19 August 2013

Song in My Mind

Before Rock Music obscured the folk music that had spanned the depression, war, and post-war periods, there were a lot of folk singers abroad In a small way, Sue-z and I were two of them, spending time in coffee houses, attending concerts (and yes, protests,) singing the songs, and for me learning to play them on the banjo and guitar. In some sense that makes us, I fear, historical artifacts.

We may be more useful soon. In Republican States where women are treated as a resource instead of as people, where deliberate "voter suppression" laws proliferate, and where minor things, constitutions, Supreme court rulings, and common decency never get in the way of the drive to white, male privilege, we may find some new protest music topical.

Bard, minstrels, and musicians, learn I think, to think in songs. That is, when an issue is on our minds, we are likely to hear songs about then in our heads. That is why there are so many love songs. It is also why we start humming, or practicing a particular song while we are thinking about some issue, or being shown some story on the media's news screens.

I won't speculate here on how this works in the world of Rap. We should notice that their topics often revolve around the failure of our society to offer any real integration pathway. Those whose ancestors were freed, still wait for justice, and acceptance.

Lately, some of the songs floating around my mind have been protest songs. I have been singing, and playing some of the Civil War and Civil Rights era songs. "Oh Freedom," "If You Can't Find Me," and the Dylan song, "The Times They Are a Changing" have become practice tunes. Which is interesting because I have been playing mostly for a church audience. The songs do not at first glance, fit.

Or do they? Maybe they fit in the future I fear, and have come to expect. Maybe they fit the present I have not yet acknowledged. Maybe, the times are shifting and those songs, not yet written, are the songs we must sing. Certainly when one sees the neo-fascist regimes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana attacking women, Muslims, blacks, and Latinos, it is time to start some activism. And we know the songs that tell people they matter, and that they can effect change are an important part of movements. It is perhaps time to "organize, strategize, and do some voting." (HT to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.)

Churches did not emerge from the civil rights era unscathed, and the emergence of Pope Francis is an interesting bell-weather indicator. Liberation theology is becoming mainstream. Be very afraid if you are on the "tea party" side of the street: there are Islamic, Protestant, Jewish, and even Neo Pagan expressions.

My damaged fingers do not like guitars much these days, and my banjo needs more repair than I can afford. But my dulcimers are singing for me, and I still have part of my voice if not all, so hand me down my music. Anyone want start some voter registration and get out the vote efforts?


Unknown said...

Bell wether refers to a castrated ram that's trained to lead a herd of sheep; it usually wears a bell to act as a rally point for the sheep that can't see it.
Weather is the rain and snow and wind and so forth.
"I am the tainted wether of the flock/meetest for slaughter" in Shakespeare, for example.

JimB said...


Point taken. I will edit the post.

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