Blues and Politics

Eric F
Tue Jul 6 12:08:35 EDT 1999

On 6 Jul 1999 05:03:01 -0700, (Jeff Brandt) wrote:

>      The classic blues songs are not about current topics, political or
>otherwise, they are about what it feels like to be human.

    Humans are political animals.
    Politics and current events have always had a place in American
popular music, and blues and jazz  are no exception, it just seems in
recent days this trend is on the wane.  In fact, you'll often find
political commentary in music long before you see that issue dealt
with in a public forum, often inspired by the music itself.  There are
plenty of classic blues tunes with political themes.
    Alot of Chuck Berry's tunes contain plenty of social/politcal
commentary.  He had to change alot of the lyrics around to get them
played on the white owned radio stations of the day, but the meaning
is still there.  Back in the USA, as I've mentioned, is one of my
favorites, which has really deep commentary on the dividing line
between whites and blacks in the 50's.  Yet, it got played on the
radio as is.
   Let's go back even further.  Strange Fruit is the perfect example.
Here is a tune, about the rampant lynchings of southern blacks at the
time that Columbia Records refused to publish, even though they had no
problem publishing "race music" and racial jokes.  Billie Holiday had
to go sign with Commodore Records in 1939 in order to get this
important song out.

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

   Probably Lady Day's most politically correct tunes, but it just
shows how music can be the perfect motivator for change, be it
emotional, political, social, whatever.  I could go on and on, but
there are too many blues tunes with political content than I could
mention.  Anyone care to share some of their favorite tunes with
politically oriented lyrics/meaning?

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