'Ten Black Men' Author Inspired By Music By Black Women

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Author Andrea Davis Pinkney won this year's Coretta Scott-King award for her children's book, 'Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.' It's all about digging deeper into the lives of some of America's most important figures. For Tell Me More's occasional 'In Your Ear' series, she shares the songs that inspire her.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now why don't we take a little music break with the occasional feature we call IN YOUR EAR. That's where some of our guest tell us about the songs that inspire them or just make them dance. Today we hear from a writer who decided to dig deeper into what we know about Martin Luther King Junior and other prominent African American men.

Author Andrea Davis Pinkneys' book, "Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed American," won the Coretta Scott-King award. That's an honor given annually to authors and illustrators of children's books that celebrate black American culture. When she came in to talk about that a little while ago, we asked her to share some of her favorite tunes.

ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY: Hi. This is Andrea Davis Pinkney and here's what's playing in my ear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCING MACHINE")

THE JACKSON FIVE: (singing) Dancing, dancing, dancing...

PINKNEY: The Jacksons, "Dancing Machine," because I just feel happy every time I hear that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCING MACHINE")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVE ON UP A LITTLE HIGHER")

MAHALIA JACKSON: (singing) Gonna move on up a little higher, gonna meet my loving mother. Gonna move on up a little higher...

PINKNEY: Mahalia Jackson's "Move On Up a Little Higher," because this song knows how to inspire.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVE ON UP A LITTLE HIGHER")

JACKSON: (singing) Gonna move on up a little higher, gonna meet my loving mother. Gonna move on up a little higher...

PINKNEY: The soundtrack to the Broadway show, "In the Heights," and I chose the opening song, "In the Heights."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

JOSEPH MORALES: (As Usnavi) (singing) Lights up on Washington Heights, up at the break of day. I wake up and I got this little punk I gotta chase away. Pop the grate at the crack of dawn, sing while I wipe down the awning. Hey y'all, good morning.

PINKNEY: It reminds me of being with my sister-in-law and her family in Washington Heights in New York City where we live.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN THE HEIGHTS")

CHORUS: (singing) This is our block. In the Heights I hang my flag upon display. It remind me that I came from miles away. My family came from miles away. In the Heights it gets more expensive every day. And tonight is so far away.

PINKNEY: Beyonce's "Love On Top."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ON TOP.")

BEYONCE: (singing) Honey, honey, I can see the stars all the way from here. Can't you see my glow on my window pane...

PINKNEY: Because it always brings me back to moments when I'm with my kids and my husband dancing in our kitchen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ON TOP.")

MARTIN: That was author, Andrea Davis Pinkney telling us what's playing in her ear. To hear our previous conversation, you can go to npr.org. Click on the programs tab and then TELL ME MORE.

Just ahead it's our weekly visit to the barbershop. This week the guys are talking sports. Well, sports scandals more like. We'll get their take on the new Rutgers athletic director who's been called a bully, and on whether the family of the late Penn State coach, Joe Paterno, really has a case against the NCAA. That's coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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