For some, May 4 has that Star Wars thing going. But for me, it’s always about Kent State, at least since 1970, when four young people were killed at a university in Ohio for conducting a war protest. I’ve written about it before, most extensively here.
Since it’s Saturday, and I usually write about music then, I thought I’d include some songs about war protest. There are SO many of them, covering several wars, or war in general.
I limited my list to songs of which I own a physical copy and those I thought of without picking through the list. I left off the irritating Student Demonstration Time by the Beach Boys, which I described here.
I skipped Give Peace A Chance by John and Yoko because I’ve linked to it plenty of times. Ditto some of the general protest songs; What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye I linked to this spring.
War – Edwin Starr,#1 for three weeks pop, #3 soul in 1970. One of the most successful protest songs commercially. It was recorded by the Temptations first, but Motown decided to withhold their version from single release, fearing a conservative backlash. Bruce Springsteen recorded a live version. I own both of those versions too.
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy – Pete Seeger, 1967. Even though the reference is to 1942, I remember quite well the controversy over Pete banned from performing this on the Smothers Brothers show in September 1967. But CBS relented and allowed him to sing it in February 1968.
Alice’s Restaurant Massacree – Arlo Guthrie, 1967; shortened studio version #97 pop in 1969. A Thanksgiving favorite. Every year for at least the past decade, someone posts on Facebook a newspaper clip showing the littering charge REALLY HAPPENED.
I-Feel-Like–I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag – Country Joe McDonald and the Fish, 1967. Famously performed at Woodstock in 1969 with an augmented Fish cheer.
Unknown Soldier – the Doors, #39 pop in 1968. Vietnam was the first television war.
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival, double-sided single with Down on the Corner, #3 in 1969. Class warfare as well as the military kind.
Business Goes On As Usual – Roberta Flack, 1970. This was originally performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio back in 1965, which I had never heard. This version is from the great Chapter Two album.
Talking Vietnam Potluck Blues – Tom Paxton, 1971. I’m high just thinking about it.
There are a couple more which I am withholding because tho artists are turning 70 this year, and I’ll mention the songs then.