Cities of Soul: The Bay Area
In the Sixties the Bay was the beating heart of the counter culture. The Haight Ashbury neighborhood experienced an explosion of creativity and hosted one of the densest concentrations of talent anywhere. The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana lived within blocks of each other. The Psychedelic Movement would reverberate throughout the world influencing everything from art to cinema and of course music. Sylvester Stewart a radio host for KSOL in San Fransico heard first hand the sounds of his city. Becoming Sly Stone the child prodigy assembled an inter-gender, racially diverse, extremely accomplished hippie band dubbed The Family. With the soul of a poet Sly and the Family Stone behind him they became the new standard for Soul Music. Their very existence was statement enough of the new Flower Power Generation emerging. Culminating in Woodstock, Sly and family Stone's performance stands as one of the festival's best.
Carlos Santana and his brother Jorge's band Malo fused the true sound of the Bay better than anyone. Elements of Rock, Jazz, Soul, and of course Latin rhythm's were united by the brothers. Chicano Rock was eventually the sound's name that emerged from San Francisco's Mission District the citiy's earliest neighborhood, named after the Spanish priest's missionary outposts for the local Indians. Jerry Garcia never shied away from his Soul influences and remains the most popular Hispanic guitarist ever, popularizing the jamming style from the Bay.
While the Summer of Love saw over one-hundred thousand youths migrate to San Francisco across the Bay in Oakland Huey P Newton's Black Panthers were ramping up their opposition to police brutality. Home of the Panthers Oakland has always been San Francisco's grittier cousin. The soul from across the Bay reflected that as well. Punctuated, habitually "in the cut", vocals that were more emotion than exact, hot keyboards, and more than a little humor, these are the sounds of Bay Area Soul. Sugar Pie Desanto having one of the coolest names ever and being 4'11 recorded sassy soul and toured with James Brown. She also sang with Bay heavyweight Johnny Otis. Born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, being of Greek origin Johnny Otis reflected the diversity of the Mediterranean and adopted "Black" as his official race in an America that made you choose. Eventually he was dubbed "The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues" for his beat heavy blues and as A&R man for King discovered Jackie Wilson and Hank Ballard.
San Francisco, always the welcome home of eccentrics Darondo was just that. Flashy pimp, late night television host and creator of incredibly funky music in the 70's. Darondo's music has experienced a resurgence, recently released on Ubiquity and playing this years Bonnaroo it shows sometimes people need time to catch up. Society continues to catch up to the cultural framework created in the Bay in the sixties. While the hippies eventually cut their hair, Sly Stone descended into heartbreaking drug addiction, the FBI systematically destroyed the Black Panthers, and the Haight Ashbury now has a Gap and McDonalds. The dream of racial harmony can be seen in the election of President Obama, the fight for gender equality can be seen at the highest level's of government and business and peaceful protest continues in the Occupy movement, the Age of Aquarius still refuses to die.