Against Me! – True Trans Soul Rebel

Singer Tom Gabel said he was transgender, and is now known as Laura Jane Grace. This song is from the punk band’s sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria (2013). This is another term for what psychologists may refer to as gender identity disorder: believing/knowing one is born the wrong sex, basically.

When people identify with the interests, perspectives, values and beliefs of groups in society, this is sometimes called “identity politics.” A big part of identity politics is concern and advocacy for minority representation and rights.


Bob Roberts – Wall Street Rap

Well, it’s not passable for rap, and the lyricism is not up to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, though maybe this expecting too much. Bob Roberts is really actor Tim Robbins, playing a right wing Senatorial candidate in the eponymous 1992 film.

The character made money on Wall Street, the financial centre perhaps, of the USA. Seeking political office, he extols in song the selfish money making of investment bankers and ilk screwing people over, going past the bounds of ethics and law, hoping to not get caught.

Of course, this is satire, and fun, because free market folk singers are rare.

Sometimes, a parody backfires when those that are the targets enjoy the jibes at them? Still others may take umbrage at being presented as “straw men,” having their actions and activities exaggerated and misrepresented. But it wouldn’t be funny or entertaining if spot-on accurate.

Whatever, it’s a good movie, with a song pre-dating the Occupy Wall Street movement!

Beastie Boys And GoldieBlox – Girls

Fabricated pop bands are nothing new, whether that be 1990s boy bands or 1960s bubble gum pop outfits. Coca Cola sort of had a hit song, with I’d Like To Teach (The  World To Sing). Here, a toy company using YouTube, that figures its aim is to encourage girls to consider engineering as a career (by buying their toys), found itself plagiarizing the Beastie Boys 1987 song, Girls.

The Beastie Boys’ song was most likely a playful, tongue in cheek, frat humor throwaway… more than a deliberately misogynistic and anti-feminist rant in need of awkward political correction:

Girls to build a spaceship / Girls to code the new app / Girls to grow up knowing / That they can engineer that.

(Disappointing that a juvenile ditty is ripped off with high school quality rhyming?)

The now deceased Beastie Adam Yauch never wanted his group’s music used in commercials. GoldieBlox figured they were doing a parody, which allows reproduction. But they apologized to the Beastie Boys all the same.

(Yet the Beastie’s masterpiece record Paul’s Boutique bursts with unlicensed samples?)

Umm, meanwhile, some might say girls were needlessly caught in the  middle of a dispute about routes to their empowerment they never asked to be party to.

Kanye West – New Slaves

Hip hop mogul Kanye West had a laundry list of issues to itemize, along with singer Frank Ocean, in 2013.

Racial segregation in schools is noted to the extent of separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites. Kanye also points to the fashion industry for past racism. It goes on.

A larger theme might be criticizing mindless consumerism, even though West is easily able to afford luxuries and set popular culture trends. Maybe that makes the man a hypocrite, or at least someone who thoughtfully feels conflicted by his wealth given the struggles of his people in the past, and the challenges many of his brothers and sisters continue to face. Whatever, the chorus crudely suggests that for Kanye, its better to lead than follow (or is that, better to give, than to receive)?

This is the type of song that raises many political issues, with individual lines that could be parsed as individual posts.

The song quotes from Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Also by West, reviewed here: Otis

Charles Mingus – Fables Of Faubus

In 1957, Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus used the National Guard to prevent some African American teenagers from attending a high school populated by white students.

Bassist Charles Mingus had some lyrics for this jazz tune, but the record label, Columbia, only permitted an instrumental version. At least, according to some reports and Wikipedia. It could also be the case that the lyrics came later.

All the same, the song toots and sings against racism and for the integration of schools, which jived with Supreme Court rulings at the time.

With the words:

Related: John Coltrane, Alabama

Moses “Clear Rock” Platt – Run, Nigger, Run

Yes, this song is today unfortunately named.

Around the middle of the 19th Century, black slaves needed passes to leave plantations. “Sneaking off” occurred, though with fear of being whipped if captured or found out later by a patrolman.

Moses Platt, imprisoned in Texas, was recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax. His nickname may have came from killing men with rocks.

The song was used in the 2013 movie, 12 Years A Slave.

Leadbelly – Ain’t Gonna Study War No More

This gospel song was published in 1918. It has been performed by many artists. It also goes by other titles, such as Down By The Riverside. Verses change, are added and deleted, in the manner of a true folk song that adapts over time. Regardless, the message of the song is to lay down instruments of war as a means to secure and maintain peace. The message remains important.

This version is by folk singer Leadbelly (1888-1949), who often played the 12-string guitar. Moby updated the tune many decades later.