The protest song is dead. Long live the protest song! While the days of folkies in overalls riding the rails and singing about union jobs may be long gone, a new crop of protest songs has emerged in the last few years that hint that the synergy of music and politics may not be gone for good. One of the most recent, high-profile entrants into the political arena is Sheryl Crow.
Lest you think that all Sheryl wants to do is have some fun, her new album Detours is a potent mash-up of the political and personal. Her latest video is for her joyous yet pointed “Out of Our Heads.” It is unquestionably one of the most upbeat protest songs I’ve heard since Edwin Starr’s funkalicious “War.” The video features politicians, celebrities and everyday folks flashing the peace sign. You’ll want to flash your own peace sign, not to mention tap your toe, throughout. I particularly like how the image of President Bush is followed by the lyrics “you have blood upon your hands.” Subtle — no. Accurate — yes.
Of course, Sheryl isn’t the only artist of late to meld politics with her art. Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp and, heck, even Eminem have protested our current political climate in song since the Iraq War started.
And, of course, the ladies have brought it too. A couple of my favorites:
Bonus points for its effective use in The L Word season 4 finale. And, of course, it’s gay inclusiveness.
Where can I find one of those “Stop Bush” outfits from the video? Of course, now it should just read “Is it Jan. 20, 2009 yet?”
I saw her perform this live before it was released it on her 2002 compilation, So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter. The only appropriate word to describe it was shivers – it gave me shivers.
And, then there is John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas.” It has the dual distinction of being both one of my favorite protest/peace songs and Christmas songs of all time.
Maybe it’s because deep down I’m a big dumb softie, but every time the simple background chorus kicks in, I feel an involuntary knot in my throat.
So, is the protest song dead and buried? Or, perhaps, is there still a place for it in our musical landscape? And if so, what are your favorites? Peace out.