Published on January 20th, 2017 | by JP Gorman4
Political Protest Playlist: Think / Feel / Act
What happened today, January 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C., is a national tragedy. That this man could be voted into this role is something that should shake every single American to their core with a mixture of embarrassment, terror, and heartbreak. Whatever you give as the reasons why it happened, and whoever you choose to blame, the fact is Donald Drumpf, a spoiled greedy dickhead racist thieving moron rapist failure rich kid who’s never worked an honest day in his life and wouldn’t deign to piss on the average American were that person on fire, is now our President.
Way to go, America. We did it. Congratu-fucking-lations, we just brought the end of the world a little closer to becoming a reality.
And maybe it is the death by suicide of so-called “Movement Conservatism.” Maybe it’s the Earth-shattering rapture these dumb motherfuckers need to see just how stupid and insane so much of their politics really are. Perhaps when the lapdogs and jellyfish in our legislature actually do what they’ve promised, the vast majority of Americans can once and for all be shown how totally full of shit these assholes were this whole time, and how completely vapid and pig-headed have been their promises.
That once people realize how void of substance trickle-down economic theory is for anyone other than the absolute richest among us, and that voting against your own self-interest is never going to make your life better, and when civil rights get demonstrably worse for a critical mass of people, and when the economy craters and devastates those who can least afford the fall, and meanwhile Drumpf’s working three days a week and not living in the White House, spending most of his time talking to his sons about the family business and tweeting insults at other heads of state from Putin’s yacht on the Black Sea, maybe then things can finally start to actually get better.
Maybe then, and only then, after we’ve been cleansed in a fiery self-destruction powered by mass apathy and ignorance, we can move on into a new and brighter day for all, one more in keeping with the promise of those words on that old piece of paper supposedly revered by a lot of people who just handed it to a plutocrat dipshit to wipe his ass with.
And then again, maybe not?
So fuck this, and fuck them. We can’t do much about anything right now, today, but there’ll be plenty to do one day, and soon. Steel yourself for what’s to come with the help of this playlist of our favorite protest songs. These tunes will make you think, they’ll make you feel, and, hopefully, when the time is right, they’ll make you act. That’s the point, after all: historic moments call for historic action, and now that this has happened, what do you plan to do about it? – JP Gorman
Political Protest Playlist
YouTube Playlist Here:
Bob Dylan: “Masters of War”
When the topic of “Protest Songs” came across my messaging app, I lept at the opportunity to listen to what I believe to be the most poignant political/protest song ever penned by an American singer/songwriter. I couldn’t honestly tell you how many times I’ve heard this song in my lifetime. I recall Pearl Jam covering the song in the early 90s and was immediately affected by the lyrical sustainment of the song. Due largely in part to Bob Dylan directly addressing the faceless industrial complex that oversee the machinations of war. I think the reason that “Masters of War” resonates so strongly with me this afternoon has everything to do with how the song closes in the last verse. Dylan articulates a desire not only see the Master of War die soon, but a desire to follow his casket lowered into the ground so he can stand over it to make sure it’s dead. A sentiment shared by many today, who hope to live long enough to bury this administration. – Alamo City Rollie
Fats Waller: “Your Feet’s Too Big”
Conservatives have been gaslighting America for a long time. This song, written in 1936, was probably never meant to be a protest song. But when Fats sings it, he brings whole new meaning to the tune. He can’t find a girl, a job, a home, or any friends. Why? Certainly not because he’s black. America is not racist and how dare you suggest otherwise? His feet are just too darn big. That’s the real problem! – Dan Vesper
“All Coons Look Alike To Me” Written by Ernest Hogan, performed by Arthur Collins and Vess Ossman (1902)
So-called “Coon Songs” were the most popular type of music at the turn of the 20th Century. This one was written by an African-American composer, Ernest Hogan, who along with Scott Joplin and W.C. Handy pretty much invented and innovated what we now know as ragtime. Looking back on this song now, we might find ourselves uncomfortable with the fact that a black artist has precious other options than to write this kind of music. But the harmonic complexity here is astonishing. This is no ordinary composition and even within the confines of a “Coon Song” Ernest Hogan lays out the template for much of the jazz that followed in the next decade. The performers, Arthur Collins and Vess Ossman were white (and probably performed this song in blackface). They were likely considered “liberal” at the time.
It might be tempting to say we’ve come a long way since 1902, but many of these same stereotypes remain intact in what American audiences (both white and black) expect from rap music today. It’s worth taking a little time out of your day to ponder just why that might be. – Dan Vesper
Bert Walker: “Nobody”
Bert Walker was one of the most celebrated comedians of his era. Yet, as a black man in the early 1900s no amount of fame meant that he could perform in anything except blackface. Nobody was his signature tune, and it was deeply misunderstood by most of the people who loved it. To this day, people remember it as a novelty song. –Dan Vesper
The lyrics deserve to be quoted at length: ” When life seems full of clouds / and rain and I am filled with nothing but pain, / who soothes my thumpin’ bumpin’ brain? / Nobody / When winter comes with snow and sleet / and me with hunger and cold feet / who says ” Ah, here’s two bits, go an’ eat!” / Nobody / I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody / I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time! / And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime / I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time! / When I try hard and scheme and plan / to look as good as I can /who says ” Ah, look at that handsome man!” / Nobody / When all day long things go amiss / and I go home to find some bliss / who hands to me a glowin’ kiss? / Nobody / I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody / I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time! / And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime / I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time! / Nobody, no time!”
Louis Jordan: “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”
Lest we forget, one of the many stubborn black stereotypes from minstrelsy was that “coons” had an insatiable appetite for chicken and watermelon. So insatiable was this supposed desire, in fact, that white men had to lock up their hens to keep them safe. Here, Louis Jordan, masterfully turns this racist archetype on it’s ear. Louis is in the “hen house” having some fun with a “chick” when suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, the farmer shows up with his gun. This deceptively light-hearted tune went all the way to number 1 in 1946. Hear it again and see why. – Dan Vesper
Brandon Perras: I know that punks hate the government and that punk music was their secret weapon against the “man”; all in all punk music sucks, but I like the attitude and sentiment; here are some bands that do the music right and maintain the lyrical defiance and political themes/messages.
Atari Teenage Riot:
Pretty much all of their songs but, “Death of a President D.I.Y.!” “Destroy 2000 Years of Culture”, “Your Uniform Does Not Impress me”, “Anarchy 999”, and “The Future of War”- all of these songs ring true today. Grandpa Brandon approves.
Team Dresch: “Hate the Christian Right”
Submission Hold: “Source of Fuck” / “My Belief”
His Hero Is Gone: “Monument to Thieves”
Dropdead: “Direct Action” / “Witch Hunt”
In/Humanity: “Too Drunk to Molotov” / “Embrace Androgyny”
Guyana Punch Line– “Not Right” / “Political P.I.G.”
Bikini Kill- “Reject All American”
xbxrx: “Pigs Wear Blue”
Reversal of Man: “Bless the Printing Press”
Assuck: “Blood and Cloth” / “Spine”
Young Thug: “Webbie”
“These politicians fake, they politikin’ bout their cases.” – Dan Vesper
Ministry: “What About Us?”
Ministry has always been good for aggressive political jams. You could pick any song from 1988 through 2016 and use it to describe just about any Republican administration. The people blindly follow, sheepishly submit or die trying to revolt. I can’t think of any other song that fits American politics so well. The weak get weaker, the powerful get more power and that cold reality begs the question: what about us? -Aaron Cooper
Sharon Van Etten: “Not Myself”
Sharon Van Etten wrote this somber piano ballad in the wake of the Orlando massacre last summer, donating the proceeds to anti-gun violence campaigns. With her typically gut-wrenching delivery, she pleads “I want you to be yourself around me, there’s too much at stake.” In a world that grows increasingly uncertain and chaotic by the day, it’s hard to imagine a simpler or more beautiful sentiment. -Robert Masiello
Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman: “Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine”
Despite what history tells you, presidents, kings and popes don’t own your land or lives. There’s always hardships and bloodshed but at the end of the day, this country was handmade by it’s people. When it feels like we’re being held down by the political system, we still have a voice and we still have our own legs to stand on. This song is an anthem of protest and a battle cry of we the people. – Aaron Cooper
Nina Simone: “Feeling Good”
You need this song in your life right now. Trust me. “It’s a new dawn,” she sings, “it’s a new day. It’s a new life…” and then she pauses, as if to consider, “for me.” The thing is, you get to decide your own future. That is determined by you. Don’t ever forget it. – Dan Vesper
Stevie Wonder: “Black Man”
It’s become pretty fucking obvious that we can’t trust white people to do the right thing anymore. And I say that as a white man. I did my part, and I believed forcefully in the promise of Obama’s presidency and the new day it seemed to usher in for Americans of every race and creed, but now I also know what members of my extended family did in 2016, and what people I’d previously called friends did, and why they did it, and how there’s a difference between what they say publicly about their decision and the winks and nods they give to each other in private. So I’m here to tell you, once and for all: don’t fucking trust white people to act in anybody’s best interest, especially their own, at the ballot box. The future is for the black and brown, white America just ethered itself and should never, under any circumstances, be listened to or trusted by any other group ever again. – JP Gorman
A song that pretty much sums up how ‘’the powers that be’ give the people superficial things to worry about while doing the real evil behind the scenes. If you talk back, you’re subject to punishment. Has there ever been a revolution without blood? “If you love peace and you love mercy, you’re bound cause a little controversy” –Aaron Cooper
Silverchair: “Spawn Again”
Look I know that Silverchair isn’t the greatest band. They aren’t even from the States (they’re Australian), but this song is full of angst and aggression. The lyrics are just straight up ferocious. When I think of a protest song “Spawn Again” is the first track that comes to my mind. – Jon
Rage Against the Machine: “Killing in the Name”
“FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!!!!!!!!”
That’s it, man. There’s plenty else in this song that will help you devise your own personal resistance during the Drumpf years, but first muttering and then screaming this phrase at the top of your lungs over and over for the track’s last minute will make you feel better, I promise, both from the power in the words themselves and in knowing that there’s no other rational response to the devastating legislative actions this unified conservative government is going to take as soon as humanly possible. – JP Gorman
Zach de la Rocha and DJ Shadow: “March of Death”
I feel like pretty much any RATM song / album could make this list. Zach de la Rocha’s voice, delivery, just overall vibe is perfect for a portest song. Almost everything de la Rocha has been invloved with musicllay is some form of protest music. Whether it be with RATM, solo stuff, his one off EP as One Day As a Lion, or his recent collabs with Run The Jewels. So if I had to pick a de la Rocha song to throw in this list I’m gonna go with “March of Death”. Listen to the lyrics and I think you’ll know why I picked it. Plus DJ Shadow’s bass heavy post acopalyptic composition is the perefect backing track. – Jon
NOFX: “Perfect Government”
The quietLOUD start of this song seems designed specifically to WAKE YOU THE FUCK UP, from which point the punk legends drop a lot of lyrical science about how the problem with the way American government actually works has little to do with beliefs and everything to do with money. The first verse alone lets you know right away that you’re not in the usual ideological territory:
“Even if it’s easy to be free/What’s your definition of freedom?/And who the fuck are you, anyway?/Who the fuck are they?/Who the fuck am I to say/What the fuck is really going on?”
And the saddest part is, this song came out 22 years ago! The situation has only gotten worse since then. Throughout this brief, propulsive vintage SoCal punk explosion, NOFX singer Fat Mike keeps asking questions without giving their answers, most notably “How did the cat get so fat?” Figure that out, and we might finally get to the bottom of just what the hell happened with the 2016 election, and how we prevent it from happening again. – JP Gorman
Propagandhi: “Fuck the Border”
La Plebe: “Pinches Fronteras”
One of the most ferocious (and least subtle) songs in Propgandhi’s forte, “Fuck the Border” still manages to portray the humanity of those whose lives are affected by borders both physical and intangible. Punk rock and politics operate in an angry cycle, and “Fuck the Border” reflects this by presenting the story of a Mexican immigrant forced to leave her country for the USA, all because the culture and consumption of the USA has made her own life unbearable. Propagandhi simplifies the border debate to what it should be about in the first place: respecting other people. Pretty good insight for a song that’s almost 20 years old and was made by a band from the middle of Canada.
“Pinche Fronteras” (or “Fucking Borders”) by San Francisco’s La Plebe is a great sister song to “Fuck the Border,” delivering the same sentiments from the Mexican-American punks. “Why’s an American Passport such a golden fuckin’ ticket?” Spoiler alert: It’s not. -Ricky Vigil