Rhythm and Blues and Rock N Roll had a tremendous impact on changing American society’s view of race, says legendary music producer-turned-historian Steve Buckingham.
Buckingham will explain how the music of such greats as Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and even Elvis Presley played a vital role in integrating society when he brings his “How Rhythm and Blues and Rock N Roll Tore Down the Walls of Segregation” presentation to Penn State Harrisburg February 18.
Buckingham’s presentation, which he has taught in course format at Vanderbilt University and the University of Richmond, is free and open to the public at 7 p.m. in the Morrison Gallery of the campus library. For information, phone 717-948-6273.
A four-time Grammy winning producer with 27 number one singles to his credit, Buckingham has also been awarded 11 platinum and 19 gold albums. The first record he produced, Alicia Bridges’ I Love the Nightlife, became a worldwide hit in 1978.
In addition to Bridges, the varied artists he has produced include Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Tammy Wynette, Sinead O’Connor, Shania Twain, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Melissa Manchester, and Dionne Warwick.
Buckingham’s presentation is drawn from firsthand experience. He grew up in a segregated Richmond and played guitar in integrated bands whose members couldn’t eat together or stay overnight in the same hotels. He either knows or has worked with to the many artists and producers he features – from John Hammond (who spans the Swing era to Bruce Springsteen) to James Brown, Smokey Robinson, and the Drifters, for whom he played backup in the 1960s. He also played guitar for such legendary artists as Jackie Wilson, The Impressions, Percy Sledge, and Gary “US” Bonds.
Formerly a vice president at Columbia Records, Buckingham is currently senior vice president of Vanguard and Sugar Hill Records in Nashville and covers a variety of topics in his presentation.
They include: his background in the music industry, experiences performing with legendary African-American recording artists in the segregated southern states in the 1960s, DVD of photos from the Civil Rights Movement with music, the role that AM radio disc jockeys had in exposing white teenagers to black Rhythm & Blues during the Civil Rights Movement era, and he plays CD examples of integrated studio musicians making records in segregated cities. The presentation is also followed by a question-and-answer with the audience.