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sing4peace Have anti-war songs changed anything? (108* d) RE: Have anti-war songs changed anything? 12 Sep 09

I'm a newbie here at Mudcat, came across this thread and had to add a story about my friend, Joe Labriola. Joe was a Marine in Vietnam, did two tours, came out with a body full of shrapnel and a chest full of medals and started working as a recruiter. One day he was riding to work when he heard Phil Ochs on the radio singing: I've Got Something To Say, Sir (and I'm gonna say it now). He told me it was as if a hammer had hit him on the head, split it open and let the light come shining in. He got to the office and asked the other recruiters whether any of them had questions about the war they had fought. He was told that with thinking like that he was no use to them anymore and he was fired on the spot. Phil's song had everything to do with Joe's 180 degree turnaround on the war. (To find out more about what happened to Joe please check out:

If songs weren't so powerful, Clear Channel communications would not have issued their infamous banned songs list in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Remember how ridiculous it was to have "Imagine" considered subversive?

A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of a recording with many of the original people who sang together as "the Freedom Singers". Their singing was featured often in the public television documentary series "Eyes on the Prize". The Freedom Singers were a totally cooking vocal ensemble. They were absolutely essential to the civil rights struggle - some of them were Freedom Riders - all of them had been part of various civil disobedience campaigns as they fought Jim Crow laws.

Chuck Neblitt (choral director) told me that to them, the most important song of the movement was "Hold On" - (keep your eyes on the prize and hold on). That was the song that they would sing to and with each other as they were set upon by dogs, had their heads bashed in and as they sat in police wagons and holding cells all bloody and weary. "Hold On" was the song they credited as the backbone of the movement - more so than "We Shall Overcome". Similar stories are told of songs in the anti-apartheid movement as well.

I like to remind people that a singing movement makes tyrants tremble. As it says in the song: Paul and Silas began to shout, their chains fell off and they walked right out - keep your eyes on the prize and hold on..."

Still good advice I think.

I think it is also important to not just talk the talk (or sing it) but to walk the walk as well. It takes more than songs to stop a war, but the songs can sustain us along the way.


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