Where are today’s protest singers?

July 9, 2006 | By | 3 Replies More

Americans agree strongly that it was a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq:

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll last month found that 59 percent of Americans say the United States erred in going to war in Iraq. Among Democrats, 84 percent said the war was a mistake, up from 59 percent in 2003.

Because this is a highly charged issue on which so many Americans disagree with the Bush administration, it is easy to turn on the radio and hear lots of songs protesting the war, right?  Wrong.  Just try to find protest songs on big-corporate radio.  You won’t succeed.  There is nothing about big corporate media that is more conspicuous by its absence. 

Stephan Smith-Said writes that musicians are composing and singing protest music, but they are not being heard on corporate-owned media: 

They’re on the “don’t add” list at corporate radio stations, where they’ve increasingly been placed since FCC deregulation paved the way for the monopolization of the industry. 

This issue is not hitting getting some more attention in light of Neil Young’s new anti-Bush album, “Living with War,” which is a lonely exception to the rule. Smith-said writes that music produced by the corporate model is “all based on sales, not on social consciousness.”

Stephan Smith-Said is an Iraqi American songwriter whose father’s family lives under the daily threat of bombing in Baghdad and Mosul. His newest single, “Another World Is Possible,” has been released for free at his website StephanSmith.com.  For a video version of Smith-Said’s “The Bell,” click here.

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Category: American Culture, Media, music

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Jason Rayl says:

    Of course, the songs are being recorded and if one knows where to look, one can find them. This is not very different from the Sixties. Then, AM radio ruled, and the only place you heard Phil Ochs was on college campuses, live, or on "underground" FM stations. Corporate America NEVER sponsored protest songs–usually because the music didn't sell well enough to amount to anything like profitability.

    It's easy in hindsight to think of the Sixties as some kind of Golden Age of political awareness, but then you remember that this was the heyday of the Variety Show, cops in well-pressed uniforms, and the Osmond Brothers. Most of the country thought the Counter Culture was an obscenity and the "Silent Majority" elected Richard Nixon.

    Protest songs? You had to dig to find them.

  2. Heather says:

    I agree with Jason that it all has to do with the profit margin. This doesn't differ from any other area in our capitalist society. Sure you don't hear underground protest music on the radio. You probably wouldn't hear any of their music on radio. You do hear protest music from profitable groups. Green Day and Ben Harper, for instance, both have protest songs that are heavily played.

  3. Erika Price says:

    I have to echo Heather here. Numerous popularly-played artists have songs addressing the war or the Bush administration in general. Gorillaz, Kanye West, The Dixie Chicks, Pink, Eminem, Dashboard Confessional, and several others have songs about the war or the President. This article on the subject even likens the boom in politically-themed music to Vietnam.

    However, I do find it frustrating that so many people have come late to the game, so to speak. In the realms of comedy and music, Bush-bashing has become a no-brainer, and in quite a negative way. When people reject Bush but cannot explain why, we haven't really gained any ground at all. We just have the same distracted multitude, repeating whatever popularity declares "fact", and never questioning or thinking for themselves.

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