peaceLast week I wrote that I thought John Kerry, America and the world need an anthem for change, something to galvanize the opposition to the Worst President in the History of the US and the damage he has done to the world on so many fronts in the last three years. As a result of the responses I received, I’ve sampled over 150 anti-war and protest songs. There are some great songs among them, but the best are about specific events, and don’t lend themselves particularly to the situation we find ourselves in, in 2004. And I really do believe that, in the face of a self-described ‘war president’, who has in fact waged war on personal rights and freedoms, on women, on children, on the poor and the sick and the homeless, and on everyone that doesn’t share his warped and paranoid extreme right-wing vision for the future, our anthem should be a song of peace.

One song I discovered was a 20-year-old Peter Paul & Mary song (it was played on a PBS special this week, backed by a children’s choir with candles, and was very moving). It’s called Light One Candle and it goes like this:

Light one candle for the Maccabee children with thanks that their light didn’t die
Light one candle for the pain they endured when their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know when the peacemaker’s time is at hand

Don’t let the light go out! It’s lasted for so many years!
Don’t let the light go out! Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need to never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering, pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in that anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together with peace as the song in our hearts

What is the memory that’s valued so highly that we keep it alive in that flame?
What’s the commitment to those who have died that we cry out they’ve not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing that justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise, this is why we will not fail!

The song is about the story of the Maccabees, who resisted the oppression of their people and of the Jewish faith, and whose bravery is remembered in the Hanukkah lighting of the Menorah candles. It is sung also on Children’s Memorial Day, the second Sunday in December, when those who have lost children to war or other causes light a candle to remember them. It has also become, according to this site where you can listen to the song, “an anthem for the Jewish ethical legacy; Judaism’s commitment to a better world.” It has been embraced by the Israeli congregations calling for peace and an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands. The version on the above link is rather plain — if anyone finds a version online with the children’s choir backing PP&M, let me know.

I like this song, and it is a song of peace and defiance. And I like the idea of a Jewish song as an anthem against Bush, whose endorsement of the current war-mongering Israeli Prime Minister in a cynical attempt to co-opt Jewish voters has merely opened up deeper divisions in America. But this song is a bit vague, I think, for the immediate task at hand.

My next discovery was a song by Peter Stuart, who you may remember from a group called Dog’s Eye View, which had a hit called Everything Falls Apart. Peter, who’s now solo, has written a song called Waiting for Peace to Come. You can listen to or download it here, and its lyrics go like this:

Nothing else matters, everything shattered
Glass, steel and bone
As we all bear witness we turn to face this test of faith
With candles and hope to lead our way home

As we stand together hand in hand waiting for peace to come
Looking for someway to understand, terrified and numb
But standing, standing still and waiting, waiting for peace to come

Nothing will ever be as simple as it once was
We’re forced to remember just how fragile life is
With candles and hope to lead our way home

Take this precious moment to breathe, to let yourself believe
That love is stronger than hate, that love is fiercer than fear

Beautiful, poignant, true, but perhaps a little too melancholy, a little too passive for ousting a psychopathic Presnit.

There’s always the old standby, of course, Dylan’s The Times They Are a’Changin’. Just in case anyone alive hasn’t heard this, you can listen to it here. The lyrics are as follows:

Come gather round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a’changin’

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
And the times they are a’changin’

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a’changin’

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a’changin’

The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a’changin’

At the risk of being charged with sacrilege, or violation of intellectual property law, I’d like to suggest we update The Times… with some new and topical lyrics. The battle is no longer generational, it’s ideological. So suppose we sang these lyrics instead:

Four years we have suffered from Bush’s regime
These liars and killers are worse than they seemed
We’re tired of their terror, we’re through with their schemes
It’s time for a “country reclaiming”
So America’s glory may again be redeemed
Cause the times they are a’changin’

This “war president” gives the spoils to his friends
And he thinks any means’ justified by the ends
And he can’t understand that the message he sends
Isn’t bringing us peace, it’s inflaming
He’s ‘pre-empting’ our future, it’s time for amends
For the times they are a’changin’

While millions are losing their jobs overseas
And the poor they are hungry and racked with disease
Bush’s corporate buddies just do as they please
As our children’s legacy’s wasting
They keep poisoning our water and clearcutting trees
But the times they are a’changin’

The right of assembly, a woman’s right to choose
We must realize we have so much to lose
And we can’t get the truth on the ten o’clock news
But their hold over us it is waning
Cause we now know the facts and there’s no more excuse
And the times they are a’changin’

So gather ’round people, please heed the call
He’s done enough damage, it’s his turn to fall
But his lies never end so there’s no time to stall
There’s just seven more months still remaining
Then we’ll end right-wing tyranny once and for all
For the times they are a’changin’

What do you think?

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8 Responses to ANTHEM, REVISITED

  1. Phil says:

    “Peter Stuart, who you may remember from a group called Dog’s Eye View”I loved Dog’s Eye View. Saw them live three times and saw Peter solo a couple times – he lived here in Seattle for awhile. One of the live performances, Jakob Dylan’s band The Wallflowers opened. Glad to see Peter’s still performing and writing.I like your Times revamp. Perhaps MoveOn could film an ad of it performed by Muppet musicians.

  2. Darren says:

    Er, with all due respect, I think we should stick with the Dylan version. Or at least wait until he’s dead for 20 or 30 years.

  3. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Nope. Kids won’t buy it.

  4. Evan says:

    Why wait til he’s dead? It’s the folk process. Dylan didn’t wait for Woody Guthrie to die before he started stealing *his* stuff, and Woody didn’t wait for the people *he* stole from.This is culture, and it belongs to all of us. Dave can update Dylan if he wants to.I think it’s swell, Dave, and would be delighted to hear it performed at a rally. Though I think you made a sort of strategic mistake in the last verse: “Seven more months still remaining” is going to outdate itself in the very near future.

  5. Darren says:

    Well, if you want to get technical, a significant part of the appeal of Dylan’s song is its universalism. It’s been sung not only in San Francisco and New York, but in Berlin and Johannesburg. Making it specific detracts from it. Besides, the lyrics of the original are as applicable today as they were in 1964.

  6. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Hmmm… Let’s try to say something sensible for a change.First, you should consider the goals of the song in question. Will it have to energise the current voter base or attract new voters? (I’d choose the second.) Then you should try to find out which people are most likely to switch. Which moderate Republican voters have suffered most from Bush’s policies? Who are the most disgruntled? What age are they? Where do they live? How much money do they make? Record companies should have some data on what the people you want listen to – just ask them. Then find an artist in that genre who appeals to these people – preferably a big name and someone who appeals to more than just their hardcore fans alone (I believe it’s called crossover appeal). Then have them cover or rewrite a song everyone knows already, preferably one that’s catchy (as in memorable) but not annoyingly so. That should do it.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    OK, I can take a hint. A songwriter I’m not, and despite repeated attempts I am unable to appreciate 90% of rap/alternative music, although it is clear to me that it communicates powerfully, emotionally and viscerally with the current generation just as Dylan did with ours. I’ll leave it up to someone with a better connection to the current generation’s music to craft an anthem that is both accessible to them, and coherent enough to appeal to the many older protesters.Harald’s questions, which are extremely pertinent, I have already answered in an earlier post but should have restated here. The primary target audience is (1) undecided and moderate voters, especially those in ‘swing’ states, and (2) those who would vote against Bush but are too discouraged or disgusted to bother voting. My anthem call was aimed at this latter group, because the former group will decide, I *think*, more on intellectual than emotional grounds who to vote for. This latter group also has enormous power to create momentum, where none exists in the campaign — in fact they’re the only group that could create a steamroller effect among other ’emotional’ voters, including those who might have been planning to vote for Bush.

  8. LoneMaquis says:

    I too love the Peter Yarrow song. However, an anthem of anti-occupation Israelis is not a fitting theme song for John Kerry, who, like all our major politicians (even liberals like Boxer and Wellstone) has spared no effort in proclaiming his support for Israel and its policies. He has and will ingratiate himself with hawkish Zionists, and is dependent on their campaign contributions. I don’t exactly understand how Dubya is worse than Reagan as a prez. Has Shrubbie’s Department of Defense commissioned more nuclear missiles/warheads than Reagan’s did? Has W gutted more social programs? Is he the first recent president to lead our military into inexcusable interventionist adventures abroad?

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