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The Power of Protest Music Contest

Posted on Oct 12, 2011
Flickr/Dani Canto (CC-BY-SA)

Celebrated guitarist and all-around musical force Ry Cooder with one of his chosen instruments in 2009.

It’s over! Thanks to all who entered—and check out the Truthdig newsletter for contest results:

Here at the Truthdig office, we’ve been listening a lot to Ry Cooder’s new album, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down.” With songs like “No Banker Left Behind,” which was inspired by a column by our own Robert Scheer, the album is refreshingly political, with roots in the tradition of protest music.

That, along with the Occupy Wall Street protests springing up across the land, got us thinking. From Woody Guthrie to Public Enemy, America has no shortage of political music, and we want to know your favorite protest song. Would you rather march to “Give Peace a Chance” or “Killing in the Name”? How about the “Vietnam Rag”?

Maybe you have a personal story that goes with yours, or maybe it’s an oldie but still relevant to what’s going on today. There are no wrong answers! Drop us a comment, a tweet or a Facebook post to let us know your super song and why.

We’ll publish our favorites at the end of the contest and one winner will get a copy of Ry Cooder’s new album on vinyl (including a CD, of course), courtesy of Nonesuch Records, along with his new book, “Los Angeles Stories,” courtesy of City Lights Publishers (click here to read an excerpt).

The contest ends October 28th! There are three ways to enter:

• Post a comment below

• Post a comment on our Facebook contest page at

• Submit your song on Twitter. To qualify, your Tweet must mention @Truthdig and include the hashtag #powerofprotest

And remember to sign up for our newsletter to see if you’ve won:

Full Rules: Power of Protest Music Contest

The sponsor of this promotion is Truthdig, located at 1158 26th Street, #443, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (“Sponsor”). The promotion begins on Oct. 11, 2011, and ends on Oct. 28, 2011. The prizes are one (1) copy of Ry Cooder’s new album on vinyl (including a CD), courtesy of Nonesuch Records, and one (1) copy of Ry Cooder’s new book, “Los Angeles Stories,” courtesy of City Lights Publishers.

To enter the promotion, the entrant must submit a favorite political song through Oct. 28 using one of the following methods:

• Post a comment here
• Post a comment on our Facebook contest page at
• Submit your entry on Twitter. To qualify, the tweet must mention @Truthdig and include the hashtag #powerofprotest.

Entry will apply to the drawing held at the Sponsor’s discretion and winners will be announced in the Truthdig newsletter

One winner will be selected from the entries chosen by the editor during the promotion. Sponsor will notify the winner via email. If a winner does not respond within fourteen (14) days, he or she will forfeit the Prize and another winner will be randomly chosen.

No purchase is necessary to enter or win. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Truthdig Power of Protest Music Giveaway is open only to entrants who are at least thirteen (13) years old at the time of entry. By participating in this promotion, entrants agree to release and hold harmless Sponsor from any claim or cause of action arising out of participation in the promotion.

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By Carl in California, October 13, 2011 at 9:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My favorite in recent years has been James McMurtry - We Can’t Make it Here.  Lyrics are here:

And it all over Youtube of course

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By RaucousRooster, October 13, 2011 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

Well, I grew up singing the watered-down version of Woody’s “This Land is Your
Land,” which he wrote out of disgust for Irving Berlin’s jingoistic “God Bless
America,” which was all over the radio at the time.

But I’ll really have to vote for Steve Earle’s “Ben McCullough,” the best working
class indictment of warfare I’ve ever heard. And it’s a damn fine little story too!

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By Michael, October 13, 2011 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Banks of Marble” just seems like a no-brainer here. Just make sure you end the song
with “not a guard at any door, and we’ll share those vaults of silver, that we all have
sweated for.” (I’ve heard versions that don’t change the chorus the last time through.)

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By Eleanor Powers, October 13, 2011 at 8:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My favorite is Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us.”

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By Andy Taylor, October 13, 2011 at 8:22 am Link to this comment

I always was partial to “Draft Dodger Rag” by Phil Ochs. I guess that rather dates me!

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By Steven Petersen, October 13, 2011 at 6:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amen to “Call It Democracy” by Bruce Cogburn. I had the distinct pleasure to see and hear Bruce perform this powerful song in concert. Even hearing it today it generates the desire to dismantle the IMF and World Bank, 2 institutions that have fostered so much misery in the world. One irony with this is that today they view the US as a bad risk for their predatory lending practices; quaint, huh?

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By mjmcc, October 13, 2011 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”  Specifically a war and violence protest song.  But I think it reflects how most of us feel.  We are still at war overseas.  And, the 99% are feeling beseiged at home.  I follow the news and ask myself daily, “WHAT"S GOING ON WITH OUR COUNTRY?”

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By skimohawk, October 13, 2011 at 1:37 am Link to this comment

heck…. I forgot all about
Hendrix’s “Machine Gun”!

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By, October 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. It says it all for me.

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By Scot Sier, October 12, 2011 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Come visit our OWS music protest page where you can hear protest songs from artists
across the globe:

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By professorsam, October 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm Link to this comment

The people need something funky to rally around and i
submit that there is no funkier a protest song then
James Brown’s “Funky President”. Not only is it
magnificently hip shaking but it also is a rallying cry
for collectivization for the betterment of all people,
as James Brown says in the song “to change some things
around here”. Plus, who wants to hear “Give Peace a
Chance”, “Blowin in the Wind” and somebodies terrible
rendition of “Killing in the Name of” again?

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By skimohawk, October 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier” (1964) covered by Donovan in 1965.

“He’s the universal soldier and he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can’t you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.”

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By Annie from Ohip, October 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The chant Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh, NLF is going to win. Sung as a line dance
somewhere in custody, Washington DC 1971.

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By Steven White, October 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Alice’s Restraunt…. since we’ve been at war for 10 plus years it is more a apropriate simply by pointing out the futility or war in a comedic/musical way.

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By Dan Cafaro, October 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has several
exceptionally strong choices.  How about “Call It
Democracy,” perhaps the only song ever written about
the International Monetary Fund, which Cockburn accuses
of fostering “insupportable debt” in Third World

“IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt”

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