The Voices Of East Harlem

"Right On Be Free" 1972
Live show recorded at Sing Sing Prison.
The Voices Of East Harlem were formed in 1969 Harlem, New York City, early members were; Gerri Griffin (lead vocals), Monica Burress (lead vocals), Bernard Graham, Wayne Garfield, Jerome Mack, Elaine Clark, Cynthia Sessions, Kevin Griffin and Claudia Moore.

Their 1970 Electra album 'Right On Be Free' featured contributions from Ralph McDonald on congas and Richard Tee on keyboards. The recent CD release of this album contains more social aware stuff that they were probably frightened to put out at the time. In fact I'd say the best stuff was left off the album so buying the re-issue is a must! This song though was a gift from above for the Civil Rights movement and the Black Panthers, coming out while Angela Davis was also in the news fighting her a court case. Even I had the black fist logo on my disco speakers at this time!

The Full 80 min show
The Voices a mostly, 20-member ensemble whose ages ranged from 12 to 21 can be seen in this footage to be very keen to entertain and put the message over to the mainly black inmates. They next worked with producers Leroy Hutson and Curtis Mayfield on their recordings for the Just Sunshine Records label. The UK remembers them for Leroy Hutson's song/production 'Cashing In' from a 1973 album 'The Voices Of East Harlem', it was a crossover Northern soul hit and could be heard at UK clubs regularly. I thought I remembered DJ 'Pep, playing it but now I look back (thanks DK!!) it was Jerry Williams 'If You Ask Me'' that he launched, similar tempo!

Some fifteen years later also released from 'The Voices.." album was 'Wanted Dead Or Alive', on the Low Fat Vinyl label in 1988.

The footage of B.B. King that follows this in the full show is the best I've seen of him. His lyrics connect with the prison audience and they are with him on every line of some of his big songs. Joan Bias is also in this show and sings about 'Burning the place down' I'm surprised a riot didn't ensue! Thanks to Dave Krynski for finding this priceless clip on YouTube, now watched by over 25,000 people.

Details about the full show are found here:

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