Musings On Protest Music (Part Two)
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, who performed their second-ever gig at Woodstock recorded one of the greatest songs of the anti-Vietnam war era with “Ohio.” Released only a month after the shootings at Kent State that left four students dead, the immediacy of the release demonstrates the anger many felt over the unprovoked violence, leaving many wondering why the students died (and nine were injured) during a peaceful protest regarding the war’s extension into Cambodia. The B side to the single, “Find the Cost of Freedom,” a Stephen Stills penned number borders on spoken-word, with its poetic, four short lines:
Find the Cost of Freedom
Buried in the Ground
Mother Earth will Swallow You
Lay Your Body Down
John Lennon’s legacy in the post-Beatles era revolves around his peace activism, something he came to be passionate about in his life and his music. “Imagine,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Working Class Hero,” “Gimme Some Truth,” “Power to the People” – all these songs with The Plastic Ono Band sang to the popular spirit of fans, bringing protest music into the mainstream. Who could ignore a Beatle singing songs of love and peace, especially one as lasting and memorable as “Imagine?”
Meanwhile, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” expresses overt tones of anger and frustration. The song often was played in concert with projections of World War II images, despite the fact that it debuted at the peak of the Vietnam War. All told, the metal tune is a blunt force with powerful lyrics that do not shy away from the horrors of war.
Combining the ongoing racial disparity in America with the war in Vietnam, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” was written in 1971 after Gaye’s brother returned from Southeast Asia. This anti-war song was a change from the soulful love songs Gaye was known for, and harkens back to Bob Dylan’s questions in “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Released on a concept album of the same name with themes of war, corruption and drug abuse, “What’s Going On?” was a popular hit and eventually was later chosen as #4 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All time. Reacting to the state of the social fabric that he believed was being torn apart through riots, protests, and police brutality, Gaye struggled to understand how the struggle for freedom and equality were pushed aside in the pursuit of continued warfare.
In Battle Notes Lee Andresen observes that the phrase “What’s Goin’ On?” drawn from the African-American lexicon, expressed disillusionment and captured the broad impact of the Vietnam War both abroad and at home. The personal struggles of Gaye’s brother that led to the line “For only love can conquer hate” are not owned solely by this Vietnam era, but reflect every struggle endured in the subsequent years. Many new versions were recorded over the years and a variety of artists interpreted the song for Artists Against AIDS Worldwide, (released shortly after the events of 9/11, a portion of the proceeds from the sale went to the American Red Cross).
Poet Gil Scott Heron recorded “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in 1970 as a spoken word track on the album Small Talk. The powerful three minute piece is anti-government and anti-media at its core, citing references to politicians, actors, movies, television shows, singers and songwriters and advertising jingles. Heron’s powerful voice, the deep beats and pre-rap vibe to the song make the song a lasting effect of a bygone era, one where thinking the revolution would not be televised made sense. In certain respects this is analogous to the Occupy Movement of today. The difference is that while the Occupy Movement will not be televised – it will be streamed, tweeted, posted and shared faster than the late Heron could have ever envisioned.
To be continued…
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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