A Soundtrack to the Occupation
Recently, a New York Times piece asked “Where have all the protest songs gone?”, and lamented the lack of popular protest songs in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement. While it is true that Tricky Stewart and The-Dream have yet to write a song about election finance reform for Beyoncé and it’s doubtful that The Weeknd’s next mixtape will deal with the plight of the 99 percent, music has nevertheless been very present at Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots around the United States and the world, sometimes in the form of protest music but often simply as a show of solidarity for the movement.
In New York, the occupiers have been visited by Tom Morello, who performed several songs and spoke out in support of the movement in the street and on television; Michael Franti similarly sang and spoke; folk legends Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Tom Paxton marched through the streets of New York and sang protest anthems; Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum also performed for the occupiers, as did rapper Talib Kweli as well as Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright, who performed a spirited cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl”. Several other musicians have also attended and spoken at some of the protests, such as rappers Immortal Technique, Lupe Fiasco and David Banner. Even superstar Kanye West joined hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons to make an appearance (albeit a silent one).
Some of these artists have also taken part in activities of the Occupy movement in other cities: Morello performed at Occupy Los Angeles and spoke at Occupy Vancouver and Occupy San Francisco; Franti performed at Occupy Amsterdam; and Lupe Fiasco showed his support for Occupy Chicago and Occupy Oakland.
Elsewhere around the world, occupiers have been visited by musicians of various levels of popularity and celebrity: D.O.A.’s Joey “Shithead” Keithley in Ottawa; the Nozuka brothers and Cale Sampson in Toronto; folk group Seize the Day in London; Billy Bragg and Jinx Lennon in Dublin; former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra in San Francisco and in Melbourne; Portugal. The Man in Minneapolis and in Philadelphia; and One Tribe Nation and The Lovely Wild in Los Angeles. In Berlin, occupiers have created a song titled “Asamblea Worldwide”, with unlimited verses to be added by people joining in.
If you know of any other examples, feel free to add them in the comments!