Examining the culture and politics of the Black Power era of the late 1960s, this book explores the relationship of soul music to the Black Power movement from the vantage point of the musicians and black revolutionaries themselves. The 1960s were a turbulent time for race relations in the United States, but no other area in the country epitomized the radical social change that was taking place more than the San Francisco Bay Area—the epicenter of the Black Panthers movement. This social history introduces fans of soul music and 20th-century U.S. history enthusiasts to the Black Panthers' own band, the Lumpen, a group comprised of rank-and-file members of the Oakland, California–based Party. During their year-long tenure, the Lumpen produced hard-driving rhythm-and-blues that asserted the revolutionary ideology of the Black Panthers. Through his rediscovery of the Lumpen, and based on new interviews with Party and band members, author Rickey Vincent provides an insider’s account of Black Power politics and soul music aesthetics in an original narrative that reveals more detail about the Black Revolution than ever before.
It's not common knowledge that the fiery Black Panthers organization had a rocking house band, the Lumpen, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but Vincent (Funk) sets the record straight in this book about a tight-knit group of activist musicians who sang their revolutionary ideology to the community. Although the band performed for less than a year, Vincent, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, stresses the important role of music in black culture at that time, with the Lumpen piggybacking on the triumphs of James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin, giving high-energy performances "of blackness, hyper-masculinity and hyperbole, of smack talk that put the Man in his place and exalted everything gloriously black." If this well-detailed book accurately chronicles the funky black power groove of the Panther band, it truly succeeds in recapturing the mood of that turbulent time when Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panther Party stole national attention with their bravado and purpose. Comprehensive, complex, and revealing, Vincent's nostalgic journey provides an insider's look at a remarkable band and a piercing snapshot of black history.