WALLACE TERRY / “The State Of Vietnam”

1. wallace terry 04.jpg This is a major part of the back story of the golden age of popular black music, i.e. the seventies. You can’t understand the depth and profundity of the music if you don’t at the very least acknowledge the social conditions of that era, social conditions that not only affected everyone alive then but also motivated people toward action. wallace terry 02.jpg Listen and draw your own conclusions, but listen. Agree or disagree, but hear it. These are the kinds of stories that motivated Marvin Gaye and Percy Mayfield. Those who attempt to ignore this root of the music are traitors to the music. If you really want to understand the music, at the very least, listen to the stories behind the songs. wallace terry 01.jpg This is reportage from Wallace Terry, a journalist who was stationed in Viet Nam for two years. He interviewed hundreds of black military personnel, both enlisted ranks and officers. The views and opinions are diverse and sometimes contradictory, just like people are. This was originally issued on a recording on the Black Forum label, which was a subsidiary of Motown. It resurfaces now as a mixtape to which music from the period has been added. Here is the rundown. 2. This is from the ile oxumare website.

The State of Vietnam: Wallace Terry Talks to Black American Soldiers, Sounds from the Edge of the Universe Mix, 2009
Digital remix Narrative track: Black Fighting Men Recorded Live in Vietnam: Guess Who's Coming Home (Narrated By Wallace Terry; Black Forum Records, 1972) Tracklist: Bayete: Bayete The African Look: Philip Cohran's Artistic Heritage Ensemble Searchin' the Trane: Bobby Hutcherson Think: Bobby Pierce Elephant Trot Dance: Khaliq Al-Rouf + Salaam Jesus Christ Superstar: Overton Berry Ensemble Walter Bishop Jr: Philadelphia Bright Here is an extraordinary guest post courtesy of Ile Oxumare readers. A while back Steve contributed the documentary spoken word recording of Wallace Terry's landmark interviews with African-American GI's in the Vietnam War in the comments on a post. Originally appearing on Motown's political and shockingly un-commercial subsidiary Black Forum Records, the documentary scraped the gloss right off the Vietnam war and gave a real human face to some of its cannon-fodder. Enter Greg of the Sounds of the Edge of the Universe blog (no longer public). In Greg's words: I nicked this rip from the comments over at ish's pad (thanks Steve?). An awesome set of interviews of Black troops talking about the shit they were going through in Nam. Deep slice of human emotion that is hard edged and very funny in places. I have slapped some heavy spiritual, blaxpo funk tunes under the interviews... Even though I say so myself this is really fucking good. Terry's voice actually runs in time with the music which is spooky.... Thinly disguised disclaimer: Heavy mother fucking language in this and if you're put off by that type of thing then this isn't probably one for you... but don't let that put you off. I concur with Greg. This is really fucking good. His choice of music from the realm of spiritual jazz adds an emotional and spiritual depth to the Wallace Terry recording that not only deepens the listening experience but also gives it a certain timelessness. I don't know anything about Greg's politics aside from his love of righteous spoken word recordings, but to me the music transforms this into a completely relevant-for-today condemnation of war and a deeply empathetic statement of the humanity of the people forced by governments to do the actual dirty work of fighting. As a person opposed to war: from the stupid needless past wars of Vietnam to the stupid needless wars to today in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Gaza, I'm grateful for this reminder of humanity, both good and bad. It's a call to stop the stupidity of violence and let our spiritual better selves start healing the world's problems. It is also, on the cusp of Obama's inauguration, a reminder of the legacy of racism. Most of the music tracks Greg has used are available at various blogs. Greg offers his thanks to Bacoso, Katonah, Warakatsu among others. The original Wallace Terry track is in the comments in my Welcome post. I thank Greg for his creativity and inspiration in mixing and editing this, and especially for his letting me share his work at this blog. Peace! 3. Right now our country is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, is there a Wallace Terry interviewing the troops and sharing the views of military members? Why is it we have more resources but were are the books, records, documentaries detailing the wars? In January 2009 there was an alarming increase in suicide among military personnel. Are we ignoring a major issue? There are more women in the war than ever before, who is recording their stories? wallace terry 03.jpeg Wallace Terry made a major contribution in reporting on the realities of his time. If there is ever to be another golden age, there will need to be another wave of miners who are willing to do the hard work of busting the rocks of system suppression in order to draw out the nuggets of truth contained in our day-to-day reality. Let’s keep the tradition alive. Let’s continue to carry on. Or, as the bible suggests: seek and ye shall find. If we keep our eyes closed, we’ll never see the light. The operative word is “seek”—we’ve got to search for tomorrow otherwise we’ll only end up blindly stumbling through another yesterday. —Kalamu ya Salaam  

This entry was posted on Monday, February 16th, 2009 at 3:32 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “WALLACE TERRY / “The State Of Vietnam””

Kiini Ibura Says:
February 19th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

The arc of what black people have experienced in America is mindblowingly INCREDIBLE. It is–as these men know, and as so many of us continue to know–almost impossible to bear… except that it is bearable because it must be because we are still here, still breathing.

I was working on a project about both Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and it struck me–when reviewing both women’s lives–how comfortable we are with slave narratives here in the U.S. These women met dignitaries, wrote books, were major catalysts for political change and public perception. They were major figures to the United States of America. Sojourner Truth met Presidents Lincoln and Grant. Harriet Tubman was invited to England by Queen Elizabeth.

They had close comradeships with white people who were committed to the same change as them. They lived in dynamic communities where they used their voices, their wit, their charisma, and strength for change.

And once slavery was over, they fought for the right of Freedmen–organizing homes, schools, clothing, food for the recently freed enslaved.

These women lived multifaceted lives, were superstars in part because of their resistance to slavery but also because they were just friggen amazing people. (Forgot to mention that Harriet Tubman was also a nurse, spy, scout, and soldier during the Civil War. They didn’t pay her in full b/c she was a woman, but she was the only woman of any race to have led a siege for the U.S. Army.)

This reminds me of the insistence of the boxes constantly being built around us–black people. Reminds me of the inflexibility and the unwillingness around us to let us just be people. Can you imagine being one of those soldiers? Well, you were a soldier and you were alive during that time, but that’s just rhetorical. … just imagine …

greg Says:
February 20th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

That’s my handy work thanks for the hook up sir much appreciated 😉

Marian Says:
February 22nd, 2009 at 12:22 pm

I read “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright a few months back. I thought at the time that the soldiers in that book were amazing frank because they were Marines, but I hear much of the same complaints in this mix. Some things never change.

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