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Protest Songs — Why I Like Them 2012 marks the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie, and recently the Globe and Mail has appropriately discussed his importance in a story titled, “A protest singer for the age of Occupy.” Their point was his music persists in importance, such that Guthrie would be quite a busy man these days were he alive and active: “In America, this is the era of Occupy, the age of income inequality and a season of renewed racial tension. Guthrie, a protest singer who seemed to write on command, would have had his pick of causes and inspirations.” The Nexus between the soothing music for meditation he made, and the peace he advocated for is one of the reasons I love protest songs.

The list of reasons for Guthrie being remembered and re-evoked, says the article, derives from “his ability to celebrate America will simultaneously questioning it.” Many point out protest songs like This Land is Your Land point to a thoughtful patriotism that notices the flaws in the country and asks, as Guthrie does deep into the song, “is this land made for you and me?” Such folk music (much of which would be electrically amplified if originally performed today, and thus be called folk rock) times in very well with recent reform trends such as Occupy Wall St,, and the liberty movement.

Classic protest songs and singers like Guthrie always had the dual gift of making you feel peace and liberation within, while advocating for it without. Some have speculated that most popular music nowadays, by contrast serves the interests of the 1% in distracting people from exploring and acknowledging problems both in the world and within themselves. It’s pretty hard to reach a posture of inner peace, to the sound of staccato rock, rap or dance music booming in the background. Has the recording industry been designed or manipulated to largely frustrate making people think, from a point of view of personal strength gained through reflection, meditation and stillness?

If musicians en masse can be brought back from such misdirecting commercialism to deliver more new protest songs in genres as disparate as folk rock, reggae, rap or new age music, it could be enough to amplify the impact of the above discussed movements to a new quantum level. Labor activist Joe Hill, circa 1915 asserted that “a pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over.” With that mental soundtrack playing in the mind of a whole culture, it’ll be much easier to make both political change, and deliver personal development.


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