Where have all the protest songs gone?

In light of all the problems the world faces today it occured to me that no one in the folk scene or heaven forbid the rock world are writing songs about war,famine,and you can fill in whatever ills you please into the garbage heap.Has the music arts become so safe and sterile and corporate that no one can hear their still small voice and raise it?
small voice seems to be very small, much less a choir. not coming through on my frequency either. kurt
Well, we're about to go to war and the President has asked everybody to keep shopping in the name of national security in order to pay for the effort. Everybody is at the mall shopping doing their damnest to do their duty.

The answer my friend is strolling in the mall...
The answer is strolling in the mall...

blah, blah, blah
I remain,
Steve Earle can throw together a pretty good protest song. Not exactly mainstream, but I recommend you give him a listen.
U2 seems to have an opinion about everything. It'll come out shortly. Maybe Alec Baldwin will cut a few tracks.
two words: BEN HARPER. Check out "fight for your mind," "welcome to the cruel world" and "the will to live." listened to the first title for the first time in awhile last night--brilliant.
Steve Earle, yes. And Sinead O'Connor in her better moments. Also, rap music--like an earlier generation of reggae--has a lot of the protest spirit that's missing in other genres. Much of it also panders to the market's desire for vulgarity and consumerism/materialism, and that makes the genre as a whole appear less squeaky clean and inherently virtuous than, say, young Bob Dylan with an acoustic guitar. But listen to Public Enemy's record _It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Me Back_ for an example of what I mean by rap protest music.
Give Natalie Merchant's Motherland a spin if you crave some not-too-happy-about-it social commentary.
I really want to spend my hard earned money listing to a multi-millionarie whining about how bad something is. Just because a person has a record contract doesn't mean they have anything to say and most artists(?) prove that every time they step into the studio.

All that said, what about Tom Petty's latest offering.

I heard Dylan is working on a song called "Damn these Birkenstocks are uncomfortable." I hope it comes out on vinyl!
Petty's latest is probably brilliant since no one paid much attention to it.Thanks to those who responded so far...check out the views to response ratio fellas,it's about one out of ten which is about what my experience vouches for...one out of ten people have anything important on their minds.
Someone needs to cover the Judas Priest song:

'We're Not Going to Take It Anymore!'

Not only is it a fun song, it really gets to the point of a protest. This is a song that does not beat around the BUSH! All I have to say is that Democrats REALLY need to use it in their next campaigns.

War, famine, homelessness...shame. Let someone sing about it. Heaven forbid you get off your ass to do something about it. Listen to a song, and feel better knowing that just by doing so, you care. Then go drop $2 grand for a power cord while you ponder on the "important" issues. That will put you on Woody Guthries' radar, now won't it?.

But when you look at it, what can there to protest about? Apparently, all those folks from yesterday are now today's politicians, business leaders and academia. So they have been in a position to solve all the problems they have preached about. So no need for more of those pesky songs.

Maybe, just maybe, we have grown up a bit; which relegates protest songs themselves in the garbage heap as a monument to a self-centered, self-absorbed narcissistic era.
I know it is pretty pitiful to be citing to single songs, but check out Arlo Guthrie's *Patriot's Dream* cut on Jennifer Warnes's *The Well*. Or try Carrie Newcomer's *I Heard an Owl* off *The Gathering of Spirits*, written just after 9/11/2001. *You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive* on Patty Loveless's Mountain Soul CD is not a protest, but reminds me of one. Nice thread idea.
jeff stake
I suppose the same place where all the flowers have gone.
Dylan's songs maybe 30 years old and then some. They are as relevant today as yesterday. Kind of like remaking gone with the wind. Why bother?

Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be who has stalled
There's a battle outside and it's ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
and rattle your walls
For the times have not really been a-changing.

And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
gs5556 - Had a bad day? Sheesh!

Brucegel - There are topical folk singers out there, but I'm afraid that the younger folks today don't seem nearly as interested in them as they do the latest teen pop king/queen. Right now, it doesn't appear that anyone is leading the chorus for social consciousness, and as such the voices of protest are somewhat quieter then they used to be, and require a bit of effort to seek out. To a great degree, rap music has become the modern vehicle for topical expression, but sadly a lot of it is rather narrowly focused and doesn't address the global concerns that would give the messages a wider appeal. Like you, I'm hoping for another Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Gil Scott-Heron, or Joan Baez to come to the forefront and give us some music that really does address the bigger issues we face today.

Until then, there are a few still out there actively producing topical music. Search the newsgroups using Google for ‘protest folk music’ and you’ll find a number of threads listing modern topical folk singers. Admittedly they’re not exactly household names, but its clear that the movement never really died. It just became a bit less popular. If you want a good example of some current protest folk music, take a listen to some of the music by Si Kahn. His songs are excellent, and they all have a great deal of social relevance.

There's a difference b/ween then & now. Then, such songs were mainstream, hits. Now they're niche...
After all, what IS there to complain about? OUR world is now perfect -- right?

The protest SONGS? Where has all the protest gone?

Since the day Bush was elected, we have been in a countdown to a war with Iraq, a war only temporarily put on hold by the terrorist attacks. That war is now imminent, and can anybody say, specifically, why? Can you say "oil grab"?

In the meantime, Bush and Ashcroft have made a mockery of the Constitution. American citizens are being locked up for months at a time without being charged and without a clear explanation to them and no accountability to the public. The "Patriot" Act has all but gutted the Fourth Amendment.

All of this, with barely a whimper of protest. Speaking out is seen as giving aid to the enemy (Ashcroft), or as Gs556 suggests above, narcissistic.

Ths songs will come back when the people come back to hear them, when people begin to care again, when people begin to pay attention.
This is specifically for gs 5556...do your history and leave your cynicism at the gate.The civil rights movement which was very much on everyones mind all the time in no small part because the music of the time reflected it has a lineage right up to the removal of that a...hole Trent Lott for making inferences to all us white folks being better off if the sixties never happened.By the way protest songs have a unique way of getting people off their arses and into the street replacing the mindless pap that passes for news these days.It arguably is the most powerful musicopolitical force extant.Ralph Nader said it best in an interview on the new pbs news journal hosted by Bill Moyers
Moyers asked Nader "How is it possible that you have kept going for so many years when so many have tired?" and Naders reply was "It just comes down to self respect...I cant get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and not do what little I can to help make things better.That my friends may be the bottom line in the final analysis...What happened to our sense of self repect...has our generation become so cynical about it's ability to change things that we are willing to hide behind the consumerism machinery and define ourselves by what audio equipment or size of house or car or even job we do? I feel a protest song coming on!I will let all those world weary cynics have their say now.
as i watch the game on my big screen i don't have to see the starving children die.
when my big new house gets finished i can sit in comfort and watch the rest of the world cry.
when the bombs start to fall on those i don't know, i'll sit in this ski lodge watching the snow.
if things get to hard for me to take, i'll turn up the volume and throw on a steak.

i ask YOU, is this really living?
IMO, no one sings "protest" as well as Marvin.
Here's my protest song. I think that all the socialist activity being promoted by this government should be made strictly voluntary. That way all the people who want to pay for other people's spending can feel real good about themselves, and the rest of the country can keep Uncle Sam's hand out of our pockets.

The dirty little secret is that, on a government level, "social consciousness" is an excuse for stealing from you and giving to whoever they want. When a Congressman shows up at my workplace to do some of my work for me, then he can have some of my money as wages. Until then, he can keep his grubby paws off my paycheck.

For protest songs, I like them when they are real expressions of personal anxiety about a real social cause. When they are vehicles for promoting big government spending, then they can keep them.

The "Great Society" programs started in the 60s have contributed mightily to bringing this country to it's knees in debt. They have caused far more problems than they attempted to solve, and I can't even think of one problem that they have solved. It made everything worse. And now we're faced with paying the Piper for their folly.
Brucegel, your post has made me feel so much better: we are stuck with Ashcroft's police state, but it's all OK, coz Nader gets self respect & gets to look at himself in the mirror.

John Ashcroft, our gift from Nader

Thanks, Ralph!
Twl,You seem to be confusing a Seeger with a Aguilera and as usual the first thing anyone mentions when the topic of compassion comes up in America is socialism and big governments taking your precious money away...cmon man get out of that little box and yes Marvin Gaye was/is the man.
You may want to recheck your numbers. The Great Society programs barely got off the ground before the majority of the funding began to be siphoned off to finance the war in Viet Nam. In any case, total funding for all of Johnson's "Great Society" programs was far less than that which was spent on the war effort.

I suspect that you, just as I am, are highly critical of the big, expensive social welfare programs common to European countries. What a lot of people do not realize is that right here in the good ole' US of A, we have a social welfare program that is bigger, and far more expensive than any in Europe. It is called prison.

The number of people incarcerated for drug offences in the US is now greater than what the total prison population of the US was just 15 years ago.

But at least we won the "War on Drugs", by golly.

I live right next to the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, so I get to see the effects of this social policy first hand. The young men who are imprisoned often leave single mothers behind, to raise their children in poverty. By the time their boys are eleven or twelve, their young mothers can no longer control them. These adolescents get into petty crime, dealing, gangbanging, and killing each other.

Oh well, I suppose we just have to build more prisons.
I aint gonna work on Georgie's farm no more.
No, I aint gonna work on Georgie's farm no more.
He throws you a nickel and he'll throw you a dime,
he calls it a tax break, it's just his pimpimg line.
It's a shame they way he treats us like his whores.
Oh, I aint gonna work for Georgie's farm no more!
good one rosstaman!
people are dying all around
time i looked away
thanks to prisons i'm much obliged
they're such a pleasent stay
but now it's time for me to go
the bombs need to be on there way
we need the oil so we'll block out the pain
but it's headin your way

ah, sometimes i grow so tired
but i know there's one thing i've got to do
drop the bombs
and now's the time the time is now
hear them explode
goin round the world to find the oil
drop the bombs
nows the time the time is now
hear the crys
gonna find the oil so i can fill my suv
drop the bombs
Hi Bruce. I have nothing against compassion and I think it is an admirable trait. I have some of it myself. I think that compassion should have a place in everyone's life.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive about compassion being used as a lever to do what I mentioned in my previous post. As long as compassion remains compassion, and doesn't force me to pay for programs I don't agree with, at the point of a gun, then I can go along with it fine. That's why I said that it should be voluntary. I would never seek to limit others from doing what their hearts lead them to do. Taxing everyone to pay for it, is where I draw the line.

Tweakgeek, I totally agree with you about the prison thing. It is a big business, and a rotten form of government control. If we had stayed with common law, and limited the punishments to 2x restitution of the injured party, then we would be alot better off. Violent crimes should be met with violent punishments.

As far as the comparison of the Great Society vs the Vietnam war, the Vietnam war ended. Last time I checked, the Great Society was still spending over the limit every day for the last 38 years. And the "New Deal", for the last 70. There is no amount of money spending that can make everything equal. People are not equal in skills and capabilities and ambition. Taking the fruits from the capable worker, and giving to others is merely squashing the incentive to work, and the money that is given to the "underpriveleged" through "programs" is significantly used up by administrative expense, and the remainder is squandered on lottery tickets and Ripple anyway. I see this every day, and so do you, and everyone else. Free money is keeping these people down. If they had to go out and do something, or starve, you'd see them do it pretty quick. Free handouts destroy self-esteem, and discourage productive activity. Work and success increases self-esteem, and improves quality of life for all.

I didn't like the Vietnam war, and I know what it was all about too. But pointing to it, to distract attention from the other issue of never-ending absurd spending on destructive programs masquerading as "assistance", is not addressing the issue. I'll agree that the Vietnam war was a massive fraud and poor direction for our country to engage in, just as the Great Society was, and is.

I would love to see the old classic protest songs be played today, and bring someideas of change to what is happening today too. We are right now being subjected to another massive fraud that is going to put all of us into a very bad position in a very permanent way.
There have been and will be great protest songs by many people but too few will listen and even worse too few will step up and do anything because we are all to comfortable in our consummer based society. if we would just learn to live on less and take less from the world we live in and put others ahead of ourselves we could see improvement across the board. amen.
Thanks for your comments Twl and I agree with what you say about the next fraud of a necessary war(I assume thats what you infer)in the middle east and now Korea.
"Has the music arts become so safe and sterile and corporate that no one can hear their still small voice and raise it".
I think the whole bloody media is safe, sterile and dumbed down to the lowest level. Media consolidation and ownership by the likes of GE is destroying democracy in the US.
TWL and others:

I direct your attention to the Sunday New York Times for 1/12/03. The Week In Review Section. Inside is a cartoon entitled "This Modern World"

I won't say any more other than it puts everything into perpective, is funny as hell, and is right on. Well worth pursuing. IMHO
are you a regular, or, do you troll web sites frequented by the greedy, rich, conspicuous consumers you must think high end money wasters are? I assume you are here because you are like most here: into audio. If this is not the case, please peddle the self-righteous pablum in a more appropriate location, spend less time on the Internet, spend more time acting on your convictions where it matters: out in the street. Do something about the problems you see, but don't accuse everyone else. If your posts were tongue-in-cheek, please accept my aplogy.
Who cares - except guilt-tripping liberals and tie-dyed people who haven't forgotten the 1960s? I'm not going to waste a cent on some songwriter's lame attempt at social protest.
If I buy music, I'll buy it because I enjoy the songs - not the "social commentary". If I want commentary, there is plenty of that on talk radio and TV.
Avideo if you think that what you hear on radio and t.v. is meaningful commentary I have two large towers in lower manhattan I'd love to sell you.
The attacks against the U.S. on 9/11 dried up the traditional protest song market. Suddenly Americans saw themselves as innocent victims and in such a mindframe songs protesting what some see as unfair social conditions seemed of little importance. As any reasonable person can see there are still a vast array of problems in the world (war, famine, plague, limited resources, etc.), but the righteous rage of a victim tends to limit one's empathic impulses. Time is probably the only thing that will allow things to return to "normal".
Dylan is still singing his protest songs. Some people ask why he's not writing more of them. Well, why should he? The ones he wrote decades ago are still relevant and he still sings them (2 or 3 at each concert). And "Lonesome Day Blues" from 'Love and Theft' is a pretty haunting song that is a protest of sorts, more so as the album was released on 9/11.
hey slipknot1, we are the problem (me included)....and as far as i can tell, this is as busy of a street as anyplace and if we always leave it to the other person to do the right thing, well then we can't complain, but should resign ourselves to sink deeper into the muck that we've created.

I believe your attack on Avideo was unfounded. He didn't state MEANINGFUL discourse; his post said discourse. Meaningful is in the eye/ear of the beholder. You have given some insight into what you consider to be "meaningful" with an earlier post referring to "PBS, Bill Moyers and Ralph Nader". Let's just say I don't hold the aforementioned in high esteem. You are entitled to your opinion and I, mine.

Having lived through the 60's and experienced the anti-war movement first hand I can only speak from personal experience. Others may have been different from mine but my experiences were real. The majority of the protest participants were taking part in an activity that I found was social. Most of them didn't work, being students or simply unemployed hippies. It proved to be a great place to meet chicks and later get laid. Those I knew personally that participated weren't informed on the issues. It was simply the thing to do at the time.

Protest songs are a lot like my experiences above. There were only a handful of thoughtful, legitimate protest songwriters, IMHO. The remainder were just trying to further their carriers and get laid. I wish that we would get our meaningful discourse through dialogue with each other in a civilized fashion. This isn't going to happen in these forums. Every time something like this comes up in the forums there ends up being several "your mother wears army boots" snippets and it's downhill from there.

I don't really care what kinds of opinions an artist has. They may be great singers/musicians/artists but that shouldn't be a reason the accept their opinions as correct. Some artists earn my respect even if I disagree with their position. Bono of U2 is such an example. He puts his money and his energies where his mouth is. I respect that. My respect stops for him when he proposes government reaching into my pocket to fund his desires.

The civil rights movement would have run its course with or without a single note being written about the cause.

I've contributed several times in the Audiogon forums in defense of an unfair attack on Bush. Does that mean I'm a Republican that blindly follows his lead? Nope. I can't stand what he and Ashcroft are doing to my Constitution. My fellow Americans aren't the enemy here and the changes that both parties are responsible for aren't about our protection. It's about control. We need to face the fact that we citizens have no friends in government. That's a fact, Jack.

let me see if have this straight: Those of us here who have gone to school, worked hard, had some success, have homes and families that we love and take care of, are devils? We haven't sponged off everyone else, using our lot in life as our excuse, expecting others to house, feed and clothe us because we are too lazy, stupid to do it ourselves...
We are the bad guys because we have the personal responsibility to care for ourselves and our families? Maybe if more people took the responsibility to care for themselves and their families, people like you wouldn't have to see the children going hungry and dying. It's not in your best interest to support this theory because then you and other Chicken Little tub-thumpers would be lost and have nothing to do. I admire your desire to seek change. Yes, the world is a tough place, life is unfair. Always has been, always will be. The United States, for better or worse
has afforded EVERY citizen the right to an education and as such, the tools required to pull themselves up out of the muck (your words). The key is the ability to motivate people to care for themselves. People who are "comfortable" are not the demon. That argument is as old as the problem. The problem is uninformed people glomming onto causes and issues to make themselves feel better, all the while being part of the problem, believing that we have to "help these people". Following that rhetoric is the worst form of discrimination. That message says we (the folks who know what's best for you) will take care of you, because we know you can't take care of yourself. That is institutional slavery without the forced labor.
As far as this being a "busy street", that is true it is but it's not the street you should be working on. Want to make a difference? Join VISTA, spend more time worrying and working against Bush, and Adolph Ashcroft before all our rights to privacy are gone. Time is coming soon that you won't be able to speak out on the Internet or anywhere else without Ashcroft getting a verbatim transcript.
LUGNUT...May I point out to you that ART regardless of your personal opinion sways and or galvanizes opinions.Earlier I alluded a vast forgetting we are locked in with regards to self respect.I would wager you a pair of tenor amps that if you asked a person regardless of age how they cultivate personal respect they wouldnt have a clue...most think being wealthy or popular or politically powerful equals it.I am sorry that the protest movement of the past equates with getting laid for you for I have no such experience like that.Mine was an awakening of the illusion of differences between races and politics of being just that,an illusion.Onhwy61 is correct,only time will allow us to gain perspective on 9/11.But time and a vast forgetting tend to walk hand in hand and there is a danger of additional jingoism being heaped upon the memory of the fallen and the whys and wherefores of the event.The media will undoubtedly twist it all into rating compromised pap.
P.S. I firmly believe that we can agree to disagree and be civil and learn from one another because thats what I WAS BORN FOR to learn from you and anyone else who has something interesting to say.The alternative is too onerous for me to contemplate.

I have no problem agreeing to disagree. This phenomenon of art being a prime mover, or galvanizing force, behind social change just isn't supported historically. Prior to Woody Guthrie's dust bowl commentaries through song, art and music was created after the fact to record what happened. What you are describing is a phenomenon that has occured only after the advent of the broadcast medium. It is an illusion that the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seger, Peter, Paul & Mary, and others somehow pushed society over the top on any one issue.

I'm moved by lyrics that express the human condition. Being moved in such a way has never influenced me to the point of taking to the streets though. I arrive at that point through a process of discovery aided by a sound knowledge of history, absorbtion of scholarly writings and a sense of right and wrong instilled in me by my father.

As a pretty good example of what I speak, consider the founding of this country. The signers of the Declaration of Indepenence arrived at that point through dialogue, historical consideration and an firm knowledge of right and wrong. The U.S. Constitution was written about at great length through the exchange of letters written by the framers of that document. At the Constitutional Convention the participants may have had different views of the purpose and structure of government but they certainly debated the issues to form a concensus; all without benefit of a song.

God Bless America, The Star Spangled Banner and America The Beautiful were all written after the fact. I'm just really trying to argue that most of the people at the time of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war weren't tuned into the songs that so moved you. They were moved by the printed word and a sense of right and wrong. Our generation wasn't the only generation involved in making these changes and the other folks were getting their motivation from sources other than song.

I would hate to think that a people couldn't make necessary change without aid of three stanza's and a chorus.

To Brucegel: Many thanks for your caustic remarks about my post. However, I do stand by what I say. I think most so-called "protest songs" are in the same category with tie-dyed t-shirts, bell bottom pants, and other relics of the 1960s.
I grew up in San Francisco during the 1960s - and saw all this sort of stuff - including almost all the various "artists" who played protest songs live - and remain fully underwhelmed by all of them. With the possible exception of Bob Dylan - I think most of the protest song singers/writers of the 1960s are totally irrelevant. I can't think of a more pathetic sight than seeing a balding, 60ish Peter & Paul; and an obese Mary on PBS singing songs that are 40 years old.
As mentioned - if I want commentary - good or bad - I can listen to talk radio or TV (or maybe read the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.). Sorry, but that's the way I see it.
There are plenty still writing protest songs. For example: anything by Rage Against the Machine, Metallica always has an anti-war song on pretty much every album, a lot of punk bands do, Reel Big Fish has a lot of anti-music industry songs, Tool has a lot of anti-establishment material.