Music Notes – October 2015

Rovics - The Other Side

David Rovics: The Other Side

The release of a new album by David Rovics is always an event, offering an opportunity to reflect upon the tumultuous times in which we live. Rovics is a radical singer-songwriter with a rare ability to respond with eloquence to the daily news cycle of imperialist wars, financial meltdowns, ecological disasters, racist police killings, and sociopathic massacres. His analysis is sharp and critical, but always tempered by compassion for the innocent victims of capitalism and imperialism. The Other Side offers 16 new songs, most of which reflect upon contemporary headlines. ‘Angry White American Man’ and ‘The State House Lawn’ remind us of recent racially-inspired killing sprees in North and South Carolina. ‘Kobane’ tells of the heroic defense of the Kurdish city of Kobane in Northern Syria against ISIS. ‘Before the War Came Home’ reflects on the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ is for Eric Garner, the African-American man who was choked to death by a New York policeman in 2014. The past is present in Rovics as well. The Other Side contains several original songs set in World War II Europe. ‘Denmark 1943’ tells the story of a successful boat-lift of Danish Jews to Sweden. It couldn’t be more timely. There’s also a Joe Hill tribute to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the working-class bard’s death. Stream it for free or download from http://davidrovics.bandcamp.com/.

Harperman, it’s time for you to go”

By now it’s safe to say that millions of Canadians have heard of Tony Turner’s “Harperman” song. The video of the anti-Harper anthem, composed and sung by the Environment Canada scientist, and accompanied by a community choir, has gone viral. By mid-September, more than 600,000 views had been logged on YouTube. The “Harperman” singalongs, held on September 17th in more than 39 Canadian cities have amplified the message. If polls are any indication, the majority of Canadians are in agreement with the song’s chorus: “Harperman, it’s time for you to go.” The instigator of the uprising, Tony Turner, is a scientist with one of the public institutions that has been muzzled by the Harperites, so he knows what he’s talking about. Turner was set to retire this fall, but instead, he’s been put on administrative leave pending an investigation on whether he’s contravened the public sector ethics code. His union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, is representing him in the investigation. Meanwhile, Tony Turner is encouraging people to get together to sing the song, add verses of their own, make videos and spread the word among their friends. For more info: www.harperman.ca.

There’s Always Money For a War”

It is probably no coincidence that several great anti-Harper songs have sprung from the nation’s capital during this election season. Ian Robb and Shelley Posen, two of Ottawa’s most distinguished traditional musicians, have entered the political fray with “There’s Always Money for a War”, a song that skewers what lyricist Posen calls “Mr. Harper’s rending of the Canadian social, scientific, and cultural fabric”, and gleefully parodies the PM’s militarism and jingoism. Lead vocalist and music composer is Ian Robb, co-founder of the Canadian folk group Friends of Fiddlers Green. Robb’s singing, concertina playing, and brass and drum arrangements evoke old-time U.K. working-class protest music. His musical contribution fits well with Posen’s lyrics. Both mock Harper’s evident nostalgia for imperialist pomp and circumstance. Clever video and animation work by folklorist Ian Bell and added harmony by vocalist Ann Downey round out a production that is not only topical but built to last. Download the song and lyrics and view the video at www.ianrobb.com.

Steve Earle challenges Mississippi

American roots musician Steve Earle has joined with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in a campaign to remove the last Confederate flag from a Southern statehouse. On September 11th Earle released “Mississippi, It’s Time” on iTunes. After the killing of nine black church-goers in Charleston, SC in June by a young white man who photographed himself with the Confederate flag, the legislatures of South Carolina and Alabama removed the hateful symbol from their respective statehouses, leaving only Mississippi as the last holdout. The state incorporates the Confederate insignia into its flag. Earle, a native Texan, calls the Confederate flag “a form of terrorism” and completely rejects all sentimentality over the Confederacy. “I lived all my life in the South until I was 50 years old,” he says, “and I don’t believe Southern culture is the Civil War. To me Southern culture is Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, the blues, and jazz. The most powerful people have a vested interest in fostering hate because it keeps working people neutralized.” “Mississippi, It’s Time” drives the point home in a way that disarms reactionary cultural nostalgia. Proceeds from sales will go to the SPLC. For info: www.steveearle.com.

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