Today in Music History:
In 1948 Wynonie Harris hits #1 on the R&B chart with the King release of "Good Rockin' Tonight."This will be a juggernaut post so I suggest you start streaming Neil Young's new album by clicking here, while you read. Music at any given time is a reflection on what is happening in the world around us at the time it was written and recorded. Some of the greatest songs ever recorded are the direct result of the times and protest music is no exception. Think back to the Vietnam war era and the multitude of classic songs that are purely protest. In this day and age I've heard and read how some people think it's inappropriate that musicians and or celebrities use their status as a forum for politics. The ones that always scream the loudest are the conservatives. How can one forget the strife and unrest of the late 60's and early 70's and the extremely excellent music that came out of that unrest. The music wasn't strictly fluff, it meant something to the artists and to the people that embraced it. They wanted change from the corrupt government and the terrible pointless war that raged in some faraway dinky little country. Personally I can't think of a better way to voice your concerns and angst than through music and what better way to cut through the apathy of youth than through the medium they love. One night a few months back, my old lady turns to me and says, "what happened to the days when people used to care. When the world was turning upside down over Vietnam and the Nixon admin., there were protests, music protested etc. Where are these people now? Doesn't anybody care?" Yes Virginia someone cares, and that is Canadian born legend Neil Young. There has been a lot of hype over his new album Living With War and as of today you can stream the whole album. Before you read on click here to stream the album while you read. I just finished listening to the whole album and am currently on my second run through it and it is nothing short of absolutely amazing. When the closing strains of the final track, America the Beautiful, were coming to an end I had chills running down my spine and a lump in my throat. It is that damn good. It's a justified, scathing look at the current administration and it's damaging policies. Way to protest Neil.
Neil has always had that effect on me. When I saw the movie Philadelphia I thought it was an OK movie but when the movie ended and Neil's singing Philadelphia and the home movies of the dead guy were running, I just lost it. When Neil sang Imagine during the 9/11 tribute I couldn't hold back my tears. When Neil performed at the Canada for Asia benefit months just a few short months after suffering his brain thingy, once again I felt the tears welling up. Needless to say I will purchase the new disc when it comes out in May.
Which ultimately brings me to what this whole post is about today. I am compiling a CD of the Top 20 Protest Songs of all time. Kids have nothing to protest today, lest their cell phone is taken away. They think that everything is going their way and are apathetic and only care about the next big fad. There was a time when your ass was gonna get drafted and then more than likely killed or maimed in some far off little country. People were upset about this. There was a time when civil rights was a cause. Nowdays if a parent tries to get their kid to clean their room, they cry foul and threaten to call social services screaming child abuse. With yet another war looming on the horizon in Iran it might be time to start caring again. Cell phones and ring tones aren't the most important things in life. Maybe when the draft is reinstated, things will change. This list will be a tall order because there are so many good ones. Also I don't want to immediately include the ones that are springing into your mind right this second. Everyone knows that Blowing in the Wind is probably the best one, but I'll probably leave it off this CD. The songs don't have to necessarily be protesting war. They could be protesting anything. Hopefully I've thrown in one or two that you haven't heard before. I know y'all are getting tired of reading because I'm getting tired of thinking and typing, so let's get on with it. These are in no particular order and please feel free to protest my choices.
For the title of this post I used a line from this song, which happens to be one of my favorites. Written by Stephen Stills, with a young Neil in the mix, getting started on his road to legendom. We better stop, hey, what's that sound Everybody look what's going down
In 1986, Dweezil Zappa released his first album Havin a Bad Day, produced by Daddy Frank. Dweezil was an ardent Eddie Van Halen fan and some of the guitar work on this album emulates that style. I enjoyed the hell out of this album. Good luck finding it now, you can search online for prices upwards of seventy dollars for this out of print gem. Here's a tune off the album with sis Moon Unit providing vocals. Awesome tune. Very catchy and protesty. I double dog dare you to not like it.You won't believe it but it's true We're still making weapons To protect us from you-know-who
In 1971 Grand Funk released their last album as a trio called E Pluribus Funk. I wonder what war they're talking about? From fighting in a war, that causes big men to get rich. There's money in them war machines, now ain't this a bitch?
Almost everything the Clash did was political in some way. No more so than the Sandinista triple juggernaut. Another song with explicit references to American external policies. The killing clowns, the blood money men Are shooting those Washington bullets again
The best fuck you to the government establishment song EVER. Appropriate for today's political climate still. A lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes reflected the climate of the day.
Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yoh,
With their last album The Rolling Stones proved that they can still rock n roll. Make as many geriatric jokes as you like, Mick and the boys are still relevant and they hit the nail on the head with Sweet Neo Con.
It's liberty for all
'Cause democracy's our style
Unless you are against us
Then it's prison without trial
Steve Earle has long displayed a strong political streak and his leftist views took center stage on his 2002 album Jerusalem. Written and recorded in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Jersusalem dealt openly with Earle's divided feelings about America's "war on terror". Say what you will about him, but Steve Earle has never been afraid of getting people mad at him if he thought it was the right thing to do, so here's a song about the growing gulf between the rich and the poor.
Yeah, I know, that sucks – that your HMO
Ain't doin' what you thought it would do
But everybody's gotta die sometime and we can't save everybody
It's the best that we can do
Even The Ramones could write a meaningful protest song. Even though Johnny was ultra consevative and a staunch republican supporter, "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" was one of their finest moments. Based on Ronald Reagan’s ill-advised visit to a cemetery of SS graves.
Bonzo goes to bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea
As I watched it on TV somehow it really bothered me
Drank in all the bars in town to understand the foreign policy
Pick up the pieces
I've covered Alice Cooper's child abuse protest(Dead Babies) and here's one that sounds like it's protesting something, although I'm not sure what. war, craziness or something. A rarely heard gem though.
From his army confessions of his military days
You still carry the shrapnel, you're shell-shocked and dazed
Dear Johnny, have you lost your way
Or like denim and leather are you faded and frayed
Okay people I'm starting to run out of steam here. I'm getting tired and I've been at this all day. I need a song in here that protests the proliferation of nuclear weapons. A catchy little pop tune from the 80's with a serious message. English version.
This is what we've waited for
This is it boys, this is war
The President is on the line
As Ninety nine red balloons go by
Although Johnny Cash's signature tune, "Man in Black," isn't technically a protest song, it's still one of the greatest protest songs ever written, a song written and sung in pure anger and defiance. Instead of just moaning about the troubles of the world, he decided to bear responsibility for them by making a symbolic gesture, one he stuck to until the end of his life: I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back/ 'Til things are brighter, I'm the man in black.
I'll name a couple here that every human in existence probably owns so I won't post them. I don't want anyone to think I left a glaring omission off of my CD. Rockin' in the Free World by Neil Young. Ohio by Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The Times They are a Changin' by Bob Dylan. Let's Impeach the President by Neil Young.
Finally, if you're a kid and can't think of anything to protest, then there is always authority in general, especially parents. What better and more fun song is there that tells parents that we aren't gonna take it than.
Well there it is my list of some of the best protest songs of all time. I assume everyone agrees with me or are there a few that disagree and would like to protest. Seriously I would like a couple reader suggestions to add to my CD. Thanks for putting up with this long and boring entry of mine. Have a good weekend everyone, and if something pisses you off. Protest It.