Pandemic Playlist #8 – PROTEST for Racial Justice

It’s been almost three weeks since I posted my last Pandemic Playlist with a focus on the 100,000 dead in the U.S. from COVID-19. FYI the total is now 118,000 dead and rising.

NOTE: The songs on this playlist are in the order that I’ve written about them in my previous Pandemic Playlist. Songs in this post start with number 36 on the playlist.

If the last section of my Pandemic Playlist was about grief, this section is about anger and channeling this into protests in the streets against racial injustice and for Black Lives Matter.

I’ve posted about protests that I’ve attended so far and I certainly plan to continue to take to the streets again and again. Music is so important to me, so I’ve been developing this Protest Section of my Pandemic Playlist to inspire myself and hopefully others too.

There are no shortage of “Protest Playlists” now posted on Spotify that are very specific to this moment. Mine contains songs that are significant to me. Some are songs that I’ve known and been inspired by for many decades. Others are new ones that I’ve discovered on this massive Spotify playlist:

My hope is that my list may help you to discover a new song or two. Or maybe you’ll learn something new about a familiar song of protest.

So, without further ado, here’s videos and comments on my list of Protest Songs for this Pandemic/Racial Justice moment:

My connection to this song by Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil goes all the way back to 1988 – when I graduated from high school. Although it’s about struggle for justice for the Aboriginal people of Australia, I find it relevant for white people in today’s U.S.

In short, how we can we white people continue to be asleep while our black brothers and sisters continue again and again to face structural racism in so many different forms?

I’ve been asleep and am now finally learning how to wake up and show up with help of SURJ and other groups and resources.

Another song, more specific to the U.S. struggle for justice, also from the 1980’s is this anthem:

More than one protest song by Woodie Guthrie made my playlist. The second (described below) is much more famous than this one. But perhaps, as the word “fascist” is being used more seriously to describe the current POTUS, maybe this song, composed in the early 1940’s, is more relevant today than ever.

And speaking of anti-fascism, here’s another Guthrie song, performed in a more modern tone:

While we’re still on Guthrie, here’s the song which I think should be the U.S. National (Protest) Anthem:

Pete Seeger, one of many inheritors of Guthrie’s prophetic mantle, is joined by guests for this special rendition the day before President Obama’s first inauguration.

One more version of this important song with a different, yet no less powerful interpretation/arrangement:

The story of the liberation of South Africa from the profound racism of apartheid, is one that I remember well as I was in my teens and twenties as it unfolded. This powerful tribute to Stephen Biko, a black martyr for freedom, offers an indelible cry for justice.

This version, performed on June 15, 1996 – 24 years ago to the day – was four years before Nelson Mandela was released from the prison where he spent 27 years as a political prisoner.

You can blow out a candle

But you can’t blow out a fire

Once the flame begins to catch

The wind will blow it higher

I’ve been discovering a number of Native American and First Nation artists recently and here are a few inspiring songs from these indigenous performers.

Shifting gears to a different part of the world – Scotland – and The Wakes:

A few powerful songs with a common theme – Revolution:

And this song tells the true story of a revolution in 1640’s England by a group called The Diggers.

I didn’t learn about this in history class – which is too bad – because it’s a pretty cool story with a faith component at its heart.

Shifting back to our continent and our struggles for freedom and racial justice, here’s the moving song with a truly awesome rendition of it:

The Irish in America have had their struggles and no band sings about the on-going need to work for justice, than Boston’s Dropkick Murphys.

Slowing things down, but with no less passion, here’s one of the greatest American singers with a song as relevant today as when it was composed in 1969:

Springsteen, another great American singer-song writer released these two songs in 2012.

A different continent and another song about what is behind our present moment of uprising.

Switching genres and heading into the homestretch….

Two classics so very relevant today:

The Way It Is” is a cynical, yet memorable Bruce Hornsby and The Range song from back in the Ronald Regan days. This version samples from Hornsby and adds a deeper dimension for our time.

Here’s a video of it played just a few days ago during a protest in NYC:

Not long after Hornsby, a rising band from Seattle – Pearl Jam – released this song about the injustice of homelessness and poverty:

And the song and the performance of it, which made me begin my now 35 year love of U2:

It’s long, but if you’ve never seen it, please take the time to watch and be moved by the passion of it all.

And watch for the 2009 version of Bono in this remarkable version of a classic by Playing for Change.

Finally, a song to conclude this part of my Pandemic Playlist – a prayer – in a video posted a month ago:

Thanks for reading, listening and watching. I hope you feel inspired and maybe discovered a new song or two to sing as you march this summer and beyond…


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