Silky Ray is Teaching the Blues

From The Marion Star on Sunday, February 25, 2018:

MARION –  Born from the tradition of African spirituals and influenced by American folk and country music, the power of the blues hit its peak during in the 1960s, as millions of Americans fought for equality.

For many involved with the Civil Rights movement, the blues told the story of life’s difficulties and it was a genre that was influential in spreading the movement throughout the country.

Famous blues tunes such as “We Shall Overcome” by Mahalia Jackson and “Selma March” by Grant Green soon became the unofficial anthems for the people involved in the movement.

It is a period that longtime musician and Marion resident Ray “Silky Ray” Macklin aims to capture in his hour long presentation “The Blues and American History” that will be held at The Ohio State University at Marion on Monday.

The presentation will take listeners on a journey through America’s long and complex history with the art form; starting with the inception of the blues as a way for slaves to pass on their stories and ending with its impact on modern culture.

“Just like the kids these days that are rapping in large numbers, music has always been used as tool to pass on one’s truth,” Macklin said. ” People often forget the power of music and I want to remind them of that.”

Macklin said the blues had a great impact on him as a young boy growing up on the East Coast while the Civil Rights Movement was gaining traction.

He said the records of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Buddy Guy helped shape his lifelong passion for music and gave him a better understanding of what was going on in the country at the time.

“The Gospel and Blues were always the first line of protest,” Macklin said. “You would hear it in church and all of the clubs at that time. It was a way for people to communicate what was going on.”

Macklin said he wants to showcase how the blues was used by leaders throughout history to push social change especially during the the 1950’s and 60’s.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights movement, but he was often surrounded by many of the most prominent musicians of that time,” he said.

The idea for the presentation came about earlier this month after Macklin, who has a daily blues show on WDIF-FM, was asked if he wanted to share his knowledge with some local college students by Spencer Phelps, the station’s manager.

Phelps said the station was contacted by a representative of Marion Technical College, which shares a campus with OSU-M, asking if they wanted to participate in the college’s celebration of Black History Month.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for the students. It is a huge part of our cultural heritage that is unfortunately dying out,” Phelps said. “I asked Ray if he wanted to do it because he is a walking encyclopedia of the blues. I am always learning something from him every day,”

Macklin said he is excited to share his knowledge of the blues with the younger generation hoping that it will spark their interest in the art form.

“I am a firm believer of sharing your culture,” he said. ” It has shaped us into what we are today and I believe that it will continue to do that.”

The presentation is open to the public and will start at 1 p.m. in the university’s Alber Student Center.

HKarim@nncogannett.com

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