Chords of Consciousness: The Impressions "Keep On Pushing"

Editor's note: This week seemed as good a time as any to resurrect this column. Since my last entry I welcomed a child into the world, had work speed up, and frankly was paralyzed with election coverage. But now it's time to move on, and music seems like the natural place where my heart and mind always want to go. 

During our most turbulent times we always search for the voice of reason. In this particular instance, following one of the most contentious and controversial elections our country has ever seen, and on the heels of an unprecedented and uncertain presidency, my voice of reason came in the form of the soft falsetto of Curtis Mayfield. 

On November 5th I celebrated my 31st birthday. My only wish was to go record shopping with my wife and have some dinner, and so we did. The universe has funny ways of giving us premonitions - light foreshadowing of what we'll need to cope with different emotions. So it wasn't surprising that as I combed through records in the R&B section of my local record store I flipped to "Keep On Pushing," and stopped. I paused for a about 10 seconds looking at the cover. I'd heard this album dozens of times. I knew it well. And somehow I knew in my mind "I might need this album soon."

That's a weird thing to think for most people, I'd imagine. To look at a 12" piece of vinyl composed of a dozen tracks and think, "This could be medicine. It could heal me." As Saturday came I had spent nearly a week trying to process the conflict I was seeing in the news, the conflict I was feeling in my soul, the many things I wish I could have done differently to possibly keep Donald Trump from becoming our president. But I settled on the idea of finding a path to progress. If I couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel yet, I surely didn't want to look backward to what I already knew would be a darker, more depressing walk. So I dropped the needle on the record. 

"Keep on pussssssshing" is the first flourishing line you'll hear on this record. If you're like me it will rise inside of you as the note reaches it's peak. "I can't stop now. Move up, a little higher. Someway, somehow," Mayfield beckons as he leads the chorus. "Because I've got my strength, and it don't make sense not to keep on pushing." 

Mayfield wrote no shortage of songs that soundtracked The Civil Rights Movement, from "Move On Up" to "Miss Black America" to "People Get Ready" to "Keep On Keepin' On." But this song, and this album felt right in the moment. Those other songs stray into more specific waters, and I needed this one's simplicity. I needed it's message. I needed it to heal me. 

I listened to it twice more last weekend, and it will probably stay in heavy rotation at the Lima house. I hope that it will help heal you too. And I hope after we've all made the decision to keep on pushing, that we find ways to take action. I'm already seeing it from so many folks in this community and its a testament to what we can do together rather than divided. There's no sense in pushing alone. 

If you're interested in learning more about the life and career of one of music's most genius social activists, my friend Travis Atria just released a book called Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield.