Musical Reflections on Charlottesville

For this week’s show, I wanted to present a musical response to the recent events in Charlottesville and feature some powerful songs of protest and of peace. We start with Marvin Gaye’s 1971 classic “What’s Going On,” followed by a vocal version of Horace Silver’s beautiful song “Peace” from Bobby McFerrin’s very first album. Lizz Wright then covers Chet Powers’ (aka Dino Valenti) composition “Get Together,” originally recorded by the Youngbloods in 1967 as well as by Jefferson Airplane. I love Lizz Wright’s version; with her stunning voice, she makes this timeless song even better. I find her version totally inspirational. 

On her powerful song “Mississippi Goddam” (recorded live), Nina Simone voices her anger and outrage at what she witnessed during the early 1960’s civil rights struggle. After Nina, we hear a 1960’s freedom hymn from the SNCC Freedom Singers (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) from a wonderful collection of civil rights songs on the Smithsonian Folkways label. “Ain’ Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” was recorded in 1962. Gil Scott-Heron follows with the track “The Klan” from his 1980 album Real Eyes. Then we hear Bob Marley’s anthemic “Get Up Stand Up.” 

Trumpeter Rod McGaha with vocalist Julie Lee next perform a timely song called “Mama Said,” followed by troubadour Michael Franti’s acoustic project, Songs from the Front Porch. Franti has fronted the group Spearhead for over two decades. A brilliant and incisive songwriter and poet, Franti writes songs that are engaged and committed to human rights and freedom.

Nitin Sawhney is a British singer and guitarist whose father moved from India to England years ago looking for employment and a better future. We hear his father’s voice at the beginning of the cut titled “Immigrant.”  I also find the title of this album, Beyond Skin, particularly timely given what we witnessed in Charlottesville as well as in the anti-immigrant sentiment found in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. Finally, we close with a song from ecstatic singer and yodeler Leon Thomas, famous for his work with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.


  1. Marvin Gaye / “What’s Going On” /What’s Going On Remastered/ Motown
  2. Bobby McFerrin / “Peace” / Bobby McFerrin / Nonesuch
  3. Lizz Wright / “Get Together” / Dreaming Wide Awake / Verve
  4. Nina Simone / “Mississippi Goddam” / Verve Jazz Masters 17 / Verve
  5. SNCC Freedom Singers, Cordell Reagon / “Ain’ Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” / Voices Of The Civil Rights Movement / Smithsonian Folkways
  6. Gil Scott-Heron / “The Klan” / Real Eyes / Arista Records
  7. Bob Marley / “Get Up, Stand Up” / Legend / Island Records
  8. Rod McGaha / “Mama Said” / The Black Flower Project / Black Flower Records
  9. Michael Franti / “Yes I Will” / Songs From the Front Porch / Boo Boo Wax
  10. Nitin Sawhney / “Immigrant” / Beyond Skin / Outcaste UK
  11. Leon Thomas / “Prince Of Peace” / Anthology / Soul Brother





Tom Schnabel