Oscar Brown - Portrait

Oscar BrownOscar Brown
Oscar Brown
Oscar Brown

For someone looking for a great career in capitalistic America, the young Oscar Brown took absolutely the wrong path – he joined the Communist Party. Although the black man turned away from the Reds ten years later because he was confronted with racism here too (“Just too black to be red”), he remained politically active right up until his unsuccessful candidature for the US Congress. Brown demonstrated his tenacity in his musical mission too, singing as a 15-year-old on the radio, and presenting the daily news programme “Negro Newsfront” until the broadcasting station closed down the programme for political reasons.

It was only at the age of 34 that the activist came into contact with recording tycoons. The successful music manager Robert Nemiroff brought him together with the Capitol label, which was prepared to support Brown – whose his highly original mixture of soul and bop was inspired by Bertolt Brecht and Lotte Lenya – in making his debut as a singer. Brown lent his own lyrics to adaptations of popular jazz pieces and wrote songs for numerous other jazz singers in the years to come. His genial art did not only inspire such singers as Mahalia Jackson and Nina Simone; instrumental bebop musicians including Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Max Roach closely involved Brown in their productions too. Thus, through the power of the word and the voice, Brown became an ambassador and advocate for freedom and citizens rights without becoming directly involved in politics. True to the American spirit, he understood himself as an entertainer, who proved with Sin & Soul, that great black music is certainly possible even without MOTOWN.

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