Political Hits In My House

One of the advantages of the digital age is that the Internet allows artists to get songs out there immediately, whether radio plays them or not. Two tracks with political content recently caught my ear: one by a veteran star with topical resonance, another by a relatively unknown act that pays homage to a great American, both of which can be enjoyed with a click of your browser.

“Cough Up The Bucks” by Neil Young — Ticked off about the AIG bonuses, overcompensated investment bankers, and firms that have taken government bailout money still buying new private jets? Well, so is Neil Young. And in this song and video clip he recently debuted on HuffingtonPost.com, he recalls the immediacy of “Ohio,” his Kent State song with CSN&Y nearly 30 years ago, and also channels both grunge rock as well as hints of hip-hop on the chorus. Yes, the song and its clip—which shows Young in yuppie finery riding in a limo—may be vague if not even elliptical. But the message is clear to me: time for the greedy capitalists to return what’s not rightfully theirs. The tune will be featured on Young’s new album, Fork in the Road, inspired by his conversion of his 1959 Lincoln Continental to run on bio-fuels (look for more on the album in this space soon). Gotta love Young for both putting his money where his mouth is and mouthing off to the moneychangers who have debased the temple of American commerce. (www.huffingtonpost.com/neil-young/my-new-video-cough-up-the_b_177967.html)

“The Ballad of Martin Luther King” by Daddy — Topical songwriter Mike Millius penned this number in the wake of King’s 1968 assassination, and it wound up on the cover of Broadside, the esteemed journal of political songwriting. In the hands of this Nashville-based band led by singer/songwriters Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack (disclosure: friends of mine), it sounds fresh as ever and right on time for the Obama years—the fulfillment of King’s dream—some 40 years later. It’s a soulful track with a nice pop-rock kick that will be featured on their upcoming album Father’s Day (which will be released this coming Father’s Day). As the band name and album title indicate, their material often addresses fatherhood—perhaps an unusual topic for a rock band, but these rocking family men follow the precept of “write what you know” to wonderful and touching results. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH_hxN5jW7s).

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2009

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