Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where Are the Musicians and the Poets?


Over on Tangled Up in Blue there's a posting about Country Joe McDonald and his new anti-war song [1,2,3 What Are We Fighting For?]. Country Joe was at Woodstock 39 years ago. He's an old geezer. So is Neil Young who is just about the only other singer to speak sing out.

The anti-war movement of the 60's was supported by all kinds of artists and some of their songs can still stir up powerful feelings today. Where are today's singers? Why are there no protest songs about the war in Iraq? Why are there no demonstrations in the streets and on the campuses? Where are the young firebrands and their passionate speeches? What's wrong with today's younger generation?


  1. Where are today's singers? Why are there no protest songs about the war in Iraq?

    Larry, I'm guessing that you don't spend a lot of time listening to rap and hip-hop. If not, then what makes you able to decide that there aren't protest songs? If so, why are dismissing, say, Eminem's great anti-war "Mosh"? What about Public Enemy? Boots Riley? Jackadiss? The Beastie Boys? K-Otix? Mos Def, System of a Down, dead prez, J-Live, Nas?

    Outside of rap -- why are you dismissing the Dixie Chicks? Pearl Jam? Green Day? Shakira, for heavens sake? Pink?

    I think there are lots of protest songs, but frankly, they're not targeted to people who still listen to artists of the 60s. That's exactly what you're asking for, isn't it?

  2. It did take time for the antiwar movement to build against Vietnam and even then the war did last many years before the US pulled out.

    Ian is right there about singers. There are a number who have put out songs against the war. Eminem put out Mosh right before the last US presidential election to try and motivate his audience to vote Bush out of office. The Dixie Chicks won grammys for an album inspired by their defiance against the war & the Bush administration.

  3. and of course we will always have Minsitry

  4. I think the big difference is there's no draft today. Bring back the draft, and we'll see massive anti-war protests from the young.

  5. I hear lots of anti-Bush music but very little of anti-war protests. But it's true that I don't listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop so maybe I'm missing all the best anti-war stuff.

    I'm certainly familiar with the Dixie Chicks but their protest is against those who censured them for dissing the President. That's not anti-war.

    Have there been any anti-war rallies where all these musicians got together on the same stage to protest the war in Iraq?

  6. justpaul said,

    I think the big difference is there's no draft today. Bring back the draft, and we'll see massive anti-war protests from the young.

    That's only part of the explanation. During the 60's there were massive protests in Europe, Canada, and Japan where young people were not being drafted.

  7. Larry, thanks for the mention.

    There just aren't as many rallies against the war the way I remember growing up in the 1960's and early 1970's. Hell, even Hallock, Minnesota had a peace rally in 1969. Part of it was that it was cool at the time, and my brother brags about how often he got laid after the marches.

    Maybe it's because many of the kids that were out there in the streets are satisfied that they are doing something by signing online petitions against the war (waste of time, fellas) before going back to YouTube for some goofy stuff.

    Maybe because it is more important to cluck-cluck over how much weight Angelina is losing, or what Lindsey is up to, or all of the other pop distractions these days. Maybe street protests are quaint reminders of a past time when hippies got away with being slobs.

    But the apathy started a long time ago, when I was at college at the University of North Dakota and the city proposed a thoroughfare through campus to make a shortcut to the Mall. I tried to raise interest in a protest, but all that I could muster were letters to the editor. The Columbia overpass made it with barely a whimper of opposition and Ray Davies wrote about the schools and universities turning out a brand breed of young conservatives (Reagan Youth.)

  8. Country Joe had an earlier anti-Iraq War song, "Cakewalk to Bagdad". You can find it on his Country Joe's Jukebox site.

    Another anti-war song is the Asylum Street Spanker's "Stick a Yellow Ribbon on Your SUV". This one is on youtube.


  9. The Dixie Chicks were attacked for this comment:
    "Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

    Their song "Not Ready to Make Nice" is about them not caving to the pro-war supporters slurs against them. It is symbolic of standing one's ground in opposition to an administration who tries to turn anti-war into meaning anti-American. That climate suppresses others from voicing their opposition to the war. I would therefore very much list it amongst the anti-War songs.

    It should also be noted the number of songs should be greater for the anti-Vietnam era as it was longer. 1963 (though with US troops present before that) until the start of 1973. That is almost ten years of war. A number of the Anti-war songs were written in the late 1960s and early 70s. The Iraq War started in 2003. We are unfortunately 4 and a half years into that war. The Iraq War in the US started out with larger demonstrations than were found in the US at the start of the Vietnam war.

  10. Two comments:

    (1) Distinguishing anti-Bush songs, concert tours (e.g., the Vote for Change Tour in 2004, that included acts such as Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., John Mellencamp, and John Fogerty - I've left out many others), etc., from anti-war efforts is parsing things too fine. The folks making the music and attending the concerts figured the best way to end the war was to start by changing the Commander in Chief.

    (2) Protests were a way of being heard as a first step toward changing public opinion. At this point, public opinion regarding the war hardly needs to be changed - even in the U.S., it's overwhelmingly negative. Actions by the government more in concert with this overwhelming public opinion may have to await the long-awaited change in administration, however.

  11. An anti-war song from WWI, "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier".


    This was very popular until Woodrow Wilson began his dishonest propaganda campaign for war.

    One of his chief opponents was the great Wisconsin Senator Robert Lafollette. You can find references to him at the link.

  12. Thinking about it more, I think there's another difference between now and the 60s.

    After mentioning a bunch of the anti-Bush/anti-war artists out there (and I agree with Jud that splitting anti-Bush from anti-war is getting awfully picky) -- I was going to say that there were plenty of anti-war tracks, but not so many that were commercially successful. I was then going to point out that therefore your complaint shouldn't be against the artists, but rather against the public who weren't supporting them -- said public including people like you, and I was going to ask why you personally weren't supporting the anti-war effort of these artists.

    But I won't ask that (though you may want to ask yourself that, if you want), because here's a huge difference between 2007 and 1967: Radio is immensely more homogenized today. Radio stations are part of vast media conglomerates, where 30 and 40 years ago radio stations tended to be individual. Vast commercial conglomerates tend to be bland, timid about change, and of course they tend toward the socially conservative. You'd expect that there would be much less commercial support of anti-war artists today. ClearChannel specifically blocked a bunch of "anti-patriotic" songs on their stations, for example.

    Artists have tried to outflank this, including direct downloads ("Offering downloads allows artists to bypass radio stations, which have been slow to add any of the protest songs to regular rotation" -http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1470746/03252003/kravitz_lenny.jhtml), but it's a very different, and much more difficult situation than in the 1960s, I think. The artists have to work a lot harder, and overcome more obstacles, than back in those more naive days.

  13. 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' Unfortunately the younger generation are condemned to repeat it, their way, in different circumstances.

    Back in the Sixties there was a definite tension between young and old, left and right politics, poor and rich, black and white, bosses and workers. To those holding the shitty end, protest seemed natural and there was a great deal of anger to motivate it.

    Nowadays there *appears* to be much less difference between the haves and havenots. There is still plenty of 'want' but far less 'need' in the developed countries. Industry, media, and politics have been homogenised. Politicians and other community leaders no longer resign when shamed (I'm sure you can think of examples). Wealth has been concentrated into fewer hands, and they don't want others to rock the boat. Music is now not seen as naturally anti-establishement (those few rich owners...).

    Protest against wars is no longer seen as especially worthwhile compared to protests against poverty. There are so many other issues/charities competing for attention too.

    On the bright side I see the internet as a communications method outside the control of the MSM and 'establishment' concerns. It will just take a little longer to build up influence over the real world.