Twenty Songs to Celebrate the American Revolutions for July 4, 2017
The first official revolution in Northern America took place in 1776. Over the course of history, revolutionary rumblings occurred both before and after that time. The American Revolution successfully showed that what was then the mightiest world power (England) could be bumped back to Britain by a bunch of scrappy, rebellious colonists who could transform themselves into an army of Patriots and win a war for their homeland. July 4, 2017 celebrates 241 years since ye olde thirteen colonies resoundingly said ‘don't go there’ to English rule. Beginning in 1765, bands of Americans began to get up, stand up for their rights. The British Tea Party sent out its invitations in 1773 to protest taxation and by late 1774, a fledgling Colonial government was being set-up. When British regulars attempted to destroy Colonial military supplies at Concord and Lexington all hell broke loose and shots were fired, so loud that they could be heard around the world. The Patriots militia fought and won a war, with a Declaration of Independence being written and signed in the stifling Philadelphia, Pennsylvania summer in times before air conditioning, ice machines, and casual Fridays.
The Alternate Root sends out fireworks by way of twenty songs to support the efforts of the men and women who gave us our independence as well as approving, encouraging, and upholding the ongoing need for a revolution to continue worldwide. The power struggle is not over, and may well never be over as long as a small well-funded power source trie to take rights away from a larger group. Our list shows that the voices of men and women will never be silenced, and that revolution will always have a soundtrack played at The Alternate Root.
01 Revolution – The Beatles (from the album White Album)
In its original release, what has come to be known as The White Album had no name on the cover or album title. The Beatles were revolutionary on many levels, both as songwriters, as artists, and as human beings. When The Beatles spoke, people listened, and when the Fab Four asked ‘you say you want a revolution’, the answer from a worlwide population was ‘tell me more’.
02 One Guitar – Willie Nile (from the album the Innocent Ones)
Willie Nile stood at the front of the marchers during the Occupy Wall Street movement with “One Guitar”. The song symbolizes revolution, and how musicians can make a difference. The track became an anthem for Willie, and a clarion call that signaled that if you have a song and a way to play it, your voice can be heard.
03 Not Ready to Make Nice - Dixie Chicks (from the album Taking the Long Way)
The song originally took aim at ignorant Country Music radio programmers who used the pressure of being banned from playlists as a threat to the Dixie Chicks. The trio had been badmouthing George W Bush, and telling audiences on tour what an embarrassment he was to America. Natalie Maines continues to talk about her embarrassment during the current political debacle via her tweets.
04 The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott-Heron (from the album Pieces of Man)
Even though the refences in Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” are seriously outdated, the snarl of his delivery, and the pride in his words, have lost none of the bite of his original message. Do not expect things to be the same once the revolution has landed
05 Don't Give Up - Southern Avenue (from the album Southern Avenue)
Memphis, Tennessee has always been a hotbed for the sounds of revolution from the early days of rock’n’roll. Soul music continues to spark rebellion as the words of Southern Avenue inspire and support with the message of “Don’t Give Up” from the band’s self-titled debut on Stax Records.
06 Rican Beach - Hurray for the Riff Raff (from the album The Navigator)
Alynda Lee Segarra sang an opus to her Puerto Rican heritage on the last Hurray for the Riff Raff release, The Navigator. Hurray for the Riff Raff literally draw a line in the sand to defend the territory on a track from the album, using “Rican Beach” to point a finger at gentrification.
07 The Revolution Starts Now - Steve Earle and the Dukes (from the album The Revolution Starts Now)
Rock’n’Roll guitars are the trumpets that stomp and holler in the title track from Steve Earle and the Dukes album, The Revolution Starts Now. Steve Earle champions digging out fear and tearing down walls, giving rebellion a beat with the words of an agitator.
08 Freedom Highway - Rhiannon Giddens(from the album Freedom Highway)
Rhiannon Giddens creates a groove that makes her the pied piper the faithful down the “Freedom Highway”. She questions why some people believe that freedom is not shared by all of humanity. To that end, Rhiannon is marching and encouraging anyone within hearing range to follow.
09 The Shape I'm In - The Band (from the album Stage Fright)
The message was from The Band was less about music from Big Pink and more into taking it to the streets. There is an innocence to the phrase ‘don’t you know their trying to shuck us’ as The Band use Roots music to state they are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
10 Refugee Moon - Eric Bibb (from the album Migration Blues)
Eric Bibb traces a trail of humanity that no longer feels safe in their homes. From wandering in the desert, to the trail of tears, and on into the great migration from the slave plantations of the south to the industrial cities of the north the common soundtrack is the “Refugee Moon”.
11 Universal Soldier - Buffy Sainte-Marie (from the album It’s My Way)
Size does not matter, and neither does skin color, religion, social status, geography, or citizenship. Buffy Sainte-Marie points out the “Universal Soldier” could be from anywhere and everywhere. At the end of the day, we are that solider.
12 Revolution - Bob Marley and the Wailers (from the album Natty Dread)
Very little about Bob Marley was not based in revolution. He was the voice that led his people out of the oppression of a government to on keep Jamaican citizens a poor, uneducated people. He brought reggae to the world, inventing a genre as he fearlessly took on a political power who wanted him dead.
13 Riot and Revolution - Cecile Doo-Kingue (from the album Anybody Listening)
Cecile Doo-Kinogue demands change over a non-stop beat that pounds the ground to shake up the status quo. She is singing of “Riot and Revolution” with a guitar riff that carves out a path for people to follow as it winds and wiggles over the Star Spangled Banner.
14 Delete and Fast Forward - Willie Nelson (from the album God’s Problem Child)
Willie Nelson takes us back only a few months, barely over one hundred days, though it certainly seems like an eternity. He points out that the results of the recent election were that nobody won. Rather than marching and shouting, Willie suggests that we simple follow the lead of technology and “Delete and Fast Forward”.
15 Street Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones (from the album Beggars Banquet)
The bad boys of rock’n’roll became champions of the common man when they carried a torch to lead the masses forward for a ‘palace revolution’. The Rolling Stones were the “Street Fighting Man” that woke up the peaceful sleep of a hippie generation and urged them to take up a sword.
16 Once They Banned Imagine - Drive-By Truckers (from the album American Band)
Drive-By Truckers are singing for ‘the huddled masses with boots up their asses’. They talk about the problems as they offer solutions in setting our sails to the wind. They cite the event that freedom turned around into oppression was “Once They Banned Imagine”.
17 Need to Be Free - North Mississippi Allstars (from the album Prayer for Peace)
Stomping out a beat from their hill country base, North Mississippi Allstars set the record straight for their home state. The band know what freedom is by looking at the past as the tear a sonic hole in preconceived ideas with “Need to Be Free”
18 Boston Town - Della Mae (from the album Della Mae)
Even on a small scale, little actions hold big changes. The women who marched for rights in the garment industry demanded equal pay from a male-dominated hierarchy that used Biblical scripture as the reason that women would earn the same as men. The women in “Boston Town” lit a match that started a fire that still burns.
19 Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman (from the album Tracy Chapman)
Just as every journey begins with the first step, revolutions start with a whisper. Tracy Chapman reminds us of that miracle. We don’t need to act immediately. We can listen, and look, and watch before we storm the barricades and elicit needed change.
20 What About Me - Quicksilver Messenger Service (from the album Classic Masters)
Revolution was the currency in San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury district during the late 1960’s. The sound of a youth culture spread and soon the neighborhood message was reverberating around the globe as Quicksilver Messenger Service asked “What About Me?”.