Macalester college’s sounds of blackness


In 1969 Russel Wright formed a Black music group on campus, called The Macalester College Black Voices. By 1971 the group had changed its name to Sounds of Blackness. Led by then-sophomore Gary Hines ‘74, the group took off into the depths of the times. The late 60s and early 70s hosted the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, the women’s liberation movement and the anti-war movement. Sounds of Blackness proved their ability to overcome struggle and oppression in the tense climate by delving into music. The music Blackness sang was essential to the sounds and comprehension of the time; the movement could be encapsulated by the artists they covered. Performing songs by Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, Sounds of Blackness centered themselves in the throng of the Civil Rights movement. Hines worked with the group to expand their knowledge and aspects on black music, adding the component of social awareness and presence combined with diverse styles of African-American music. The first 15 years of the group’s existence was represented by their local Minneapolis shows. They also released records, creating a network of loyal, local fans. In 1989, a popular Minneapolis-based production team, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, brought Janet Jackson to one of the Sounds of Blackness concerts. After she expressed her enthusiasm for the group, Jam and Lewis decided to sign Blackness to the record label Perspective/A&M. This marked an important landmark in the group’s professional career. Until Perspective, major label offers consisted of requests and urges to change their name to Sounds of Music or to limit their style to only gospel or R&B. Perspective was the first label to preserve the true African roots of the Sounds of Blackness. Since then the group has gone on to win three Grammys, one platinum record, and three NAACP image award nominations. With the combination of traditional African music and urban soul, Sounds of Blackness has become one the most popular contemporary gospel groups, resting its roots in our very own Macalester College. refresh –>