Music of our times: empowerment and protest

At a breakneck pace there are “breaking news,” daily articles, polls, social media comments and more about what is going on today. However, embedded in every culture is its music which can be a powerful reflection of what is happening. Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez are favorites of mine from an earlier era.

Today in New Jersey and throughout the USA with Trump as president there is a rage against the machine – disappointment, anger, fear and outrage combined with empowerment, protest, and resistance. The musical Alexander Hamilton is all about these characteristics which ultimately led to a new nation. More recently Pink, Eminem, Chance the Rapper, A Tribe Called Quest and other groups have their own take on today’s politics.

Pink (pictured above) has a new album Beautiful Trauma. At August’s MTV Video Music Awards she delivered a message of self empowerment. One of her lyrics, What About Us. which you may have watched her sing last week on SNL could be as easily addressed to an uncaring God as a careless government, although the use of some Chris Christie audio clips from last year’s GOP convention in the music video did rather signal her intentions:

“What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about trust? What about us?”

At the BET Hip Hot Awards rapper Eminem struck out at President Trump in a scatalogical video accusing the president of racism, hypocrisy, disrespect of military veterans and more in furious freestyle rap. Early on he explains:

“And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his
I’m drawing in the sand a line
you’re either for or against
and if you can’t decide
who you like more and you’re split
on who you should stand beside
I’ll do it for you with this:”

A Tribe Called Quest: We the People

“All you black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go.”

YG feat. G-Eazy, Macklemore: Fuck Donald Trump Pt. 2

“This man’s not peaceful,/ racism’s evil,/ If truth be told,/ Donald is a terrorist./ 
This man hates Muslims./ That’s a billion fuckin’ people”.

Chance the Rapper and Keenan Thompson: Jingle Barack (SNL around Christmas 2016)

“Hey, kids, enjoy the presents while you can./ Cause next year you might get a bomb from Iran./ Look, man we got birth control under the tree./ And we’re stuffing every stocking with legal weed./ Hey Eric, hey, Mike, get married tonight./ Real quick let in every immigrant in sight./ So go nuts before the North Pole disappears
./ This is the last Christmas before Trump next year.”

We end with another song by Pink: Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken
“This is my rally cry
I know it’s hard, we have to try
This is a battle I must win.
To want my share is not a sin.”

Let us know about a song you like.

Comments (2)

  1. Rosi Efthim

    Fiona Apple wrote this chant/song for the Women’s March: “We Don’t Want Your Tiny Hands Anywhere Near Our Underpants”. It is the BEST.

  2. Bertin Lefkovic

    This is my homage to Phil Ochs, the best protest singer of any of our lifetimes.

    Love Me I’m A Moderate

    I cried when they shot Gabrielle Giffords
    Tears ran down my spine
    I cried when they shot up Columbine
    As though I’d lost someone of mine
    But Michael Moore’ll get what is coming
    He’ll get what he asked for this time
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate

    I went to Jon Stewart’s rally
    Stuck needles in a Glenn Beck doll
    I love Barack and Cory and Harold
    I hope every biracial boy becomes a pol
    But don’t talk about the public option
    That’s going a little bit too far
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate

    I cheered when Obama was elected
    Michelle looked so good in that dress
    I’m glad that Kucinich was redistricted
    Right out of the United States Congress
    I love Arabs and Muslims
    But that Ground Zero Mosque gave me stress
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate

    The people of old Arizona
    Their policies are all so dead wrong
    I can’t understand how their minds work
    What’s the matter don’t they watch Cheech and Chong
    So what if my nanny’s illegal
    She works really hard and for a song
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate

    I’ll go on CNN and Frontline
    I’m with them when their ratings spike
    Sometimes I’ll even watch Rachel Maddow
    I feel like I’m almost a dyke
    But when it comes to gay marriage
    I won’t be anywhere near the mike
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate

    I vote for the Democratic Party
    They want Wall Street to be strong
    I go to Barbara Streisand concerts
    She sure gets me singing those songs
    I’ll donate all the money you ask for
    But taxing the wealthy is wrong
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate

    Once I was young and impulsive
    I wore every color ribbon
    Even went to OFA meetings
    Learned the lyrics to “Yes We Can”
    But I’ve grown older and wiser
    And that’s why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a moderate


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