Music and Struggle

Music has always been one of the primary artistic outlets of the struggle of the oppressed. Pretty much every style, from Woodie Guthrie and Paul Robeson to Rage Against the Machine and The Clash, has been used as a means to spread the message of the struggle and expose the crimes of capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, racism, sexism, etc. Even styles of music that primarily focus on different, more personal things have been known to dip into musical protest and agitation from time to time.

As I mentioned in my last post, there was a relatively large protest in my city earlier this week in solidarity with the anti-racist rebellion in Ferguson, MO. Nearly 200 people were boxed in by the police on a single street corner. Nearby businesses locked their doors due to the massive crowd, which was just plain overreacting on the part of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois business owners, since the protest was completely non-violent. There, standing beside me, was one of my oldest friends, Mike(who had also been a great help in organizing the protest against Tennessee’s anti-woman/anti-choice Amendment 1 late last month).

Mike is the singer and guitarist of a local band here in Memphis(good, old-fashioned Rock ‘n Roll). The band consists of two other members, both of whom I’ve known just as long as I’ve known Mike. Recently, they released a new song(co-written by RJ Whitfield, who was also at the protest earlier this week, and whose girlfriend helped greatly in the above-mentioned anti-AM1 demo), and I must say, it is amazing.

The song is about the current rebellions going on across the country, as well as the general alienation felt by the toiling and oppressed peoples – the need to lighten the burden of our daily oppression by whatever means are at our disposal(as a former addict, the lines about drugs really hit home for me). Musically, it is reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Guthrie mixed with a hint of old-school Irish rebel songs(due to the mandolin’s perfect and subtle touch).

Though the few who wrote the lyrics have some disagreements on reform and revolution, there is no lack of revolutionary defiance in the song(as seen in the “willing hands” that don’t have a gun to fight back). The last verse succeeded in sending a chill up my spine, when the woman looks up, past the flag and at the stars, indicating a belief in something beyond, more progressive, than the current system of nationalism, oppression, and exploitation.

The band will soon be releasing an EP to download specifically for and about the current anti-racist rebellions, and I can’t wait to hear it. Be sure to download it yourself.

Stream the song “Shut Out The Lights, Bolt Up The Door” below, and do your ears a favor: take in a protest-song for the times we live in.

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