Night Lights Classic Jazz

But I Was Cool: Oscar Brown Jr.

Oscar Brown Jr.This week on Night Lights we honor the memory of singer-songwriter and activist Oscar Brown Jr., who died on Sunday, May 29 at the age of 78. Brown, the son of a well-to-do South Side Chicago businessman, participated in the labor movement and progressive politics of the 1950s before trying his hand at composing and performing. He wrote a musical, Kicks and Co., and co-wrote We Insist! The Freedom Now Suite with Max Roach (you can hear Abbey Lincoln performing “Freedom Day” on the Night Lights program Juneteenth Jamboree and “Driva Man” on The Hawk Heads Home). Brown was a master of hip comedic narrative as well as social protest, often mingling the two together; this show features examples of his early-1960s work from Sin and Soul, In a New Mood, Tells It Like It Is, and Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington.

Music Heard On This Episode

Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)
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Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)

Notes: Opening theme.

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Work Song
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)

Notes: Melody by Nat Adderley; lyrics by Brown

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Mr. Kicks
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)

Notes: From Brown's musical KICKS AND CO.

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But I Was Cool
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)
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Bid 'em In
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)
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Signifyin' Monkey
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)
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Afro-Blue
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)

Notes: Melody by Mongo Santamaria; lyrics by Brown

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Man, Ernest Boy
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1963)

Notes: From Brown's musical KICKS & CO.

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World of Grey
Oscar Brown Jr. — Sin and Soul... and Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)

Notes: From Brown's musical KICKS & CO.

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Sing Hallelujah
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1963)
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All Blues
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1963)

Notes: Break music.

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Jeannine
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1963)

Notes: Melody by Duke Pearson; lyrics by Brown

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So Help Me
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1963)

Notes: Melody by Les McCann, lyrics by Brown

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The Tree and Me
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1963)
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Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1962)
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Sixteen Tons
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1962)

Notes: Merle Travis song

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One for My Baby and One More for the Road
Oscar Brown Jr. — Tells It Like It Is/In a New Mood (Collectables, 1962)

Notes: Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer composition

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40 Acres and a Mule
Oscar Brown Jr. — Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington (Verve, 1964)
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Brother Where Are You?
Oscar Brown Jr. — Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington (Verve, 1964)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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