May 10 2012
Perhaps, the first great singer that comes to mind is the fearless Woodie Guthrie. Responsible for penning timeless protest songs, which, much to his disappointment, (if he was still alive today) were picked up by overtly nationalist and republican parties of the time as their party anthem. Woodie was instantly recognisable for his thin and clear voice and deep felt political lyrics. Though he wrote many great songs, he will forever be known as the composer of This Land Is Your Land which was originally titled God Bless America for Me. Sick of hearing God Bless America on the radio, which Woodie deeply disliked, he penned this folk anthem which went down in history and still remains one of the most popular American folk songs.
Bob Dylan was deeply influenced by Guthrie and the latter mentored the former. They remained friends for a long time. And although Dylan needs no mention, and it is a known fact that he penned some brilliant political/protest songs with folk and rock sensibilities, perhaps the one song that strikes a chord and hearts of all ages is The Times They Area a-Changin’. The song has been bastardised and used in commercials of banks and insurance companies and many critics claim the song became outdated as soon as it was written. Even though Dylan seems to have gone completely bonkers (for lack of a better term) now — so much so that his ardent fans wonder if he did ever truly mean the words he wrote or if he simply want to ride the wave of change that was sweeping the nation when he penned the song, it remains a classic and a favourite of many.
When one thinks of the music genre ‘reggae’ the first person that undoubtedly comes to mind is Bob Marley. In 1979, when he had been diagnosed with cancer, Marley sat down with an acoustic and recorded the ever-famous Redemption Song. Deeply personal, the song was a major departure from his reggae style, with the original recording being strictly acoustic. The lack of a full band backing the Rastafarian singer lends a melancholic touch to the song, allowing Marley to fill all the empty space with his soulful voice – one can clearly feel that he is trying to deal with his own mortality, apart from other things, in the track.
Eddie Vedder will forever be known as the lead singer of seminal grunge band, Pearl Jam. But most of us realised that the man can hold his own after the movie, Into the Wild and its soundtrack came out. Though a lot of Pearl Jam’s songs are political and protest-y in nature, Into the Wild introduced us to Vedder’s songs, which had a personal touch interspersed with his socio-political understanding of the world sans his band. The track Guaranteed really stands out from the rest in this way, having a few simple chords finger picked throughout its length, the song is truly haunting.