In the late '60s, Rochester, New York elementary school teacher Nancy Dupree decided to break from the usual music-class traditions and write original songs with her students. The precocious inner-city youngsters had seen too much in their somewhat turbulent young lives to really be able to relate to the corny kiddie stuff that usually passes for children's music. With Miss Dupree on piano, the kids sang their own lyrics about the things that were important to them. Kids are often smarter then adults think, so the results were sometimes surprising: e.g. the Christmas song "What Do I Want" features a girl proclaiming, "I want a man! A black man! A man like Malcolm, hey hey hey!" I can't imagine hearing songs like that on any Barney album...
They also wrote tributes to two icons of black America, James Brown and Martin Luther King. With the recent passing of The Godfather of Soul, and MLK Day coming up this Monday, I thought it would be appropriate to hear them both.
Ghetto Reality: "James Brown" - "Uh! With your bad self!" I heard some indie rockers cover this one
Ghetto Reality: "Docta King" - Miss Dupree sings Nina Simone-like at one point; this beautiful song sends shivers down my spine
Folkways Records released an album of Dupree & Co. called "Ghetto Reality" in 1969 that sounds so raw it could very well have been recorded in their classroom. It's still in print through Smithsonian Global Sound and is a must-have for any outsider-music library.
And check out this archived NPR radio segment about '70s Kiddie Funk.