This Black History Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of essays, interviews, reviews, poetry, playlists, and more features in recognition of, and out of respect for the symbolism and significance of this month.
Today, Philadelphia singer/songwriter and guitarist Greg Sover shares his personal essay “Greg Sover’s Musical Journey” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Black History Month series. As frontman of the Greg Sover Band for the past five years (alongside bassist Garry Lee, guitarist Allen James and drummer Tom Walling), Sover is keeping blues rock alive and well in the 21st Century. Sover released debut album Songs of a Renegade in 2016, followed by the six-track Jubilee in 2018; his latest album, Parade, came out in October 2020 under the name Greg Sover Band. A dynamic outpouring of raw, feverish rock n’ roll, The Parade is as modern-day as it is of another era: A vivid critique of the times whose licks and heavy riffs can’t help but evoke the rock bands of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The album’s rollicking, unrelenting track “Feelin Sumthin” was recently added into rotation at NPR Music’s WXPN.
“Especially in Black History Month it’s a reminder of the sacrifices, major contributions, and achievements of Black people in the United States and the world. Me being Haitian I always acknowledged the importance of Black History Month and giving recognition to those before me from Harriet Tubman Freeing enslaved people to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable a Haitian Trader who is the Founder of Chicago.”
“Music is important to the Black experience all over the world. Many of us has faced racism, discrimination, and segregation, black people have always found a sense of peace in their music. Music is still a way where the anger, grief, and desire for change is turn into positive energy for black people. I always thought that music was about a struggles and experiences no matter what style of music. These struggles and experiences can still be heard weather its Blues or Rap Music.”
“I’m a fan of a lot of artists, but Jay-Z and Jimi Hendrix had the biggest impact on me. I remember hearing Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze for the first time and having the intro stuck in my head and also being drawn to his guitar tone, I never heard anything like it. as far as Jay-z the way he put his lyrics together and talk about his struggles and what he seen growing up. I related to that some how and it taught me that somebody might be able to related to me. I just have to make sure I know what I’m talking about.” – Greg Sover
Greg Sover’s Musical Journey
I was born in Brooklyn to Haitian parents, and music came to me at an early age. My dad was my first musical influence. He played the guitar and I remember the first time I saw his guitar I was mesmerized by it. The sound it made and the way it looked — I knew I had to have one. My dad bought me my first guitar when I was five years old. Growing up in a Haitian household, Kompa (one of the native genres of music in Haiti) was played at our house. But the first English speaking musician I heard was Bob Marley and he has had a major influence on me. As far as American music goes, I remember my dad playing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and I was drawn to the guitar in the song’s intro. I moved to Philly when I was young and that’s where I did most of my growing up. By that time I was listening to Rap, R&B, Country Music and Blues.
I never put any music in a box. I always thought of it as one sound just from different points of view. As much as I love Rap music and R&B, I loved Country music and the Blues the same. I remember friends asking me why I liked Country music but I didn’t know why I just liked it. Now I’m older I know exactly why I like these genres and it’s because it was all American culture. Looking past the obvious, it was never about what kind of people did what, because to me it was all American. The older I got I related more with the music that was speaking about things I saw in my neighborhood. Rap music gave a good glimpse of what’s going on and because of that, Hip Hop culture is a big part of me.
I know I mentioned Jay-Z and Jimi Hendrix [above], but Bob Marley is the reason why I write the way I write. From being political to lyrics about love, Bob Marley showed me that music is not one dimensional. From “Get Up Stand Up” to “Is This Love,” he showed me that music is about giving the world a message and to know what you are talking about. Jimi Hendrix was a major influence. From his style, poetic lyrics, and mainly his guitar playing. I have to give credit to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Freddy King, too. They got me into the blues, but before I wanted to learn how to write and sing I just wanted to be a great guitar player.
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