VARIOUS ARTISTS / “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” Mixtape

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Pianist and educator William Taylor was born July 24, 1921 in Greenville, North Carolina but reared in Washington, DC. He holds a Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In addition to his long career as a jazz pianist, Billy Taylor has also been a radio DJ and was the Musical Director of NBC’s The Subject Is Jazz television series.

In addition to producing numerous jazz programs and special events, Dr. Taylor founded New York City’s popular Jazzmobile program. He holds a Grammy Award, an NEA Jazz Masters Award, an Emmy Award and an ASCAP Jazz Living Legend Award among many others.

This week BoL celebrates Billy Taylor’s most famous composition, which he composed in 1954, the same year as the landmark Brown versus the Board of Education landmark Supreme Court ruling outlawing separate but equal in the nation’s schools. In 1967 Nina Simone covered the song on her Silk and Soul album and ever since the song has become an anthem for freedom loving people everywhere.

The fifteen versions presented on this week’s Mixtape includes Leontyne Price in a choral arrangement patterned on Negro Spirituals. There is both a live performance and a modern remix of Nina Simone renditions. Instrumental takes include organist Shirley Scott and a solo take from pianist Junior Mance. Of course we include a Billy Taylor Trio performance—and it’s the most swinging version in the whole batch. One of my favorites is a stripped-down, self-produced private recording by Jhelisa that is striking in its emotional intensity.


—Kalamu ya Salaam

“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” Mixtape Playlist

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01 The Essential Leontyne Price: Spirituals, Hymns & Sacred Songs

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02 The Prestige Records Story - Illinois Jacquet

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03 Protest Anthology - Nina Simone

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04 Hayward & Hinton – Lance Hayward & Milt Hinton

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05 I Know CD single - Dionne Farris

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06 Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes

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07 After the Rain - Irma Thomas

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08 Music Keeps Us Young - Billy Taylor Trio

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09 You Can Always Turn Around - Lucky Peterson

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10 Junior Mance Special

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11 Greatest Hits - Lighthouse Family

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12 To Be Free - Dave Braham

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13 I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free CD single - Sharlene Hector

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14 Remixed & Reimagined (Import) - Nina Simone
*note that “I Wish…” is only on the European & Asian imports of this release, not on the domestic release

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15 (private recording) - Jhelisa

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 at 12:48 am and is filed under Cover. 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.

One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS / “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” Mixtape”

tayari Says:
November 2nd, 2010 at 11:35 am

Yes, this one of the few songs I learned to sing a cappella to feed my spirit. So, Billy Taylor composed the tune. Did he also write the lyrics? Thanks, Kalamu, giving us our music, Black music.

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