There have been a few songs through the years that have had a profound impact on our generation. We all remember Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind", John Lennon's "Imagine" and Neil Young's "Four Dead in Ohio". These were protest songs jettisoned to the mainstream by street demonstrations and irrevocable tragic events.
The three songs below are not necessarily generation-defining protest songs but all profoundly probe the veiled deceptions of American exceptionalism. All three are great tunes on their own, but listened to as a trilogy, they each become even more intriguing and enlightening...
A nine-minute epic, Steppenwolf's "Monster/Suicide/America" is a timeless masterpiece. Written in the heyday of Vietnam, it is not only an anti-war protest song, frighteningly relevant 30 years later; but an intelligently-crafted lesson in American history. From it's portrayal of America's kind-spirited origins (“Chasing the promise of freedom and hope") to it's hypocritical treatment of Native Americans (“While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland... We began the slaughter of the red man”), the song is shout out for all to recognize that America has lost it's way.
The lyrics easily stand the test of time and are written with amazing intelligence and insight. IMHO—considering what has transpired over the last decade in mainstream American culture—this song should be compulsory listening in all of our schools!
Another timeless masterpiece, Simon and Garfunkel's America is a bittersweet tune about a young couple's journey in search of the elusive American Dream. The song has always resonated deeply for so many of us, serving as a metaphor for our own life's adventure. We start off with an optimistic exuberance that slowly evolves to a gnawing feeling of emptiness as the years wear on.
From the (now wrecked) industrial heartland (Saginaw, Michigan), the protagonist goes off to seek his fortunes elsewhere in the vast expanse of America and comes to the slow realization that American dream that our parents told us is not true. The vast majority who are lost and lack direction, often stay that way, wandering aimlessly, endlessly searching for the elusive "pot of gold"...
"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America...
Who Discovered America? by Ozomatli is a great song that vividly articulates the promises and perils of America since it's inception. Still relevant today, the probing lyrics describe not only the entrancing spell of freedom and lush greenery to all who visit, but also dramatically details the dark deceptions and dangers that just as easily will ensnare you.
We Americans are ALL immigrants in one way or another, but equally patriotic and proud of the beautiful land we conquered to live in. Mesmerized by it's promises of freedom and self-made riches, we are victims (and culprits) in perpetuating this myth...
-- Oct 21st, 2011 --