Pop music helps resist oppression.  Change, protest and movements are usually accompanied by songtracks. We Shall Overcome was introduced to Martin Luther King by Pete Seeger and it became an anthem for those resisting racist oppression in the 60's. 

I am partial to songs that reveal deception, penetrate assumptions or create possibilities.  Songs that heal, uplift and unify while resisting injustice complement King's fundamental message.  Not easy to do.  It's often necessary to be against something than it is to provide solutions or to imagine a new way of living. 

The impact of Lenon's song Imagine was immediate.  I remember listening to a line by line critique of its naivité by Peter Gzowski in 1970.  Yes Lenon's vision of hope was naive as most pop songs are but it remains the best known and my favourite song of peace of the past 40 years.

To honour the 21st anniversary of his tragic killing, December 8th 1980 here are ten additional songs of freedom and peace. 

Redemption Song by Bob Marley. Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.  None but ourselves can free our minds.

Baby Beluga by Raffi.  Beluga grads are everywhere, swimming wild and swimming free.

One by U 2. Sisters. Brothers. One Life. But we're not the same. We get to carry each other. Carry each other. One life. One

Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

With God on Our Side by Bob Dylan. So now as I'm leaving, I'm weary as hell. The confusion I'm feeling ain't no tongue can tell.  The words fill my head and they fall on the floor. And if God is on our side, (surely) He'll stop the next war. 

A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke. There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long. But now I think I'm able to carry on.  It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.

Last Night I had the Strangest Dream by Serena Ryder. I dreamed I saw a mighty room. Filled with women and men. And the paper they were signing said. They'd never fight again.

We Shall Not be Moved by Mavis Staples. Black and white together we shall not be moved. Just like a tree that's planted by the water we shall not be moved.

Wondering Where the Lions Are by Bruce Cockburn. I had another dreams about lions at the door.  They weren't half as frightening as they were before.

Wavin' Flag by K'naan.  When I get older I will be stronger.  They'll call me freedom, just like a wavin' flag.

and one bonus track!

Peace Train by Cat Stevens. 

At the 2006 Nobel concert honouring Muhammad Yunus, Cat Stevens now Yusuf Islam had this to say: There is a powerful need for people to feel the gust of hope rise up again. As a member of humanity and as a Muslim, this is my contribution to the call for a peaceful solution.

Resources

33 Revolutions per Minute – book and blog

Sounds Like a Revolution – film about new wave of protest singers.  I watched it on an Air Canada flight of all places.

2 Comments

  1. Richard Molyneux

    Brilliant, thank you for this Al. This song here is so powerful. Underrated band who should be the group youth are looking up to. Continually inspiring lyrics and a positive message plus they work with youth.
    “If younger heads quote this, then it ain’t all hopeless.”
    Band Dalek (Dialect) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrKi8mPR494&feature=related
    Lyrics: http://www.gugalyrics.com/DALEK-ABANDONED-LANGUAGE-LYRICS/228072/
    Also the label Underground Resistance from Detroit have been inspiring people as helping people for 25 years. A great short piece on them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4XtEdLf74g

  2. Richard Molyneux

    I forgot about this one (how could I) but a remainder that music can educate and put you on a path that seems right. This was my awakening in the slums of Liverpool in the early 80’s. (And I remember being called a hippy for likening this great man when my peers were goth/punks back in the day).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McbSrw4GnRI&feature=related

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