Since today is Juneteenth (in celebration of June 19, 1865, the day the slaves in Texas learned they were freed), I decided to drop a two-fer in the name of freedom. The song is “Freedom” but there are two versions and they’re both getting their due today.
Most people of a certain age might remember the 1995 movie Panther, about the founding of and dismantling of the Black Panther Party in Oakland in the late 1960s. Of course, you have to remember it because unless you own the DVD, that movie is the equivalent of black history. And if you want to own it, Amazon has some copies in the $240 range. And that is not a typo.
Recorded as a tribute to black women who were pivotal to resistance movements in America, the Dallas Austin-produced record was used as the official theme song of the movie Panther, recorded “We Are The World”-style by an all-star cast of female singers and vocalists: Aaliyah, Felicia Adams, May May Ali, Amel Larrieux, Az-Iz, Blackgirl, Mary J. Blige, Tanya Blount, Brownstone, Casserine, Changing Faces, Coko, Tyler Collins, N’Dea Davenport, E.V.E., Emage, En Vogue, Eshe & Laurneá (of Arrested Development), Female, For Real, Penny Ford, Lalah Hathaway, Jade, Jamecia, Jazzyfatnastees, Queen Latifah, Billy Lawrence, Joi, Brigette McWilliams, Milira, Miss Jones, Cindy Mizelle, Monica, Meshell Ndegecello, Natasha, Pebbles, Pure Soul, Raja-Nee, Brenda Russell, SWV, Chantay Savage, Sonja Marie, Tracie Spencer, Sweet Sable, TLC, Terri & Monica, Vybe, Crystal Waters, Caron Wheeler, Karyn White, Vanessa Williams, Xscape, Y?N-Vee and Zhané.
There was also a rap version (and video) that was equally popular. I remember when the song and video dropped how awesome I thought it was (both versions, R&B and rap). Simply, the song is dope; it bangs and apparently the country felt the same way, as it charted on the R&B and pop charts. And it had the fly video. Basically, it was an all-around win and is as good today as it was in 1995.
What is lesser known (at least generally) is that the song was originally recorded (same lyrics, mostly same music, still produced by Dallas Austin) by singer/songwriter Joi, real name Joi Gilliam, who was a member of the Dungeon Family.
The song first appeared on her 1994 album, The Pendulum Vibe, which (and I’m sure you can ask anybody who has heard it) was waaaaaay ahead of its time. Hell, Joi’s whole catalog seems ahead of its time. The Pendulum Vibe was critically acclaimed but didn’t fare well commercially and for a while was pretty hard to obtain, though it’s not available on streaming services. Even the intro to The Pendulum Vibe, “Stand” was used in the video for the Panther theme song. Joi killed the game.
So, on this here Juneteenth, enjoy yourself a little “Freedom.” That’s a pun.