Monday, June 30, 2008

Something Worse: My 4th of July Mix

While driving home from Milwaukee, Wisconsin last Friday after talking to people outside of the food pantry where the near food riot occurred and some antiwar students, I was appalled to stumble upon the local oldies radio station's "4th of July Request Hour". Expecting to be bombarded by jingoistic drivel a la 'Proud to Be An American' (which was eventually requested), I was more pissed to hear a proud request for Springsteen's 'Born in the U.S.A.'. Now, any person who has actually read the lyrics to the song can readily tell that the Boss is not lavishing Uncle Sam with praise, but railing against a country that sends its poor and dispossessed to die in foreign wars and then kicks them when they return (prison, no jobs, no healthcare, etc). Given that Springsteen has been probably the only artist to consistently take up the issue of war vets in the US (from Vietnam to Iraq) throughout his entire career ('Lost in the Flood', 'Highway Patrolman', 'Nothing Man', 'Devils and Dust' and most of Magic) this misconception from the Right–and more frustratingly from the Left–really pisses me off. So, I was inspired to create a mix that helps to musically undercut the flag waiving nonsense and ideological underpinnings of the 4th and the American Dream.

I'm not going to comment on all of my selections, but the first warrants it:

Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen (Original recording - found on Tracks)

So, part of the misconception of this tune, in my opinion, revolves around the instrumental/synth/foot pounding rock affirmation of the popularized version. However, this song was oringally recorded during the Nebraska sessions. It has a haunting, acoustic, desperate feel to it like the rest of that album and really drips with a palatable disgust and rejection of what it means to be born in the USA. Especially given the nature of the rest of the material that made it on to Nebraska - songs dealing with people pushed to desperate actions or completely crushed by a system that has forgotten them - it is impossible to miss Springsteen's intentions. So, I highly recommend getting a copy of the song.

Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) - Marvin Gaye

Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes - Propagandhi

Crushed Again - Son of Nun

Pusherman - Curtis Mayfield

I Should Be Proud - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (great, fairly obscure antiwar song about a woman who loses her partner in Vietnam)

The Inquisition - The N.O.M.A.D.S. Vs the Philistines (two great Palestinian American hip hop groups. Props for a brilliant sampling of Mel Brooks' History of the World)

Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday

Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Bourgeois Blues - Leadbelly

Revolution (feat. Busta Rhymes) - 2pac (The interviews with Pac on this track are DEVASTATING!)

Underdogs - The Coup

The Backlash Blues - Nina Simone

Welcome to the Terrordome - Pharaohe Monch

Living for the City - Stevie Wonder

Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman

Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos - Public Enemy

Down in Mississippi - Mavis Staples

Tomorrow's Justice - The Arab Summit (This hip hop act's album is entitled "Fear of an Arab Planet". Nuff said).

Maria - Rage Against the Machine

The River - Bruce Springsteen

With the utter meltdown of the American Dream that's taken place over the last 30 years, Bruce's question posed in The River - and one which must be considered by all the 47 million uninsured Americans, thousands of downtrodden vets, 12 million undocumented immigrants and millions of struggling working families every day - and especially on the 4th - must be answered: Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse? It's worse. Much worse.

**** Please post your suggestions to add to the list/comments/criticisms. Many more warrant a place. This is the link to download a copy of the mix. I apologize in advance for all of the sexist advertising on the upload site.