Harlem 69 – Top Ten Playlist

Stuart Cosgrove’s Harlem 69 is the final instalment in the author’s critically acclaimed trilogy on the story of soul music and the US civil rights movement, which began with Detroit 67 and followed by Memphis 68, which won the Penderyn Prize as ‘Music Book of the Year’ in 2018. Taking a look at the Black Panther show trials, the heroin pandemic that spread across the district, and the music that went on to inspire future generations of Black music makers, Harlem 69 is essential reading and will make you head out to your nearest record store. But, if you’re tightening your purse strings, then don’t worry: Stuart Cosgrove has put together his top ten playlist inspired by his latest book. Enjoy.

Harlem 69: The Future of Soul
By Stuart Cosgrove
Published by Polygon

1. Nina Simone ‘Young Gifted and Black’ a sung at the Harlem Culture Festival 1969 as a tribute to Nina Simone’s dearly departed friend, the radical playwright Lorraine Hansberry.

2. Donny Hathaway’s ‘The Ghetto’ a pioneering soul song written by Donny Hathaway in his apartment in Washington DC in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination. It became synonymous with streets of Harlem.

3. ‘Cashing In’ by The Voices of East Harlem. An underground northern soul classic by a Harlem community choir the song is about money, bad faith and love.

4. ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ – In 1969 a young jazz poet, Gil Scot Heron was already a newly published writer, desperate to record his first album.

5. Damn Sam, Miracle Man and the Soul Congregation were an underground Harlem band that have since become one of the most respected street funk bands ever.

6. Bobby Womack’s ‘Across 110th Street’ is one of Harlem’s great landmark songs. Street life, survivalism and sidewalk poetry.

7. ‘Freddie’s Dead’ by Curtis Mayfield – the tragic tale of a Harlem drug peddlar who meets his final deal, the standout track in the epic ‘Superfly’ soundtrack.

8. Frank Foster’s ‘Harlem Rumble’ a tense streetwise instrumental sounds like a chase sequence in a great ghetto theme movie.

9. ‘Spanish Harlem’ Aretha Franklin’s tribute to Harlem’s Eastside, the Hispanic capital of the USA.

10. In Harlem in 1969, Afeni Shakur a female leader of the Black Panthers was on trial falsely accused of plotting a bombing campaign. Out on bail her son was conceived and eventually born after she had been acquitted – her son was Tupac Shakur – the hip-hop master of Thug Life.


Harlem 69: The Future of Soul by Stuart Cosgrove is published by Polygon, priced £16.99


This playlist is from the Scottish Publisher project, reproduced with thanks.

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