I hear somebody crying... crying in the streets

The Louisiana-based singer George Perkins recorded a handful of singles, his best and best-known being a secular track cut with his gospel group the Silver Stars, "Cryin' in the Streets Pt. 1"/ "Cryin' in the Streets Pt. 2," on the Golden label. It was later reissued by the slightly larger Silver Fox label in 1970, after it became a regional hit. 

I first heard the song on a 1992 CD companion to Peter Guralnick's essential book Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom. The song is among the greatest obscure civil rights anthems.

Perkins died unexpectedly in his home a year and a half ago, before he could make a comeback appearance at the Ponderosa Stomp. This excellent post on their blog has all kinds of great information on the singer.

The line between gospel and soul is often so thin as to be wholly porous. The A-Side mentions "marching" and then "praying." And while the B-Side mentions "dancing," really this song is a fabulous, mournful gospel dirge.

Written after watching the funeral proceedings for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Cryin'" can be heard as a wake for the devastation of the movement itself, after so many targeted assassinations. And while the B-Side attempts to uplift, I'm not sure it does (that's not meant as criticism).

Mike McGonigal

Metro Times music editor Mike McGonigal has written about music since 1984, when he started the fanzine Chemical Imbalance at age sixteen with money saved from mowing lawns in Florida. He's since written for Spin, Pitchfork, the Village VOICE and Artforum. He's been a museum guard, a financial reporter, a bicycle...
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