Think back to the weeks and months leading up to the most recent presidential election. There was a sense, more than anytime I can recall during my lifetime, that every individual mattered, that each of us actually had the power to bring about change in the world. For me personally, it marked the first time I contributed to a political campaign. I made phone calls, I got involved, and I actually made notes about key dates regarding the campaigns in my calendar. The exhilaration of the political climate in 2008 seemed to echo sentiments we all associate with the 60s and 70s, when social change was making gains daily.
One of the big differences between then and now, though, is that back then issues of the day were often reflected in the songs of the day. Wake Up! is a new collaboration between John Legend and The Roots that seeks to revitalize some of these songs. The collection, set for release on Columbia Records on September 21, reworks classic songs from Marvin Gaye, Les McCann, Donny Hathaway and more, that address education, health care, and even environmental issues. "Shine", the lone original on the album, was written for the upcoming Davis Guggenheim film Waiting for Superman.
I've been very lucky to host both John Legend and The Roots in live performance and interviews at KCRW, and I've been anxious to hear this upcoming project ever since I first heard about it. The stand out for me is the extended take on Bill Withers’ “I Can't Write Left Handed,” written and recorded before the end of the Vietnam War. The song tells the story of a young soldier who just had his right arm blown off, dictating a letter to his mother, hoping she might secure a deferment for his younger brother. Like many of the songs featured here, this one could have been written today, but the poignancy of Withers’ heart-wrenching lyric, handled so beautifully here by Legend, is unforgettable and bridges the ages.
-- Chris Douridas, KCRW Music Host and DJ
Wake Up is available on-demand from Monday September 13, 2010 through Sunday October 12, 2010. The album will be released on Tuesday September 21, 2010.
Artist webpage: www.johnlegend.com
Studio video of John Legend & the Roots recording the classic Bill Wither's track "I Can't Write Left Handed" for Wake Up!
1. Hard Times feat. Black Thought
2. Compared to What
3. Wake Up Everybody feat. Common & Melanie Fiona
4. Our Generation (The Hope of the World) feat. CL Smooth
5. Little Ghetto Boy (Prelude) feat Malik Yusef
6. Little Ghetto Boy feat Black Thought
7. Hang On In There
8. Humanity (Love The Way It Should Be)
9. Wholy Holy
10. I Can’t Write Left Handed
11. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free