The first artist you may think of when initially hearing Josh Christina’s “Lets Get Woke” for the first time, is Elton John. John, whose music is now featured in now featured in the biopic movie “Rocketman,” may have been the last of the great, piano-pounding rock & rollers. The song “Lets Get Woke” most resembles John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” This John single was taken from the singer/songwriter’s 1973 double album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. However, this mostly rocking John song also featured the British singer’s most familiar electric guitar riff. However, had John sung it with just piano, it might have come out a lot like “Lets Get Woke.”
Of course, John’s piano-pounding skills derived from hearing the music of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, first. Back at the outset of rock & roll’s genesis, piano was just as important – if not more important than – electric guitar. It wasn’t until guys like Jimi Hendrix completely revolutionized the electric guitar that that instrument took center stage — for good.
Christina is Baltimore-based, but he sounds just like a rocking raver from the South. He comes from musical roots, too, as his dad is a drummer and his mother a singer. His grandmother, in fact, was a big band singer. While “Lets Get Woke” is a rocker, Christina incorporates country, gospel and blues into his overall repertoire. It was, perhaps, the original rocker that first grabbed Christina’s attention and never let go. That was Elvis, someone that got Christina hooked on rock & roll at the tender age of seven.
What’s especially noteworthy about Christina’s new single, is how it combines musical sounds from a bygone era, with a term, “woke,” which is so in vogue now. It’s a political term with African American origins and expresses a perceived awareness of social and racial justice issues. It may be derived and shortened from the term ‘stay woke.’ It’s oftentimes associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some have said the term was first used in a musical context on an Erykah Badu song. That song, “Master Teacher,” is off her New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) album, which came out in 2008. Badu repeats the phrase, “I stay woke” during the song. Badu even took to social networks to support the Russian feminist group Pussy Riot by writing: “Truth requires no belief. / Stay woke. Watch closely. / #FreePussyRiot.
Christina’s message is significantly different. For his purposes, getting woke refers to getting ready to party. The only justice he’s seeking is – as the Beastie Boys once reminded us – fighting for his right to party. He wants music, dancing and a good time. This may not be what Erykah Badu had in mind, but language is a dynamic thing and words evolve and change meaning over time. Who knows what the term might mean tomorrow?
It should be noted that this song isn’t all piano and vocal – there’s also a significant, rocking electric guitar part, too. However, it’s the piano work that hits you first.
Yes, this song’s style is distinctly retro. Nevertheless, it’s built upon foundational musical roots. It’s like the trunk of the tree, so to speak, and there’d be no tree without it. So, get down, get woke!