Charles Wright with Mayor Bob Foster. Photo by Sarah Bennett
It’s one of the most highly sampled songs of all time, used to sell everything from Nike shoes to high-end clothing. You might recognize the familiar funky beat from the NWA song of the same name or, most recently, a Chevrolet commercial aired during the Super Bowl.
Since Charles Wright wrote “Express Yourself” in 1970, and his 103rd St. Watts Rhythm Band made it originally famous, the song has been used in more than 30 movies and countless commercials.
Starting this month, however, it will become the theme for the Long Beach City Clerk’s Office voter-awareness campaign— its first governmental use yet.
“I think people who are on every side of the business are smart enough to know that people really need to express themselves,” Wright told the Post. “I think we all have an innate need to express ourselves even though some of us never do, really.”
Though Wright is not from Long Beach—he was born in Mississippi and has lived all over L.A.—he agreed to donate use of the song to the City because voting is an issue he takes very seriously. He said he would have done it for any city who wanted to use “Express Yourself” as a way to make sure people come out and vote.
“Forty years ago, my people won the fight to vote. And now it’s all Americans’ right, and I think we should take advantage of it,” Wright said. “I think of all the pain and suffering people went through so that I could vote. My mother and father couldn’t vote, so I should because I can. ”
Based on a plan conceived by City Clerk Larry Herrera, the entire “LB Vote 2014” campaign centers around “Express Yourself.” In addition to having the phrase emblazoned on 150 street banners, bus shelter posters and even bilingual signage (“Exprésese”), the song will also be used in public service announcements, online videos, social media postings and online advertising as part of a comprehensive voter awareness campaign for the City’s primary election on April 8.
“Often local government gets pushed aside in the face of national elections, but what happens locally affects you more in the day-to-day,” said Mayor Bob Foster. “You can’t complain about government if you don’t vote, so it’s important to educate yourself and participate.”
The “Express Yourself LB Vote 2014” campaign will also include a soon-to-be-released mobile app that will help users find their polling place, sign up for vote my mail and, on election night, watch live results for the more than 46 contests that will be voted on citywide.
For more information about how and where to vote in Long Beach, visit the City Clerk homepage at longbeach.gov/cityclerk/elections