“(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go” by Curtis Mayfield (1970)

Curtis Mayfield’s talent for writing plain-spoken songs that spoke reality was well-known by the time “Don’t Worry” came out. I was a few years away from entering this world when “Don’t Worry” was released, but I’d imagine that folks who were familiar with “Choice of Colors” and “Amen” freaked the fuck out when they heard the random chatting (about the Book of Revelations), African-derived drums and ominous shouting that kicked the song off (unfortunately excised from the single version). And to top it all off, “Don’t Worry” was Curtis’s first single release as a solo artist. What an entrance!

“Sisters! Niggers! Whiteys! Jews! Crackers!!!” Then a scream that could wake the dead. It’s still unsettling nearly half a century later.

“Don’t Worry” signaled a new Curtis Mayfield, responding to a new era in music and a new era in Black politics. People were tired of waiting for a change to come and began to demand change. The genteel, gospel-derived protest songs of old gave way for something more aggressive and angry as cities burned, college students got cut down and young people got sent to Vietnam. You can almost picture Curtis Mayfield standing atop all the rubble with his guitar, surveying the state of America as this song plays. It’s also shockingly still applicable in 2018.

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