Music has always been political
Alex Bahler’s “Rockers have opinions, too” cast my memory back to 1964 with a wistful smile of sweet nostalgia.
That autumn, I was a freshman journalism student in the honors program at Marquette University, there on a Journal Star scholarship. Lyndon Johnson was running for president and a huge rally promoting him was held at the Milwaukee Arena.
The closing act was Peter, Paul, and Mary. Somehow two dorm-mates and I had made it up to about the fifth row center. I still get verklempt with the memory of them starting off with Bob Dylan’s “When The Ship Comes In,” then concluding 40 minutes later with his “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.”
Four years later, when I was back in Peoria teaching English and journalism at my erstwhile high school, Spalding Institute, it was John Fogerty’s apocalyptic “Bad Moon Risin’” predicting the Nixon disaster on its way.
Four years after that, when I was teaching the same at Illinois Central College, Fogerty was again cursing the upcoming re-election of RMN with “Fortunate Son.”
But it all goes back to long before that, with Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter cursing the plutocrats in “Fare Thee, Titanic, Fare Thee Well” and corrupt New Orleans politics in “Fannin Street.”
And you can take that clear back to “The Scouring of the Shire,” the penultimate chapter of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” where Merry Brandybuck rouses the hobbits to rebellion against their oppressors Sharkey and Worm and their ruffians by blowing the bugle-call of Buckland “Fear, Fire, Foes! Awake!” on the Horn of Rohan given him by Eowyn.
From Buckland to “Begin The Begin” is but witness many rings grown on the great tree of socio-political song
Or, as my jazz drummer dad said back in April, 1964, when I brought the Rolling Stones first album home and played it on the Magnavox and he heard “Route 66,” “Nothin’ but the blues.”
It’s all meat on the same bone.