In a previous conversation with a Facebook friend, Michael Kirkpatrick, he mentioned “the heyday of protest music in the ‘60s & ‘70s . . . Vietnam (and) civil rights”. Kirkpatrick elaborated: “The heyday of protest songs was during a very tumultuous time in American history during the 1960s and ‘70s. Vietnam. Assassinations. (The) Women’s movement. Sadly there has been an absence of protest songs during our current struggles in America.”
Kirkpatrick thought that perhaps by reflecting upon these classic cuts readers would perhaps be reminded of “the power of music to inspire, educate, and effect change.” Thus, your crusty chronicler was inspired to compose a compilation piece on protest songs. (Mind you, the recent push by Examiner to get your independent penman to use the new “list” format also helped spur on the creation of a protest playlistl.) So without further adieu, here’s the second group:
“This Land is Your Land”
“This Land is Your Land” was written by Woody Guthrie in 1940. He recorded it in 1944. The song is considered to be a tip of the hat to the working class, and a statement on the distribution of wealth and power in the U.S. and calls listeners to protest with its claim that this land belongs to “you and me”.
“Bring ‘Em Home”
Pete Seeger wrote “Bring ‘Em Home” in 1965 to protest the United States involvement in Vietnam. It would go on to be one of the most re-recorded protest songs in history. It would later be covered by such other artists as Barbara Dane, Tom Winslow and even Bruce Springsteen in 2006.
“Give Peace a Chance”
John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” from 1969 was released as a single by the Plastic Ono Band on Apple Records. It was Lennon’s solo single put out while he was still in the Beatles. It became a favorite anthem of the U.S. anti-war movement. It climbed to number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the UK singles chart.
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron was first released in 1970 as a poem he recorded over assorted drums. The popular single version was re-recorded and released the following year. The song title became a part of our language once it had been abused and over-used in other song lyrics, headlines and advertising slogans. The New Statesman even listed it as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs” in 2010.
“Working Class Hero”
Another appropriate John Lennon solo song is “Working Class Hero” from 1971. This is a statement on the class system. John Lennon once explained that the song was a criticism on how members of the working class are processed into the middle class or, as some call it, “the machine”.
“What’s Going On”
Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit “What’s Going On” was actually inspired by an incident of police brutality that was witnessed and written by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye. It’s generally considered to be a meditation on the world’s problems including the Vietnam War. It rose to the top of the Hot Soul Singles chart and made it to number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the fourth greatest song of all time, in 2011.
Fela Kuti and Afrika 70’s “Zombie” was one of those rare protest songs that actually triggered an armed reprisal. Kuti, already branded a troublemaker by the Nigerian authorities, pushed it to the limit when he recorded this satire on the army. Soldiers actually raided Kuti’s compound, brutalized everyone there and burnt it to the ground.
“F*ck Tha Police”
In 1988 N.W.A. released “F*ck Tha Police”. This highly controversial cut was said to be a protest against the practice of racial profiling in the U.S. It was even more specifically aimed at the L.A. P.D. Rolling Stone magazine declared the track to be “one of the 100 greatest rap songs of all time”.In 1988 N.W.A. released “F*ck Tha Police”. This highly controversial cut was said to be a protest against the practice of racial profiling in the U.S. It was even more specifically aimed at the L.A. P.D. Rolling Stone magazine declared the track to be “one of the 100 greatest rap songs of all time”.
“People Have the Power”
“People Have the Power” by Patti Smith was recorded in 1988. It is considered by some critics to be both a strong and yet lovely protest piece. In fact, some credit this track to be partially responsible for her place in music history today. Smith concludes the song with a potent reminder that “everything we dream can come to pass through our union.”
“How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?”
In 2006 Bruce Springsteen took the much-covered 1929 number “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?” He wrote an adaptation using his own point of view. He made it a more current piece. It was a direct and specific response to the U.S. Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005.
So there you have it, hippies, yippies, fans and fanatics, the second serving of protest pieces from the 1940s through 2005. As always, feel free to comment and contribute. Who knows? This could turn into yet another series.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.