Crafted with love like the songs themselves, this Ear Candy Update is dedicated to songs of social and civic change.
Stream online here:
Download for iTunes here: This Machine Kills Fascists.mp3
“Most songs are written for one of two reasons: love or protest. At its fundamental level, self-expression in music is all about raising awareness, the subject of which fluctuates between beauty and outrage—two kinds of passion that rouse people to song in equal measure.
The protest song is not simply an idealist’s sing-along custom-made for populous sit-ins and social demonstrations; human protest is waged at every level of our existence, in private and in public, and transcends the picket line to include battles for gender rights, racial equality, and freedom from the tyranny of self-righteous authority figures. The very best protest songs are those that touch upon universal themes that can be reapplied to a multitude of struggles from decade to decade, whether or not they were originally written in response to a specific event.
It makes sense that music—pop music, in particular, the readymade stuff of the masses—is used as a fundamental tool of dissent. Music speaks for us as individuals and groups, in eminently hummable phrases and cathartic dominion; its audience connects with its populist means of chorus and refrain; and its immediacy, its need to relay a message in mere minutes, is a most urgent sympathizer. Protest music’s tipping point in popular culture came in the 1960s, when songwriters like Bob Dylan redirected pop music’s focus to relevant real-time crises, such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. It has continued to be a vital method of expression for years since, lending voice to fights for basic human rights and campaigns of logic against hollow governmental agencies, most notably during the tumultuous tenure of the latest Bush Administration and its ongoing quagmire in Iraq. This isn’t to say that protest songs are surefire ways to make a difference, because honestly, there’s very little a three-minute ditty can do to rid the world of all its evils. In fact, you could even say that putting one’s faith in a protest song is an act of futility or absurdity, and you’d probably be right. Still, we shouldn’t be stopped from dissenting, from stating truths or challenging wrongs, because if you don’t take a stand for something then you’ll be defined by anything. PopMatters has scoured the musical spectrum for the best examples of the protest song form, including anthems of great popularity and obscurity alike. May they inspire you to stand up and be heard in the midst of whatever dark hour you find yourself in.”
If you have any suggestions, bitches, gripes, complaints or praise, email Duke Wilbury right here: Dukewilbury@gmail.com
On the occasion of this post from NPR about Sam Cooke’s 80th birthday, I’m posting this blog from my personal archives.
First night in a new apartment is an occasion for rituals.
My first night in my new apartment in Norfolk - I get out of the shower and have a seat next to the window. Norfolk summers can be unreasonably hot and humid and a cool breeze was a welcome sensation against my skin following a shower. I turned the lights off save for one small light. I turned off the stereo and turned on my small radio. Nothing in the world makes a sound quite like a transistor radio in the palm of your hand.
It was the all-request hour on 92.9 FM and I immediately started daydreaming about my halcyon-G.I. Joe-Little League-youth. The scene was almost identical except the little-league version of me didn’t smoke. I was smoking. So, I tune in the station, chuckle a wee bit, lean back, and light a cigarette. Before too long the station DJ crackles to life over the radio waves as he took a phone call.
“Hello, 92.9. What can I play for ya?”
“I was hoping to hear Dock of the Bay.”
“Coming right up.”
A laughed out loud and blew a smoke ring while Otis Redding started in with that majestic voice. You know, Otis Redding never got to hear that song. It was his only number one song and he died in a plane crash outside of Chicago before the song was released. But I digress…
Cherokee Nation by Jay and the Americans comes up, It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song) makes a special appearance, and I’m a kid all over again. I’m 9 years old and up way past my bedtime with my ear pressed to the radio. Just then, as I’m drifting away, I hear it. I said to myself earlier that I would die if they played it, just because I’m right here, right now. Destiny turns on the Radio.
In between thought and action, there’s a small sense of inevitability that permeates my thoughts. This was inevitable. Sam Cooke, long since gone from the world, having left behind a legacy that seems insurmountable, starts preaching to me. The architect of soul music - a kind of music that speaks to center of my being - is testifying to me and me alone.
“Cupid, draw back your bow
your arrow go
straight to my lover’s heart
Ah, Sam, God bless you.
I was nine years old once again and for all time.
The following night was almost equally as glorious.
Like I said, the Norfolk summer can be unreasonably hot and humid. The sky seemed ready to burst all day with pressure. Around 10 o’clock the sky started crying. The flood gates opened up in a thunderous way. The lightning was nothing short of spectacular and soon the rain started beating a tattoo on the pavement.
I was perched quite happily on my front porch swing, listening to my radio, having an evening smoke, and getting ready to go play in the rain. Before too long I had to. I was compelled by forces unseen to go frolic. I made four trips out to the rain. The rain wasn’t too great on the first trip out to the sidewalk, but the second, third, and fourth were highlighted by huge, fat drops of rain. Puddles formed and I was compelled, again by forces unseen, to take off my shirt so I was in just my shorts, to go bounce in them, splash them, kick water all over the place. I felt like Andy Dufrense from The Shawshank Redemption. Somebody was trying to make me holy again.
When I was a wee lad, my father went to work creating an oldies mix tape for us while on road trips and weekend visits. This mix tape would serve as the backbone of my musical education - it’s romantic gestures, funky backbeats, great stories, killer grooves, amazing voices and just… yeah. Here’s half the tape, 11 songs.
Not a bad start, huh?
After scoring a bunch of new gems, nuggets and sounds, I made up my mind to listen to them today at work, because, well, I can.
Hitting lead off: Cornershop and the Double-O Groove Of featuring Bubbley Kaur. Consider it pop with a Punjabi punch.
In the two spot: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears’ Scandalous. I fell over on my face after listening to their first record and this snuck in under my radar. Clearly my game needs tightening, because if a band I enjoy this much snuck by unnoticed I must be slipping. Reviews to follow for this funk/soul bouillabaisse.
Hitting third and playing left field: Fitz and the Tantrums Pickin’ Up the Pieces. I’ve talked these cats up to a ton of my friends and they’ve yet to disappoint. The band is a hybrid Motown/Stax beat monster churning out new soul with killer back beats. Love these fuckers. They also got rave reviews from SXSW.
Cleaning up: Drive-By Truckers Go-Go Boots. This three-guitar wielding band has become the go-to group to back up great singers. I’m stoked for this brand of alternative country rock and I’m especially stoked to enter the lunch hour with four superb records in my head.
My Childhood at 45 Revolutions Per Minute
These songs served as a huge piece of my inspiration as a kid. You hear Rice Krispies (Snaps, Crackles and Pops) because they were recorded off the original vinyl. Have a boat load of fun.
In no particular order:
Coffee and Cigarettes
A new 8tracks.com playlist I created for you guess it…smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.
My favorite cuts here are a KILLER version of Black Coffee by Bjork & Tricky, the legendary Patsy Cline’s Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray and Squeeze’s Black Coffee in Bed.
Storms of Troubled Times
As Hurricane Irene prepares to do her thing, I prepare to do mine.
Watching All the Cool Girls.
Music for hanging back with a cocktail in hand and enjoying the scenery.
Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby) - The Cookies
CLASSIC! Spin the record again and again.
Chuck Klosterman once wrote he was no longer able to answer the simple question “what kind of music do you like?” with a list of artists or bands. For him the answer to that question came in moments of songs that had a distinct feeling. With that in mind, here goes.
I like music that sounds like:
the 32nd second of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” when she goes up three octaves and down three octaves in less than a second and you know her voice is the voice of God.
the exact moment the drums, bass and rhythm guitar come in simultaneously following Rich Robinson’s meaty guitar lick intro on The Black Crowes’ “Twice as Hard.” It sounds like it was launched out of a cannon.
the pure desperation in Paul Simonon’s voice when he screams/begs/pleads to know ‘what have I done?’ in The Clash’s version of “Police on My Back,” and at the same time you know the cops will never give him an answer.
when the strings come soaring in during Vivaldi’s Allegro from “Spring.” It sounds like lovers falling in love all over again. It actually heals the sick.
the air raid siren-esque sound and pulsating drum beat that opens The Human Beinz “Nobody But Me,” one of the single greatest garage songs of the 1960s. It actually forces you to move.
the pure gothic pulse of the piano that forms the staircase Johnny Cash climbs as he reaches the zenith of his cover of “Hurt.” It pains the soul to hear him cleanse his.
the sultry bass intro to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” If that isn’t the soundtrack to teenage sex than nothing is.
the cool sophistication of Lee Morgan’s trumpet on the hard-bop masterpiece “The Sidewinder.” It birthed three dozen cliches.
the boiling tension of Howlin’ Wolf’s voice and the razor wire guitar on “Smokestack Lightning.” If you can’t feel cool while hearing that, you will never be cool.
the pure raunchy filth of Rod Price’s guitar riff that fires up Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” If a guitar riff could ever be XXX rated, it’s that one.
Louis Armstrong when he lets out that soft and beautifully froggy “ooooohh yeahhhhh,” at the end of “What a Wonderful World.”
the hand clapping on Fats Domino’s impossibly perfect “I’m Ready.” It sounds like every house party I’ve been to in the Deep South.
the second verse of “99 Problems” when Jay-Z serves this up:
So I…pull over to the side of the road
I heard “Son do you know why I’m stoppin’ you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low?
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
when Butterfly tells me “I’m cool like that,” from The Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick.”
the utter desolation in Miles Davis’ horn that opens “‘Round Midnight.” Aesthetically perfect in every way.
I could go on for days, months even, but I think you get the idea.
Sing to Me of Spanish Daydreams
A playlist built around the idea of Spain.