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woody guthrie

Woody Guthrie. Photo: Wikipedia

Now is the time to get creative and infuse our music and culture with politics, argues Dave Randall

Trump is causing misery with every stroke of his presidential pen and the far right are gaining ground in Europe. Those of us who want a better world have a fight on our hands. One battlefield is culture. Forty years on from Rock Against Racism, we once again need a grass-roots explosion of creative dissent – and it's coming. Its stirrings could be seen on last month's magnificent women's marches. From the official stages, artists including Madonna, Alicia Keys, Lilly Allen, Janelle Monáe and Sleater-Kinney delivered performances and speeches, while on the streets themselves a multitude of improvised chants, marching bands and songs reverberated across cities around the world. In the midst of the Washington march, LA based artist MILCK gave a moving flash-mob style performance of “I Can't Keep Quiet” while elsewhere thousands hollered “Small hands, small feet; All he does is tweet, tweet, tweet”.

The National, Kim Gordon, Rihanna, Yoko Ono and Jeff Tweedy took part in related events and in New York, church bells rang out Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. Trump's 'Muslim ban' has elicited denunciations from Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, Questlove, Deadmau5, Charli XCX, Tegan and Sara, Bat for Lashes, Ed Droste, John Legend, Queens Of The Stone Age and many others. Meanwhile Grimes and Sia have kickstarted campaigns supporting organizations fighting against Trump. These musicians join a proud tradition. Woody Guthrie was the first artist to challenge a chump called Trump. In 1950, on moving to a Coney Island apartment block, he became dismayed by the overtly racist policies of his landlord Fred C. Trump – Donald's dad. Woody penned the following poem:

I suppose
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
Racial Hate
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project

The poem found its way into a song, covered last year by Ryan Harvey and featuring Ani DiFranco and Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello.

The world has changed. No longer will jaded journalists get away with claiming that there is no political music anymore. They were always wrong, but soon the joyous cacophony of resistance will be loud enough to penetrate even their clouded conciousness. So let's get to it. Whatever your creative outlet, now is the time to get busy.

Dave Randall

Dave Randall

Dave Randall is a musician and author of Sound System: The Political Power of Music

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