Fight the Power

Sit on This!

The Guardian continues its excellent series, 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear, with protest songs and political songs. Unsurprisingly, the most common themes represented are songs about opposition to war and about race relations. I had not heard over forty of the songs on the list. I managed to track down half of those and here are five that I particularly enjoyed.

(What Did I Too to Be So) Black and Blue is Louis Armstrong’s version of a song by Fats Waller, whose best known songs were Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose. Waller’s songs were mostly humorous in tone, but this is darker and this is particularly true of Satchmo’s version from 1929

(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue? – Louis Armstrong

Burning Spear is the name of a reggae band fronted by Winston Rodney, who was born in Saint Anne’s Bay, Jamaica, also Bob Marley’s birthplace. It was also the birthplace of Marcus Garvey, a very important figure in Jamaican culture and history. Garvey is considered a prophet in the Rastafarian religion and the band titled their 1975 album after him. Slavery Days is the second track on that album

Slavery Days – Burning Spear

Trouble Every Day is a critique of TV news in late 1960s America. It appears on Freak Out, the debut album from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Zappa never lost his political edge and twenty years later he would be involved in a protracted with the PMRC, concerning music censorship

Trouble Every Day – Mothers of Invention

Sam Stone appears on John Prine’s first album from 1971. It’s about a Vietnam veteran who becomes addicted to morphine after being prescribed the drug to help alleviate the pain of his war injuries. The song’s criticism of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war is not overtly political and is far more effective as a result

Sam Stone – John Prine

I got into The Decemberists around the time of their album The Crane Wife. I liked their story-songs, folky feel and Colin Meloy’s voice. 16 Military Wives is from their preceding album, Picaresque, and it is also a subtle protest about a war, this time the Iraq War. It also makes digs at the news media and celebrity culture in relation to the war

16 Military Wives – The Decemberists

1000 songs everyone must hear

Politics and protest: part five of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 20 that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 141

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