Pay Attention to the Arts...That's where Social Change Begins! Pt.3
This is the third, in a series of blog posts, where we have shared some well known and not so well known, American SONGS OF PROTEST from 2003 to 2020.
We have tried to share the idea about how musicians and singers have voiced concerns through music that have resonated with the public at large.
Artists have always played a key role in social movements in the United States, addressing issues ranging from civil rights, voting rights, labor rights, immigration, sexism and gun violence...to name a few.
Social movements have been documented by historians and social scientists. Yet, rarely is there a discussion on the impact of the ARTS on those movements.
Does art, music, poetry, writings impact people? If we can agree that the arts are an integral part of culture, then to what degree does culture influence how we see the world?
Culture is the "sticky glue" that binds social behavior to economic and political change throughout history. Culture includes language, music, traditions, art, geography, social institutions, religion, y normative behaviors...tu sabes, our way of life.
From the early unionizing efforts in the factories to the fields, to War protests, to the civil rights movement of the 60's, music, art and film captured the feelings, moods and social views of the community.
See if these songs influenced you or young people that you know. What messages are these songs sending us? Were you aware of the stories behind the songs?
Where Is The Love – 2003 A Pop song by the Black Eyed Peas featuring, Justin Timberlake.
It appeared on the album Elephunk, which went on to sell 9 million copies worldwide.
The song was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy's, topped the charts in 13 countries, was the bestselling single of 2003 in the UK, and cemented the Black Eyed Peas as breakaway artists.
Listening to these lyrics, it’s surprisingly prophetic about our current political climate surrounding racism:
People killin' people dyin' Children hurtin', I hear them cryin' Can you practice what you preachin'? Would you turn the other cheek again? Mama, mama, mama, tell us what the hell is goin' on Can't we all just get along? Father, father, father help us Send some guidance from above 'Cause people got me, got me Questioning Where's the love
Overseas, yeah they trying to stop terrorism Where's the love
Over here on the streets the police shoot The people put the bullets in 'em Where's the love But if you only got love for your own race Where's the love Then you're gonna leave space for others to discriminate Where's the love
DÉJÁ VU – 2004 A soft-rock song written by John Fogerty, former lead singer for Creedence Clearwater Revival.
He wrote this song about the similarities between the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq.
He believed the US government was making the same mistakes again. He said in an interview, “I was writing about the war that was coming and the unnecessary deaths that were gonna happen all over again. I was overcome with feeling that emotion. I guess I was guided there. I did not create that song. It was handed to me…”
Day by day, I hear the voices rising
Started with a whisper, like it did before
Day by day, we count the dead and dying
Ship the bodies home, while the networks all keep score
Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout It, on the radio
Could your eyes believe the writing, on the wall
Did that voice inside you say, I've heard it all before
It's like Déjà vu, all over again
Not Ready To Make Nice – 2006 A powerful retribution country song written by Martha Maguire, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Dan Wilson.
In 2003, while the Iraq War was still largely supported, the Dixie Chicks defied their base of southern conservative fans by denouncing the war on stage.
Singer Natalie Maines said, “We're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." The backlash was severe, and the band experienced death threats and a country radio ban.
By 2006, American opinion had turned sharply against the war. As the death count of soldiers and civilians ticked upward, it was clear that "weapons of mass destruction" would not be found, and that this military excursion had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
That’s when the Dixie Chicks released “Not Ready To Make Nice,” to double down on their convictions, and stand up for anti-war sentiments as American women. The single went platinum and won Grammy's for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and is still their biggest hit.
Forgive, sounds good Forget, I'm not sure I could They say time heals everything But I'm still waiting
I'm through with doubt There's nothing left for me to figure out I've paid a price, and I'll keep paying I'm not ready to make nice I'm not ready to back down I'm still mad as hell, and I don't have time To go 'round and 'round and 'round It's too late to make it right I probably wouldn't if I could 'Cause I'm mad as hell Can't bring myself to do what it is You think I should
I know you said Why can't you just get over it? It turned my whole world around And I kinda like it
I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby With no regrets, and I don't mind saying It's a sad, sad story When a mother will teach her daughter That she ought to hate a perfect stranger And how in the world Can the words that I said Send somebody so over the edge That they'd write me a letter Saying that I better Shut up and sing Or my life will be over?
Born This Way - 2011 Written and performed by Lady Gaga. It seems today that marriage equality was predestined to become law of the land.
But in 2011, President Obama was still supportive of “civil unions,” as states across the nation passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
The tide of popular opinion shifted rapidly, and that was very much heralded by a youth culture that embraced LGBTQ rights.
Lady Gaga led the way, choosing to follow up her 2008 hit album The Fame with a riskier, political song, Born This Way. The song reached number one in over 25 countries, and sold 8.2 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the bestselling singles of all time.
It doesn't matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M Just put your paws up 'cause you were born this way, baby
My mama told me when I was young We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on In the glass of her boudoir
There's nothing wrong with loving who you are
She said, Cause he made you perfect, babe, So hold your head up girl and you'll go far, Listen to me when I say
I'm beautiful in my way 'Cause God makes no mistakes I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret Just love yourself and you're set I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way
Alright - 2015 A Hip-hop song written by Kendrick Lamar. In a year of headlines dominated by the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Grey and Philando Castile, Black Lives Matter enthusiastically adopted "Alright" as its anthem
Lamar conveys not only a sense of hopelessness in police shootings and the threat of violence looming, but the vitality of church and community with a powerful optimism.
Chanted at protests across the country, the song has had incredible cultural relevance, capped by an invitation from President Obama to perform "Alright" at the White House. The song won two 2016 Grammy's for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. The album, To Pimp a Butterfly, won the Grammy for Best Rap Album, sold more than a million+ copies todate.
Alls my life I has to fight, nigga Alls my life I Hard times like, yah! Bad trips like, yah! Nazareth, I'm fucked up Homie, you fucked up But if God got us then we gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright Nigga, we gon' be alright We gon' be alright Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright Nigga, we gon' be alright Huh? We gon' be alright Nigga, we gon' be alright Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright...
Wouldn't you know We been hurt, been down before, nigga When our pride was low Lookin' at the world like, "Where do we go, nigga?" And we hate po-po Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga I'm at the preacher's door My knees gettin' weak and my gun might blow But we gon' be alright...
A SCARY TIME – 2018 A feminist protest song and viral video written and performed by Lynzy Lab Stewart.
The song is based on a comment made by United States President, Donald Trump; "I say that it's a very scary time for young men in America, when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of."
He made the statement amid the sexual assault allegations against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Allegations that Brett Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and another woman.
A victim of sexual assault herself, Stewart also heard many stories about sexual assault from women to whom she has taught dance. She said that she hoped that the song "would lift a little bit of the weight...I was angry to hear the president describe these times as ‘scary for men’ with a complete disregard of the struggles we, as women, face on a daily basis."
The song contains a list of situations in which men have harassed, coerced, or sexually assaulted women in the U.S. The list also includes some of the past responses from the American public, media, and legal system to women who have accused men of such acts.
I can’t walk to my car late at night while on the phone
I can’t open up my windows when I’m home alone
I can’t go to the bar without a chaperone
I can’t wear a mini skirt if it’s the only one I own
I can’t use public transportation after 7 PM
I can’t be brutally honest when you slide into my DM's
I can’t go to the club just to dance with my friends
And I can never leave my drink unattended...
But it sure is a scary time for boys,
yeah Gentleman band together make some noise
It’s really tough when your reputations on the line
And any woman you’ve assaulted could show up any time...
It’s not such a scary time for boys
They’ve always had the upper hand, they’ve always had a choice
It’s time for women to rise up use our collective voice
The day to vote is Nov 6th so let’s go make some noise