activist music

Music to Occupy By! Yup, there's plenty of music being written for and sung at the Occupies! We wrote the article, "Music to Occupy By", for the Dec 2011 newsletter of Local 1000, The Traveling Musicians Union. The article includes snippets of stories & songs submitted by members' ("L1Kers") in late October 2011. Read the full article here and read on for submissions and links to full submissions, below:

  • April 3 2012: From Hali Hammer: "Busy in the Bay Area! Occupella (the creation of Bay Area singers and cultural workers Hali Hammer, Betsy Rose, Nancy Schimmel, Bonnie Lockhart and Leslie Hassberg) organizes informal public singing at occupation sites, marches and BART stations . . . carrying forward a long tradition of communities singing in the face of injustice and promoting positive visions of a world of peace and inclusion. I'm currently organizing a National Sing Out for Earth Day (Sunday, April 22nd) (and on facebook). At noon Pacific Daylight Time, 1 p.m. MDT, 2 p.m. CDT and 3 p.m. EDT (so we're all singing together) and in the key of D (so we're all in sync), everyone should get together in groups, preferably at Earth Day events, and sing "This Land Is Your Land". We will construct a montage of the videotaped events of various groups performing. The main thing is that we all do this at the same time. There is nothing more unifying and empowering than people singing together.
    New Lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land"
    We join together across this nation
    Stand side by side for our Occupations
    To tax the rich and the corporations
    So we can sustain democracy
    To keep the air clean, and the rivers flowing
    And the redwoods standing, and the planet going
    So all the children can grow up knowing
    That this land's still made for you and me
    See my videos at I also sing with Pat Wynne and Liliana Herrera in a group called the ReSisters (we do originals and parodies by Bernie Gilbert).
  • From emma's revolution (us!) : We wrote "Occupy the USA!" for the opening rally of the October 2011 Occupation and have since sung it at Occupies from Boston to Boise. The song was featured in The Washington Post article "Occupy Wall Street inspires a new generation of protest songs" and is the bonus track on our newly-released cd, "Revolutions Per Minute" (2011). Listen here.
  • From Holly Near: Someone gave me a heads up at intermission that there was an order to close down the occupation in the park which was just up the street from our concert [in Albany, NY]. Word was that the police were going to enforce a curfew. So I designed the second set to be all about action, including songs and stories about revolution in Chile, the Civil Rights Movement, feminist uprisings, labor, environment etc. At the end, the audience was on their feet and singing and a large percentage of them walked out of the concert hall and headed for the occupation. Laura Love who was traveling with me, went with them and I hear she danced and sang and chanted and drummed. . . . [And] an amazing thing happened. The curfew arrived and the police did not shut anything down. Later, we heard that in spite of orders from higher up, the police decided not to arrest anyone saying that no one was doing anything wrong, it was peaceful and the fact that there were a lot of older people there made them feel arrests would incite a riot that did not need to exist and elders might get hurt. So I was thrilled. Guess where most of those elders came from? Our concert! . . . (Read full submission here.)
  • From David Rovics: my occupy song is here: i've been playing at occupations on my tour, nice coincidence for this to be happening while i'm touring u.s./canada anyway! exciting times. lots of bad police behavior tho in the past 24 hours or so in various cities... (Read full submission here.)
  • From Dave Lippman: Here's mine [a version of "The Occupation Is On"]. The printed lyrics have 3 verses from the original 1930 Hezekiah Jenkins song, omitted from my recorded version. And a fourth verse that I added for an earlier version but omitted for this one. Never mind. Use what you like. (Read full lyrics to "The Occupation is On" here.)
  • [ Also hear Dave's latest OWS song, "St. Pepper's Spray & Heads' Clubbed Band"]
  • From Rik Palieri: 10/26/11 I have been involved in the Occupation Burlington Wall street support events. I have been helping out with the music singing old labor songs & Utah's "Singing Through The Hard Times". I did a fun march with Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, here is a link to that event. 10/28/11: It was interesting to see how well the old song "We Shall Not be moved, could be sung with the crowd while walking . . . "The Bankers Got Bailed out- We got sold, out- we Shall Not Be Moved" and "The people united- will never be defeated- Will Shall Not Be moved". Also, I made up this new verse to "This Land" . . . (Read full submission here.)
  • From Deborah Van Kleef: 10/26: I've been dropping in on Occupy Cleveland when I can, and singing a song or two -- but am in the middle of writing a song -- my first anthem! P.S. Great moment at Occupy Cleveland last week -- a young singer-songwriter I met a few months ago has been spending a lot of time there. The first weekend after they started he told me he had been singing "The Times They Are A-Changing" & other chestnuts. Two weeks later (last Friday) I found myself holding the vocal mike for him (someone forgot to bring a stand), while he performed two terrific he'd just written for the Occupy movement. As far as I know these were his first political songs -- previously I'd heard him do mainly love songs. 10/30 I know you've gotten lots of stuff, but thought I'd send you the finished lyrics to "Power of Love.". (Read full submission including lyrics to "Power of Love" here.)
  • From Steve Suffett: Marilyn and I have been actively involved in Occupy Wall Street here in New York City . . . One song that I frequently perform is Union Warriors, which I originally wrote in honor of the NYC transit workers who went out on strike in 2005 and also in honor of their union leader Roger Toussaint. However, it is really a tribute to all the warriors of organized labor, past, present, and future. Here is a link to a YouTube video of me performing Union Warriors in Zuccotti Park. In addition, I sing a lot of Woody Guthrie songs such as I Ain't Got No Home in Zuccotti Park, along with many other union songs, a few of which I wrote myself but most of which are classics, such as Which Side Are You On? by Florence Reece. . .
    (Read full submission here.)
  • From Stephen Lee Rich: This song was not written specifically for the "Occupy" protests. But, it does apply. It was actually written about the protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union-busting bill last February. It's called "Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like" -- named after that particular call-and-response chant. I see the "Occupy" thing as part of a larger whole. These protests would, most probably, not be happening had the actions in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and other states not happened last February. Let's draw the line back one step further. While other staets said that they were inspired by our movement in Madison, WI, WE were inspired by an event which had happened just a week before the feces made contact with the antique air conditioner here. People took to the street and successfully brought down an opressive government in Egypt. We figured that if they could bring down a whole govenment we could deal with a few yahoos in Wisconsin's capitol.

    Tom Kastle (another Local 1000 member) also wrote a song about the Madison prtests. It's called "Whose House? Our House!" . He wrote it just after Gov. Walker tried to lock us out of the Capitol Building.
  • From Janet Stecher: From one of my chorus.
    Over my dead body (Jim Page)
    We are born in nature and in nature we will die
    And if we don't make it, it's not because we didn't try
    They say they will incorporate the world
    Over my dead body, over my dead body, over my dead body, over mine . . .
    (Read more lyrics to "Over my dead body" here.)
  • From Evan Greer: I've been working on writing something more specifically related to the Occupy phenomenon. As I've traveled around, I've been somewhat disturbed by some of the things I've seen, especially unchecked and rampant racism and sexism that is allowed to occur in this movement. While I see the benefit of the rhetoric of the 99% as a unifying rallying cry, I have been trying to use my music (which connects a broad range of social and environmental justice issues) to remind us that not everyone in the 99% has had the same experiences and if we are to succeed as a movement we must address our internalized oppression as well as the overt oppression of the 1%. While we Occupy public squares around the world, let's remember that many communities have been occupied for centuries by colonization, white supremacy, patriarchy, police violence, and homophobia.

    I've been collaborating a lot with spiritchild, who i already mentioned. He is part of a people of color working group working to address some of the systemic racism that has been occuring at Wall Street. We recorded a song called Back to the Roots / Justice which we have found really relevant for the Occupy Protests. (Email Evan for mp3) We were recently in the studio and began working on a song about Troy Davis, which eventually lead us to also comment on the state of the Occupy movement. It's still a work in progress but here are the lyrics to my verses, which spiritchild will be using as a backing for the hip-hop verses he is writing. where were the riots?
    that's all i could think
    when they murdered troy davis
    at 11:38
    where was the rage
    when the president said
    it was none of his business
    another black man dead
    at the hands of a system
    so soaked in blood
    from the red white man's blues
    to the pinkerton thugs
    which side are you on
    it's more than rich and poor
    the top 1% may have started this war
    but the roots of oppression
    go deeper than that
    we're back to the roots
    and we're taking it back
    (Read more lyrics to "Back to the Roots" here.)
  • From David Gans: I have some songs that I am dedicating to the Occupy movement, but so far nothing new for the cause. I am on tour now, and photographing Occupy sites in various towns. Baltimore today.
  • From Kevin Slick: As is often the case I've found an older song of mine seems to fit the moment. I have sung/chanted this as a rap primarily and offer the lyrics to the folk process if anyone wants to use them, add to them, attach a melody or whatever. I heard this story about Frederick Douglass many years ago (about the visitor asking him what to do with his life to be of service) and incorporated several quotes from Mr. Douglass as well. (Read full lyrics to "Agitate" here.)
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    all sorts of activist music . . . take a listen and find something new you love! send more to sandy@emmasrevolution.