Aimee Mann – Can’t You Tell?

Old school hipsters will want you to know that like them, you should appreciate Aimee Mann. She led 80’s new wavers ‘Til Tuesday, but has a longer, more distinguished, if low-key, solo career.

Today, with this song, Mann is singing as if she was 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

It is part of an artist’s campaign, sort of like these social media challenges of posting inspirational happenings for one month. This one, is 30 Days, 30 Songs, wanting a “Trump-Free America.”

Mann imagines “The Donald” as a sociopath who has no plan for America beyond winning. He can’t stop the damage he is wreaking, and would wreak more, if president. But that, Trump has a conscience and truly, privately wishes someone would put a stop to him getting the top political job of the land.

Who is to blame? Trump for, sure. But Mann as Trump suggests his supporters carry responsibility, too, wanting to crown Donald Trump and troll and lambaste his detractors. That’s an interesting point: Donald Trump is who he is, but what is it in the American political culture that has put this person in prominence?

One could argue, this instalment of 30 Days, 30 Songs could try to get into the minds of Trumpsters to better understand their feelings and motivations, and support for Trump. What gave rise to their stridency?

Mann doesn’t like Trump, and by extension, maybe his adherents, too? But the song even accords some humanity to the man. This is not just from it suggesting Donald wants off this runaway train, but through the tune’s fluid, effortless melody and soothing, jangly instrumentation.

It might be one of the sweetest salves of a protest song, despite Trump being so abrasive in style?

Bruce Cockburn – Call It Democracy


Canadian folkie Bruce Cockburn argued back in 1986, that the foreign policy of powerful countries is about making a buck, not lifting people in poor places out of their misery. As well, that international organizations are not benevolent, either. The International Monetary Fund is a target in one verse.

The IMF goes back to 1944, and on the face of it, with almost 200 member countries, seeks to encourage financial stability in countries dealing with low revenues, high debt, inflation, high unemployment, and more. The IMF works to foster international trade.

Cockburn figures the IMF does more harm than good, leaving developing countries in debt.

More generally, the IMF has been criticized for the conditions it has sometimes imposed on countries to get into their version of fiscal shape. This has meant getting troubled countries to reduce public spending to address government debt. The IMF has also been criticized for not been sensitive enough to local conditions and on-the-ground needs of the places it exists to serve.

Also by Cockburn: If A Tree Falls, If I Had A Rocket Launcher

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Bernie Sanders – This Land Is Your Land

Bernie Sanders is a Senator from Vermont. He’s running for President of the USA for 2016. Known as a passionate social justice advocate, Bernie Sanders was apparently at Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, back in 1963.

Fast forward about 25 years, to Sanders doing an album of folk songs. Well, he doesn’t sing, but speechifies the lyrics of this most famous Woody Guthrie anthem. Maybe Sanders was paying homage to William Shatner’s cover of Mr. Tambourine Man.

Do you feel these recordings hurt or assist Sander’s effort to win the candidacy of the Democrats for the next election?

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Rebels

Struggling to satisfactorily record this song back in 1985, Petty apparently hurt his hand, punching a wall.

The song’s narrator calls himself a rebel, born in Dixie.

By the dictionary, a rebel is a person who stands up for what they believe in, even if most others aren’t on the same page. Politically, a rebel could be a revolutionary or even a terrorist.

It is a debate whether citizens should have the right to rebel against their governments. Constitutions may entrench this, with freedoms of expression, speech and assembly (gathering, meeting). This typically means resistance using legal and conventional means. But violence can come from rebels.

And Petty is using the American Revolutionary War of the 18th century as a metaphor. This was the armed battles between Great Britain and the American colonies. These colonists – the rebels – resented British imposition of taxes.

More from Petty: American Girl

Boris Grebenshchikov – This Train Is On Fire

Called by some the Russian Bob Dylan, “BG” is the face and sound of classic rock music in the Soviet Union. Well, to the extent it was permitted!

This Train Is On Fire is considered a “perestroika anthem.” Perestroika, meaning restructuring, was an effort within the Communist Party, to open up the political and economic system of the Soviet Union, in the 1980s. This happened.

Did a song play a leading role in ending the Cold War? Wow!

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!

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.