by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)
Maybe it’s the history of caroling in December. Or maybe its half a dozen years of NBC’s hit musical competition show The Sing Off – which also usually took place in December. In any case, beyond just Christmas music, December has us in the mood for some good a cappella music.
Today is also the sixth day of Kwanzaa where the principle of Kuumba — Creativity — is celebrated. So we’ve taken a different approach to today’s GBN playlist – combining a cappella singing with that superstar with the deep catalog of hits that we saluted here at Good Black News this past spring, Stevie Wonder (after all, we’re still in his 70th birthday year!)
So, if you are still in the mood for something cheery and fun to brighten up the waning moments of 2020 and welcome in the New Year, please check out “A Stevie Wonder Sing Off – The Wonders of A Cappella,” a playlist devoted to Stevie Wonder remakes done with voices only. Early in the playlist Stevie himself joins the all-male group Straight No Chaser on his iconic hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).”
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With The Sing Off in the early 2010s, and with hit musical dramedy series Glee and the trio of Pitch Perfect movies, vocal a cappella music hasn’t always been so culturally ubiquitous.
In the late 1970s, there was the famous vocal group Manhattan Transfer – but their hit “Boy From New York City,” while featuring doo wop styles, also featured plenty of instruments playing behind them. And then there was Bobby McFerrin‘s memorable “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – which ultimately seemed to be a fun novelty more than a musical movement.
For many of us, though, college was where we were first exposed us to a cappella singing. It was at a Northeastern campus where this author first met GBN founder Lori Lakin Hutcherson, that we first ran into preppie kids in jackets and ties at Harvard and Yale singing in choral groups on campus that mixed contemporary pop songs with corny classics like “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.”
Harvard’s Krokodiloes and Yale’s Whiffenpoofs date back to 1946 and 1909, respectively, but the Fisk Jubilee Singers, established in 1871, were among the first American (and African American) college choral ensembles to gain international prominence for their a cappella prowess.
Contemporary versions of the Krokodiloes and Whiffenpoofs are featured in today’s playlist (no Jubilee Singers – they primarily perform traditional spirituals), along with groups from Howard, Dartmouth, Stanford, Syracuse, Duke and MIT and other colleges.
Boyz II Men, the all-Black group Committed (Season 2 winners of The Sing Off) and other non-collegiate a cappella purveyors like The Nylons and Rockapella are also represented.
So, we hope you’re in the mood to take a slightly different approach to the holidays with this uplifting list of year-round classics from Stevie and this list of a cappella masters. And if you don’t mind just a little more holiday cheer, we couldn’t resist throwing a cappella versions of Stevie’s “What Christmas Means to Me” and “Someday at Christmas” onto the list too.
And, a friendly reminder, for those who still haven’t jumped on the Christmas music train, but want to, you can also check out GBN’s already published holiday playlists:
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