Celebrating 30 Years!

I'm Gonna Let It Shine Album Cover

What you hear on this recording is a group of people who came together to sing songs of freedom and the human spirit. They are old, young, black, brown, white, male and female. There are no instruments other than human voices and hands.

The idea for this recording came out of a party we have every year on Martin Luther King’s birthday at our house. We share food and songs with our friends, and every year, the house seems to rise several feet off the ground. In time, the project moved from our living room to a retreat center, included the support and expertise of WGBH and their mobile recording studio, and featured over twenty singers from all over the country. What happened in two and one-half days of rehearsing and recording was a deeply moving and memorable experience for everyone involved. You cannot sing these songs and be unmoved by their power and significance.

The voices you hear are from the North and South, people who were on the front line in the Civil Rights Movement in the deep South in the early Sixties, original members of the SNCC Freedom singers, nationally recognized singers, songwriters and musicians, labor organizers, and very feisty middle school students.

This recording is simple and straightforward. Many of the songs were rehearsed for twenty minutes and recorded in one or two takes. They are not perfect and were not intended to be; our intent is to give you these songs so that you will sing them and make them a part of your story.

In our emphasis on the written word and the details of history, we too often forget that history is the story of people – people who laughed, cried, ate and sang. The work nurtured along by these songs is not done. Racism, injustice, poverty and fear continue to keep us from becoming the people we might truly be. These powerful songs have become a big part of our lives – we hope they will become a part of yours as well.

photo by Don West

“They were nothing more than people, by themselves, even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more than people by themselves, but all together, they have become the heart and muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great. Together, all together, they are the instruments of change.” From The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Singers: John Belcher, Debbie Block, Howie Bursen, Guy Carawan, Candie Carawan, Sarah Ferrera, Betty Fikes, Cathy Fink, Danitza Garcia, Martin Grosswendt, Bill Harley, Kim Harris, Reggie Harris, Lashunda Johnson, Emma Katzberg, Kate Katzberg, Joyce Katzberg, Charlie King, Lourdes Lopez, Marcy Marxer, Misty Monteiro, Hilary Moser, Chuck Neblett, Wazir Peacock, Cordell Reagon, Sally Rogers, Stephen Snyder, Kathy Townsend-Hurk, Zuleika Vidal, and Hollis Watkins

In 1996 Hal Leonard put together a children’s musical based on selected songs from the album. The Teacher’s Manual, which includes the sheet music, lyrics and text for the play, is still available as well as a preview CD. Visit their website to learn more: halleonard.com

I'm Gonna Let it Shine Teacher's Manual

Reviews and Quotes

“If Shine were merely the sum of its good intentions, it would be worth buying. But it’s more. Listening to these powerful songs of oppression and rebellion, you’ll be reminded that through history, freedom has been the exception, not the rule. Shine ends with an uplifting version of ‘We Shall Overcome.’ If it makes you feel a bit sheepish for not having much to overcome, that’s not a bad feeling to take away from this splendid collection. A” Entertainment Weekly

“These are some of the best songs from the singingest movement this country has ever had. With this tape to help teach any bunch of folks wanting to not just recall those days, but help build the future, can make themselves a singing gang.” Pete Seeger

“WOW! I’m Gonna Let it Shine is more than a collection of songs…it’s a chance to re-experience the feelings and emotions of the struggle for freedom. Incredible and full-sound. If you’re not singing along by the first tune, you will be by the second!” We Like Kids, KTOO-FM, Juneau, Alaska

“A lively tape…a great sing-a-long, and hand-clapper” The Arizona Daily Star

“Musically joyful, affirming our common humanity…recommended to all parents (great for long car rides) and to schools everywhere.” Sing Out Magazine

“…a powerful reminder of the struggle for equality in America, these songs are a monument to the energy, ingenuity, and courage of those who engaged in that struggle and who engage in it still.” KPBS in San Diego, California


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