First Listen: Brennan Williams brings a Stevie classic forward on "Black Man"

(September 22, 2020) Two seminal events in black history occurred in 1976. Negro History Week became Black History Month in February of that year, and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life was released in the fall of that year. That legendary album went on to dominate a year that included works by The Isley Brothers, Parliament, The Commodores, Steely Dan, Earth, Wind & Fire, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Rondstadt, and Billy Joel, just to name of few.  

You really can’t say that there is one song that stood out on Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder’s magisterial 1976 album. Dance songs, slow jams, love tunes, jazz influenced instrumentals, impeccable and insightful lyricism, socially aware polemics: Songs in the Key of Life had it all.

(September 22, 2020) Two seminal events in black history occurred in 1976. Negro History Week became Black History Month in February of that year, and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life was released in the fall of that year. That legendary album went on to dominate a year that included works by The Isley Brothers, Parliament, The Commodores, Steely Dan, Earth, Wind & Fire, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Rondstadt, and Billy Joel, just to name of few.  

You really can’t say that there is one song that stood out on Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder’s magisterial 1976 album. Dance songs, slow jams, love tunes, jazz influenced instrumentals, impeccable and insightful lyricism, socially aware polemics: Songs in the Key of Life had it all.

However, if any of the album’s 21 tracks captured the spirit of the times and of what Stevie Wonder wanted his music to represent, it was the educational anthem “Black Man.” That song, which Wonder name checks the accomplishments of historical figures of all races, serves as a reminder that all people have contributed to something significant to the human tapestry. Of course, Wonder wanted his listeners – and particularly young people  - to understand what black people have done. The song “Black Man” is where a young Howard Dukes first learned about Daniel Hale Williams.

Here we are in 2020 and the song “Black Man” is as relevant now when we are engaging in debates about how to represent history as it was when Songs in the Key of Life was released 44 years ago. Music producer and label executive Brennan Williams has reimagined this classic for our times with a remix that fuses the percussive beats and loops of dance music with jazz inspired improvisation on the horns.

Williams has released a video that features an introductory statement by the great Stevie Wonder himself, as well as faces of great black men past and present. More than 150 images, including some recently departed icons are featured in this video. Check it out and see how many you recognize.

By Howard Dukes

Brennan Williams - "Black Man"

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IG: @brennanjwilliams
 
 
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