In the book Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, LeAlan Johns and Lloyd Newman, as two kids grow up in ghetto, document their life from 1993 to 1996 to show the rest of the America the reality of living in a poor black neighborhood. Through vast interviews, diaries and monologues, Johns and Newman provide a new perspective on the ongoing issues in the ignorant black community; they encourage the black residents to express their point of views on gang, drug, crime, and they also address their hope. Since this book is story with long time span and fragmental writing styles, it is impossible to finish the soundtrack for chapters in detail within eight songs. Therefore, if I am going to be the music composer of the movie based on this book, I would choose eight songs for the following eight themes.
The Religious Faith: “Is God a Three Letter Word for Love” Duke Ellington
Despite the tough environment around the Ida B. Wells, people who live there are still faithful in God. However, some of them also question God for ignoring the black community. Based on this ambiguity, I think the gospel jazz “Is God a three letter word for Love” by Duke Ellington precisely portrays the complex emotion of the residents.
To start with, no matter age or gender, even the ones facing severe problem of surviving, these individuals trust God. For example, when LeAlan and Lloyd try to investigate the murder, they meet Tymeka, a teenage mom who still lives in the high-rise the murder took place in. Although she is having a hard life, she stays religious to “pray for all them children” (p.111), for both the young victim and murderers in the crisis. This is connected to the title gospel element of the song. “Is God a Three Letter Word for Love” is a rhetorical question, a direct call with confidence in response. It is the keen for God make the people in such surrounding still believe God will save all the wrongs.
However, Duke Ellington’s version of the song is also a jazz song. The jazz impulse embedded still expresses the bitterness between faith and reality. As long as black Americans are so pious, God is not helping them. Just like Lloyd‘s sister Sophia saying “I was mad at God” (p. 67) for taking away her loved mother. Sometimes the black community feels left behind for the blessing, and they simply have to accept the truth and live on.
The Good Times within Segregation: “You Make My Dreams” Hall & Oates
Even though Lloyd and LeAlan are deprived with childhood, they still have ways to enjoy their life. In chapter seven of the book, the boys recorded how they can have fun eating in the local dinner and spending time taking bus ride. For this rare element of happiness they describe in the book, I want to use “You make my dreams” by Hall & Oates, a simple and jubilant song.
As a pop hit, “You Make My Dreams” is a dance music with fast rhythm and light male voice. It is interesting to see the racial component of this duo singing group since Oates...