Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lent Blog 13: protest songs

In an imaginary universe where I had a musical career, I'd want to be remembered for songs that said something, or maybe protested about stuff. Some of my favourite songs are protest songs.

Just recently I was listening to Ohio, Neil Young's angry rant against the shooting of 4 unarmed Kent State University students during an anti-war demonstration in 1970. The National Guardsmen are believed to have fired 67 rounds; two of the dead students were walking from one class to another; another 9 were wounded. The single, recorded By Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had another classic, Find The Cost of Freedom on the B-side (if you can remember B-sides).

I also came across Martyn Joseph's version of Great American Novel written by the late Larry Norman. It prompted me to listen to the original, which is slower and performed in a more restrained way, but was a remarkable song. In the midst of Vietnam, civil unrest, racial tension and more, Norman managed to protest about the war, racial violence, infringement of civil liberties by security forces and media misrepresentation - all at a time when Christian contemporary music was virtually non-existent (and controversial). Over 30 years later, Joseph spotted the resonance with contemporary concerns and it needed virtually no update. It would be great if more Christian musicians could produce such an incisive critique today.
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