Protest Songs: Let’s Not Make Another List

The world is hurting. From the earthquake in Mexico, the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and those being savagely ripped apart at the hands of war, lives are being stolen all around us.

The heart and soul of our nation, world, and human race are hurting, bleeding more and more with every catastrophe. What adds even more wounds to the mix is the attitudes of people. There are some amazing people with great means stepping up to help victims of these tragedies, yet the same political, cultural, and meanness of society is in full force.

Just go on any social media medium and scroll through the feeds. Hate is all around us, even in these most trying times. I will never understand how to look at others through the lenses of race, religion, sex, or orientation. None of that denies the basic rights of being a member of the human race.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with “protest” songs. I like to call them songs with a purpose. There are great compositions from yesterday that both remind us of how far we’ve come, but even more so, how far we need to go. Here’s a list of a few songs speaking to me today.

1. “Strange Fruit”

“Strange Fruit” is one of the most haunting, socially aware songs ever produced. It laid the groundwork for songs with a purpose. It was truly the pioneer. What does it mean for us today? I never want to loosen this songs ties to the brutality the African American community faced in the past and current day, but for me, at this moment, the bodies in the trees are those that you choose not to associate with just because you are different. This can range from race all the way to political party. This disassociation only causes deeper divides amongst humans and provides nothing for solutions.

2.”Blowin’ In The Wind” 

This song was originally written by Bob Dylan and has been covered by countless artists. My favorite version, and I would argue the most popular version, is Peter, Paul, and Mary’s. As Paul points out in this video, this song is composed of 9 questions. Although for me, each question can only be answered by another question. The two questions that strike me the most are “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” and “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” These questions were relevant in the 1960’s and they are especially relevant to this day, yet these question are so simple and can be easily answered.

3. “What’s Going On”

Again, I do not want to cheapen this song’s meaning to the people of African American decent and it’s purpose in the Civil Rights movement. I agree with every sentiment and hardship this song portrays against African Americans, but today so many more prejudices have come into light. The questions this song asks should be archaic. They should not even be applicable to today, yet here we are years later still wondering what’s going on.

4.”Mississippi Goddam”

Nina Simone’s voice on any track speaks straight to my soul, but this one catches me on a different level because she wrote it. The word “Mississippi” can be replaced with so many different locations like Ferguson, Charlottesville, or Flint, just to name a few. This song evokes anger, but more importantly it brings about frustration. It’s not about hiding our flaws as a society of humans, it’s about fixing them. Let’s never say “goddam” again.

5.”I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”

Although this song was originally made popular in the 1960’s by Nina Simone, I wanted to provide a more updated version for two reasons. First, I didn’t want to list two Nina Simone videos in this list, although you can never have enough of Ms. Simone. Second, I wanted to show how relevant this song is today. As I sit at my piano and look over this song, the line that always strikes me is “I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart.” If we all showed love, with no strings attached, then there would be no reason for this list or a single “protest” song.

In the end, giving love and expecting nothing in return is all our world needs. It’s so simple that we just don’t get it. Even the best of us that try, will fail, but if we all work together, we can create a movement. There is a solution. Let’s start showing kindness through love today to prevent a list like this being created tomorrow.

Back in My Mind Again

We all have those “go-to” artists. I have many of them including Judy Garland, Jack Jones,  and Loretta Lynn. My “go-to” artists are the those I am most familiar with, but the other night I listened to one and it struck a different chord with me.

I’m a sucker for every Supremes album I have ever heard and they are one of my top Supremesfavorites. I prefer “The Supremes,” over “Diana Ross and The Supremes.” Their earlier work, with the late Florence Ballard, possess something much different then their later work (don’t get me wrong though, I love Cindy Birdsong).

Although Ross is the lead in both groups, there is just a sense of sincerity, honesty, and unity in their earlier works. When they took Florence out it wasn’t the same.

Last Friday, June 12th, was the 50th anniversary of “Back in My Arms Again” going number one. I did not realize this was one of their number ones, and it was actually their 5th consecutive number one single. I immediately called my mother and asked her if she remembered this song. I then reminded her how old she is.

That evening I listened to the album that features “Back in My Arms Again,” More Hits By The Supremes. This album contains many of my absolute favorite Supremes’ songs including “Nothing But Heartaches,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and the lesser known “The Only Time I’m Happy.”

51bl0wd2zPL._SY300_The back liner notes are littered with pictures of the Supremes and their world reign as the top female group. As I listened and reflected on their career I am just astonished at what these three young ladies from Detroit were able to achieve through music. They are a cultural staple. Their beauty has out lasted decades and their impact on pop culture is profound.

Many credit the Supremes, and Motown, as making African-American performers acceptable in mainstream pop. The Supremes are at the head of this break through. They, along with artists like Mary Wells, Tammi Terrell, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson, were able to rise to fame during America’s difficult Civil Rights Movement. Although they were African-American in segregated America, they still had number one hits and rivaled Beatles fame.

This speaks to the power of music. It doesn’t matter your race, gender, orientation or background, for music transcends all of that. It penetrates straight to your emotions and soul. Due to this phenomenon sometimes history is made and that is exactly what happened with The Supremes. We were taught through their music that music has no tolerance for racism and social immoralities.

It also makes one realize it is never just music. Music, no matter what format, is essential to our history as human beings and a country. It ignites emotions and endorphins that nothing else can. Sometimes it even brings out the best in people and helps correct a long time wrong.

I guess you could say music has a supreme impact.