by Dom Jones
Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed is a quote that still rings true today. While Berklee has the Songs for Social Change class and competition, this kind of music is not the dominant form written among the student body. Should it be? Events in Charlottesville this past weekend, the tenor of global politics, and the overall climate of our country and world right now make music that documents the human struggle both necessary to shift the energy and to never forget the time that we’re living in. It is eerily similar to times we thought we’d left behind, except now, there’s social media, pummeling us with images of violence, messages of hate, and pleas for peace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What kinds of songs are you writing during this time? Are you content to stay in your love bubble or party bubble or random summer road trip bubble when composing? Will you be brave enough to tackle writing music (from your perspective and not appropriating another culture’s experience) that sparks the crucial and uncomfortable conversations needed to provoke the change that we so desperately need?
Nina Simone said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”
Here are 10 songs (both classic and more contemporary) who successfully did just that:
Keep on Pushing – The Impressions
The Charade – D’Angelo
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free – Nina Simone
My Love is Your Love – Whitney Houston
New World Water – Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey)
Kendrick Lamar – Dying of Thirst
John Lennon – Imagine
Macklemore ft. Jamila Woods – White Privilege II
Gil Scott Heron – We Almost Lost Detroit
Michael Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us
The question now becomes: who among us will write the music that will define and document this time that we’re living in? Writing this music takes sacrifice, humility, consideration, passion, and knowledge. It cannot and should not be written as music to fit in with today’s trending news. Life, freedom, and justice are not trends. The composers of this music must engage it with both the sensitivity and the bravery it deserves. Will it be you?
WHAT’S ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE FREEDOM SONGS? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!