Thursday, September 20, 2012

People Got to Be Free

Protest Songs/Message Music: Part 2

Today's first protest song comes from one of our favorite roots rock bands Creedence Clearwater Revival, known for their dedication to homegrown American music. Released in September 1969, CCR released "Fortunate Son," a double A-sided single with "Down on the Corner," and first reached #14 on the US chart the week before Billboard changed its methodology on double-sided hits. Eventually, this track and its reverse side combined peaked at #3 by the end of the year, and ["Fortunate Son"] has since been ranked #99 on Rolling Stones' list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."  This roots/blues rock song was popular during the Vietnam War and is included in several Vietnam films and video games. Written and produced by lead singer John Fogerty, it is the perspective of a man who is being drafted who is not "fortunate" enough to be the son of a Senator or a millionaire. Featured on The Ed Sullivan Show, here's an excellent live performance that sounds just like the recording! 
Before the dissolution of The Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono formed a conceptual supergroup in 1969 called the Plastic Ono Band with various members including Eric Clapton (guitarist on the left in this clip), artist Klaus Voormann, future Yes drummer Alan White, and The Who's drummer Keith Moon, among others.Written by Lennon and recorded during his 'Bed-In' honeymoon, "Give Peace a Chance" was released in July of 1969 as his first solo single while still a member of The Beatles. Peaking at #2 in the UK and #14 in the US, this song quickly became the anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and is one of Lennon's most famous songs to be included on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Credited to the Plastic Ono Band (an identity to describe works by Lennon and Ono and anyone else who happened to be performing with them), here's a live performance in Toronto in '69, which supposedly gave Lennon the confidence to tell the other Beatles a few days later that he was leaving the band.
Often referred to as the "British Bob Dylan," Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan covered this next protest song in the mid-60s. Originally written and recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1964, "Universal Soldier" didn't gain much attention until the budding folk singer Donovan recorded his version and released it as a single in August of 1965, reaching #5 on the UK charts. Sainte-Marie said this folk song was about "individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all." Since, this tune has been recorded by several other artists including The Highwaymen, Glen Campbell, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs, as well as several foreign singers. Performing before a captive audience, here's Donovan's version of the consummate anti-war song.
We'll conclude today's post with an upbeat one by American blue-eyed soul group The Rascals (initially know as The Young Rascals). Becoming a big hit in the turbulent summer of 1968, "People Got to Be Free" spent five weeks at #1 in the US, as well as reaching #14 on the Billboard Black Singles chart, and eventually sold 4 million copies. Written by group members Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, this horn-punctuated plea for tolerance and freedom struck a particular chord in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. After the release of this song, The Rascals refused to tour on segregated bills, and if an African American act was not included at their concerts, the group would cancel several shows in protest. With Cavaliere on lead vocals and rock organ, here's another dynamic live performance by The Rascals in 1969.

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