Bringing it back home after last week’s trip around the world. Trying times have created some of our most important music. The great American songbook is jam-packed with protest music. Yankee Doodle Dandy, This Land and the entire Woody Guthrie catalog, the wide-ranging topics covered by so many throughout the 60s, right up through Tribe Called Quest’s “We the People”.
Billie Holiday‘s “Strange Fruit” is as haunting today as it was in 1939. Not a chant, like so many protest anthems, this lyrical poem is unlike almost anything else in the genre:
“Southern trees bearing strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the roots
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”
Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born in the USA” was a protest song successfully co-opted by the very targets of his wrath.
“Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man”
Billy Bragg howling at oppression. There goes Phil Ochs again. Or Bob Dylan before he realized that love songs sell better, but managed to call out causes big and small. (Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter anyone?)
“But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world”
So, who speaks for you? Who inspires you to action? What part of history does a particular album or artist keep alive?
During our own 2019 struggle as we tried to get The Station off the ground it was Rising Appalachia‘s “Resilient” that saved our sanity.
“So what are we doing here
What has been done
What are you gonna do about it
When the world comes undone
My voice feels tiny
And I’m sure so does yours
Put us all together we’ll make a mighty roar
I am resilient
I trust the movement
I negate the chaos
Uplift the negative
I’ll show up at the table again and again and again
I’ll close my mouth and learn to listen…”