I hadn't thought of "We're Gonna Make It" by Little Milton in what must be decades - until a few weeks ago. Things seemed to look very bleak, so I reached down into the farthest corners of my mind for something to keep me from falling apart, and this song appeared.
When I was 14 or 15, I bought my first blues compilation. This song was my immediate favourite. I needed that optimism. It kind of hits you right in the face. “Defiant Optimism”, Rob Jones calls it on his blog “The Delete Bin’. I love that phrase. I want “Defiant Optimist” inscribed on my gravestone! It’s not the kind of optimism that glosses over reality, it’s the f***-you-you-won’t-keep-me-down kind.
Which is why I imagine this song was considered a civil rights anthem. (“staring adversity in the face, acknowledging the reality that a community was facing systemic oppression, but with a firm belief that things would change for the better anyway.” -Rob Jones )
It completely eluded me when I was a teen, but listening to it again, without even knowing its history, I instantly understood. It was the perfect song when it was released in the 60s, and it’s still the perfect song for these times. I lie awake dreaming we’re all going to unite in defiant optimism. It’s all I’ve got.