Jimmie Rodgers – Hobo Bill’s Last Ride

Rodgers (1897-1933) may have been singing country, before there officially was country music? The “Singing Brakeman,” back in 1929, sang this sad tale of a boxcar riding man who probably froze to death, eastbound, during a storm.

A “hobo” was a term back then referring to people that travelled around taking work where they could. Keep in mind, this song was from Great Depression era times. Finding work was challenging. Even the most resourceful of souls fell on hard times, and gradually, many felt more of a role for government to assist people was required.

What we got from this, was the welfare state: a government-administered collection of services and programs, aimed at helping out those who needed help, without any assignation of blame.

Some sources distinguish “hobo” from “bum,” the latter being someone not that interested in working, even when jobs were available. Both terms are likely considered politically incorrect today. However, a criticism of the welfare state is that it creates dependency on government: that it creates “bums.” And further, that the welfare state reduces not just our self-reliance, but our personal freedom when we are recipients of public services. After all, it’s not so easy to ride the rails from town to town unless the stops all have unemployment offices along the way.

Junior Reed – One Blood

Jamaican reggae artist also sang for Black Uhuru. This is perhaps his most well-known song.

Soldiers, police, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, people of different tribes and those with different skin color: Reid sings we all share one blood. Instead of behaving like vampires hunting each other, let’s acknowledge we share commonalities.

This is hopeful and true, if simplistic, when it comes to reducing conflict in cities, countries and the world.

Simple Minds – Belfast Child

The Remembrance Day Bombing, also known as the Poppy Day Massacre, and the Enniskillen Bombing, in 1987, wrought 11 deaths and many more injuries. This was from a bomb of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

Simple Minds’ writer Jim Kerr was saddened by viewing images of the destruction, which may have been worse than the perpetrators intended. In this vein, the event is widely thought to have given the IRA pause to their actions, part of a larger conflict going back a few decades, known as The Troubles. The overall aim of the IRA has been to separate Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.

A related song is Zombie, by the Cranberries.

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – Power To The People

Apparently, Lennon didn’t think that much of this 1971 song as the years passed. It was inspired by an interview the singer gave to Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn of the Marxist newspaper, Red Mole. From this source, peaceful revolutions were inadequate to dismantle the existing capitalist system. It’s not clear if Lennon was writing from their perspective the way a fiction author may not necessarily believe in the thoughts and actions of their characters. However, the lyrics suggest support for a worker’s revolution of the kind that Karl Marx envisioned: to take to the streets and even violently usher in communism.

Tom Lehrer – We Will All Go Together When We Go

Humorist Tom Lehrer finds the silver lining in nuclear destruction!

Nuclear war would kill us all, but at least, unlike an adversarial war, we would all be doing something in common. Dying!

The 1959 song is touching on the concept of mutually assured destruction, early considered here by Frankie Goes To Hollwood’s Two Tribes, and Dawn of Correction by The Spokesmen. It is the premise that countries won’t start a nuclear war because they will be destroyed, too.

In the 1980s, “Star Wars” technology was touted as a way to get around this, by using satellites and other weaponry to shoot down incoming nuclear missiles. Twenty-first century worries about “rogue states” possessing nuclear weapons has revived some interest in this gambit.

Bob Dylan sang just a few years later, similarly, in Let Me Die in My Footsteps – that he would face nuclear fallout before hiding in a fallout shelter.


Bob Dylan – Let Me Die In My Footsteps

Bob Dylan sang about the Cold War back in 1963. Not totally accepting that the world would end from nuclear destruction, he nonetheless poetically sang about preferring to sleep (and die) in a meadow rather than hide in a fallout shelter.

In the 1950s, fallout shelters, often underground, were built to avoid coming into contact with and to provide protection from “fallout.” This is the radioactive material that would be produced from nuclear explosions.

The Clash – The Call Up

The Clash sang about the draft, back in 1980.

Conscription is the formal term for the draft. It is when governments compel military service from citizens to fill vacancies. It is considered necessary to have the personnel to wage wars, but controversial for reducing personal freedom and choice. One may be able to lawfully avoid conscription for religious and moral reasons, as a conscientious objector. Draft dodgers unlawfully go into hiding to avoid military service… and hope for amnesty.