McKinley Williams - Singer/Songwriter Recording Artist
I have always maintained a deep connection with and love for the singer/songwriter genre of popular music, particularly that of the 1970s. It was a time when artists were encouraged to present very personal visions of their lives and the world in intimate songs written and often performed solo by the artist. For me, the common thread that ties these artists and their songs together is the possibility of making direct, sometimes confessional but always personal statements to one’s audience, and when members of the audience feel as if they have a personal relationship with the artist. The artists that affected me the most during this period were exploring the expansion of their understanding about life and love. Their best songs often challenged the status quo or pointed to alternative life choices, and most often sought to bring attention to concerns shared by their contemporaries – members of the Baby Boom Generation.
Of course, singer/songwriters had been around for quite some time, but until the early 1970s and for, perhaps, the next ten years or so, they had never experienced the kind of major commercial success as they did then. Artists such as Carole King, James Taylor, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, John Denver, just to name a few, sold huge numbers of records – outselling most other artists and bands of the era.
In creating and producing my songs, I have never felt the desire or need to craft them to meet the demands of the contemporary hit music market. That has never been my goal or intention. The process that informs my songwriting is to allow what is within me to come out and, in the process, create an artistic expression that is uniquely my own. It is not music that is contrived or shaped with the intention of selling millions of records or to fit into what the corporate music industry has seized upon to exploit the mass of teenage and young adult consumers or the talents of young artists. I have always thought of my music as having its greatest potential as a vehicle for the messages that I expound upon in much greater detail in my longer-form writing projects and in other creative endeavors.
The songs contain the crystallization of those messages. I have given a name to this genre of music which I refer to as “head-soul activist” music, which, essentially, is music that encourages reflection about the times we are in as a global civilization. It does not tell people what they should think or do, but, rather expresses my feelings and thoughts as they pertain to the times we are in and how I see it. And so the songs themselves are written from the point of view of the artist’s various observations about the current condition of the world we live in, from a number of perspectives, whether they be from an individual commenting on his own experiences while looking inwards or outward, or sometimes from a third-person omniscient perspective, rather than a statement made in the first-person. All of the songs in this album project represent various stages of my evolving consciousness speaking out about my experience. And the messages reflect the personal mission I have taken on at a challenging time in my life, in our society and in the broader world.
My album, Songs in the Great Turning, refers to two premises. The first premise: “As above, so below” expresses the notion that the global human civilization is in the midst of profound change – a great turning. This turning is manifested in the inner experiences of human beings as well as in the larger systems that contain them, most notably, the natural environment. Let me mention here that I had named my album Songs in the Great Turning before I had any knowledge of Joanna Macy’s work (I believe she was the first to use the phrase The Great Turning in a series of workshops she facilitated) and then later I discovered that the author and social economist David Korten used it for the title of his book published in 2006.
The second premise, which is a personal one, is that these songs reflect my own great turning from the alienation from my deeper, wiser soul-self to my evolutionary process which led to my embracing a new realization and sense of possibility for myself. What I am describing is a shift in consciousness. This is a development that I am still undergoing and that is requiring a profound shift in my perception of reality. It is both a cognitive revolution and a spiritual awakening. The songs complement my personal story which unfolds in my book. It’s uncanny, and I believe serendipitous, that while I did not set out with the idea that these two products of my creativity would be “a package,” it appears that’s what the universe is bringing forth as a distinct possibility.
When I think about the potential impact of the songs composed for this album, especially at this crucial time in human civilization, I am reminded of the impact of Carole King’s Tapestry album and it’s being located in the zeitgeist of the early 70s. Her album, more than anything else, was about the essential need for and the complexity of human connection. Her album was a cultural touchstone in its time (and sold 25 million albums while doing so).
Songs in the Great Turning has the potential of connecting deeply with those who are in the midst of their own personal transformation toward more authentic lives of their own creation. Based on all I observe and read, as well as additional information I access from various media sources, there can be no argument that human civilization is at an inflection point. This is what David Korten explains in his book and it is what I’m expressing in my songs. My album is a personal work of art but also has the potential to be an important cultural touchstone like Carole’s profoundly impactful album was in its time.