From the movie "Selma" featuring David Oyelowo (center) as Martin Luther King Jr.

Songs for the movie “Selma” create moods of joy, tragedy and determination.Common and John Legend lead off the movie soundtrack with the stirring “Glory.”  Chicago bluesman J.B. Lenoir, 1929-1967, noted for his songs commenting on politics and social conditions, contributes  “Alabama blues” about people getting shot by police.

Music supervisor Morgan Rhodes worked with director Ava DuVernay to pick the songs. She shares a play list of some of her favorites songs that didnt appear on the sound track.

Mississippi bluesman Son House, Carmen McRae’s jazzy version of the gospel standard “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” John Coltrane’s elegy to the girls killed in a church bombing, and the Staples Singers “Why am I Treated So Bad” are among the civil rights era music that resonated with music supervisor Rhodes. There’s a marching folk song by John Fahey and a doo-wop number from the Orlons, even a ballad featuring the Isley Bros. and Jimi Hendrix.

A preview trailer built excitement for the film by using Public Enemy’s rap song “Say it Like it Really is.”

A Chicago blues footnote to the civil rights movement: In 1968, two months after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the Poor People’s campaign was still soldiering on. Muddy Waters traveled with his band to D.C. to play at the Resurrection City tent occupation, including the eminent Willie Dixon on bass and Little Walter on harmonica; and Otis Spann on piano.

 Muddy’s band had driven all night from Chicago came at the invitation of folklorist Alan Lomax, who, along with Black folklorist John Work, had first recorded Muddy Waters for the Library of Congress in the summers of 1941 and 1942.

 Otis Spann, the day after King’s murder on April 4, 1968,  had performed two newly composed blues for the fallen civil rights leader — “Blues for Martin Luther King” and “Hotel Lorraine” — in a storefront church in Chicago, even as buildings were burning all around the church in the riots that erupted after the fatal shooting.

Bonni McKeown

"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years.  She has led classes for young and old on...