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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘We Ain’t Free’ By Boscoe

Boscoe is like a much more politically militant Earth Wind and Fire, like if the band collaborated with the Last Poets or Watts Prophets. In fact, both Boscoe and Earth Wind and Fire are both from Chicago’s South Side.

As the Numero Group label describes, during the early 1970s, the South Side was “an epicenter of African-American musical creativity: Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra’s Arkestra, Phil Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble, and others led the charge away from mainstream, commercial music.”

The Pharaoahs, Pieces of Peace, and Earth Wind and Fire later emerged and garnered national and international acclaim. However, Boscoe never achieved recognition despite their explosive, funky, and righteous sound.

“We Ain’t Free” consists of a dark and ironic parody of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
MOJO, a music magazine in the United Kingdom, referred to it as a “jazz-funk locomotive” that “makes its point forcefully.”

“Can’t you see/we ain’t free,” the band sings. “Here in the land of opportunity, here’s what I see.”

The group runs down the sources of discombobulation before a break develops into a kind of call and response with a slave master.

Boscoe does not deal in subtlety so it is clear who, or what, is the slave master.

“If I had my way, you’d never be free,” the song cries out sinisterly.

From there, the band plays around three minutes of psychedelic funk before ending with the sound that spurred this sonic maelstrom against systemic oppression.

Boscoe apparently was concerned a more commercial record label would force them to water down their lyrics. They released their only album on their own, and it gained relatively little exposure. But nearly 50 years later, their lyrics resemble the calls for justice at Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Listen to “We Aint’ Free” by Boscoe:

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."