From the days when I first got a component cassette recorder, I've loved making mix tapes and CDs. Here's one I just made to pass along to friends to try to get the spirit surging for political and social change in these days of senseless Bush and senseless wars. Dig the music and the message.
"The Revolution Starts ... Now" by Steve Earle (from The Revolution Starts Now): The best agit-prop song in ages. It always makes me feel like thrusting my fist in the air with the chorus and then storming the ramparts.
"Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" by Cracker (from Cracker Greatest Hits Redux): "I don't know what the world may need, but it sure as hell starts with me, and that's a wisdom that I've laughed at." A favorite rocking rabble rouser of mine, thanks to its mixed emotions and kicking beat, since the early 1990s.
"American Idiot" by Green Day (from American Idiot): Back in my day, when punk was born, a good part of it was about political rage. Today's top punk band takes the music back to its roots with a searing track of classic rock energy.
"The Call Up" by The Clash, (from Sandinista!): Back in my day ... and there wasn't even a war then. "You must not heed the call up, I don't wanna die I don't wanna kill." Prophetic. I recently fell back in love with The Clash, one of the great agit-rock bands of all times. Dig the groove and the cool sonic touches.
"Woody Guthrie" by Alabama 3 aka A3 (from Power In The Blood): Combining roots music with dance and techno grooves, this British band is one of the most brilliant of our day (though little-known in the US even though their song "Woke Up This Morning" is the theme to The Sopranos, which everyone loves but never investigates further). "Don't need no country, don't need no flag, I've cut no slack for the Union Jack, the Stars & Stripes got me jet-lagged, yeah." It's the current state of the world in three or so smart and vivid minutes. Plus you can dance to it.
"War Poem" by UB40 (from Who You Fighting For?): This veteran UK multiracial reggae band offer a classic one-drop social commentary song in the best Bob Marley tradition from their most-recent and finest album yet. Plus you can dance to it.
"License to Kill" by The Cowboy Junkies (from Early 21st Century Blues): You can't do topical songs without one by The Master, Bob Dylan, given a tense yet lovely reading by one of Canada's finest acts. "Man thinks because he rules the earth that he can do with it as he please, and if things don't change soon he will." In case you thought Dylan gave up writing great political songs in the mid-'60s, note that this one came on 1983's Infidels.
"Civil Disobedience" by Hamell On Trial (from Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs): Hey, Bo Diddley! I'm so pissed I almost wanna stir up a riot and break stuff. How about you?
"It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. (from Eponymous): Back when this first came out in 1988, I would play this song over and over and over and it made me feel great. May be Michael Stipe's best word play and most unshakable chorus. But now, skirting on the edge of an apocalypse induced by human stupidity, I don't feel so fine.
"Jet Pilot" by Son Volt (from Okemah And The Melody Of Riot): The model of how to write a song about George W. Bush with true brilliance and a total lack of dumb clichés. And it's a killer guitar rock tune.
"Let's Impeach the President" by Neil Young (from Living With War): Yeah, its plain-spoken indictment is great even if it's the song's weakest artistic quality. But the fact that Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young have been crossing the nation this summer, singing this at every show, gives me hope. And it's a killer guitar rock tune.
"Democracy" by The Burns Sisters (from Wild Bouquet): Leonard Cohen's sharp and witty song brought to thrilling harmonic fruition by my hometown girls. Fave line: "But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags that time cannot decay."
"When the President Talks to God" by Bright Eyes (from When the President Talks to God): Young emo music lad Conor Oberst proves himself a songwriter for the ages with a Dylanesque imagination (and it's available as a free download from iTunes).
"Warring Ways" by Will Kimbrough (from Americanitis): A lovely and stirring poem for peace by my incredibly talented buddy Will Kimbough from his wonderful and winning new album. "God forgive our warring ways." Let's hope.
"With God on Our Side" by Buddy Miller (from Universal United House of Prayer): Hell, you can't do topical songs without two from The Master, Bob Dylan. And this one from his early days sounds all but prophetic in these times of religious fascism and violence on all sides, given a stunning nine-minute or so reading by my incredibly talented friend Buddy Miller (who also happens to be one of the rare true Christians I am lucky enough to know).
"The Revolution Starts Now" by Steve Earle (from The Revolution Starts Now): The reprise version that ends the album of the same name. And after all, it's so good it's worth hearing twice.
"Peace March" by Bruce Cockburn (from Life Short Call Now): I decry the marginalization of instrumental songs. And this delightful one by Cockburn -- who already did his lyrically topical bit years back with "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" -- provides a piquant grave note to this mix.
Hey kids! Try this at home!
Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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