Sunday, July 2, 2006

Here's to the State of Popular Music Dissent

Last night I was watching Storytellers on VH1 and caught one of my all-time favorite bands, Pearl Jam. Near the end of the hour long program, Eddie Vedder (who is getting less creepy as he ages) sang a remake of Phil Ochs' "Here's to the State of Mississippi." This latest version, which adds to a growing list of remakes including Ochs' own "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon," was written during the 2004 presidential election when Tim Robbins toured with Pearl Jam.

I've yet to find the lyrics to the new version that refers to Justice John Roberts and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but here are the lyrics to the previous version:

Here's to the State of Mississippi
Live (10/24/04)
Author/Artist: Eddie Vedder

Here's to the judges of William Rehnquist
and Justice is stranger when the partisans report
When the court elects a president the trial is always short

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
William Rehnquist find yourself another country
To be part of

And here's to the government of Dick Cheney
With criminals as advisors to the crown
And they hope that no one sees the sites and that no one hears the sounds
'Cause the speeches of a president are remains of a clown

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
Dick Cheney find yourself another country
To be part of

And here's to the laws of John Ashcroft
Congress will pass as act in the panic of the day
and the Constitution's drowning in an ocean of decay
And freedom of speech is dangerous I've even heard them say

Here's to the land you tore the heart of
John Ashcroft find yourself another country
To be part of

And here's to the businessman of George W.
who'll want to change the focus from your good and our wrong
and their profits like blood money spilling on the White House lawn
to keep their hold on power they're using terror as a con
while the bombs they fall on children...don't care which side they're on

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
George W. find yourself another country
To be part of

Eddie Vedder is joining a growing list of musicians publicly unhappy with the current administration and the war. He, unlike Neil Young, doesn't just take stabs at President Bush however:

Let's Impeach the President
Album: Living with War
Author/Artist: Neil Young

Let's impeach the President for lying
And misleading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

Who's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
They bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let's impeach the President for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let's impeach the president for hijacking
Our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank God he's cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lots of people looking at big trouble
But of course our president is clean.

The most criticism Neil Young has received for his latest album is that he is Canadian...what could he possibly know about American politics? And then there is of course the fact that he supported Richard Nixon. But, really in those days could Neil Young have even come out of his stoned haze long enough to identify the President of the United States?

Of course the group to take the most heat for their openly critical statements on President Bush were/are The Dixie Chicks. Once quoted as saying they were ashamed President Bush is from Texas, the Dixie Chicks took a great deal of heat for that comment. They lost fans, they lost support. Many radio stations refused to play their music and many country musicians were quite outspoken on how inappropriate the comments of the Chicks were (i.e. Toby Keith). Recently with their latest album, the Dixie Chicks have changed their sound, their image, but have not changed their minds on how they feel about our President from Texas:

Not Ready to Make Nice
Album: Taking the Long Way
Author/Artist: The Dixie Chicks

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting

I'm through with doubt
There's nothing left for me to figure out
I've paid a price
And I'll keep paying

I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell and
I don't have time to go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
'Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said
Can't you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don't mind sayin'
It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Sayin' that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting

You have to ask yourself if this had been a male group or a male artist would it have been such a controversy? How is it any different for a female group to question something or speak out against something while a male artist supports that very thing and speaks out about it? Recently, John Cougar Mellencamp has come to the defense of the Dixie Chicks even as their music isn't being played by major radio stations, including a station in Salt Lake.

Just looking at the quantity of songs recently released dealing with Iraq, President Bush, and various other highly politically charged issues (such as songs dealing with abortion, gay rights, or even past issues like Big & Rich's recent single "8th of November"), how can we honestly say there are no comparisons to be made between the state of our country now and the state of our country during the last days of Vietnam and the final days of the Nixon administration?

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