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When the three opening notes of the music hit, there’s just one factor to do: Find your individuals and dance. Today, we’re speaking about “Before I Let Go,” by Maze that includes Frankie Beverly, and the music’s distinctive skill to collect and impress. It wasn’t an enormous hit when it got here out in 1981, nevertheless it has turn into a unifying Black anthem and an unfailing supply of pleasure. We dissect Beyoncé’s cowl, and we hear from buddies, listeners and the Philadelphia DJ Patty Jackson about their recollections of the basic music.
On Today’s Episode
‘Before I Let Go’ (1981)
“If you are of the African-American persuasion and alive and have movement in your body, you need to be up and dancing,” mentioned Joy, a good friend of Still Processing, about what occurs at any time when she hears “Before I Let Go.”
The music has a particular place within the Black American psyche.
“It’s a great way to find out who’s Black in your town,” Wesley joked. “If you move somewhere new, you just hold up your phone and start playing it — people will just come running.”
“We run toward it, literally and psychically, when we hear it,” Jenna added. “The song to me definitely feels like a protective bubble, and it allows for that five minutes to just exist in this space of joy and optimism.”
When Jenna and Wesley requested listeners to share their recollections of the music, they heard tales of cookouts, weddings, funerals and automotive rides with the radio on. Uninhibited pleasure was a unifying thread.
“I’m instantly transported to my grandmother’s backyard in the summer,” Lindsay mentioned. “And I’m smelling crabs and beer, and I’m hearing laughter and I’m just seeing jubilation.”
Another listener, Davina, mentioned, “It almost just seems like one of those songs that was always playing in the background of my life.”
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A Love Letter from Beyoncé
Beyoncé coated “Before I Let Go” throughout her Coachella Festival set in 2018. She was headlining that 12 months, the primary Black lady to ever achieve this.
She used the efficiency, impressed by homecoming at traditionally Black faculties and universities, to pay homage to greater than a century of Black musical traditions — “Before I Let Go” included.
“What better way to pay tribute to Black culture than to perform a song that everyone knows and thinks about,” Jenna mentioned. “Like, she knew it was going to be a performance that a lot of us were going to see at home and be playing at barbecues.”
One Still Processing listener mentioned Beyoncé’s cowl powerfully transports her right into a “secret galaxy where it’s just Black girls dancing,” whereas one other mentioned they “only ever want to hear the Frankie Beverly and Maze version” (admitting that is likely to be an “unpopular opinion”).
For Jenna and Wesley, Beyoncé’s cowl has a particular relationship to the unique. “One is not meant to replace the other,” Jenna mentioned. “It’s actually meant to be a love letter to the other.”
Hosted by: Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris
Produced by: Elyssa Dudley
Edited by: Sara Sarasohn, Sasha Weiss and Phyllis Fletcher
Engineered by: Marion Lozano
Executive Producer, Shows: Wendy Dorr
Executive Editor, Newsroom Audio: Lisa Tobin
Assistant Managing Editor: Sam Dolnick
Special thanks: Nora Keller, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani and Desiree Ibekwe
Wesley Morris is a critic at massive. He was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his criticism whereas at The Boston Globe. He has additionally labored at Grantland, The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner. @wesley_morris
Jenna Wortham is a workers author for The Times Magazine and co-editor of the ebook “Black Futures” with Kimberly Drew. @jennydeluxe