John Ellison — frontman for the Soul Brothers Six and writer of their biggest hit “Some Kind of Wonderful” — has shared a fiery new song, “Wake-Up Call (Black Like Me),” inspired by the recent protests in response to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Ellison delivered the new song alongside a video that opens with the musician recounting his family’s history of being targeted with racist violence: From his grandfather, who was born a slave in 1854, to the hospital in Virginia that refused to treat Ellison for third-degree burns in 1971, to the 18-year-old nephew who was paralyzed in 1998 when the police broke his neck (the officers were never charged). “We are tired of singing the songs, ‘We Shall Overcome,’” Ellison says. “We are tired of the ‘I forgive you.’ We are tired of the injustice. We want justice now!”
“Wake Up Call (Black Like Me)” is a rumbling funk cut that pairs thick bass, steady drums, swampy guitar and horn fanfare with the occasional blare of sirens. Ellison’s vocals simmer with a righteous rage as he spits: “We’ve held onto our dreams when all seemed lost/Freedom for us has been at a very high cost/Things have changed, new laws have been passed/But in the race for equality, we still come in last/This is a wake-up call, America.”
“What inspired me to write this song was the present crisis we are facing,” Ellison tells Rolling Stone. “The crisis caused a lot of sad memories to resurface that I have experienced because of the color of my skin and I felt compelled to write this song, to shed light on the truth of how black people have suffered from generation to generation, and are still having to endure pain and suffering from the painful effects of racism and discrimination. It’s time to say, enough is enough! We will be silent no more.”