June 20, 2017

Joel Mendelson

Songs of the Resistance

During times of resistance, music provides motivation, meaning, and hope. Songs can be uplifting and inspiring, while others reflect our struggles, injustices, and the challenges we face. The current resistance began in January, and while the challenges we face are immense, we once again turn to music to guide us. We’ve compiled a playlist of a few songs that speak to us, call us to action, and remind us what we’re fighting for in our current moment. We encourage you to read on, and take a listen.

“What’s Going On?” – Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye’s seminal album focused on a Vietnam veteran returning home to find his community ravaged by poverty and injustice. Forty-five years later, Gaye’s classic remains a poignant reminder of racial injustice.

“What It Means” – Drive-By Truckers

For two decades, southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers wrote songs about the politics and issues of the South. Their 2016 album American Band might be the group’s most political one yet. Songs discuss issues ranging from immigration to school shootings, and why Black lives matter. “What It Means” is a raw quest for singer/songwriter Patterson Hood to try and figure out why heinous crimes continue against innocent African-Americans.

“Weary” – Solange Knowles

Few albums released last year received as much praise as Solange Knowles’ “A Seat At The Table.” In Julianne Escobedo Shepherds review of the album for Pitchfork.com, she wrote, “It’s a document of the struggle of a black woman, and black women, in 2016, as Solange confronts painful indignities and situates them historically.” The entire album demands attention, but “Weary” reflects on the fight to end racial injustice, and reminds us to keep a watchful eye on what’s happening in the world.

We The People…”— A Tribe Called Quest

Hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest delivered a stunning album three days after the 2016 presidential election. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4Your Service was the group’s first album in 18 years, and it reflects the politics and issues of the moment. Their first single, “We The People…” is a politically-charged track, tackling momentous issues like gentrification, immigration, racism, and poverty.

“The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll— Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s storied career touched on almost every major topic, but his 1964 ballad, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” strikes a nerve. This song about racial injustice, institutional racism, and privilege, remains relevant today. It recounts the 1963 murder of a Black woman named Hattie, by wealthy and prominent tobacco farmer William Zantzinger. Hattie worked at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. She was tending bar one night, when William came in and ordered a drink. Hattie asked that he wait a moment – he refused and struck her on the head with a cane, killing her. William served only six months in jail for senselessly taking Hattie’s life.

This Land Is Your Land” – Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie penned the 1940s folk classic as a reaction to families migrating to California during the Dust Bowl. As he traveled across the country, he saw prejudice, poverty, and hatred. His song also was a sarcastic response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” and to this day it remains an alternative anthem.

“Power To The People” – John Lennon

During the late 1960s and 1970s, John Lennon used his voice to address a variety of political and social issues. His 1971 track “Power To The People” is a call to action, encouraging citizens to march, organize, and speak out. It’s an anthem for all of us joining together in hopes of building a better world.

“I Give You Power”Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples

Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire rarely shy away from the issues and it was no different once the current resistance began, following the election of President Trump. On January 19, Arcade Fire joined forces with legendary R&B singer Mavis Staples to release “I Give You Power.” As our democracy faces enormous tests, the line, “I give you power/I can take it away/watch me,” is haunting. The band promoted the song with a tweet reading, “It’s never been more important that we stick together and take care of each other.”

Our curation is by no means exhaustive. Share with us the songs, artists, and albums that fire you up, give you charge or reassurance these days. Add your favorite picks on Facebook, Twitter, or post in the comments section below.

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