Music | June 27, 2019 10:23 am

Philadelphia College Reviving Lost Funk Tracks From the ’60s and ’70s

Drexel University’s Music Industry program is thriving thanks to a long-lost archive

The O'Jays performing on stage. (Photo by RB/Redferns)
The O'Jays performing on stage. (Photo by RB/Redferns)

Drexel University’s Music Industry program is bringing (back) the funk.

Gifted with an archive of tapes from Sigma Sound Studio which had been left in a storage facility unit for which no rent had been paid for months, students at the Philadelphia school began going through the thousands of recordings.

And in the Sigma Sound Studio tapes, students found plenty of examples of “The Sound of Philadelphia” which was exemplified by groups like The Trammps,  The Three Degrees and The O’Jays in the 1960s and 1970s.

One of those examples was a song called “Tribute to a Slave” by a group called Nat Turner Rebellion. According to professor Toby Seay, project director of the university’s audio archives, the 1969 recording of the song blew him away.

After finding the tune in 2011, Seay and his students kept an eye, and an ear, out for more tunes from Nat Turner Rebellion. By 2019, they had enough tracks for an LP and were able to release, as part of a partnership with Vinyl Me, Please, a Nat Turner Rebellion album titled “Laugh to Keep From Crying.”

“There was not a thought in my mind that this could have happened,” the group’s lone surviving member, Joseph Jefferson, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is what I wanted. Just the recognition for this.”

A New York Times review called the album “a greeting across eras … vintage socially conscious, tambourine-shaking funk.”

Well played, Drexel.

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