Elton John – Indian Sunset

Bernie Taupin, the lyricist, takes artistic licence and changes history, such as how Apache leader Geronimo died in 1909. But Sir Elton delivers a lengthy story, told as if he was Native American, about colonization. Culturally, the US policy was assimilation, and economically and socially, native Americans were relocated to new “homes” by law, beginning in 1830. Resistance was frequently violent, and the various conflicts are informally known as the Indian Wars, which could be said to have led to treaties and the setting up of reservations. The song’s sunset is a metaphor for the end, though over the next century or so, Native Americans, through political activism, have done much to demonstrate and gain respect.

For a less respectable take on Native Americans: Europe – Cherokee

Temptations – Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

With so many challenges in the world, perhaps it’s best just to let the band play on. Not taking a political stance, the Temptations list ills such as racism, war, drugs, gun violence, government spending and taxes… even local government with a reference to city inspectors. Yet it is not a song of apathy or giving up, but perhaps realistic for not attempting to predict where things are headed. The chaotic, pyschedelic arrangement may attest to this. Or, that Motown was not interested in protest records despite the times.

Toni Childs – Zimbabwe

American singer Toni Childs now lives in Australia, and sings about an African country from her 1988 debut. The general lyrics about unity and peace could be transplanted elsewhere. Hopefully the singer wasn’t latching on to the care and concern for Africa at the time, that was a pop star cause of the era. However, at this time, fresh from civil war, independence was still new to Zimbabwe, formerly called Rhodesia. Alas, the song proved to be wishful thinking.

Zimbabwe, under dictator Robert Mugabe doesn’t have fair elections, and to near-genocidal proportions does not uphold basic human rights. Economically, while apparently the country is improving, Zimbabwe will be forever known for having something like an inflation rate north of 11 million percent, back in 2008. It was said tourists would pay for their meals at restaurants prior to being served… as the food would cost more if they paid after eating!

Steve Earle – City Of Immigrants

Multiculturalism is the term for a system of values which maintains that our ethnic and cultural identities are important, and should be protected, promoted and even enhanced, through government policy. Multiculturalism is cherished for officially recognizing that diversity matters. Earle sings about this, expressing excitement about the dynamism and energy from just being on a street and seeing, hearing, different people speaking different languages. Multiculturalism is also criticized for promoting our differences instead of common ground.

Etta James – Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Of course, this is a traditional spiritual performed by hundreds if not thousands of performers besides Etta James. It might be too jubilant an arrangement for a tune about finding relief from slavery through death?

Writer Vy Higginsen, as cited in the collection of spirituals by Gwendolin Sims Warren, “Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit,” explained that a chariot-like vehicle was used by black slaves in the Carolinas to move tobacco around. The chariot came to be seen as a transport to swing low from the skies to fly the people back to freedom in Africa.

Julia Ward Howe – Battle Hymn Of the Republic

Howe is the author of this 1861 song, also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory.” It has become a Christian worship song for referencing the return of the Lord. Written with a visit to a Union Army camp, the song has also somehow become both a spirited call to arms and an anti-war song for linking the Christian, Book of Revelations day of judgment to the American Civil War. Today, it is further widely performed as a patriotic song, at political party conventions, funerals of great politicians, and presidential inaugurations. And of course, American college football games…

The Dead Kennedys – California Uber Alles

Jerry Brown was Governor of California from 1975-1983, the era of this song. Singer Jello Biafra may wish to rework it given that this politician regained the office in 2011.

Brown is made the narrator and makes like he’s setting up a fascist regime, complete with secret police and genocide.

This charge may be effective punk rock  style rhetoric, though fascism is a specific allegation not likely to formally come to pass in liberal democracies such as the United States, which govern under a constitution and the rule of law, with free and fair elections, an independent judiciary and free press.

Fascism is a political system that seeks to mobilize people into a single, nationalistic political community, such as through a revolution. Getting there, which also includes building a self-sufficient national economy, requires a strong (dictatorial) leader and a powerful state that puts itself above the interests and human rights, even, of the citizens. Fascism has  no problem attacking weaker states to spread their bad cheer.

The most infamous example of a fascist state is Nazi Germany.