Picks and Pans Review: We Shall Overcome
updated 08/29/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/29/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Attention, you children of the '60s: Come out from hiding behind your Foster Grants, your running shoes and your Walkmen, your Nordic cars and your corporate ambitions. When you hear We Shall Overcome, you cannot avoid the memories of the way you were. In this tribute to the sound track of the civil rights movement—on the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington—narrator Harry Belafonte talks to people who remember this song, who sang it, who even changed its lyrics. It began as a slave spiritual—I'll Be All-right or I Will Overcome—and was sung on the picket line in a 1945 tobacco strike with the lyrics "We will overcome." Later, during a raid on a labor organizers' camp, one terrified girl added the verse "We are not afraid." And it was at that camp that Pete Seeger changed the "will" to "shall," just because it sounded better. Seeger, Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Peter, Paul and Mary all tell where the song stands in their hearts. This is nostalgia with a message. And that beats The Monkees any day.