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Saturday, May 14, 2011

TV Show Review: Soundtrack to a Revolution

If you want to get the full experience of this review – I recommend listening to the below music while you read this review. These are songs that are from the episode.

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Soundtrack for a Revolution
American Experience Series

120 mins
May 9, 2011
“The story of the American civil rights movement is told through its powerful music -- the freedom songs that protesters sang on picket lines, in mass meetings, in police wagons, and in jail cells as they fought for justice and equality. A unique mix of historical documentary and contemporary musical performance, the film features new performances by top artists including John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, and The Roots; riveting archival footage; and interviews with civil rights foot soldiers and leaders, including Congressman John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Julian Bond, Andrew Young and dozens more.”
I was super intrigued by the premise of this episode. I knew that songs and music were an extremely important part of the Civil Rights Movement but I had never really put a lot of thought into the actual songs themselves. I also thought that the premise of having modern popular singers perform some of these songs was a solid way to tie the event into the present day and make these events relevant to younger viewers.

This show really did a fantastic job of merging historical background with the importance of the music. All of the experts discussed the way that the songs built the movement – as one person said “they could take away everything else, but they can’t take away our songs”. They would talk about an experience during the Civil Rights Movement and explain a particular song then they would segue into the song performance. I thought that these performances were really awesome. My favorite song was at the very end where all of the performers sang bits and pieces of the same song. I think that I really have come to have more of an appreciation for the power of music and the identity that people form with song.

I highly recommend this episode to anyone who is looking to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement in a different manner than you will ever get from just reading about it. It also brings together the visual and audio experiences. I would also recommend this to people who are interested in the role that music plays in life.

As usual, American Experience has some great features to go along with this episode – one of the most helpful might be lyrics to the songs featured in this episode.

Here is a trailer of this show for your enjoyment.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Sorry I missed this episode. I remember well the music associated with the Civil Rights Movement. It said as much as the actions of those involved. I was still a high school student during the Freedom Rider era, but talked about joining them. Too young. I did get involved in desegregation programs while in college. Music was always there in the background.

  2. Librarypat - Thanks for the insight from the time! I can just imagine how the music must have sounded during the events.


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