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!

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Nanci Griffith – Trouble In The Fields

Folk, country and protest songs about farmers are common. Farmers are often seen as occupying a special space in our culture and society, working the land and not seen to be part of any exploitative city industry. Indeed, it is these metropolitan professions, such as banking, that are targeted by such songs as not appreciating the important role farms play, not the least of which is feeding us, but also representing a simpler, agrarian time. Mind you, and perhaps sadly, the days of such independent farming are the exceptions to the norm; “agri-business” with modern technology now shares many characteristics and aims with the demonized big city businesses?

From 1987, by “folkabilly” Texan, Nanci Griffith.

Woody Guthrie – I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore

Woody Guthrie, from 1940, describes what it’s like to be a poor worker trying to make their way in life, while meanwhile others get rich and richer. This classic song about income inequality has powerful lyrics that are resentful of capitalist icons such as bankers, and reverential toward workers, such as farmers and miners. Guthrie suggests poor people, with no home in this world, wait patiently for respite in the next, presumably heaven. While the song certainly has socialist overtones of animosity toward capitalists, it thus does not go as far as recommending a worker’s revolution that would push it into Marxist and communist territory. Still, perhaps you will find the song is too passive for essentially accepting the lot in life for those that have less.

The Ramones – Censorshit

Warning labels on music regarding violent and sexual lyrics was censorship to bubblegum rocking punks The Ramones, back in 1992.

Umm, the target of the song, the sticker-slapping, Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Centre, was created much earlier in 1985 – it took the Ramones a while to address this on record! But the lyrics argue the parental advisory warnings is a political smokescreen. That is, the politicians and their wives can look all proactive and caring about issues like swearing in popular music, to divert their lack of progress in other important social areas. The song names homelessness, the environment, and the savings and loan crisis.

This crisis, from the 1980s and 1990s, saw about 25%-50% (varies by source) of savings and loans businesses – financial institutions – go belly up. They could not keep afloat lending money at fixed rates when interest rates were rising faster. They got creative to try to stay in business (that means fraudulent). And, they were not making prudent loans and investments… And… had their lending guaranteed by government.

More on the PMRC from this blog: Twisted Sister, We’re Not Gonna Take It