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John Coltrane - Alabama (1963)

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

On the 15th September 1963, the KKK planted a bomb under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church. The blast killed 4 young black girls, Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11) and injured another 22 people. This happened even though Martin Luther King had given his infamous 'I Have A Dream' speech earlier that same year. That being said, this tragedy gave the Civil Rights movement further impetus, and a year later in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Can you guess what happened to the four members of the KKK who were involved in the bombing? Nothing until 1965, when a memo was sent out to the FBI which identified Robert Chambliss as one of the perpetrators. Even then, the FBI closed the case, and it wasn't until 1977 when he was finally put behind bars for life. Two of the other men lived free lives until they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2001 and 2002 (38 and 39 years later!). The other man died in 1994, and was never charged.

Spike Lee made a documentary about the tragedy in 1997 which you can watch here.

Saxophonist John Coltrane wrote this song called 'Alabama' to commemorate the tragedy.

John Coltrane - Saxophone

McCoy Tyner - Piano

Elvin Jones - Drums

Jimmy Garrison - Bass

  • How does Coltrane's solo reflect the pain of the tragedy?

  • What does McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison do from 0:09 - 1:20?

  • What do you like about Elvin Jones' playing?

  • How do the musicians communicate with each other without talking to each other?

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