Tuesday 15 May 2012

Music Week #2 - "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution"

So, welcome to day two of our Music Week.  Yesterday I talked about how I felt music had its own hidden language that could speak to people in a way that other forms of communication could not, cutting across the barriers of age, language, culture and class.  Today, I want to talk about songs to shake you up...

Open your eyes, time to wake up; enough is enough *

I was eight years old when I learned that songs could be about more than anodyne boy-meets-girl sentiment.  I had wandered into the kitchen, lured by the smells of baking.  On the radio, a gentle song swelled into an urgent wave; the singer sang:
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence
Simon and Garfunkel's great song The Sound of Silence was the first song I'd heard that spoke about change, and the change coming from the people rather than governments.

Knowing that a change has to come is not the same as wanting to make it happen.  Music can do that; it can open your eyes, wake you up to a different reality, make you realise that enough is enough.  Bob Dylan's Masters of War is as relevant now in our post 9/11 world as it's ever been.  On a more intimate scale, so is Jim Moray's Poverty Knock - a song about 18th and 19th century English textile workers echoes the plight of third world garment workers today.  Passengers' 1995 song Miss Sarajevo woke people up to a war on Europe's doorstep that the news media did not seem to be interested in.  The Levellers and Billy Bragg both ask about the motives of the wars of the late 20th Century.  Coming right up to date, Jessie J and Lily Allen both sing about the distortion that consumerism and celebrity obsession creates in society.

Talkin' 'bout a Revolution **
Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion
It's astonishing to think this song was written in 1988 and not austerity Britain of 2012; and Transition is just this kind of quiet revolution.

Tomorrow on the blog - Imagine there's no heaven - music's ability to envision a different kind of world.

* Enough is Enough - Chumbawamba
** Talkin' 'bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman

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