Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jail: Attica Blues

"If I had the chance to make the decisions, every man could walk this earth on equal conditions..."

On September 9, 1971, inmates of the Attica Corrections Facility in New York State rose up in response to the death of George Jackson, the famous Black Panther radical who had recently been fatally shot by correction officers while trying to escape from San Quentin. The prisoners of Attica demanded better living conditions - one shower a week and one roll of toilet paper a month anyone? - in their overcrowded jail, where all the wardens were white and the majority of the inmates either black or Puerto Rican.

After four days of negotiations, state police took back control of Attica prison under order of then Governor Nelson Rockefeller, which resulted in the deaths of nine hostages and twenty-eight inmates. The New York State Special Commission on Attica would later state that ´with the exception of Indian massacres in the late 19th century, the state police assault which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War´.

In outraged response, free jazz giant Archie Shepp wrote the steaming Attica Blues, which remains an amazing piece of music long after the smoke of the prison riot has lifted. Do check this one out even if you´re not really into jazz or the avant-garde, as Attica Blues has more in common with the hard-hitting funk and soul of Sly & The Family Stone or Funkadelic than one would expect from a jazz cat.

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