In the late 1950s/early '60s, rock 'n' roll was still in its infancy, drawing from such musically and racially disparate genres as country, R&B, gospel and blues for influence and inspiration. It had only been a few years since Billboard stopped calling R&B songs "race records," and the U.S., especially in the South, remained racially divided, with many black women serving as maids for white families.
Tate Taylor's upcoming film adaptation of the popular 2009 book "The Help" explores the racial and class dynamics between the titular maids and the families they support, with an accompanying soundtrack that draws from folk, country, doo-wop and early rock 'n' roll.
With the exception of "The Living Proof," a new song written and recorded by Mary J. Blige, "The Help" soundtrack is period-appropriate, combining classics such as Bob Dylan's folky "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and Chubby Checker's pioneering "Let's Twist Again" with lesser-known tracks like Webb Pierce's country-tinged "I Ain't Never" and the vibrant gospel of Mavis Staples' "Don't Knock."
Dealing with such a politically charged environment, it's only natural the film's music supervisors would choose their selections based as much on social consciousness as musical ability and diversity. Bo Diddley ("Road Runner") and Ray Charles ("Hallelujah I Love Her So") were two of the first black musicians to make the white kids go nuts, while everything you need to know about gospel singer Dorothy Norwood is in the title "Victory Is Mine."
Blige, whose own aunt was a maid to a wealthy white family, wrote "The Living Proof" from the point of view of Aibileen (Viola Clark), a middle-aged black maid who recently lost her only son. It's an anthemic, gospel-tinged R&B track written to inspire; as Blige sings, "It's gonna be some lonely nights/But I am ready to carry on/I am so glad the worst is over/I can start living now."
1. The Living Proof – Mary J. Blige
2. Jackson – Johnny Cash and June Carter
3. Sherry – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
4. I Ain’t Never – Webb Pierce
5. Victory is Mine – Dorothy Norwood
6. Road Runner – Bo Diddley
7. Hallelujah I Love Her So – Ray Charles
8. The Wah-Watusi – The Orlons
9. (You’ve Got) Personality – Lloyd Price
10. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – Bob Dylan
11. Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker
12. Don’t Knock – Mavis Staples