Category Archives: political songs

The Continuing Resonance of “Mississippi Goddam”

For reasons that should be obvious–and sort of rhyme with the words “Dump Conflagration”–I’ve been spending a lot of time this week thinking about protest music. And surprisingly, one of the songs that feels most relevant to our current (terrible) political situation is one that was written over 50 years ago, about a different (and even more terrible) political situation: Nina Simone‘s “Mississippi Goddam.”

It’s a testament to Simone’s brilliance as a songwriter and a performer–or maybe just to the world’s staggering shittiness–that a protest song as historically specific as “Mississippi Goddam” could have such long-lasting resonance. Simone wrote the song in early 1964, in response to two events from the previous year: the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Edvers in Jackson, Mississippi, and the fatal bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. But despite its ripped-from-the-headlines inspiration, she continued to perform “Mississippi Goddam” throughout her life, using its righteous rage as a vessel to contain whatever new disaster had struck Black America in the interim.

My favorite version of the song, for example, comes from April 1968, just three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: an event, Simone tells the crowd, that “left me so numb, I don’t know where I’m at.” It’s a stirring version of the song, its middle section more devastating than ever: “Hound dogs on my trail / Little school children sitting in jail / Black cat crossed my path / I think every day’s gonna be my last / Lord have mercy on this land of mine / We all gonna get it in due time / ‘Cause I don’t belong here / I don’t belong there / I’ve even stopped believing in prayer.” As historically specific as the performance remains, its sense of hopelessness leapt out at me across the decades when I listened to it again this week. It’s hard not to detect a little of our present situation in the lines where Simone rages against the admonitions of moderate white liberals: “Don’t tell me / I tell you / Me and my people just about due / I’ve been there so I know / They keep on saying ‘Go slow!'”

mississippi_goddamBut if the rage Simone felt in 1964 and 1968 still feels relevant to 2017, then so, too, does the galvanizing purpose behind the song–which is the real reason why I found myself listening to it so much this week. “Mississippi Goddam” is about the terrible things that happen to marginalized people, but it’s also about standing up and demanding justice for those terrible things: not later, but now. Yesterday and today, reports of anti-inauguration protests, counter-events, and of course the Women’s March on Washington were the only things in the world that felt right, that made any sense at all. And, while I don’t know if the legendarily acerbic Ms. Simone would have been part of the Women’s March–though I will go out on a limb and say she wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing no damn pussy hat–I do think she would have approved of the many people taking to the streets. It’s going to be a long four years (Christ, I hope it’s only four years); but if we keep fighting like what I saw this weekend, I think we might be all right.

(This post is an expanded version of a blurb I wrote for my own blog. Come read my thoughts about 15 other songs of dissent on Dystopian Dance Party.)

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Filed under 1960's, civil rights, Donald Trump, Martin Luther King Jr., Nina Simone, political songs, protest songs

If You Don’t Vote,You Don’t Count-A Message From Andre’ Cymone.

America is,as if today,about to come upon the most critical presidential election I’ve personally lived through. The frightening presence of Donald Trump as a candidate as raised many uncomfortable questions about what sort of people Americans are. 2016 is also a year that saw the death of Prince. His close childhood friend and lyrical inspiration Andre’ Cymone wrote this rockabilly style number a few years ago encouraging people to vote. For today,I’ll just post this video above with its lyrics printed below. All in hopes you,the reader,will be encouraged to exercise your most important American right tomorrow.

Vote to make a difference…If you don’t vote, you don’t count…
lyrics

VOTE

I come from a neighborhood
They won’t spend
No money to make it shine
The rich
With all the power
Buy off politicians
And leave the common folk behind
That’s why you gotta

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

I, I need an answer
Why is it so hard
To treat the people right
The populations changin
All across our nation
And we don’t need no guns
To be the winner in this fight
That’s why you got to

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

Let me ask you a question
Which party started a 12 year war
Here’s another question
Who always opens the window
While the other one closes the door

Last vote
We got Obama
But he can’t pass
These laws all by himself
He needs a team
Who understands all our needs
And won’t let corporations
Put our dreams up on a shelf
That’s why you got to

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, baby you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

Man what you mean
You ain’t gon vote… man
Don’t you realize that’s how they win….Who’s they?
They’s the corporations, The rich, the ones that don’t wanna
See the average person make the same kinda money so they can quit workin for them.
You seen what happened in Ferguson, they didn’t vote, five per cent turn out, no you gotta do better than that, you wanna see representation that looks like you , feels like you, does the things that you wanna see done in your future… You gotta get out there and vote.
If you don’t vote, you don’t count.

The time is now
To take control of your life
Too many people died
For us to win that right

Ain’t nothin cool
About sittin elections out
You wanna save this world
Sign up and join the fight

Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote, baby you don’t count
Vote, make a difference
You don’t vote
Then you can’t complain

 

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Filed under 2016, America, Andre Cymone, Donald Trump, message music, message songs, political songs, presidential elections, progressive music, voting

Andresmusictalk Takes A Stand

Stop Killing Black People

Today I’d planned to bring you perhaps another Anatomy of THE Groove segment,or another list based article about jazz,funk and soul music. Every human being has a heart somewhere though. I’m no exception to that,and my heart is broken. Within the last three days,two innocent black American men in Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered by the police. Yesterday,a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas,Texas erupted into violence against the police.  The situation has gotten to such a critical state, it seems like right time to set the record straight as to what Andresmusictalk stands for.

Over the past couple of years,grooves with a message have been over-viewed here. Especially in times of crisis such as outbreaks of violence. And in my home state of Maine the election of Mister Paul LePage to the position of state governor. As much as it might be inappropriate to bring personal views and feelings to this blog,the national situation has gone beyond too far. Day after day,social networks such as Facebook are filled with racist rhetoric-from posted memes to comments. And in many states,including my own,open carry gun laws have turned private citizens into potential vigilantes.

I am personally many things. Black,Latino and openly gay are among them. Yet everyday American’s who are any or all of these things are being made to feel as if they’ve done something terribly wrong. For example,when people such as Treyvon Martin,Michael Brown,Freddie Gray,Tamir Rise and now Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are murdered by police,it is quickly dismissed as a misunderstanding-with the murdered party painted as a “potential criminal element”.  When police are murdered such as in Dallas,most of the nation stand behind them without question.

These contradictory actions have officially proven to me that America today has become nearly totally based on the racial privilege of white people in particular. Through the articles done here,I’ve tried to imply that empathy,not xenophobia,is the solution to a lot of these peoples. So many other people do that in their own way,too. Sadly,few seem to even be listening. So wanted to clarify these matters: this blog is against prejudice  and racism. It’s against the murder of the innocent based on skin color and other non criminal matters. And most importantly it’s against homophobia,ableism and white privilege.

What it does stand for wholeheartedly is music. Music to get people in the mind of doing the dance we call life. And often music with a direct message. Here are some songs to listen to that musically describe today’s situation very well. No over-view from me today. Just listen and dance to the funky and soulful people music.

Don’t Call Me Nigger,Whitey/Sly & The Family Stone

Ball Of Confusion/The Tempations

If There’s A Hell Below,We’re All Going To Go/Curtis Mayfield

Am I Black Enough For You/Billy Paul

Winter In America/Gil Scott-Heron

Black Man/Stevie Wonder

System Of Survival/Earth Wind & Fire

Ghetto Woman/Janelle Monae

Baltimore/Prince

*”Peace is more than the absence of war”-Prince (1958-2016) paraphrasing a quotation from Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 

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Filed under 2016, Alton Sterling, Dallas, Freddie Gray, gun violence, message songs, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, police brutality, political songs, racism, racist murder, Tamir Rice, Treyvon Martin, Uncategorized, white privilege

Prince Summer: “Sign O The Times” (1987)

Prince was one of the most important figures for advancing funk during the early to mid 1980’s. Funk is the music that represents the rhythms and messages of black America from the late 20th century onward. Free jazz artist James Blood Ulmer once said jazz is the teacher,funk is the preacher. During the early 80’s,the emerging genre of hip-hop was extended on funk’s sociopolitical messages. Because of Prince’s stripped down sound, frank lyrics and appeal to Generation X,The Roots’ Amir Questlove Thompson has even suggested that Prince’s purple funk is a form of hip-hop.

Prince was a very busy man in 1986 in terms of recorded. He recorded enough music for at least three albums that year. While he and Warner Bros argued over how much to edit this material into releasable form,America was facing some major challenges. AIDS was a massive epidemic that was being ignored by the government,gun violence,natural disasters and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger were inspired many Americans to again raise their voices with some level of protest. Prince decided to protest in his own way in July 1986 when he recorded the song “Sign O The Times”.

Prince gets the song started with a brittle synth snare pulse,accented by brushing percussion even on the two beat end of the rhythm pattern. This is accompanied by a round,dripping synth line playing a funky rhythm guitar type melody. He hits on the live snares during the main chorus of the song-while using a Fairlight sampler to provide the bluesy funk slap bass line. After that refrain,Prince accompanies himself on another more orchestral synth with a rocked up blues guitar lead. On the refrains,all these instruments play in closer unison in the same higher key-until the song fades out on it’s chorus.

Musically speaking,this song is something of a culmination of Prince’s approach as a multi instrumentalist. It’s still got the stripped down rhythms that he pioneered earlier in the 80’s decade. The big difference comes from the approach. Prince had begun to use early electronic samplers on this song-singling out live instrumental bass solo’s (for example) rather than providing a synth bass line. The song also doesn’t feature a synth brass line simulating horns. Everything about the song focuses on the rhythm section. The guitar,bass and drums all have a crawling,bluesy funk flavor within their groove.

Lyrically this songs message rings disturbingly true-especially now. As the news about Omar Mateen,the New Yorker who committed this mass shooting in Orlando Florida, continues to unfold,the media has been asking the question of what kind of nation has America become to almost tacitly accept mass gun violence as an inevitable reality. This song asked questions like that 30 years ago. Prince illustrates seeming passive suicide amid American’s in various ways-even saying “Some say a man ain’t happy unless a man truly dies-oh why?”. If Prince could ask the question,today’s America can answer it.

*To Support Victims Of The Orlando Mass Shooting,Click here!

 

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Filed under 1987, blues funk, drum machine, drums, Fairlight synthesizer, Funk Bass, gun violence, lead guitar, message songs, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, political songs, Prince, Sampling, synthesizers, Uncategorized