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Artist’s Choice: Rene Marie on Protest Music

Today’s top jazz performers pick 10 favorite tracks by the players, singers and styles that helped define them.

Nina Simone
Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron
Charles Mingus

The role of the jazz musician who composes and performs protest music is an important one. Doing so automatically give others the courage to compose, play and sing his or her own. It is, however, becoming more difficult to find jazz musicians in general and jazz vocalists in particular who boldly give voice to social ills through their music-an unusual and unfortunate turn of affairs considering that jazz itself began as a form of protest music.

When the topic of jazz protest music is raised, there are some musicians who immediately come to mind: Oscar Brown Jr., Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron. We think of them as fearless as they put to music and offer to the public what the rest of us will talk about only in private-if we dare talk about it at all.

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