Hunting For Cover


Hunting for the best cover of Bob Dylan’s Knocking On Heavens Door dominated well over an hour this evening. Concluding every version has merit, led to pondering why the original hadn’t factored in the quest. ( that’s an exaggeration, in truth I went “huh” mid hunt and clicked on more covers).

Some time later it came to me – certain songs are destined to carry weight from generation to generation. Lyrical plucks of conscience, melodic fists erupting from belly aches of social injustice. Here’s the thing, Knocking On Heavens Door is an anomaly – it wasn’t born a protest anthem. Dylan’s now metaphorical heaven of consequence, was penned for a movie soundtrack.

Bob Dylan wrote and sang Knocking On Heavens Door for the soundtrack of  1973’s movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In the film it played as the voice of a deputy sheriff, dying of bullet wounds, telling his wife “Mama take this badge off of me”.

Mama, take this badge off of me
’cause I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put that gun to the ground
’cause I can’t shoot them anymore.
There’s a long black cloud comin’ on down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

I don’t care if a definitive cover exists. Hunting for cover reminded me – music is protests’ mightiest weapon.

Argh!

Eve Of Destruction


Can anyone tell me what happened to social conscience? Maybe it’s out there, perhaps it exists in tweets or percolates in realms outside my middle aged perception. It could be that my idea of social conscience is locked in a dusty vault, a time capsule indicative of my age. Before social media, in a world where protest stirred in the hearts of citizens, and resounded with a collective cry for change.

I can’t help but think protest has lost its way. Listening to Vietnam era anti war songs evokes a sense of despair. Where has our social conscience gone?

Missing Sinead O’Connor


Missing Sinead O’Connor came out of left field. Can’t say what led to pondering her 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live.  A permanent playlist resident, O’Connor’s haunting voice and lyrics captivated. I couldn’t have been less prepared for what happened – Sinead O’Connor blew my mind.

Trying to think of anything remotely similar, all I came up with was Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising the black pride salute during the 1968 Olympics. (linked below) In both cases, conviction took precedence over consequence. In both cases,  peaceful symbolic gestures imploded careers. These days it’s tough to fathom “celebrity” with courage to do the same.

O’Connor dutifully performed an opening number with her band – as SNL wound down, O’Connor appeared starkly alone, launching a cappella into  Bob Marley’s War. Nobody seemed to notice  insertion of “sexual abuse” for the lyrics “racial injustice”. O’Connor ended with “fight the real enemy”, producing a photograph of Pope John Paul II, which she ripped into pieces.

Stunned silence as NBC cut to commercial. According to insiders, NBC switchboards lit up with 4,484 complaints. Eventually the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) fined NBC 2.5 million for airing objectionable content. NBC has since edited out footage, forbidding anyone to re-broadcast the photo ripping scene.

Oh man Sinead, wherever you are, know your courage is respected. Defining moments in protest history don’t come along often.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/olympic-power/

Just because O’Connor desecrated an image of the Pope on national television, shouldn’t eradicate her fine work. One of my favorite O’Connor songs….

All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose


Woody Guthrie hails from an era when change seemed possible. His music rallied a nation, spoke for the common man, making protest an avenue with tangible destinations. Listening to Guthrie always restores my faith in the ability of everyday people to make a difference. In my opinion – a worthy Sunday night ponder.

Time to Ponder Protest Songs


Long ago in America without internet or cell phones, song moved a generation to take action. Music united generations, gave people a voice and served as a undeniable call to action. Vietnam war protests of the 60s and 70s, Mississippi blues of the 20s and 30s, civil rights marches in the 50s,  great depression in the 30s – all were defined by songs of protest. Protest music served to comfort and unite, it was a call to action, a rallying cry, a means of letting us know we were part of something.

Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Woodstock, fade into obscurity. The power of protest songs lost on a generation of gamers and tweeters. Ponder outcomes of the “occupy movement” if they were able to put rage into song. Music has become an obsolete tool for change. I’m not saying political music /artists don’t exist, but  state with conviction – tweets will never touch the soul. Facebook posts, comments on reddit can’t match the power of music. The world is a different place from the era when thousands of voices sang in unison, not hoping for change, but expecting it.

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/music/article/828049–where-have-all-the-protest-songs-gone

Pete Seeger