“I write because the lives of all of us are stories. If enough of those stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details.” (Julius Lester)
Who is Julius Lester? Search on Google and you’ll find information about Julius Lester, the writer of children’s books, Julius Lester, the chronicler of black American history, Julius Lester, the retired professor or Judaic Studies, Julius Lester, the photographer. What you won’t find much mention of is Julius Lester, the folk singer, Julius Lester, the blues singer, the Black Power blues singer, Julius Lester, the civil rights activist who spent time both in North Vietnam and travelling round the Sierra Maestra in Cuba with Fidel Castro and Stokely Carmichael.
Julius Lester was a revolutionary, a man with a sense of mission to help remould the world, to create a better way of living. He tried to do this in many ways and one of those left to us is his music, the two albums of revolutionary blues he recorded for Vanguard, made at a time of major upheaval in American society.
The booklet contains an in-depth interview with Lester that throws new light on a turbulent era, with the notes written by Tim Tooher. The CD also features Lester’s photographic work taken in the American south and Vietnam in the mid-to-late 60s, although the cover photo is by the renowned American photographer David Gahr, still a good friend of Lester’s.
Lester’s music still resonates today. Young people of every colour will recognise the attitude, humour and idealism in these songs, and maybe take from them some of the revolutionary spirit that Julius feels he has left behind. The idealism, anger, hope and humour in these songs burn as brightly as they did when they were recorded forty years ago.