Martin Luther King Jr. Day

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I was finishing my senior year in high school.  His senseless death impacted me.  I’d been accepted at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman for the fall semester where it didn’t take long before I’d become one of the “effete corps of impudent snobs” so colorfully described by vice-president Spiro Agnew.  We didn’t like war.  Or discrimination.  Or pollution.  Or republicans.  I guess that qualified me as an “effete snob” or, in the words of one conservative music blogger who no longer reads my work, a “smug hippie.”

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The memory of his senseless death impacts me all over again.  On this commemoration of his birth, January 15, I’ll broadcast my weekly radio show.  Every tune will deal in some way with resistance, struggle and hope.  Isn’t it strange?  Nearly fifty years have passed and we’re still singing about the same things.  Listen to Life Out of Tunes at 2:00 pm (EST) on MLK day for an earful.  “Remember.  Celebrate.  Act.  A day on… not a day off.”

Life Out of Tunes radio, hosted by Joey Books
Monday, January 15, 2018, 2:00-3:00 pm (EST)
Asheville FM, WSFM-LP, 103.3 (Asheville, NC)
Streaming globally at: https://www.ashevillefm.org/show/life-out-of-tunes/

“Smug hippie anthems” (Pièces de résistance, partie deux)

Until recently, I was receiving weekly emails from a fellow blogger who also writes about music. He’s more prolific than I, writing weekly posts, waxing nostalgic or offering insight into music from his past, not unlike other writers I follow.  And like the others, I know how to access his blog so I didn’t need weekly reminders.  Determined to cut back on the number of emails infiltrating my inbox, I requested my name be removed from his list. I kept the message brief, figuring a long explanation wasn’t necessary.

Judging from his reply, he was deeply offended by my innocent appeal and wasted no time informing me, stating “(I’ll) Spare you the trouble of having to not read something.”  At first I thought he was joking, but he continued with a rather harsh criticism of my blog.  He wrote, “I haven’t read your blog since that head-up-the-butt ‘Songs of the Resistance’ post back in January. That would have been hard to top — or slide under the lowered bar, as it were — but I wasn’t interested in finding out whether you could, or did.”

I realize it’s not great literature, but “head-up-the-butt?”  Ouch!  Guess I touched a nerve.  Or struck a chord, so to speak.  His reply also included three unattributed quotations, all sharing the same general theme about “savage mobs” and “reverence for the law.”  At the end he finally alluded to the source of his quotations by posing a question, “How could Abe Lincoln have foreseen the #Resistance, Antifa, Black Lives Matters (sic), the anti-free speech mobs on campus, etc.”

Clearly, he appreciates neither the resistance nor my song list.  It brought to mind one of his previous blog entries in which he described a classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album as containing “smug hippie anthems.”

Rather than take umbrage at them, his remarks piqued my interest.  The words of respected historical figures are posted ad nauseam among social media groups and become rallying cries for various causes.  Some research revealed those three quotations my fellow blogger shared with me were excerpted from one speech Abraham Lincoln delivered on January 27, 1838 entitled The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois.  It’s been studied and debated by Lincoln scholars for years.  So was it an indictment of future Resistance, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or anti-free speech movements on campus?  I don’t believe it was, and here’s why.

William Herndon, who became Lincoln’s law partner in 1844, had this to say about the Lyceum speech:  “The speech was brought out by the burning in St. Louis a few weeks before, by a mob, of a negro. Lincoln took this incident as a sort of text for his remarks…”

Reading the entire speech, it becomes apparent that Lincoln, upset by the lynching of a black man in St. Louis and similar lynchings of black men and their white sympathizers in other states, was condemning those mob actions specifically.  If I were to respond to my detractor, I’d point out that black lives seem to have most certainly mattered to Abe.  I’d also reframe his question and pose it back to him:  How could Abe Lincoln have foreseen the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, the white supremacy movement, a president who is complicit, etc.?

Instead, I’ll resist the temptation to respond directly and simply dedicate the rest of this post, entitled “Smug hippie anthems” (Pièces de résistance, partie deux), to my fellow blogger and critic.  Having already written too many words, I’ll keep it brief.

Some time back, I was handed a page torn from an issue of Vanity Fair magazine.  It was a list of “favorite protest songs” by celebrities Lin-Manuel Miranda, Q-Tip, Mavis Staples, Tegan & Sara, John Mellencamp and Brittany Howard.  Even if you aren’t familiar with some of these artists, you might appreciate the song titles they shared.  I invite you to enjoy the following link to a list of their selections on the Vanity Fair website, each of which you can find on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or other purveyor of “smug hippie anthems.”  To see the list, click on this title: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s favorite protest songs.

Pièces de résistance

The insidious writer’s block settled firmly in and I’ve been at a loss for words.  Except for those moments when awareness of this phenomenon is superseded by the enduring memory of selected lyrics to certain songs.  Here’s the playlist currently on my mind.  And sure to be on my stereo.  Resist!

songsresistance

1.  The Times They Are a-Changin’ by Bob Dylan
There’s a battle outside and it’s raging.  It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.

2.  Revolution by the Beatles
But if you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell you is brother you have to wait.

3.  Volunteers by the Jefferson Airplane
Look what’s happening out in the street.  Got a revolution. Got to revolution.

4. The Revolution Starts Now by Steve Earle
The revolution starts now when you rise above your fear and tear the walls around you down.

5.  Universal Soldier by Buffy St. Marie
His orders come from far away no more.  They come from here and there, and you and me, and brothers can’t you see?  This is not the way we put an end to war.

6.  Uprising by Muse
They will not force us. They will stop degrading us.  They will not control us. We will be victorious.

7.  Student Demonstration Time by the Beach Boys
I know we’re all fed up with useless wars and racial strife. Next time there’s a riot, well, you best stay out of sight.

8. Working Class Hero by John Lennon
As soon as you’re born they make you feel small.  By giving you no time instead of it all.  Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all.

9. I Ain’t Marching Anymore by Phil Ochs
Its always the old to lead us to the war. It’s always the young to fall. Now look at all we’ve won with a saber and a gun.  Tell me is it worth it all?

10.  Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley and the Wailers
You can fool some people sometimes. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.  So now we see the light.  We gonna stand up for our rights.

11. Sunshine by Jonathan Edwards
Some man’s come he’s trying to run my life, don’t know what he’s asking. When he tells me I’d better get in line, can’t hear what he’s saying.

12. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott Heron
The revolution will be live.

13. All You Fascists Bound To Lose by Woody Guthrie
People of every color marching side by side.  Marching across these fields where a million fascists died.

14. Which Side Are You On? by Pete Seeger
Don’t scab for the bosses. Don’t listen to their lies. Poor folks ain’t got a chance unless they organize.

15. Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones (Rod Stewart cover version)
Hey!  Think the time is right for a palace revolution.

What do you think?