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Saturday, February 11, 2012


While I was making dinner, Susie put on a CD of Pete Seegar songs.  I was struck once again by the oft-remarked fact that for half a century, the left has had all the good songs.  That cannot be irrelevant.


Jacob T. Levy said...

Couldn't resist.
Remember the war against Franco!
That's the kind where each of us belongs.
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs.

Scott said...

This post reminded me of the Top 100 Conservative Rock Songs that National Review compiled a while ago:

Funny stuff

Scott said...

Upon rereading it I noticed that it was only the top 50

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M said...

This reminds me of the line that is often attributed to Emma Goldman. (She seems not to have uttered it, but whatever.) "If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.

Michael said...

I'd just like to take this opportunity to tout the always wonderful Billy Bragg:

(He's a bit rougher round the edges than Seeger,but they can't all have silky voices)

James Miehls said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Miehls said...

Apologies in advance for this. If I hadn't just returned from a concert I would never bother to nitpick at something like this.

Respectfully speaking as both a Marxist and a fan of your blog...

People that are aiming to be in, singing about, etc. the bourgeois elite have released some musical masterpieces in the last 20 years.

The bourgeois culture I spend much my life subverting has given us a lot of good music. To be honest about it, I find most of the contemporary music of the left does nothing more than whine about being on the left.
The other side of this coin is that people unabashedly trying to get rich in our society have provided much of the best music of the past two decades.
For example:
All good Detroit boys like myself love Seger, so I am not going to argue his greatness, I just want to point out that over the past 20 years or so leftist music has been much like the American social left: Unappealing to those without a vested interest, and fragmented.
The left used to have all the good songs, sure. The left today needs something to unite it, a good song would be a start, and it has been a while since we have had one.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Sigh. I stand exposed for the old fogey that I really am. Since there has not been any popular music of the past half century that I liked, with the exception of early Beatles,I should have known better than to offer opinions on the subject. Better I should stick to the Labor Theory of Value, about which critics are more gentle. :)

Charles Pigden said...

In response to Scott. Most of the so-called conservative songs on this list could only be construed as conservative by stretching the definition of 'conservative ' to breaking point. If you are against some aspects of 'Left' culture or politics that doesn't make you a conservative and it doesn't make your songs conservative either.

On the other hand, I really hate Pete Seegar and his depressing whiney lyrics. I'm not that keen on Billy Bragg either.

The best rock lyrics are politically neutral as thy are about longing, betrayal, lust etc. Social justice (if we ever achieve it) won't do away with these things.

Scott said...

Reading the article it's obvious that they're grasping at straws. Hence the phrase "funny stuff"

I'm surprised "Another Brick in the Wall" didn't make it since it's obviously an ode to homeschooling

Don Schneier said...

Reagan's attempt in 1984 to spin Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' as a jingoistic anthem is, at minimum, an expression of desperation. Furthermore, that Sixties-basher Ann Coulter is a proud fan of the Grateful Dead perhaps epitomizes the dishonesty, hypocrisy, self-delusion, or even profound psychic rupture, of reactionaries.

Jerry Fresia said...

To James Miehls - I may be in the semi-old fogey category; I checked out the Jay-Z youtube reference and at first thought that you offered it up as some kind of satire of good music. Man, I could just about sit through it. If I had to come up with a critique beyond that it is just plain torture to listen to I guess I would say that it is a formula - the kiss of death in any legitimate art world, one would hope.

Jim Smethurst said...

Pete Seeger is about the least whiney, most positive (at least in performance) person on the planet as far as I can tell. He's been fighting the good fight for more than sixty years. He was also into world music before there was even a catchy phrase for it.

In point of fact, there's plenty of good socially conscious music (about class, race, gender, capitalist exploitation, etc.) in almost every genre--far more than there is good rightwing music. Re: hip hop. If you want a biting critique of racism and the culture wars in the post 9/11 (pre-Obama) U.S., check out the video of Ice Cube's "Gangster Rap Made Me Do It" on YouTube.

James Miehls said...

Just to be clear, I was being a little bit glib and sarcastic.
Seger has survived and thrived and has music on every jukebox in North America for a reason.
Being reactionary around things like this is always a good way to make a point about the propagation of hegemony in culture. The link I posted was intended in this way, and nothing more.

Unknown said...

Well, most artists today generally are politically on the Left, so it would not be surprising that music is any different. But art art comes more from emotion than clear thinking about economics and politics, so your comment begs the question about the truth, cognitive value and "relevance" of their songs. For Plato, Art is thrice removed from reality, however entertaining and inspirational it might be. But even if it is once removed, its "relevance" is questionable.