Two months after the attacks of Semptember 11th Spearhead was invited to perform on The Late Late Show with then host Craig Kilborn. The group performed their new song "Bomb Da World." The clip was cut, presumably because the lyrics, including the chorus "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace," were too controversial. Months later, after a Billboard magazine article exposed the censorship, the performance was aired.
I was reminded of this incident by, of all things, Mother's Day. My mom always complains that she doesn’t hear good new music, just the inane drivel on the radio, and I should share more of my music with her. So I’ve dutifully been carefully crafting a Mother’s Day mix CD all week. One of the songs I’ve chosen to include is David Dondero’s "Pre-Invasion Jitters," a clever acoustic tune with nimble lyrics criticizing the U.S. Armed Forces' recruiting methods and the Iraq War.
It got me thinking about how little anti-war, or anti-administration music I’ve heard since 9/11 and the subsequent attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.
I can’t think of a single current anti-war song that I’ve heard on the radio. Of course this is not surprising considering that Clear Channel, owner of over 1,000 radio-stations across the country, immediately blacklisted John Lennon’s "Imagine," anything by Rage Against the Machine and hundreds of other songs after 9/11.
Phil Ochs, one of the founders of the 60’s folk rock, protest movement, once said, "One good song with a message can bring a point more deeply to more people than a thousand rallies."
Of course the protest music of the 60’s also faced heavy resistance, one example being Barry McGuire's 1966 hit "Eve of Destruction," a song that faced widespread censorship. Perhaps because those who supported the status quo realized Ochs’ was right.
So I went on a hunt - i.e. an Internet search - for today’s protest music. I wanted to find my generation’s "Fixin' to Die Rag" (Country Joe and Fish), "Bad Moon Rising" (CCR), and "Vietnam" (Jimmy Cliff).
Sure enough with a simple Google search I found numerous web sites promoting hundreds of old and brand new anti-war and anti-administration music. The site www.peace-not-war.org features a "Peace Jukebox."
Unfortunately a lot of the tunes are well … bad. Either the music is horrible or the lyrics sound like an adapted version of a Maureen Dowd column, like Billy Bragg’s "Price of Oil" with the brilliantly uncreative lyrics "… it’s all about the price of oil/ don’t give me no s***/ about blood, sweat, tears and toil."
Yet, I was able to find music I liked that also offered well-crafted lyrics. The Beastie Boys recently released the song "In a World Gone Mad" and Zach de la Rocha penned "March of Death" with the outraged yet thoughtful lyrics we’ve come to expect from the former Rage Against the Machine front man over a furious DJ Shadow beat.
My favorite find was "Not in Our Name" with the socially conscious lines of slam poet Saul Williams mixed over eerie strings and a deft drum and bass groove from DJ Spooky. Subtitled “Pledge of Resistance,” Williams defiantly demands:
Not in our name
will you erode the very freedoms
you have claimed to fight for
Not by our hands
will we supply weapons and funding
for the annihilation of families
on foreign soil
I can’t say I found an anthem, but the music and the message are out there if you listen hard enough. Just don’t expect to hear it on the radio.