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Bob Andy and Marcia Griffith's joyful ska version of this powerful civil rights anthem was brought to the world by the hugely influential British-based Jamaican record label Trojan - an offshoot of Island Records - reaching No.5 in the UK charts in 1970 at a time when Jamaican music was just beginning to make its irrevocable mark on British culture.

The label was formed in 1967 to release music by artists discovered by legendary Kingston, Jamaica record producer and DJ Duke Reid, who ran a mobile sound system out of the back of an old Trojan van with "The Trojan King of Sounds" painted on the side. Reid licensed recordings from a stable of Jamaican record labels and shipped them to Britain where, by March 1970, he had already notched up a string of hits, starting with Tony Tribe singing Neil Diamond's Red Red Wine and including classics Wonderful World, Beautiful People by Jimmy Cliff and The Liquidator by Harry J All Stars.

To Be Young, Gifted and Black is a celebration of what it means to represent a race of people whose gifts were gradually being allowed to flourish and be appreciated in a white man's world after centuries of oppression and exploitation.

This message to a new generation of young black people is that their time has finally come: "We must begin to tell our young / There's a world waiting for you / This is a quest that's just begun".

There's an undercurrent of sadness to the song, however. Co-written by Nina Simone and her bandleader Weldon Irvine, To Be Young, Gifted and Black was a tribute to Simone's friend, black rights activist and acclaimed playwright Lorraine Hansberry, who died at age 34 from pancreatic cancer.

Bob and Marcia quickly followed up their debut hit with Pied Piper in 1971, but their British music career petered out. And within another year, the Trojan records story was already reaching what you might call the end of the beginning.

The label still exists today, but its early mission to bring underground Jamaican reggae singles to a wider audience was over by the end of 1971 and the label has been through numerous changes of ownership since. However, Trojan had already changed British music forever. It had introduced white British skinheads to the Jamaican rude boy subculture of smart suits and pork pie hats that went on to become the signature of fans and musicians from the hugely successful and influential 2 Tone label, including The Specials, Selecter and Madness.

The baton had passed to a new breed of musicians who had accepted Jamaican ska and reggae music as an overwhelming influence and, as artists, saw black and white as vital and equal ingredients of their sound.

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About the curator: Jon Ewing

After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.

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