Classic Protest Songs: Second Edition
By: Paulanne Simmons
When many of us think of protest songs, we picture Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or Phil Ochs strumming guitars and singing at marches, cafes and concert halls. But as Scott Siegel showed in his Classic Protest Songs: Second Edition at Metropolitan Room on Friday, Feb. 10, the history is much richer.
Of course the evening did include a few of the classic protest songs of the 60s. Alex Getlin san Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and Laila Robbins sang Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Woodstock.” But there was also a fair sampling of much older songs. Jillian Louis sang Woody Guthrie’s 1940 “This Land is Your Land,” with the original, more controversial lyrics and Sal Viviano sang Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney’s Depression era “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
Siegel’s definition of protest songs is rather broad, including a good number of what we might call “inspirational” songs. Here Broadway had a major presence. Walker Jones sang “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific and Pepe Nufrio sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the songwriting team’s “Carousel.”
The evening ended, most appropriately, with Pepe Nufrio and the Broadway By the Year Chorus rendering a powerful interpretation of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil’s Les Misérables.
Given the state of politics in the U.S. at this time, it’s not surprising that many of the songs were extremely heartfelt. Louis’s “This Land Is Your Land” including feisty audience participation. An American flag was unfurled at the end of “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
Perhaps Siegel really has it right. Protest songs and inspirational songs work hand-in-hand. Without hope their can be no resistance, and without resistance there is little hope.