Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Music and Social Change

Bearing in mind that I don't know anything about this in a technical sense, it does seem obvious that music and social change can be linked. I was a little kid in the 60s, but I certainly know the music -and greatly prefer it to the music of my young adulthood. (What's to like about disco, when you get right down to it?) But it's more than folk music; there's Shostakovich and Prokofiev on the one hand, and Indigo Girls and Rage Against the Machine on the other. And Negro spirituals from the Civil War era... Bob Marley.... Pete Seeger...the list can go on and on.

Here's why this is on my mind. Amnesty International is sponsoring a new fund-raising campaign: Make Some Noise for Human Rights. It's music to download, and the money raised goes to support their human rights advocacy around the world. So far I'm not crazy about their choices, but that's neither here nor there. Well, on second thought, maybe it IS here or there. It seems somehow "off" to use music from the 60s and 70s to facilitate change now. Maybe we should be doing a better job of crafting our own music -but that's a project that you emphatically do not want me working on.

Secondly, I finally saw the film from Peter Miller, The International -which of course is a movie about a song. (You didn't need more evidence that I'm a geek, did you?) L'Internationale is/was the anthem for socialism, and the movie explores people's relationship to the song and how the song gave words to people's vague aches. It's a good movie. Really good.

And it won't surprise you to know that I'm writing this post while glued to my iPod. After I ran through my Christmas music, I switched over to one of my many "change the world" playlists. A quick browse through my music library reveals that I have playlists called: Building a Peaceful World, Feminist Anthems, Gentle Heroes (about heroes of social change, such as Rosa Parks), I've Had It! (anti-war stuff), Idealistic Girl, Rebel With a Clue, Save the World Music, and Uppity Women. And that's just the playlists; heaven knows how many songs are included. (Wow, I'm totally outing myself as a geek today.)

So, here's just one of them -Rebel With a Clue, because it's the shortest ;)

  • Harriet Tubman; John McCutcheon
  • study War No More; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • We Shall Overcome; Mahalia Jackson
  • No Easy Walk to Freedom; Peter, Paul, & Mary
  • Caught in the Crossfire; John McCutcheon
  • No Mas!; John McCutcheon
  • Oh Mary, Don't You Weep;Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Holly Near
  • Power and Glory; Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert
  • Lord Help the Poor and Needy; Kate Campbell

I'm not under any delusion that other people are quite this deranged, but you must have SOME music about social change. Spill! I'm always up for adding to my playlists.

By the way, it's Oh Mary, Don't You Weep that has one of the best lines in anti-war folk music:
It was Moses first proved the notion
that the world is safer with the army in the ocean.

It cracks me up every time I hear it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your post doing some research for a forum on music & activism & music effecting social change. I agree! They're inextricably linked. Check out - we're an organization that encourages music fans to get active in democracy & there's some great music there too!