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Myths About Political Songs

Gardening tools are the best accompaniment to possibly abrasive political commentary. "‘Political' songs are all sad and tedious and boring and they go on and on and on until I just want to bash my head against the wall."
Right, I was at that rally, too. If we weren't so gosh-durned non-violent we would just kill those people so we could build a better world and have fun doing it.

"Singing political songs at demonstrations and political rallies is fun."
Well, okay, that one isn't a myth.

"Only the right-wing tries to censor speech, songs, political points of view."
Even the San Francisco Folk Club refused to allow accessibility proponents any space for discussion in its newsletter, on-line discussion group, or board meetings, although plenty of space was made available in those places for those who wanted to discredit the people who raised access issues, a practice which is still going on. It ain't the angle, it's the animal.

Exceptionally few people are fond of hearing the unexpected. "Everything is political, so there is no such thing as a ‘political' song."
Oh, you must be the one who was singing at that rally. You should check into getting yourself some kevlar.

"‘Political' songs are all left-wing songs, anti-war songs, stuff like that."
Every war spawns powerful songs which support the military effort, like "Over There" in WWII, "Green Beret" in the Vietnam era, and Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten", a number one hit during the current war on Iraq. If you're not hearing the songs about grilling and roasting spotted owls, you're only listening to people with whom you already agree. Some of those songs are really good.

"‘Political' songs are all new songs, unlike old folk songs."
Not at all. Songs that ridiculed the king, songs that insulted the boss, songs that illustrated the gap between rich and poor or the plight of women go back for centuries.

"‘Political' songs are long, boring, and about specific events nobody remembers anyway."
Three words; "We Shall Overcome".

"Singing ‘political' stuff will get you thrown off the air, blacklisted, and is the worst thing you can do for your career."
What career? Actually, this is all true, to a certain extent, but it also makes a good story and sometimes backfires on your opponents. But it is certainly true that powerful poets and singers with powerful things to say have given their lives to do it. I've had to rescue instruments and amplifiers at the UC Berkeley Police property room after having them torn from my grasp, and I've been sued for a quarter million dollars for writing a civil disobedience anthem, "See You in Santa Rita". But hey, life is short, and some of us nutballs want to change the world.

Cartoon by Roger Dondis.

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