April 18, 2006

Music and politics

Never really that far apart, of course. Some of our best musicians have been intensely political. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and of course, my personal favorite, Steve Earle--have all written about politics.

We are intensely divided by this war, so it is understandable that our music will increasingly reflect that. Steve Earle's "Jerusalem" still stands as an early critique of Bush's pro-war anti-Islam stance, but others are joining in. I didn't expect it from this one, but evidently Neil Young has cranked out an anti-war album. In what sounds like "The Revolution Starts Now" type speed, Young has recorded a pretty angry anti-Bush screed.
"Not only has he recorded an entire album about the conflict, but in one of the songs he spells out who he thinks is to blame for the ongoing chaos and violence and what the consequences for that person should be. That track is called 'Impeach the President.""
Pretty remarkable coming from the same guy who recorded a rather bloodthirsty response to 9-11 called "Let it Roll," and who reportedly defended the Patriot Act and the President. Evidently, even for Neil, this has been handled poorly.

Young has long been one of my favorites. From Harvest with "Heart of Gold" and "Out on a Weekend" to Everyone Knows this is Nowhere's "Cinnamon Girl" (only song I know that has a guitar solo that consists of one note--listen to it), or Freedom's "Rocking in the Free World" (still one of my favorite SNL live music moments), Young's writing and haunting voice works for me. The fact that he sang with CSN and opened for Pearl Jam demonstrates a pretty wide range.

So, that means that I have one more album to buy in the "vote with my feet" (and wallet) sense. Young's new album Living with War, the Dixie Chicks Taking the Long Way look interesting.


Non political music I am looking at?

  • Alejandro Escovedo's first studio album in years The Boxing Mirror due out in early May.
  • Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knopfler's All the Road Running. I have been a long time fan of Emmy Lou and what I have heard sounds great.
  • Josh Ritter's The Animal Years. Downloaded a track this morning and am intrigued.

    u.b.u.b. said...

    As far as Neil Young goes, he's always been a political guy -- anti-war/anti-war on war protestors CSNY song Ohio, critiquing consumerism with This Note's for You, critiquing divisive economic policies on Rockin' in the Free World, the angry howl of Let's Roll, or the current album. I think the consistent thread is populism rather than liberalism or conservatism.

    Dixie Chicks, not so much, but I am really intrigued by the Emmylou/Mark Knoffler pairing. He's really an underrated guitarist. Incidentally, we have the same birthday, which I understand makes me an honorary Sultan of Swing.

    Streak said...

    Not sure about the honorary Sultan, but that is kind of cool.

    Point well taken on Young's political music. I kind of forgot how angry he was under Bush I after he became a weird supporter of W. Freedom is a great album.

    No on the Chicks, eh? I can see that with the first couple albums which are so-so. Home, however, was a pretty solid album with several very strong songs. So there.

    JoeG said...

    Being from the New England area, I've never been much of a fan of country music. Chicago, Michael Buble and classic rock are more my speed. But I've heard the Knopfler/Harris duet on the Imus in the Morning radio show, and it is a really great tune! I guess with Knopfler, it has enough of that Dire Straits feel to it to make it enjoyable.
    I've also always been a fan of Neil Young and CSNY and their politically charged songs.

    Wasp Jerky said...

    It's been really interesting to see the anti-war/anti-Bush songs of today vs. the songs of the 60s and 70s. There have been some really fantastic songs written during this Bush presidency, but it seems like you have to work a little harder to find them.

    Some other great tracks you might enjoy:

    Bright Eyes - When the President Talks to God
    Sage Francis - Makeshift Patriot Non-Prophets - Hey Bobby
    Pedro the Lion - Backwoods Nation
    Headphones - Major Cities
    Headphones - Natural Disaster
    Eminem - Mosh
    Paris - What Would You Do?
    Paris - Sheep to the Slaughter

    David Bazan's cover of Randy Newman's "Political Science" is also very good.

    johnfindlaymusic said...

    The only problem Ive had in the past
    with 'protest' music is the styles in which they inhabit.I grew up listening to Pete Seeger,CSN&Y,even some anarchist punk,Ive heard/read most Steve Earle/Neil Young-however I dont have the patience to listen to the lefty-metal stuff-but even that is great.

    Having said that my style in listening and as a songwriter is a little softer-jazzier-classic rock...There seems to be a void there for getting across political messages.Bonnie Rait hints at it-not sure what happened to Don Henley.......anyways
    -there are some artists out there makin' noise on issues too.
    I started a blog called [wouldn't ya know it?] 'MUSIC & POLITICS-I'm putting up lyrics in progress if anyone would like to have a look.