HEAR YE: John Legend & The Roots Wake Up!


NPR: During the past 18 months, Legend spent his spare time collaborating with ?uestlove and The Roots on covers of politically motivated soul music from the 1960s and ’70s. What started as a potential single turned into Wake Up!, 11 vintage songs which are at turns optimistic and frustrated about the times that birthed them. Younger fans of Legend’s bedroom shtick are about to get a serious history lesson. (Roots fans, not so much.) Most of these songs didn’t become timeless hits that slid easily into contemporary playlists, the lone exception being Eugene McDaniel’s protest song “Compared to What,” recorded in 1969 by Roberta Flack and appropriated in 2003 by Coca-Cola for a commercial starring Common (who, ironically, appears on Wake Up!‘s title track). The record kicks off with “Hard Times,” originally recorded by Baby Huey, one of soul’s great should’ve-beens, a 400-pound man who died after one album at age 26. Fellow tragic figure Donny Hathaway (who, strangely enough, was responsible for Baby Huey’s record contract) gets his forgotten “Little Ghetto Boy” — from the blaxploitation film Come Back, Charleston Blue — brought back to life. “Wake Up Everybody” was a moderate hit for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, led by a young Teddy Pendergrass. MORE

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