Tuesday, March 31, 2015
"Chicken Soup With Rice" performed by Carole King
"Time And A Half" performed by Post Social-WSPC PREMIERE
"Sunday Papers" performed by Joe Jackson
"Heaven" performed b Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
"Never Die Young' performed by The Anniversary
"This One" performed by Paul McCartney
"Green Fingers (Ten Thumbs)" performed by Stewart Copeland
"Be Still My Beating Heart" performed by Sting
"Luna" performed by Andy Summers
March 2, 2015
"Shock To The System" performed by Yes
"Hold Your Head Up" performed by Argent
"Tell Me Why" performed by Neil Young
"My City Was Gone" performed by The Pretenders
"Monday Mornings" performed by Modern Mod-WSPC PREMIERE
"Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Forget Her" performed by Jeff Buckley
"Troubled Mind" performed by Everything But The Girl
"Lying Down" performed by Kirsty MacColl
"Liquid Diamonds" performed by Tori Amos
"Lady Stardust" (demo version) performed by David Bowie
"No Road Romance" performed by Pete Townshend
March 3, 2015
"Big Decisions" performed by My Morning Jacket-WSPC PREMIERE
"Hands" performed by The Raconteurs
"Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke" performed by Badfinger
"(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket" performed by Elton John
"Anything But Down" performed by Sheryl Crow
March 4, 2015
"It's A Shame About Ray" performed by The Lemonheads
"Strawberry Wine" performed by Ryan Adams
"It Is Not Meant To Be" performed by Tame Impala
"It'll Never Happen Again" performed by The Dream Academy
"There's No Way Out Of Here" performed by David Gilmour
March 5, 2015
"Keep Ya Head Up" performed by 2Pac
"Right On" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" performed by Nina Simone
"It's Not The Size Of Your Mix, It's How You Use It-Mix Tape Vol. 2 (Obscure Series)" performed by Prince Paul-WSPC PREMIERE
"You Haven't Done Nothin'" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Gutter Rainbows" performed by Talib Kweli
"Corruption" performed by Midlake
"Your Silent Face" performed by New Order
"Power" performed by Planet P. Project
"Sound Of Da Police" performed by Boogie Down Productions
March 6, 2015
"Postcards From Paradise" performed by Ringo Starr-WSPC PREMIERE
"Counting On You" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"More Than Anything In This World" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Autobiography (Shine, Shine, Shine)" performed by Phoebe Snow
"Touch" performed by Louise Post with Dave Grohl
"Dreamer" performed by Toni Childs
"Bring On The Night" performed by The Police
"Ana Ng" performed by They Might Be Giants
"Crown Of Thorns" performed by Pearl Jam
"Elephants" performed by Them Crooked Vultures
"Come Dancing" performed by Jeff Beck
"Untitled" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
March 7, 2015
"Lift Every Voice And Sing" performed by Ray Charles
"Fear Of A Black Planet" performed by Public Enemy
"So Many Millions" performed by Fishbone
"Love's In Need Of Love Today" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Stare And Stare" performed by Curtis Mayfield
"American Skin (41 Shots)" performed by Bruce Springsteen
"Ican" performed by Chuck D.
"Antiquity ft. The Miguel Atwood Ferguson Dillchestra" performed by The Roots
March 8, 2015
"Come Together" performed by The Beatles
"Join Together" performed by The Who
"Congregation" performed by Foo Fighters
"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding" performed by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
"United We Stand" performed by Brotherhood Of Man
"C'Mon People/Cosmically Conscious" performed by Paul McCartney
March 9, 2015
"Blackbird" performed by The Beatles
"Galapogos" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Walking In Space" from the film soundtrack of "Hair"
"Dublin" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Naked Eye" performed by The Who
"Message In A Bottle" (live 1981) performed by Sting
"What's Going On" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Red Lenses" performed by Rush
"Double Trouble" performed by The Roots with Mos Def
"When The Levee Breaks" performed by A Perfect Circle
"Is This The World We Created?" performed by Queen
"Worldwide Epiphany/Proactivity" performed by Todd Rundgren
"The Next Movement" (live 2/15) performed by The Soul Rebels with Black Thought
March 10, 2015
"Let It Happen" performed by Tame Impala-WSPC PREMIERE
"Ticket To The Moon" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Desecration Smile" performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"A Dream Away" performed by The Cars
"Van Occupanther" performed by Midlake
"Trouble Me" performed by 10,000 Maniacs
"Peace Of Mind" performed by Boston
March 11, 2015
"Put The Message In The Box" performed by World Party
"The W.A.N.D." performed by The Flaming Lips
"Get Up, Stand Up" performed by Bob Marley
"Someone Like You" performed by Living Colour
"Something In The Air" performed by Thunderclap Newman
"The Blacker The Berry" performed by Kendrick Lamar-WSPC PREMIERE
March 12, 2015
"Children Of The Revolution" performed by T-Rex
"Revolution" performed by R.E.M.
"Revolution" performed by Nina Simone
"Revolution" performed by Tomorrow
"Revolution (In The Summertime?)" performed by Cosmic Rough Riders
"Revolution" performed by Public Enemy
"What If?" performed by Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL-WSPC PREMIERE
March 13, 2015
"Blinded" performed by The Bots-WSPC PREMIERE
"Sinister Kid" performed by The Black Keys
"Little Miss Lover" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"100 Watts Of Funky" performed by Jesse Johnson
"Shout (Parts 1 & 2)" performed by The Isley Brothers
"King Kunta" performed by Kendrick Lamar-WSPC PREMIERE
March 14, 2015
"Pi" performed by Kate Bush
"Thrown Down" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Long Time Gone" performed Crosby, Stills and Nash
"American Eyes" performed by The Lilac Time
"The Lost Girl In The Midnight Sun" performed by The Lilac Time
"Beauty" performed by James Iha
"The X's Faces" performed by Prince-WSPC PREMIERE
March 15, 2015
"If I Had A Rocket Launcher" performed by Bruce Cockburn
"Ain't So Easy" performed by David and David
"Rain In The Summertime" performed by The Alarm
"The Walls Came Down" performed by The Call
"Whisper to A Scream (Birds Fly)" performed by Icicle Works
"Within You, Without You" performed by The Beatles
"Begin" performed by Post Social-WSPC PREMIERE
"Nostalgia" performed by Modern Mod-WSPC PREMIERE
"Night Shift" performed by Quarterflash
"Make Me Believe It" performed by Jack Wagner!
March 17, 2015
HAPPY 48TH BIRTHDAY TO BILLY CORGAN
"Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Ride A Black Swan" performed by Zwan
"99 Floors" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"The Camera Eye" performed by Billy Corgan
"This Time" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Top O' The Morning To Ya" performed by House Of Pain
"I Ain't Drunk" performed by Albert Collins
"Whiskey In The Jar" performed by Thin Lizzy
"Cypress Avenue" performed by Van Morrison
"Bein' Green" performed by Kermit The Frog
March 18, 2015
"Get Wild" (live) performed by The New Power Generation
"I Feel You" performed by Johnny Marr-WSPC PREMIERE
"Get It Together" performed by The Jackson 5
"You Can Have Watergate, Just Gimmie Some Bucks & I'll Be Straight" performed by The JB's
"Son of Neckbone" performed by Beastie Boys
"Purple" performed by Shuggie Otis
"Mathematics" performed by Mos Def
"Turn The Page" performed by Terence Trent D'Arby
March 19, 2015
"Qualia" performed by Andy Summers-WSPC PREMIERE
"Straight To Hell" performed by The Clash
"Disappear" performed by Wild Nothing
"Reunion" performed by M83
"Mykonos" performed by Fleet Foxes
"Off The Record" performed by My Morning Jacket
March 20, 2015
"Doin' The Banana Splits" performed by The Banana Splits
"Fopp" performed by Ohio Players
"Aeroplane" performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll" performed by Ian Dury and the Blockheads
"I Know What Boys Like" performed by The Waitresses
"Good Girls Don't" performed by The Knack
"Something's Gone Wrong Again" performed by Buzzcocks
March 21, 2015
"I'll Be There" performed by Nile Rodgers and Chic-WSPC PREMIERE
"Extrovert" performed by XTC
"Maria" performed by Blondie
"Channel Z" performed by The B-52's
March 22, 2015
"A Tribute To Someone" performed by Herbie Hancock
"For All We Know" performed by Dave Brubeck
"Fair And Warmer" performed by Count Basie
"C Jam Blues" performed by Duke Ellington
"Pour Vous (Exactly Like You)" performed by Django Reinhardt
"Bethena, A Concert Waltz" performed by Scott Joplin
"Aches And Pains" performed by The Bears
"Asia Minor" performed by Ric Ocasek
"In My Body" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
March 23, 2015
"Untitled Live Instrumental" performed by Post Social-WSPC PREMIERE
"Anxious" performed by General Public
"El Manana" performed by Gorillaz
"The Bogus Man" performed by Roxy Music
"Stay" performed by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
"No One's Gonna Love You" performed by Band Of Horses
"Is It Never" performed by Sloan
"Untitled Live Song" performed by Post Social-WSPC PREMIERE
March 25, 2015
"25 O'Clock" performed by The Dukes Of Stratosphear
"Bike" performed by Pink Floyd
"Green Manalishi" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Something's Got To Give" performed by Beastie Boys
"Screaming Through December" performed by Hall & Oates
March 26, 2015
"Most Of the Time" performed by Bob Dylan
"Always See Your Face" performed by Love
"Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" performed by The Velvet Underground
"Lo Boob Oscillator" performed by Stereolab
"I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)" performed by Stevie Wonder
March 27, 2015
"Who Cares?" performed by Gnarls Barkley
"Life Is A Gamble" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Blind Man Can See It" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Burning Rope" performed by Genesis
"Baby Don't Cry" performed by INXS
"Don't Be Sad" performed by Whiskeytown
"Races Are Run" performed by Buckingham Nicks
"Fish Out Of Water" performed by Tears For Fears
March 28, 2015
"Maybe I'm Amazed" performed by Paul McCartney
"Church Theme" performed by Tangerine Dream
"Cinco Minutos Con Vos" performed by Elvis Costello and The Roots
"Erase/Rewind" performed by The Cardigans
"How Stupid Mr. Bates" performed by The Police
"Starless" performed by King Crimson
March 30, 2015
"Drum + Fife" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Jacob's Ladder" performed by Rush
"Industrial Disease" performed by Dire Straits
"Pilate Dream" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"
HAPPY 70TH BIRTHDAY TO ERIC CLAPTON
"Strange Brew" performed by Cream
"Voodoo Chile" (live 2000) performed by Steve Winwood
"Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?" performed by Derek and the Dominoes
"Rise" performed by Todd Rundgren-WSPC PREMIERE
"Soaring And Boring" performed by Plush
"Trouble" performed by Jon Brion
"Anondah" performed by Jason Falkner
"The Sword And The Pen" performed by Regina Spektor
"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" performed by Elton John
March 31, 2015
"Spring (Among The Living)" performed by My Morning Jacket-WSPC PREMIERE
"Is It Like Today?" performed by World Party
"Light Up Or Leave Me Alone" (live) performed by Traffic
"East Easy Rider" performed by Julian Cope
"This Broken Heart' performed by Funkadelic
"Simon Zealotes" from "Jesus Christ Superstar"
"AND THEN THERE WERE THREE" GENESIS Released April 7, 1978
"DUKE" GENESIS Released March 28, 1980
Released February 24, 1975
Released March 16, 2004
Released December 27, 1976 (U.K.)
Released November 4, 2013
PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
Released April 22, 1985
Released October 6, 2014
Released October 14, 1997
Released April 24, 1990
Released February 7, 2006
Released August 1988
Released September 26, 1969
Released August 19, 1985
ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
Released March 1979
Released September 3, 1971
ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
Released May 28, 2000
Friday, March 27, 2015
"So many millions feel this strong/All these people can't be wrong..."
I suppose the problem with protest songs is that there is always something to protest.
Oh the heaviness I feel on my heart right now. Dear readers and listeners, by this time, I am certain that you have heard about the tragic death of 19 year old Tony Robinson, which occurred over two weeks ago. It was an incident where yet another unarmed Black man was gunned down by a White police officer, but this time the tragedy happened in my adopted city of Madison, WI. and upon a thoroughfare that I travel each and every single day. The investigation remains underway, national media has quickly descended and exited the city just as rapidly as Madison, unlike other locations like the besieged Ferguson, MO, did not erupt into the violent flames of riots. That is not to say that there has been no outpouring of anger fueled protest.
On the Saturday morning after the shooting, I ventured to downtown Madison to pick up some coffee and breakfast when I was surprised by the rhythmic chants and marching feet of a Black Lives Matter protest march as organized and led by Madison's Young, Gifted And Black Coalition. What surprised me other than the suddenness of their physical presence to myself, was the sight officers from the Madison Police Department surrounding the group as they marched--but not in contention. No, the police had flanked the protesters within, I would suppose would be a protective shield, an area in which the protest could exist safely. And I do have to say that the sight of police officers allowing and not interfering with the vitriolic chants of "WHO CAN YOU TRUST? NOT THE POLICE!!" or "THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY AS HELL!" or even "FUCK THE POLICE!!" was just the sort of event where one would be prompted to say to themselves, "Only in Madison."
"So many millions feel this strong/All these people can't wrong..."
"So many millions feel this strong/All these people can't be wrong..."
I needed an outlet for my cauldron of emotions which ran the gamut from outrage to sorrow at the status of the city, the country and my place within society as a Black man, which is unquestionably the most precarious it has been within my lifetime. I needed music to help me to process. I needed music to help me channel my rage. I needed music to help me to grieve, to worry, to hope and to heal.
I needed protest music.
Released August 1, 2014
If I could wave my magic wand, the voice of Chuck D. would be the sonic boom heard throughout the country from every conceivable sound system as his specialized brand of fury against social injustice is needed more than ever. But if only the masses would be inclined to hear the words he is so passionately compelled to say--as inclined as they were 25 years ago.
It does amaze me how the music and messages of Public Enemy have become so marginalized over the years. Even though the band has continuously released one body slam of an album after another, they have all been relegated to a certain underground status ensuring that the messages that are most needed to be heard on as large of a stage as possible will most likely go unheard completely. It is as if Public Enemy and therefore the voice, lyrics and power of Chuck D. himself are viewed as relics, representative of a long dormant age in hip-hop and perhaps social activism itself.
"The Black In Man," Chuck D.'s latest solo project, and released upon his 54th birthday, only continues this trend as the album was delivered solely in a digital format ad believe me, I cannot even seem to find album information, liner notes or even many of the albums's lyrics on-line anywhere. Yet, as far as I am concerned, his age and his longevity has only increased in sharpness and voluminous power and Chuck D.'s overall messages of self-reliance and Black empowerment combined with his iconic voice have lost none of its ferocious authority and command.
Eschewing the sonic collage aspect of earlier Public Enemy releases, "The Black In Man" contains a sonic palate that combines blasts of hip-hop beats with the sound of classic soul and blues ("PIC I Hate Every Inch Of You"), deep funk ("Leave With Your Own Mind"), hard rock ("ICan"), heavy metal ("Grudge"), and even a cover of the JAMES BROWN Black pride classic "Say It Loud (I'm Black And I'm Proud)." Without question, for me, the album's highlights are the organ drenched "Give We The Pride," a rallying cry for the resurgence of Black pride and self-respect which is augmented by the powerhouse vocals of Mavis Staples. And the second half of this album's one-two punch is the baseball metaphor fueled call to arms of "Get It Right Or Be Gone."
Let me be the first to announce, and vehemently so, that Chuck D. is not a relic and should never be treated as such. He is as up to the minute as the events that occur just outside of our windows but simultaneously sidesteps all manner of attention-starved trends in favor of the strictest adherence to the content of the message, something that is really striving for attention. I urge you to head to YouTube or I-Tunes of whatever streaming services you happen to frequent as take a listen to what Chuck D. has to say, and I believe that he is one of the rarest figures to have transcended his particular genre of rap and hip-hop to truly existing as one of the greatest orators we happen to have walking among us.
John Bigham: Guitars, Keyboards
Chris Dowd: Vocals, Keyboards, Trombone
John Norwood Fisher: Bass Guitar, Vocals
Phillip "Fish" Fisher: Drums and Percussion
Kendall Jones: Vocals, Lead Guitar
Walter A. Kibby II: Vocals, Trumpet
Angelo Moore: Vocals, Saxophone
Produced by Fishbone
Released April 23, 1991
Now this is a powder keg!
Dear readers and listeners, the longer the years pass from this particular album's original release, I grow even more mystified by the profound lack of a major impact it had across the landscape of alternative music. It truly all seemed to be so poised to break the band through to the next level, especially based upon the rising tide of fans and interest in the peerless and completely idiosyncratic music of Fishbone, an all African-American outfit whose amalgamation of punk rock, soul, gospel, jazz, funk, blues and heavy metal made the band defy all categorizations. Yet also, as we live in a narrow minded world, the band has historically been extremely difficult to market to both Black and White audiences.
Regardless, the band's incendiary live performances combined with the hit album "Truth And Soul" (released September 13, 1988) and their iconic band logo kept Fishbone in the public's consciousness to the degree that a breakthrough seemed to be imminent. And yet, upon its release in the spring of 1991, my memory of my friend's reactions to the album were more than a bit muted, as metallic guitars played to the forefront rather than the band's rambunctious horn lines. Furthermore, Fishbone by this point were simply not that much "fun" anymore and the fullness of their social/racial/political agenda was emphasized in earnest making classic party anthems like "Party At Ground Zero," "Lyin' Ass Bitch" and "When Problems Arise" sound like they emerged from a completely different band altogether.
For me, "The Reality Of My Surroundings" was a brilliant, ballistic, body slammer. A rampaging double album on which the band confronted the ills of society and of Black America in particular with an unrepentant vengeance that showcased the full purpose of the band philosophically and politically as well as musically, and trust me, the band's musicianship is superior!
From the album's opening battle cry of "Fight The Youth" to the concluding apocalyptic scorched earth of "Sunless Saturday," Fishbone's "The Reality Of My Surroundings" takes an unapologetically and furiously grim ride. The band sheds much needed light on the day to day lives of inner city Black families in the bouncy "Housework" ("Pops is gone and Mom's working 5 or 6 days a week...Mama's tryin' but we got to survive so now I got to get a 9 to 5"), the futility of cookie-cutter and therefore racially biased education in the roaring "Behavior Control Technician" ("Train my brain to work the way you want me to/Don't question authority see/Be a little zombie that agrees with you/You are strapped with a double standard clip/In a battle you won't win"), endlessly mounting stress in the demented fun-house speed metal of "Pressure" ("PRESSURE when I sit down! PRESSURE when I git up! When I sleep at night, nightmares make me fight!") and the harrowing one-two punch contained within the avant garde "Junkie's Prayer" and the reggae tinged "Pray To The Junkiemaker." Even the brief instrumental "Asswhippin'," which only consists of percussion, the repetitive sounds of whip cracks and singer Angelo Moore's screams and wails conjures up images of both slavery and the corporal punishment administered in the homes (and even schools) of Black families (like my own as I was growing up) in the years and generations since our emancipation.
But if there is just one song from this album that has consistently burst to the forefront of my mind with every fatal injustice committed towards the Black community, it is indeed the pulverizing "So Many Millions," a portion of the chorus I have included at points throughout this posting. Opening with a flurry of Fish's drums that shuffle and skitter and brother John Norwood Fisher's Earth rumbling bass guitar, Fishbone launches into a dark groove that feels like a merging of Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone and 1970's era Miles Davis as Angelo Moore releases one of his most impassioned vocals over some of the finest lyrics he has ever written or co-written.
"I cannot get over legitimately the reality of my surroundings do not point to the sky so why should I even try (when there's nuthin' out there to be)," Moore begins. "I cannot grow up to be the President, where only drug dealers own Mercedes Benz/If you tell me otherwise, it will only look like lies (when there's nuthin' out there for me)."
As the songs builds with the conflicting juxtapositions of rising brass yet moaning backing vocals, Moore continues with the following:
"Your education will do me no good in my neighborhood
All I see is scrapin' and scrounging in my neighborhood
If you can show me how to do good in my neighborhood
Maybe I discontinue my lounging in my neighborhood"
And the band marches even further into the fury with lyrics that could easily be utilized as protest sign messages...
"You may have had the chance to stop things before they start.
You may have had the chance.
But it's too late
They're falling apart"
And by the song's conclusion, where the voices have congealed into unionized screams and Fish's drums combined with Kendall Jones' lead guitars are slashing and blasting your speakers apart, the track has boiled over into a violent, riotous, fully unleashed rage that sit at the heart of a community perpetually discriminated against and abused by an indifferent and unfeeling system.
"You beat me, mistreat me and you beat me
Rip my heart out please
And then you get angry when I die
It's a pile of shit in your sugar shack
And I'm gonna step on in when I'm visiting
So I can drag it more all across your floor
It's a pile of shit in the White House
And I'm gonna step on in when I'm visiting
So I can drag it more all across your flag"
Even though this song appears very early within "The Reality Of My Surroundings," it feels as if the entire purpose of the album as a whole and all of the songs contained within have spiraled off from this one selection. In fact, it feels as if this track set the template for what was to follow on the band's then subsequent two albums "Give A Monkey A Brain And He'll Swear He's The Center of The Universe" (released May 23, 1993) and "Chim Chim's Badass Revenge" (released May 21, 1996), thus making the three albums work as an unofficial trilogy, and at its most incendiary.
Yes, there is some semblance of levity within the album through the "If I Were A..." interludes, the overtly and playfully sexual "Naz-tee May'en" and perhaps the Sly and the Family Stone influenced and gospel tinged rave-up "Everyday Sunshine" as they all provide a bit of a (slight) breather from the sound and fury.
But, the punishing power of "The Reality Of My Surroundings" has not only made it one of the very best albums released in the 1990's but I firmly believe that its relevance has only increased over the 24 years since its original release--which is great for the nature of the music and artistry itself but so depressingly sad that within our so-called "post-racial" era, the statements and messages contained on this album still fully describe and give voice to the reality of our surroundings.
Yes, the problem with protest songs is that there is always something, somewhere to protest against. But when the songs speak to the soul, the pain, the injustice, the rage, and finally, the moral arc of justice itself, protest songs are indispensable.
Like the protest music of Chuck D. and Fishbone.
Friday, March 6, 2015
"I urge and challenge musicians and artists to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in...I really apply this challenge to ALL artists...We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Rochas. New ideas!...I'm not saying every song gotta be 'Fight The Power' but in times like these we need to be more community minded...real stories. Real narratives. Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions. Protest songs don't have to be boring or non-danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth...my soul is aching man. Seriously just ONE or Two songs that change the course. This is something I feel the need and urgency to put out there."
Dear readers and listeners, as I have always proclaimed since the genesis of this site, Synesthesia was created and is designed to be a celebration of music. It is not really a source of music criticism, so to speak. Even so, there will be times during which I feel a more serious thematic may need to be introduced into the continuing discussion and my spirit is telling me that we have now found ourselves at an especially crucial time. The above quotation, written and posted by The Roots' drummer and bandleader Ahmir "Questlove " Thompson on his Instagram profile dated "3 months ago," has truly hit home for me as I have housed the exact same feelings due to the politically (and therefore emotionally) precarious and even violently contentious times in which we all co-exist.
As you are able to view from my profile, I live in Madison, WI, a state governed by a figure whose name shall never litter my blogsite and whose self-described "divide and conquer" policies have left my adopted state battered and bruised. Now, after unleashing his latest (and horrifically dismantling) budget proposal, readying himself to sign "Right To Work" legislation into law (something he had previously expressed not pursuing) and his run for the Presidency, just last week, during a speaking engagement (i.e. fund raising event) at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he offered the following statement in regards to his preparation for being chosen as the "leader of the free world" in regards to how he would handle global terrorism:
"If I take on 1000,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."
Yes, this is the vitriolic stance this individual has taken against the populace he was elected to serve. The firefighters, teachers, farmers, state workers, police officers, business owners, parents, children, the elderly, the disabled, and essentially any single person who does not exist within his inner circle and fund his pockets. Yes, this is how much he hates all of us.
For those of you who may be unaware, the "protesters" in question were a collective of these aforementioned people that make up our populace, of which I proudly include myself. We PEACEFULLY took to the streets, as well as PEACEFULLY occupied the State Capitol in 2011, after said unnamed Governor initially unleashed his (again) self-described "divide and conquer" policies against his constituency. For a period of nearly three months, I returned to the massive protests over and again to voice my outrage and offer my solidarity alongside my Wisconsin brethren and throughout that entire period, music played a crucial role, extensively as well as personally.
At that time, I felt inspired and took to my home computer to create five photographic protest "films" which I also shared through social media. As I look back upon those films now, I can not only see how they charted the beginnings, the zenith, the decline of the protests as well as the fervor behind the failed (and I still believe stolen) recall efforts. It was a time when my profoundly personal interests with writing, journalism, movies and of course, music all congealed naturally, providing me with an alchemy within my creative life that I really had not experienced before, and possibly even since. Within all of those projects, music played a indispensable role as I needed to find the right songs to give an added emotional weight to the images and personal feelings I wanted to share and hoped would be fully understood. I first utilized Todd Rundgren's "Just One Victory," and then followed up with Fishbone's "Change," Zwan's "Freedom Ain't What It Used To Be," R.E.M.'s "Finest Worksong" and The Smashing Pumpkins' "Zeitgeist" for the remaining four films.
Throughout that experience, during those few months of 2011 especially, the music gave an additional and seismic voice to an on-going Civil Rights movement that felt to be as inseparable as it was inspiring. But like the protests themselves, that feeling was fleeting...
The landscape in Wisconsin is just representative of what is happening to the nation overall as unquestionably, we are living in dark times indeed. We live in a time when the national discourse and debates regarding politics, race, science, religion, and sexuality, among other social/political topics have fully broken down into rancorous dialogues without nuance, ambiguity and are too often filled with blind allegiance to political party affiliations, even when those affiliations work directly against one's own self interests. Simply stated, you may not "be into politics," as so many friends and acquaintances have expressed, but I hate to break it to you, politics are definitely into you. I wish for all of you out there to understand that I am not politically savvy and I am not a "news junkie" in the least (and hey, the news has been cancelled anyway). But I do know the following even moreso: I don't try to keep up with the rumblings on the political landscape because I necessarily want to, My mind would certainly love to be occupied with more pleasurable things to ponder. I pay attention because I have to.
Dear readers and listeners, it is unfathomable to me that people have become so disinterested, lackadaisical and downright apathetic regarding the society in which we all live and share that the right to vote itself feels so futile and that we have also recently exited an election cycle which spawned the lowest voter turnout in over 70 years. Racial unrest and inequality between the sexes has become the most overt that I have seen within my lifetime and how much more ink must be spilled over the disintegration of the Middle Class before the bulk of the nation either believes it or grows angry enough to keep something like the Occupy Movement at the forefront of most people's minds? And to that end, what of the ecology, the environment and climate change when the powers that be are determined to pretend that Science doesn't exist and intelligence is irrelevant? I could go on and on about the ills that plague our country and our world yet there is just too much to weigh us down and ensure that we all remain fearful, helpless and hopeless. It is within dark times like right now where music can enter the conversation to help assuage the pain and re-energize and re-inspire us to help our world, but I have to ask...
WHERE ARE THE PROTEST SONGS?
Protest songs are not an easy beast to tame. But when composed and performed to the best of an artist's abilities, they can work wonders in providing solace, understanding, and solidarity. They can help in uniting and energizing an individual, which just may end up with giving voice, purpose and momentum to an overall movement. The music can inspire an individual in ways that speeches the news and the full knowledge of atrocities may not be able to accomplish in quite the same way. The images on the news and the realities in an d of themselves may be terribly overwhelming but when placed into song with music, lyrics, and emotional content designed to connect with listeners, the effect can be seismic. So again, I ask...WHERE ARE THE PROTEST SONGS?
Take a gander at my full WSPC playlist for last month as I have been entering protest songs into the mix as life in Wisconsin has grown more politically turbulent than ever before. On my mythical radio station, I "spun" tracks by the likes of Curtis Mayfield, The Clash, Steve Earle, Living Colour, Utopia, Bruce Springsteen, JAMES BROWN and of course, Public Enemy. And yet, there was nothing from 2015. Or 2014, 2013 or really anything from the previous five years or so. So, once more and with feeling...WHERE ARE THE NEW PROTEST SONGS?
I wonder where are the voices of 2015 speaking and singing about the world of 2015?
In a December 2014 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Nicki Minaj expressed her thoughts as to why artists within the hip-hop community are not making protest songs in the era and aftermath of the unjust murders of the unarmed Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner:
"I feel like when Public Enemy were doing 'Fight The Power,' we as a culture had more power-now it feels hopeless..People say, 'Why aren't black celebrities speaking out more?' But look what happened to Kanye when he spoke out. People told him to apologize to Bush!...He was the unofficial spokesman for hip-hop, and he got torn apart...And now you haven't heard him speaking about these last couple things, and it's sad, Because how many times can you be made to feel horrible for caring about your people before you say, 'Fuck it, it's not worth it, let me live my life because I'm rich, and why should I give a fuck?'"
That answer is horrific.
To me, that explanation flies in the face of everything art and protest itself is designed to do. Art is designed to challenge and provoke as well as entertain but art is not always supposed to make us feel comfortable. But now, we live in a time when music itself has become so devalued and artists as well as society itself has grown to be more fearful. When artists are afraid to become provocateurs and hold up society's mirror to itself and ourselves, then we are in deep trouble as a human society as far as I am concerned. And in some way, an artist's fear of speaking out due to possibly being persecuted publicly, makes something like the murders of the Charlie Hebdo artists to have occurred in vain.
I cannot believe that we would even wish to allow artistic voices to be silenced, especially through fear and something tells me that we are actually indeed hungry for something to shake us out of our collective stupor.
In just one protest song, we have the ability to open ourselves up to experiences that help us to understand and expand our own world views. They can incite but they also provide us with a sense of passionate empathy with which we can utilize as fuel to make the world a better place for everyone. Like Questlove, I challenge and deeply wish for artists to overcome any sense of fear and be as bold as the art demands for you to be and sing out...loudly, proudly, unapologetically and unrepentantly. Whoever said that protest songs are owned by the 1960's? Protest songs are as up to the minute as the events that inspire them so, artists of today, your time is NOW!!!!
GET UP, STAND UP because of WHAT'S GOING ON
GET UP, GET INTO IT, GET INVOLVED for ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
LOVE IS THE ANSWER so in tribute, LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
I'm ready to hear what you have to sing.