As author Pat Thomas puts it, “Every revolution needs a soundtrack!” And in the late-'60s/early-'70s, the soundtrack and the revolution were often one in the same. In hs new book, Listen, Whitey!: The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 (Fantagraphics), and companion CD/double-LP of the same name (Light in the Attic), Thomas examines the Black Power movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, the explosion of creativity happening across the musical spectrum at the time, and the now-obscure Black power protest anthems that resulted from the two movements intertwining.
A writer, producer, and musician, Thomas has also worked at Water and 4 Men With Beards, where he began his research for the Listen, Whitey! project. Surely the crate-digging chops he honed while at those labels came in handy when tracking down some of the impossibly deep musical relics from the heyday of the would-be black revolution (most notably Black Panther house band The Lumpen).
It’s almost shocking that no one has explored this topic in depth until now, given the longevity of the Black Power aesthetic and our continued obsession with "The '60s." When taking into account the rocky state of our nation (politically, socially, and culturally) and the fledgling Occupy movement creeping into the mainstream, it seems not only timely but essential. (Although one shudders to think what a consensus-driven Occupy soundtrack might sound like.)