Jules’s Jukebox: Songs for Social Justice

As I enter this bizarre week bookended by juxtaposing events, I can’t help but think of that long arc of history bending toward social justice–and popular music’s strong ties to helping spread the word on our society’s most pressing social issues. Tomorrow, our nation will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Stride toward Freedom while on Friday giving the oath of office to a man who maliciously called one of Dr. King’s civil rights brothers all talk and not action–for the very action of standing up to him. While searching for songs to properly encapsulate this week, I found some amazing lists that I would recommend to anyone for listening (maybe check out this one from Amnesty International). I looked and looked and selected the following two–one for MLK Day and the other for Inauguration Day.

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. This Jim Crowe era song from 1939 describing lynching is an appropriate choice for both occasions this week in reality. Rebecca Ferguson, an X Factor UK singer, offered to sing at DJT’s Inauguration under one condition–that she sing Holliday’s haunting “Strange Fruit.” At last check, she was not on the list featuring acts such as Toby Keith, Jackie Evancho, and 3 Doors Down. And now that DJT is no longer attending his MLK Day event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one would think a reach out to this key constituency would be in order. Instead, he doubles down on the insults to civil rights leaders.

To capture what all my right-wing friends think about where I live and what I believe, I chose to add a little dark irony to the mix. This song was originally written in 1979 as a piece of Juvenalian satire against California Governor Jerry Brown (yes, he is our governor again, hence my tongue is planted in my cheek). Since Governor Brown has vowed that California will work to protect the environment despite a DJT administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations, this seems like a perfect song highlight the dichotomy and divided nature of the right’s view of all of us flakey La La Land libs against the pervasive views of the progressives’ views of DJT and his incoming administration.

“California Über Alles” by The Dead Kennedys–a single in 1979, released in 1980 on the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

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