Blogs > Liberty and Power > They Doeth Protest Too Much

Aug 13, 2005 1:05 pm

They Doeth Protest Too Much

I hope the Rolling Stones' war protest tune is decent, but I have my doubts. Damn-near all of the protest songs related to Iraq have been dreadful. Even Steve Earle -- generally a terrific songwriter -- has put out a roster of protest songs that sound like readings from the Daily Kos comments section imposed over slapped-together three-chord progressions. Rather uninspiring. Even the better stuff (Green Day's American Idiot IMHO) has been passable at best.

In fact, for my money the only decent anti-war song to come out in the last five years is Old Crow Medicine Show's "Big Time in the Jungle" which is a three-decades-late Vietnam war anthem.

In fact, odd as it sounds, the best anti-Iraq war anthem around is also an old anti-Vietnam anthem. John Prine's satirical blade in "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" is as appropriate, wry, and incisive today as it was in 1971.

Given the bumber sticker infestation of the highways these days, it may be even more appropriate.

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Peggy Arendt - 8/14/2005

Where are Country Joe and the Fish when you need them. Perhaps they can have a comeback tour. All they need to do is change a couple of words...

"and its one, two, three
what are we fighting four
don't ask me I don't give a damn
the next stop is Iraq-astan"

If not the Fish, how about some one do a remake. Anyone know a willing rock star?

David T. Beito - 8/14/2005

I am glad to hear that some folks are overcoming the partisan barrier.

One factor that might explain the more non-partisan nature of 1960s protest music is that though the Democrats were the architects of the war the Repubicans were regarded as even more pro-war. Hence, it was harder for leftist composers and performers to pick sides and enemies that could be easily personalized.

Max Swing - 8/14/2005

I also quite liked Eminem's Anti-War song, just because it was different and not so leftist as the rest.

chris l pettit - 8/13/2005

I agree somewhat with David;s sentiments, but must say that some of the harder punk groups have done a fine job...along with one or two of the newer folk guys, for instance Jims Big Ego. I think the more difficult part is finding those who are critical of the war from a universal standpoint instead of taking the easy and ignorant fallback of partisan ideological positions.

In the interest of fair disclosure, my brother often plays with one of the bands on the V/A albums that has had a heck of a lot of success, and I can vouch that most of the members are more brilliant that most Americans, more articulate, can actually think critically, and are not prone to partisan nonsense (rightfully despising most anyone with an ideological bent based in fundamentally flawed assumptions).

I was curious how much of it was the style of the bands and whether some of the best stuff was in a style that might be unappealing to older listeners? Just curious, since I know many of the posters have eclectic and well rounded tastes that include harder music.


David T. Beito - 8/13/2005

One partial explanation for the poor quality of Iraq antiwar songs is the tendency of composers to personalize the issue around George W. Bush and the neo-cons. Their Democratic (or leftist) partisan hatreds are all too obvious.

As a result, they not only gloss over the co-responsibility of the Democrats but fail to explore also the deeper broader causes of war that transcend issues of the moment.

This was not as true for their counterparts in 1960s who tended to spread blame around and not just focus on LBJ or the Democrats.