protestIn the months and years leading up to the ouster of Nixon in ’74, the airwaves were filled with the music of protest and change. Now, thirty years later, with a comparable ultra-conservative, repressive, war-mongering corporatist in the White House, the airwaves are filled with pap. The movement to dump Bush needs music, because music is positive, hopeful, energizing, powerful.

John Kerry needs an anthem. Or ten.

We need to get the most popular and competent songwriters of our time to stop with the introspective, materialistic, narrow navel-gazing blather and start writing political songs. Songs that can galvanize opposition to Bush’s war on personal freedoms, on women, on children (his No Child Left program), on the environment, on the poor, on labour, and on countries that aren’t friendly to American corporate interests. These are important issues and music is the language of awareness and change.

We need songs like Ohio, like Imagine, like The Times They Are a’Changin’, like Alice’s Restaurant, like For What It’s Worth, like What’s Goin’ On, like Mercy Mercy Me, like Edwin Starr’s War. By contrast, these modern protest songs just don’t seem to do it — and none of them is a hit on the level of any of the above ’60s and ’70s songs.

We need songs that tell stories. Stories of the returning dead and injured American soldiers that this callous president doesn’t even have the decency to honour with his presence. Stories of innocent Americans terrorized by Ashcroft’s Patriot Act stormtroopers. Stories of struggling workers discarded by greedy corporations flush with Bush’s kickback tax refunds. Stories of poor women and children and homeless people neglected and abandoned by an administration that has bankrupted the economy with war and handouts to the rich but offers nothing to those in real need. Stories of staggering environmental degradation and the poisoning of our air, water and soil, abetted by an administration that neglects to enforce meagre environmental laws and instead doles out public lands to friendly private interests at a rate unprecedented in US history, at a price that’s a fraction of their irreplaceable value. Stories of Halliburton’s corporate rapacity, of theft of a nation’s property as ‘war reparations’ and of cynical deals with despots in countries Bush is supposedly ‘liberating’.

Rolling Stone tried to get the ball rolling on this before Christmas, but so far it’s all talk and no music. I can’t believe this is a Clear Channel conspiracy. Look at the Top 100 songs and read their lyrics. It’s pathetic. The one political song is a pro-war song.

Why is it, with half a blogosphere of excellent writing about Bush’s excesses, almost none of this writing, none of this anger and energy and indignation has been set to music?

Where’s the fire? Where’s the fury? Where is the anthem that will end the reign of The Worst President in the History of the United States? What will we sing in the streets of the land, in hopeful defiance now, and on the night of November 2 in celebration of the end of the four year nightmare that this lying, scheming, cruel, cynical, incompetent president has foisted on the American people and on the world?

Cause if you want to end the war and stuff you got to sing loud.

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  1. Evan says:

    none of them is a hit on the level of any of the above ’60s and ’70s songsThough for that matter, I don’t think “We Shall Overcome” ever made the charts even once. The main thing is for people to know it, not for it to get airplay.I’m woefully ignorant of hiphop, but I have a feeling that today’s protest music, if it’s to be found anywhere, will be there.

  2. Jacob says:

    Well, a protest song would probably never make it into the Top 40, given how much top-down control the music industry has over what’s played. However, Incubus’ “Megalomaniac” (at least the video) is rather anti-war, even though their music generally does not appeal to me. There’s a rock/ alt-country band called Wilco that had a delightful protest song called “War on War” (among other songs on that album), but they’re still not breaking big whatsoever on the youth-oriented, mind-numbing pop charts. Overall, protest songs don’t seem to be good for business, so the capitalistic tenet of conformity seems to knee-jerk into effect and keep out much of any voice of resistance.It’s like they don’t want another John Lennon for a specific reason.

  3. Jacob says:

    p.s. In reply to the comment preceding mine: Outkast has a protest song as well on their double album, titled “War” on the Big Boi disc. Also, the Beastie Boys released a protest song before the war (via mp3), and long before their next album which it is supposed to be included on, pending its release…

  4. SFC Brown says:

    One cannot help but be profoundly moved by self evident, a poem written by ani difranco shortly after 9/11. You can listen to ani read/perform for a live audience.

  5. SFC Brown says:

    Oops, sorry for the superfluous ‘bolding’, first try at HTML code!

  6. Doug Alder says:

    Norm over at onegoodmove has an extensive list of anti-war songs

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Cee: Agree — this is a great piece (as is all her performance work). Not too suitable for mass singing though ;-)Doug: Wow — terrific find. I’ll have to set aside some time to listen to all the samples on this site. Thanks.

  8. Philip says:

    I can’t imagime this generation responding to a song like we did in the ’60s & ’70s. I have to admit I haven’t listened to most but what I have heard has been angst there is damn little hope. Clinton picked up on a Fleetwood Mac tune at least 15 years old. If I was to pick an anthem I would choose <a rel="nofollow" href="; a Who anthem. The idea is Bush said he was one thing and turned out to be something very different. We won’t be fooled again!

  9. Cyndy says:

    Here is someone to check out.David Rovics

  10. Dave Pollard says:

    Philip: Love the chorus of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, but the rest of the lyrics are a bit lame.Cyndy: Amazing link — thank you! This guy is prolific. Hey everyone, check out Rovics’ site and see what you think. I especially like ‘We Are Everywhere’. Cyndy, your blog is great, too.

  11. O RLY YA RLY says:

    The one band that came to my mind was System of a Down.

  12. Michael says:

    I was just thinking about this on the commute home from work! Amazing. And well written, too. Have you checked out Radiohead’s 2003 CD “Hail to the Thief”? It is the closest I’ve heard to anti-Bush. I felt it was one of the best Albums of last year, but was very overlooked here in America because it didn’t have that mainstream sound. Someone needs to stick a bug into Outkast’s ear.

  13. O RLY YA RLY says:

    I have a feeling Radiohead is a bit too cryptical. Their message doesn’t have the immediate impact that, say, Rage Against the Machine had.

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