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Guy Carawan, Musician Known For 'We Shall Overcome,' Dies

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Guy Carawan, Musician Known For 'We Shall Overcome,' Dies

Remembrances

Guy Carawan, Musician Known For 'We Shall Overcome,' Dies

Guy Carawan, Musician Known For 'We Shall Overcome,' Dies

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The History Of 'We Shall Overcome'

Listen to the original 20-minute audio documentary as it aired in 1999, on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 70th birthday.

NPR's Noah Adams On 'We Shall Overcome'

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The musician, known for introducing the protest song to the civil rights movement, died last week at 87. He and wife, Candie, taught music at the Highlander Center in New Market, Tenn., for decades.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

No song is more deeply identified with the Civil Rights Movement than "We Shall Overcome." Its lyrics are part of our national memory.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In 1960 the leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee learned the tune from a young, white singer from California named Guy Carawan.

SIEGEL: Carawan died last week at the age of 87. In 1999, he told NPR that he learned "We Shall Overcome" from a friend in California.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GUY CARAWAN: He taught me this song, and he also had put some chords to its. He sang the guitar with it. So he had a guitar with harmony like, (singing) we shall overcome someday. Oh, deep in my heart I do believe, yes, that we shall overcome someday.

SIEGEL: In turn, Carawan taught the song to students traveling to Tennessee for sit-ins.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CARAWAN: And then at a certain point, those young singers who knew a lot of a cappella styles - they said, lay that guitar down, boy. We can do the song better (laugher). And they put that sort of triplet to it and sang it a cappella with all those harmonies. It had a way of rendering it - a style that some very powerful young singers got behind spread.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE SHALL OVERCOME")

THE FREEDOM SINGERS: (Singing) We shall overcome. My Lord, we shall overcome.

BLOCK: The Freedom Singers performing "We Shall Overcome." Guy Carawan, credited with introducing the song to the Civil Rights Movement, died on Saturday. And you can hear Noah Adams' 20-minute documentary about "We Shall Overcome" at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE SHALL OVERCOME")

THE FREEDOM SINGERS: (Singing) Deep in my heart, I know that I do believe.

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