Does music shape culture or does culture shape music? Music like other art forms is a powerful way for individuals to find their voice and as with ‘Folk Songs’, bring people together. People like Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary would create songs with powerful lyrics which often served as political speeches put to music. Bob Dylan often referred to Phil Ochs as a journalist rather than a musician. Songs that conveyed the truths of the day to people though a form they could hear but also become a part of. Their music brought political action into the mainstream and united hearts, bodies and most importantly our souls.
In the song ‘There but for Fortune” written by Phil Ochs and made popular by Joan Baez as well as Peter, Paul and Mary the issues of poverty and equality are raised.
Show me the famine, show me the frail
Eyes with no future that show how we failed
And I’ll show you the children with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.
Historically musicians and artists that try to popularize issues surrounding human rights or make statements against political policy are characterized as communists or left-wing. Songs like ‘Blowin’ in the Wind” that ask us to question what is happening in an effort to bring human rights, environment or political issues to the forefront.
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Today there are efforts of musicians to bring issues of the day to the forefront through their voice or music have not seemed to capture and unite people to the important causes of the day. Today their voices continue to be characterized as leftist and against the government. At times it seems the media, politicians and the public seem to try to silence the voices that speak out. Musicians and other artists often put their reputations and therefore livelihood at-risk by stepping out of the mainstream music of the day. Canadian and music legend Neil Young who stands-up for his beliefs takes that risk by putting the needs of people, the environment, ahead of his own personal gain, in his political statement:
“It is a basic matter of Integrity on the part of Canada. Canada is trading Integrity for money”
We are at a turning point in our history, in our culture. Our democracy is being threatened as Canadians remain silent or their opinions are ignored on important issues. Canadians time after time have said they care about the environment, we care about our children and the future. Canadians want action to stop violence against all woman and children. Canadians want to build better relationships with our First Nations People. Canadians want better paying jobs, jobs for our young people, strong health care and education. Canadians want a society based on Human Rights for everyone.
We need the voices of our musicians, we need the words of writers and the images of moviemakers and artists to unite Canadians to the important human rights and environmental issues. We need the music that brings political action to Canadians and unites our hearts, our bodies and most importantly our souls to build our vision for our Canada.
How many jobs must be lost
Before we help our youth?
How many woman and children must be murdered
Before we say too many people have died?
How many times must the Prime Minister speak
before he tells us the truth?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.
Ten Reasons Why Neil Young is Right About the Tar Sands
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I will bear this in mind the next time im struggling to put words to a composition, thanks James.
Charlotte your voice can change culture no matter what the words. It is a true gift. Thanks for sharing.
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