” Hendrix replied, “I’m an American, so I played it…I used to have to sing it in school…. It wasn’t unorthodox. I thought it was beautiful. But there you go.”

Ann Wilson on Hendrix, 2016 (2016) by Rock & Roll Hall of FameRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Ann Wilson on Hendrix, 2016

Heart's Ann Wilson discusses Jimi Hendrix's performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock.

Jimmy Cliff Handwritten Lyrics "The Harder They Come" (1972)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Jimmy Cliff Handwritten Lyrics "The Harder They Come," 1972

Inductee Jimmy Cliff's lyrics were written and performed for the 1972 film The Harder They Come. Jamaican musician Jimmy Cliff has never resided in America and his was one of the many voices of hope that introduced and popularized the reggae sound.

This song did not chart in the U.S. or the U.K., despite being one of Cliff’s best-known and most influential songs.

Jimmy Cliff Photograph (c.1980s)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Jimmy Cliff, c. 1980s

Cliff is a 2010 Rock Hall Inductee.

Bob Marley Hat (c.1990)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Bob Marley Hat, c. 1990

Reggae icon Bob Marley popularized reggae while shining a light on injustice in his homeland of Jamaica and globally. He wore this Rasta hat in the promotional video for “Is This Love.” 

The video was filmed in London at the Keskidee Centre, Britain’s first cultural center for the Black community.  “Is This Love” reached Number Nine on the UK Singles chart.

"Redemption Song" (1994) by Rock & Roll Hall of FameRock & Roll Hall of Fame

"Redemption Song," 1994

The I Threes perform "Redemption Song" for Bob Marley's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Bob Marley and the Wailers Photograph (c.1991)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Bob Marley and the Wailers, c. 1991

Interview with Ziggy Marley (October 8, 2020) by Rock & Roll Hall of FameRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Interview with Ziggy Marley, 2020

Dive into conversations around the Rock Hall exhibit, It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment, with special guest Ziggy Marley. In the interview, hosted by Chief Curator Nwaka Onwusa, Marley performed one song from his new album, More Family Time.

Marvin Gaye Live (1974)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Marvin Gaye Live, 1974

1987 Inductee Marvin Gaye ended this live performance at the Oakland Coliseum with the socially aware song “What’s Going On.” The song almost did not see the light of day, as Motown’s founder Berry Gordy was not fond of his label releasing a song with an explicit message of activism.

Gaye felt differently; America was in turmoil due to the Vietnam War, and Gaye was touched by his brother’s vivid experiences serving in the military during the conflict. The song would reach critical acclaim, and its plaintive lyrics are still as relevant as ever. 

Jidenna Outfit (2015)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Jidenna Outfit, 2015

Jidenna wore this suit during the Alan Ferguson-directed music video for “Classic Man” and subsequent performances until 2017. Jidenna’s “Classic Man” is an anthemic reflection of how music and art are connected to societal changes.

In an interview with Billboard magazine, Jidenna said, "The scene that you see with the youth being arrested by the police officers, that's straight out of the book of my own life. We were very intentional about showing how you can co-operate with police officers and the youth."

"There's definitely a lot of scrutiny surrounding the militarized police that we have in the U.S. right now. I don't want a world where the citizens and the police are fighting each other. I wanted to show a world where youth don't get shot when police run up on them.”

“Brother” (released as a single in 2019)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Miles Mosley Handwritten Lyrics "Brother," 2019

Bassist Miles Mosley was raised by a Black father and Jewish mother of Russian descent; the Mosley family experienced intense racism due to their union and moved to Oakland in hopes of a better life. 

This song reflects not only Mosley’s experience but explores the traumas involved with dual identity and hope that moves one to action. “The messages of the past have gotten us to a place of action, we are built to survive, survival is not static— we have the will to live.” 

Bassist Miles Mosley Discusses Writing "Brother" (September 14, 2020)Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Bassist Miles Mosley Discusses Writing "Brother," 2020

Dive into stories around the Rock Hall exhibit, It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment with GRAMMY-nominated bassist Miles Mosley.

ROCK HALL EDU The Staple Singers PowerPoint introduces the group that delivered chart topping songs for decades, advocating for social activism and positive change.

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST Hear the music behind It's Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment on the Rock Hall's Spotify channel.

Credits: Story

It's Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope and Empowerment opened at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on July 26, 2020.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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