Music to Occupy By
Sandy O & Pat Humphries, emma’s revolution
“We are here, we are here, we are here!” While this could have been the chant at the many Occupies we’ve been singing at wherever we tour these days, it comes from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who!, when Cindy Lou Who cries out to protect her microscopic community from the giant neighbors who refuse to believe she exists.
Sandy pictured herself in Cindy Lou’s shoes after reading a recent New York Times article headlined “At the Protests, the Message Lacks a Melody.” The article wondered, “Where have all the protest songs gone?” and went on to convince itself that there aren’t any. This was an exasperating read for activist musicians, especially activist women musicians. Of 20+ performers referred to in the article, only two were women (they weren’t us). Of seven people quoted (musicians, critics and writers), exactly zero were women. And, of course, it was all the more exasperating because the NYT was simply wrong.
Two days earlier, a Washington Post article had rightly declared “Occupy Wall Street Inspires a New Generation of Protest Songs.” And, this time, ours was one of the songs featured. Riffing on a FaceBook post that read “The U.S. should invade the U.S. and win the hearts and minds of the people,” Pat wrote “Occupy the USA” with a rousing, tongue-in-cheek chorus:
“Welcome to the U.S. Occupation,
To win the hearts and minds,
Defend all humankind.
Tell the banks and the corporations,
We’re here to occupy the USA.”
David Rovics’ song “Occupy Wall Street (We’re Gonna Stay Right Here)” was also profiled. David took on the challenge of answering mainstream journalists’ repeated query, “But, why are you occupying Wall Street?” The song unleashes a compelling litany of answers, beginning with:
“Because this is where they buy the politicians,
Because this is where power has its seat,
Because ninety-nine percent of us are suffering,
At the mercy of the madmen on this street.”
We knew that the article was just the beginning of the story, so we put the Times’ question out to the L1K list. The response was great and—with responses from beyond L1K—greatly more representative in terms of gender. (Also greatly more voluminous than we can fit here so check out the stories, lyrics, songs and videos at www.emmasrevolution.com/revolution/activistmusic/.)
L1K folks are adapting old songs. From Rik Palieri: “The bankers got bailed out—we shall not be moved—We got sold out—we shall not be moved . . .” and Dave Lippman wrote “The Occupation Is On” (a parody of “The Panic Is On”, a 1930s Hezekiah Jenkins song): “I need a job to pay my debts, Money talks too much, shuts up all the rest, Downsized and merged across the nation, Lost my job, found an occupation, Doggone, occupation is on.”
Other musicians (including those who have fallen off the L1K rolls) have written new songs for the movement. L1Kers Evan Greer and Deborah Van Kleef both have songs in progress at the time of this writing.
And L1Kers are taking the songs to the streets: Holly Near, after learning during a concert intermission in Albany NY that police were set to disperse the nearby occupation, “designed the second set to be all about action. . . . 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.” Their action ended up helping to avert the eviction.
We are here. We are here. We are here.