John Brown and his body

When you listen to those who we define as folk/protest singers and songwriters you tap into an oral history that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. These troubadours keep alive the struggles and trials of the past that we here and now should be learning from.

I recently got hold of David Rovics’ album 10,000 Miles Away. On there he has penned a song call John Brown (least I think he wrote the lyrics!). Now if you grew up in the time and country that I did then you’ll likely be aware of the traditional chorus of John Brown’s Body. Where it came from I didn’t know, just that it shares a tune with the Battle Hymn of the Republic. More than that? Nah.

But when you listen to David’s song then the story unfolds. You realise the story is about a man whose Christian faith leads him to confront head on with action the vile slave trade in the Americas before the Revolution. You see how black and white worked together to sow the seeds that would lead to abolition in the Western English speaking nations.

These men are all talk, what we need is action!

So when you get a taste of this story then you look further and you come across people, places and events I never knew about – Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad to name a few.

All it takes is one seed, one spark.

Syria 2013 by David Rovics

Another timely ditty from David Rovics.

Syria, 2013 By David Rovics
There’s an uncivil war in Syria, one hundred thousand dead
Millions of refugees without a roof over their heads
Proxy armies flowing in to a country open wide
You got Al-Qaeda and America fighting side by side
You got Saudi monarchs and French socialists on one team
You got Russia and Iran backing the regime
You got the Arab League having another meaningless debate
Saying let’s just see what happens if we wait
But now the west says gloves are off, it’s all become too real
Now Cameron and Obama are dictating the deal
Now red lines have been crossed, now it’s time to act
Now it’s time to have a few million tons of impact
Now it’s time to do the thing that the west does best
Time to step in the hornet’s nest
We don’t know who did it, but there has been a war crime
So we’ll bomb an Arab country one more time
What we know is this: there was a chemical attack
Kinda like the ones that happened in Iraq
Like the white phosphorous we used on the people of Falluja
Or the chemicals we sold to Saddam for Halabja
But this time it’s a different story, this poison gas in Gouta
Our allies would never do this, those foreign fighters in Al-Qaeda
We don’t know who did it, but there has been a war crime
So we’ll bomb an Arab country one more time
We don’t know who did it, but we know who to blame
The Baathists are the party, Bashar Asad is the name
We don’t know who did it, we can figure that out later
Meanwhile we’ll turn Damascus into a smart bomb crater
We’ll fix them with Cruise missiles, like in Baghdad and Mosul
Where they now have peace, prosperity and democratic rule
We don’t know who did it, but there has been a war crime
So we’ll bomb an Arab country one more time

Authored by Chris Hall

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Sacco and Vanzetti

August 22nd or 23rd of August 1927 the US State murdered Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

“Did you see what I did to those anarchist bastards?”

– Presiding Judge Webster Thayer

Read more at libcom.org, and also at http://saccoandvanzetti.org

And here’s a great version of the song Sacco and Vanzetti by David Rovics.

Authored by Chris Hall

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The Commons

Don’t you just love old English nursery rhymes? Scratch the surface and you’ll often find a truth.

Here’s one about The Commons:

They hang the man and flog the woman

that steal the goose from off the common,

but let the greater villain loose

that steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone

when we take things we do not own,

but leaves the lords and ladies fine

Who take things that are yours and mine.

They hang the man and flog the woman

Who steals the goose from off the common

And geese will still a common lack

Till they go and steal it back.

English Nursery Rhyme c. 1764

And here’s a more modern form with David Rovics – The Commons

The Drink of the Death Squads

Coca Cola in Colombia seems to have a track record of bad working relationships with unions in Colombia. I mean really bad!

Now it seems the story is repeating itself in Pakistan. Since forming a union at Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in the southern Pakistan city of Multan in June 2009, members have met with death threats, abduction, firings, extortion, forgery and fraud. Management’s vicious response to the workers’ fight for a union is a story drenched with violence, corruption, sleaze and escalating criminality.

Read more at the IUF Website 

Time to roll out a classic track by David Rovics called Drink of the Death Squads.

‘Seems you American workers get downsized, us we just get shot’

H/T Jemmy Hope

David Rovics – Jenin

Reading the Amnesty report into Cast Lead, Israel’s criminal excursion into Gaza in late December 2008 brought to mind an apt song, Jenin by David Rovics.

I remember listening to this for the first time a few months ago in the car. I remember it starting off and then getting darker and darker and as the last few verses appeared my mind was thinking:

Oh
My
God
No!

I did actually turn it off before the end initially but a few minutes later managed to listen all the way through.

A very powerful song. Do listen although I won’t say ‘Enjoy’.

David Rovics – We Are Everywhere

very now and then you ‘discover’ an artist or some across a gem of a song, and you think how come you’ve never heard of them before.

One such is David Rovics. I’m truly stunned into silence by his lyrics and delivery and his work and subject matter is so moving.

As a taster here’s one of my favourite tracks of Davids – We Are Everywhere.

And here’s the lyrics:

When I say the hungry should have food
I speak for many
When I say no one should have seven homes
While some don’t have any
Though I may find myself stranded in some strange place
With naught but a vapid stare
I remember the world and I know
We are everywhere

When I say the time for the rich, it will come
Let me count the ways
Victories or hints of the future
Havana, Caracas, Chiapas, Buenos Aires
How many people are wanting and waiting
And fighting for their share
They hide in their ivory towers
But we are everywhere

Religions and prisons and races
Borders and nations
FBI agents and congressmen
And corporate radio stations
They try to keep us apart, but we find each other
And the rulers are always aware
That they’re a tiny minority
And we are everywhere

With every bomb that they drop, every home they destroy
Every land they invade
Comes a new generation from under the rubble
Saying “we are not afraid”
They will pretend we are few
But with each child that a billion mothers bear
Comes the next demonstration
That we are everywhere.