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Arts and Culture

The Power of Protest Contest: Find Out Who Won

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Posted on Nov 4, 2011
Flickr / Dani Canto (CC-BY-SA)

The inspiration for our protest music contest, Ry Cooder, doing what he does best.

We have a winner, folks. Or make that two: a winning song and the Truthdig reader who named the tune. It wasn’t easy to settle on just one out of all the possibilities—and we’ll give nods to some of those—but it was fun.

First comes the protest song that topped our list, playing on local and international themes and featuring the lyrical stylings of celebrated troubadour Leonard Cohen, set against a pleasing ’80s synth-pop backdrop: “First We Take Manhattan.” Need a refresher? We’ve posted the video below.

Next comes the announcement of our lucky winner of The Power of Protest contest, Jenna Ware, who threw her hat into the ring with a flourish, posting this entry on Facebook:

Logline = the killer line in the song: “Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win” Cohen knew. We knew. They knew. They knew we knew. We knew they knew we knew. We know. They know. We know they know. They know we know. We all know. We are all us—the arc of the character “America.”

Jenna will receive a copy of Ry Cooder’s new album, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down,” plus his new book, “Los Angeles Stories” (click here to read an excerpt), both signed by the artist. For these prizes we have Nonesuch Records, City Lights Publishers and Ry Cooder himself to thank.

And thanks to all the readers—many of whom are also musicians and lyricists in their own right—for chiming in. Some other song nominations included: “Yell Fire” by Michael Franti and Spearhead, submitted through Twitter by #heysyd; Thievery Corporation’s “Numbers Game,” suggested by #stormpilot; “The Payback” by James Brown, which was #brotheryoni’s pick; and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall” from #bourbonsweet. From our Facebook friends we got: Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land,” submitted by Mark Ross; Billy Bragg’s “I Don’t Need This Pressure Ron,” chosen by Shauna Osborn; and another classic, Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” which David Collz posted.

Finally, we were especially lucky to hear from several musicians who sent in lyrics and/or recordings of their own original songs, several of which took the Occupy Wall Street movement as their inspiration. Keep on singing, and keep on digging. 

YouTube:


New and Improved Comments

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By Rafael Ravenet, January 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Aaaaahhhh. Behold the power of music to introduce, shape, renew and perpetuate ideas- the very basic currency of trade in the free marketplace of human dignity.  Music dresses ideas; making the made into easily recognizable patterns of sonic manifestation. Be it rhythm, melody, broad tonal sweeps, intricate sixteenth note phraseology, the universally appreciated art-form perfectly fits into the speech writer’s toolbox of licks.  Example: The power of a campaign theme song.  The image, the latent symbology can all come deliciously together once the audience hears a catchy tune bring disparate text morassed political persuasion into one cool understood unifid event. Music fits into the big tent-fits well.

Writing is the edge of language and expression, but music comes in a very close second. Brought together, music and writing close in on understanding and provide us with memory of complex associations.  Imagine the sense each and every one of us gets hearing a “favorite song”, or any tune hailing from a specific era.  Powerful stuff is music.

For this reason I have looked for the important tracks.  Important the same way Georg Buchner’s Danton’s Tod was important to literature and the political zeitgeist as well. 

I’ve searched for Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan and found Mark E. Smith of The Fall’s Second Dark Age- a prophetic late seventies score filled with amazingly deft and politically astute imagery.

I’ve looked for Times are a Changin’ and found Genetic Engineering by Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark.  Genetic Engineering is as pure and effective a picture of the future as I would ever hope from any latte day soothsayer.  A window to the future.  I only wish I would have figured more pop music into my picture of life in the not so distant future.

What songs can we turn to today.  Are we even interested in a future?  Do we even care about species diversity, the new feudalism.  What is wrong with main street? Can music save our souls?

Truthdig accurately brought our attention to the importance of the song and I only wish I would have noticed back in October.  Please do it again!  I ask Truthdig to do something similar for the start of the new decade.  Ask us for our songs.

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By John Poole, November 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cohen purposely chose years ago to be outside the fight by being a hermit sage.
He only appears to be with the proles. He sees himself as quite special. It’s easy to
pontificate from the fringe.

I think my upgrade of FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH 2012 was worth an “honorable”
mention.  I didn’t notice any spikes in viewing so I guess no one was interested.
The Buffalo Springfield song was written in response to the police abrasive action
for hippie discontents protesting the closing of certain sections of the Sunset
Strip.  The cops defending Wall Street miscreants are in that same league.  Have a
listen to my upgrade and feel free to comment. I have a life and career so I floated
it out as purely an emotional response to the song I had going back to 1968 when
I was in the Army-drafted but used as a pianist/composer for the Army
PS. Jackson Browne’s song is notable as were ALL material by entrants and
responders.

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By Rixar13, November 8, 2011 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

I am a 99%.

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By AlonK, November 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello,
There are so many wonderful songs that could describe the new heart we carry
in heart, such as
Tracy Chapman Talking about a Revolution
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rZbvi6Tj6E&feature=related

Tracy Chapman New Beginning
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7gyusc7QBc&feature=related

People Have the Power
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpK8Z2vOvAo&feature=related

Johnny Cash I won’t Back Down change “I” to “we”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IJw9jid5Yk

he Lighthouse Family- I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeCAkrg4fNE&feature=related  and “every
woman” too

This Little Light of Mine
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkcu-PDJ9OY

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, November 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

I would like to make a late entry into the song contest. I shall capture the events and the ambience of Occupy Wall Street.


Oh aint it hard
to be an underpriveleged
OWS Camper.

Oh aint it hard
getting arrested as a poor
OWS Camper.

Then you gotta provide ID,
you disadvantaged
and despairing
OWS camper.

From your ID we see your address
poor Leftist waif, raging against capitalism
OWS Camper.

Your home address turns out to be a mansion,
manicured lawn, yes a heated pool,
worth much more than 500 k.
OWS camper

So the next time a friendly newsman
explains how poor and embittered you are,
try not to cry,
as you drive
your Lexus by,
OWS camper

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By Dave G, November 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks for highlighting role of music in social change
- and Ry Cooder’s new great recordings. 

Speaking of music and social change:

The movie Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune has so much
relevance for today. Check it out (is on netflix).

Report this

By PatRM2, November 7, 2011 at 5:08 am Link to this comment

This is the song that wins every time.  Don’t know the contest, don’t know the rules, but do know songwriters and Jackson Browne always wins.

Lives In The Balance.
I’ve been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you’ve seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and the t.v.
You hear one thing again and again
How the u.s.a. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends—
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can’t take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can’t even say the names

They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they’re never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

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Matt Emmons's avatar

By Matt Emmons, November 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm Link to this comment

Nice choice. Here’s another Cohen tune that captures the past few decades pretty well, if not necessarily OWS:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

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By lawgroup18, November 6, 2011 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

This is very nice post thnaks for sharing this post.

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By gerard, November 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

Good choice.  Expresses the ambient emotions of these days clearly yet restrained by the shaping of art.  Angst, desire, reaching out, determination, possibility working against limitation ...

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By balkas, November 5, 2011 at 11:30 am Link to this comment

here are the lyrics of song i wrote early ‘03 or late ‘02 protesting coming war against
iraq march 19, ‘03.

i offered the song to StopWar.ca, a vancouver peace org put together in ‘02, but it
thought the song was not angry enough.
i have the song in my playlist—a capella, tho; however, do not know how to share it.
maybe s’mone at the apple shop can show me how to do it.

if anyone is interested in this song [it’s free] contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and i’d
send u the CD with the song.         
                      world loves iraq
promise me mommy
that u will guard me
thus u may save me,
from bombings and hell [or bushes and blairs]
promise me mama,
we wld not wander
anywhere yonder
nor in iraq
promise me mother
that u will love me,
never forsake me
for love is our peace
honeybits, goodnight
i’ll wake u tomorrow
eagerly hoping
for peace and joy
i will then promise
to love u and to shield u
over a life time
for better or worse
promises spoken
or sung in a rhyme
shld never be broken
no no not ever
that much we know
let us be happy,
for u and i know,
world loves iraq

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By paul ostrowski, November 5, 2011 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Look whats happening out in the streets
got a revolution ,got to revolution
ain’t it amazing all the people I meet…  jefferson
etc

  need I say more…I should of WON !


in any case   thanks for what you do TRUTHDIG !

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, November 5, 2011 at 4:32 am Link to this comment

How come I didnt win an award? I submitted this:

“You knew, they knew, we knew, I knew,
She knew, he knew…
We are us, but they are them.”

I demand a recount!

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By FireAimReady, November 5, 2011 at 2:48 am Link to this comment

Here’s another original song for ya, “A Great Depression.” Hope you like it:
http://www.4groundmusic.org/AGreatDepression.mp3

A Great Depression
Jeff Coleman © 2011

I once had a sweet job in the city
I banked at the First Nationalized
Thanks to the econocataclysm
Priorities are reprioritized

Chorus:
My checkbook’s bleeding red
But Baby I’m not blue
It will be a great depression
If I spend it with you

Yesterday they repossessed our condo
Last night we went under-the-bridging
We’re happy in our new little love nest
The charming cardboard box they shipped our fridge in

Chorus:
Dow Jones may be fickle
But Baby I’ll be true
It will be a great depression
If I spend it with you

Bridge:
A stimulus package?
I got just what you need
Invest some time in me, girl
High interest guaranteed

Bills in every color of the rainbow
Creditors can take a flying leap
Even though we lost all our life savings
We still have lots of fun now, losing sleep

Chorus X 2:
The future’s DOA
But we’ll never be through
It will be a great depression
If I spend it with you

Foreplay beats foreclosure
We’re happy when we’re screwed
It will be a great depression
If I spend it with you

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