A Call for the Protest Song

Country Joe & The Fish - Collected 1965-1970
I attended to my first anti-war march when I was three years old. Okay, I was in a stroller and was, technically, pushed.

I’ve attended a lot of marches and rallies since then for all sorts of reasons and the thing that sticks in the mind is what people were singing – our collective mantra and mojo all wrapped up with a catchy tune.

See, I simply can’t imagine what an anti Vietnam march without Country Joe and the Fish and their “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die...” You know…

    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam;
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

Likewise, what good would a labor rally be without a rousing chorus or two of “Solidarity Forever” or “Union Maid” with a mass of waving signs? Would the Civil Rights Marches in the U.S. have been as powerful without “We Shall Not Be Moved” sung by thousands of shuffling folks willing to fight for their due? Seems like every movement has the need for an equally powerful, or equally mocking, song.

Freemuse’s Music Freedom Day is just around the corner on March 3rd so I’ve had protest and protest songs on my mind. While I support and applaud the efforts of Freemuse and every musician out there, going toe-to-toe with the man, I also support those masses of folks out on the streets everywhere, lifting their voices in collective protest to where ever there is an injustice. So, in the spirit of Music Freedom Day, I’d like to devote a little time to the protest song.

Now, I don’t know what they were singing in the streets of Tunis, nor what they’ve been singing in the streets of Cairo or Alexandria, Bahrain or Sana’a so if you know drop me a line. In fact, I want to know what your protest song experience has been.

Drop me an email with your name (if it’s safe for you to do so), your city and country and the name of the song and/or some lyrics of your protest song. If your protest song is the parody of another song, please let me know that too. You can include some of the circumstances of the protest or your own observations. We’ll post as many as we can come March 3rd.

For me lyrics from “Alice’s Restaurant” by the esteemed Arlo Guthrie sums it pretty good when he sings, “If you want to end war and stuff you got to sing loud.”

Post your suggestions in the comments section or send an email to info at worldmusiccentral dot org and we will forward them to TJ.

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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.


2 thoughts on “A Call for the Protest Song”

  1. Hello..
    I am wondering if you are familiar with my work, both as a singer and as producer of the Paredon Records catalog (now in Folkways/Smithsonian, see http://www.folkways.si.edu). That entire catalog is music of revolutionary movements or writings and speeches by figures who have changed the world for t he better, including Ho Chi Minh and CHe Guevara. My singing life has been dedicated to helping the voiceless find their voices, but at the cost of being pretty well marginalized from the “Music Bizness” , making it hard to find much of my singing work on Amazon etc.

    My own website is temporarily somewhat disabled, but you can get some idea from there. Meanwhile, here is a link to my discography, on a site of someone in Germany: http://www.wirz.de/music/danedsc.htm

    Also, here is a way to buy CDs from me: http://www.barbaradane.net/Buy_Dane_CDs.html

    THe most clearly “protest” album is “I Hate the Capitalist System” but I have found ways to make everything I sing have some sort of social meaning.

    I’m curious to know how your project plays out. Can you email me some details about how it is going?

    Best of luck, Barbara

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