Singing the blues to celebrate Oscar
26 November 2009 at Lauderdale House
Camden New Journal
Music celebrating the Black freedom movement in the US featured strongly in a tribute paid by jazz singer Carol Grimes to Oscar Brown Jr at Lauderdale House, Highgate, on Thursday. Notable among her strong backing group was Tufnell Park pianist Dorian Ford.
“He was a black activist communist and he wrote so many of the song lyrics we now take for granted,” she said opening her set.
“He’s one of the few men I fell in love with that I never met. Now, of course, it’s quite trendy to believe in some of things he did. But, back in the 1960s and 1970s when American society was segregated, it took bravery to be a black political activist.” Oscar Brown’s career in music began after Mahalia Jackson recorded one of his songs in the late 1950s.
His first major endeavour was the “We Insist – Freedom Now” collaboration with drummer Max Roach. Shortly afterwards, his first solo album, Sin and Soul, sought to tackle the experiences of African-Americans.
He gained immediate fame as an innovative songwriter by penning lyrics to existing jazz numbers, setting words to Nat Adderley’s Work Song and to the Miles Davis composition All Blues, both given powerful renderings by Carol Grimes.
Other numbers to receive her rocking treatment included Humdrum Blues, Excuse Me for Living, Somebody Buy Me a Drink and Brother Where Are You?
Carol Grimes has been singing for more than 40 years. Despite her hectic schedule, she still finds time to lead a weekly Kentish Town community choir for people with Parkinson’s disease and similar conditions, their friends and carers.
“An evening singing with Carol is more therapeutic than all the anti-depressant pills put together,” said Nina Temple who instigated the choir after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the young age of 44.
Although the choir doesn’t have any vacancies at present, Carol Grimes is helping to set up a second Sing for Joy choir at the National Neurological Hospital, Queen’s Square, Bloomsbury.