Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Songwriters and musicians support Songs for Social Justice

In previous decades, the pop charts have had an abundance of politically motivated songs which have provided a soundtrack to the everyday realities faced by young people. As part of the Songs for Social Justice, the STUC spoke to a number of artists that are renowned for their politicized songs.

Jerry Dammers is active with Love Music Hate Racism; he was a founding member of Artists Against Apartheid and was heavily involved in Rock Against Racism. He is probably best known for being the powerhouse behind The Specials and the 2Tone record label. His band The Special AKA wrote and performed ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ which reached number 9 in the singles chart in 1984.

Jerry Dammers (The Specials / The Spatial AKA Orchestra / The Special AKA / Founder of 2Tone)
“I personally would advise all musicians and artists of all ages to wake up to what is happening in the world and address it in their work. Record companies may tell artists it will damage their career, but I think in the big picture the opposite is true. If artists don’t try and address serious issues at all, we are all, including the record companies, in danger of becoming a bit redundant. Pop music at its best has always had at least a bit of a connection to the social revolution.”

In addition to the DJs and musicians performing on the 26th of January, a number of other musicians renowned for their political music have supported the project.

Eddi Reader has also written and performed on a number of songs with a social message. Prior to singing with Fairground Attraction and embarking on a successful solo career, she was a backing singer with the post-punk band Gang of Four.

Eddi Reader
“In my experience, songs help describe hurt, loss, pain, love.  Sometimes a song will hit and soften the hardest heart even more effectively than someone shouting or debating.  I rely on song.  Patience of Angels was sung because single mothers were being demonised by the, then, Conservative Government, under John Major.  I wanted to redress that unfairness by supporting people who ended up bringing up kids alone due to circumstances and fate.  The words of that song supported me, and I hope others.”

Paul Simpson was a founding member of The Teardrop Explodes along with Julian Cope. After leaving the band, he formed The Wild Swans and released the classic ‘The Revolutionary Spirit’ in 1982. In 2011 The Wild Swans released a new album ‘The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years’.

Paul Simpson (The Wild Swans)
“For some youngsters the lyrics in a song are of secondary importance to the music, but for me they are crucial. In 1977 I was an unemployed school leaver struggling to define myself in a difficult time of mass unemployment similar to the recession we are going through now, but through the words and music of the more politicised bands like The Clash and The Gang Of Four I discovered an alternative worldview to the one presented by my parents and the Evening News. If the words in a song are meaningless the song is rendered impotent, just aural chewing gum and as such will be valued the same and just as quickly discarded. Words can inspire, illuminate, beautify the world or spread dissent, they can be jewels or food or ammunition. Don’t undervalue or waste your words.”

In the build up to the Songs for Social Justice events, we will be publishing short blogs on popular songs that we feel are about social justice. Songs by the artists above that fit with this can be accessed at the links below:

Special AKA – Free Nelson Mandela

Eddi Reader – Patience of Angels

The Wild Swans - English Electric Lightning

Songs for Social Justice dance night featuring guest DJ Jerry Dammers -
o      Thursday 26th January
o      STUC Centre, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow
o      6.45pm – midnight
o      Tickets £8/£4 Available direct from the STUC - 0141 337 8100

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