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?
Well, what a depressing subject for a 1960s song, eulogizing not just one, two or three… but four assassinated US heroes:
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)
The soothing folk rock arrangement strikes a dissonant chord to the losses.
An assassination is when a well-known person is murdered. Obviously then, political assassinations have politicians as victims, maybe perpetrated for ideological motives. Assasinations could also be conducted in the name of religion and finance, or for the person doing the killing to get their name in the news.
The song does not mention two other assassinated US presidents, if you care to make a guess who they might be. (Hint: they were both Republicans). Perhaps the song’s author, Dick Holler, and singer, Dion, were sticking to Democrats?
Simon and Garfunkel perform a straightforward rendition of Silent Night (which with their harmonizing is still impressive). Overdubbed is a mock newscast highlighting not peace but political turbulence circa 1966. Civil rights, housing, the Vietnam War, crime and drugs (comedian Lenny Bruce, who overdosed) are the issues and events detailed. The juxtaposition of a soothing carol with the bad news is jarring.
The true author of this song is unknown, as befits an authentic folk song that is adapted over time. It is somewhat based on an African-American gospel hymn, “I’ll Overcome Someday,” although this is disputed. It was Pete Seeger who popularized this most well-known of civil rights tunes in the late 1940s. Martin Luther King referred to the song days before his death.
Since then, the inspiring, yet general message – a promise of deliverance from tough times – has been sung for many causes. It is a comforting folk anthem that will forever bring hope to all those oppressed.
We must move past indecision to action. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response – Martin Luther King
From 2004, using ‘revolution’ in its broad sense (see The Clash, Revolution Rock), serious rapper Talib Kweli figures change has to come from people, for a few reasons:
American political parties, like the Democrats and Republicans, are interchangeable
Religion is preoccupied with gossip
Black history organizations are moribund and ineffective
Kweli’s disappointment in these institutions failing to bring change is manifested in the hook: he feels like laughing at their empty change rhetoric. Perhaps we’d have to look to other tunes by him to find his prescriptions.