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Fannie Lou Hamer: Songs My Mother Taught Me

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Above are the poignant words on the headstone of the inspirational black political activist from Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer. This album is essentially spiritual but also embodies blues, soul and folk in their earliest and purest form. Hamer’s moving performance, her only known singing recording from 1963, is mainly a capella, interspersed with an intensely personal monologue.

The anguish and despair in her voice reflect many tribulations, not least poverty as the youngest of 20 children to Delta sharecropper parents; working the fields from the age of six; a hysterectomy operation without her consent; being driven off the plantation, beaten by police and suffering permanent kidney damage. However, Hamer’s faith, bravery and determination in the face of brutality shine through all her mother’s songs, making this a very special example of the power of music to communicate and ultimately conquer adversity.