About that absence of protest songs ….

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by Jan Seides
Monday 2nd June, 2014, 9:07pm

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 10.38.16 PMIn January, when Pete Seeger died, there were many tributes to him, in all forms of media. Most of them talked about his championing of various left-wing causes, his responses to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, his support of labor unions, and, of course, his music. Though not many mentioned it, his fostering of leftist causes was based solidly on his experience and love of folk music, and vice versa.

I have been seeing comments in the media since  the beginning of the millennium, and especially since Pete Seeger died,  about how there is a a noticeable absence of anti-war songs, based on the abundance produced during the Viet Nam War. While it’s true that if you turn on the radio, you hear very little music about social issues of any kind, far less even than in the 1990s, songs protesting war, among other things, both old and new songs, are far from absent.

If you go out on any night of the week in Austin, Texas, for example, and listen to those playing in “listening rooms”, you’ll hear plenty of songs about social issues. Good thought-provoking, rebel-rousing ones too. And I suspect Austin is not alone in this regard, given that there are listening rooms all over the country and in Europe.  That music is also being recorded, though those recordings not being produced and promoted by record labels, but by the artists/songwriters themselves – out of their own pockets or through crowd-funding mechanisms.

Those who bewail the absence of folk songs, or anti-war songs, or whatever they mean when they say there are no good protest songs anymore, have clearly not been paying attention. To start with there are Steve Earl, Neal Young, Utah Phillips, or they can listen among their local crop of songwriters (They’re everywhere!). Every major city, and quite a few of the smaller ones, boast venues where the subjects of pure food, Citizens United, climate change, domestic abuse, and, yes, war  (to name a few) come up in songs all the time. It’s not that there are none. It’s that one must be paying attention.

The truth is, there are lots of politically  and socially committed performers and songwriters. If that’s what you like to hear, get out and look for them, because you sure as heck won’t find them on the radio. But they are still out there. I hear them all the time. Seek and ye shall find, I promise.

Some folks in Austin, TX who are dwriting and singing songs about social justice:  The Therapy Sisters, Steve Brooks, Gina Chavez, Patrick Dodd, Mary Gautheir, Darden Smith, Eliza Gilkyson, to name a few. And that’s just one city.

If you woiuld like to hear some of my own songs go to http://www.janseidesmusic.com/siren-song/  While the songs are not specifically social protest, they touch on those subjects. Or check out the entire album at  http://janseides.com/music and click on “Behind Closed Doors” in particular.

 

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Category: Music, Songwriting, Uncategorized

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