Rosa Parks Day: Daniel Lanois on recording iconic Neville Brothers’ anthem “Sister Rosa”



February is Black History Month and February 4th is Rosa Parks’ birthday [born 1913].

Rosa Parks – A Brief History

From Wikipedia: Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African-American Civil Rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.[1] Her birthday, February 4, and the day she was arrested, December 1, have both become Rosa Parks Day, commemorated in both California and Ohio.

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation. Others had taken similar steps, including Bayard Rustin in 1942,[2] Irene Morgan in 1946, Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, and the members of the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit (Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith) who were arrested in Montgomery months before Parks. NAACP organizers believed that Parks was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience in violating Alabama segregation laws, although eventually her case became bogged down in the state courts while the Browder v. Gayle case succeeded.[3][4]

Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, president of the local chapter of the NAACP; and Martin Luther King, Jr., a new minister in town who gained national prominence in the civil rights movement.

From Montgomery to New Orleans – “Sister Rosa” an ode to Rosa Parks

YellowMoon - NevilleBros
In 1989, Cyril Neville, one part of the famous New Orleans-based musical group, The Neville Brothers, was inspired by Rosa Parks’ activism and penned a song titled “Sister Rosa.”

Sister Rosa is a brief, oral history of Rosa Parks watershed bus ride. The track features spoken word lyrics, presented in early hip-hop style; backed with a strong bass line and percussion.

Sister Rosa was recorded for the Neville’s Brothers album “Yellow Moon”, produced by acclaimed super-producer Daniel Lanois. Yellow Moon was recorded in Neville’s hometown of New Orleans and has the Lanois hallmark of emotional honesty and atmospheric sound.

It is that emotional honesty DNA, coupled with Cyril Neville’s heartfelt lyrics that allowed “Sister Rosa” to become one of the most popular songs about Rosa Parks. [It peaked at #75 on the 1989 Billboard Hot 100 Hip-Hop Singles.]

Daniel Lanois recounts his remembrance of that special recording:
“Well , ‘Sister Rosa’ was written by Cyril as he is the most black panther of the brothers
Cyril was interested in what was evolving in the rap world
For a message to be heard in this poetic spitting fashion appealed to him
The recording took place in a small room of an abandoned apt building that I rented and converted into a studio for the brothers ( place originally built in the 20s )
This building was just a few blocks away from Valence street where the brothers grew up and still lived when we made that record

Willie Green on the drums , one of the worlds greats
Tony Hall on the bass , Bad Ass motherfucker !!
All the brothers play percussion and so no problem with quick groove results
Most importantly , the brothers were made to feel significant by a humble commitment from a Canadian devoted heart
I believed every word that Cyril spoke and he felt it
We reached that point of paradigm and yes , We snapped the camera just right
Some people call it genius
I call it a RECORD.”

December 1, 1955
Our freedom movement came alive
And because of Sister Rosa you know
We dont ride on the back of the bus no more

Sister Rosa she was tired one day
After a hard day on her job
When all she wanted was a well deserved rest
Not a scene from an angry mob

A bus driver said, “Lady, you got to get up
‘Cause a white person wants that seat”
But Miss Rosa said, “No, not no more
Im gonna sit here and rest my feet”

Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
You started our freedom movement
Thank you Sister Rosa Parks

Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
You started our freedom movement
Thank you Sister Rosa Parks

Now, the police came without fail
And took Sister Rosa off to jail
And 14 dollars was her fine
Brother Martin Luther King knew it was our time

The people of Montgomery sat down to talk
It was decided all God’s children should walk
Until segregation was brought to its knees
And we obtain freedom and equality, yeah

Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
You started our freedom movement
Thank you Sister Rosa Parks

Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
You started our freedom movement
Thank you Sister Rosa Parks

So we dedicate this song to thee
For being the symbol of our dignity
Thank you Sister Rosa

Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
You started our freedom movement
Thank you Sister Rosa Parks

Read more: Neville Brothers – Sister Rosa Lyrics | MetroLyrics