(BP): Black Authorship Cont’d. – Weekly Journal 6

In my last post, I focused on negro spirituals with unexpected origins and motivations in terms of their authors. I would now like to take a glimpse at some of the more modern protest songs that have unexpected causes and intentions.

One modern song which I feel depicts both the desire for escape and hope is “Zoom” by the Commodores. Written in 1977 by Lionel Richie and Ronald LePread, two members of the band The Commodores, who hail from the small town of Tuskegee, Alabama. Released after the Civil Rights era, during a time that was certainly more progressive yet still punctuated by social discontent and protests, “Zoom” addresses the feelings of wanting to “fly far away from here”. Nevertheless, even though the song’s message can be applied universally and has been connected to several protest movements, it’s original meaning and composition stems from a very personal place. Richie and LePread wrote the lyrics and composed the song after LePread’s wife, Cathy, was diagnosed with stomach tumors and finished recording it shortly before Cathy passed. LePread states “It was very quiet in the studio when they played it for me. When the song finished, everyone was crying. They knew where it came from”. Going back, and re-evaluating the song from this perspective, allows for a deeper, more melancholy understanding of the desire for escape as well as the suspension of time.  No matter how familiar shared events and experiences can be to members of a disenfranchised group, they are still comprised of the everyday, deeply personal experiences unique to each individual. It is the combination of the personal and the universal  which makes “Zoom” so relateable and timeless.

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