The best protest music transcends time and is always relevant. Today, we need it more than ever.
This morning, Donald Trump authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran's top security and intelligence commander.
Since this action, which The New York Times described as a "serious escalation," the United States has been preparing for potential retaliation.
This event feels like a turning point in the midst of endless conflict between the United States and Iran, a flashpoint that has everyone waiting with bated breath. It's impossible to say at this point whether the strike will merely mark a continuation of previous conflicts or if it will launch a full-blown World War III, but for fear of the latter, some people have been turning to age-old mechanisms of coping with war and fighting for peace: anti-war protest songs.
The history of American war protests is intertwined with music. From Bob Dylan to Bob Marley, from Joan Baez to Jimi Hendrix, anti-war protests of the 1960s marked a glorious ascendance of protest songs, but many of them had their roots in the past, either in gospel or blues or from somewhere else, some undercurrent of defiance.
Many of the greatest protest songs are applicable across movements, accessing a core of anger and solidarity, and that's what each of these songs does. War has never ended; it's only moved and shifted. These songs remind us that the struggle is an age-old one.
- Masters of War — Bob Dylan
Very few artists are as synonymous with protest music as Bob Dylan, and "Masters of War" is one of the most damning songs of all of his work. It was written in 1963 as a protest against the nuclear arms buildup of the early 60s, and it's ultimately a treatise against the military industrial complex and all the forces that profit off the deaths of others. "You hide in your mansion / while the young people's blood / flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud," he sings, one of the most searing lines in protest music.
Bob Dylan - Masters of War (Audio) www.youtube.com
2. War Pigs — Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath's vehement, sprawling f*ck you-ballad to everyone making money off war. The song was the opening track on the album Paranoid, and its original title was "Walpurgis," which references April 30th, a traditional feast day sometimes referred to as the "witch's Sabbath," a holiday with roots in the 8th century. It was released as a protest to Vietnam and the draft but has endured as an anthem to rage at the futility of pointless war.
BLACK SABBATH - "War Pigs" (Live Video) www.youtube.com
3. Redemption Song — Bob Marley
Few voices captured the fear of war and spun it into something like hope as well as Bob Marley. "Redemption Song" is timeless and of its time. With lyrics inspired by Pan-Africanist speaker Marcus Garvey, it speaks to a very specific and universal feeling. It's the last song on Marley's last album, written in 1979 when he was already suffering from cancer, and the stripped-down acoustic version is a mix of pain and faith.
Bob Marley - Redemption Song (from the legend album, with lyrics) www.youtube.com
4. Zombie — The Cranberries
"Zombie" is so catchy that it's easy to forget what it's about, but it was written about the casualties that occurred during the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, England as part of the ongoing war between England and Ireland. Dolores O'Riordan wrote the song in 1993, and its release—along with a music video that showed children playing war games and clips of British soldiers—resulted in a ban from the BBC; the video later garnered over a billion views and the song became a protest anthem.
The Cranberries - Zombie (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
5. Jimi Hendrix — All Along the Watchtower
This cryptic song was written by Bob Dylan, but even Dylan began covering Jimi Hendrix's version when it came out in 1968. The song might be about Vietnam, Armageddon, or the crises of meaning that these kinds of events open up, but its true power is in the sound and the power of Hendrix's guitar skills, perfectionism, and ability to distill centuries of oppression into sound.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along The Watchtower (Audio) www.youtube.com
6. People Have the Power — Patti Smith
Patti Smith just turned 73, but her song "People Have the Power" is timeless and still resonates just like it did when it was released in 1988. Inspired by the radical spirit of the 1960s, it has since been used in protests everywhere from Greece to Palestine.
Patti Smith - People Have The Power www.youtube.com
7. We Shall Overcome
This song is likely descended from a gospel hymn by Reverend Charles Albert Tindley, who wrote the original version in 1900. The first version of the song as it is today was sung by Lucille Simmons, who was leading a cigar worker's strike in 1945. It was popularized by artists like Pete Seeger and became a seminal song of the Civil Rights Movement when it was performed by Guy Carawan. Then it was used by folk singers like Joan Baez at rallies and concerts of the 1960s. The song's mutability and applicability to so many movements reveal more about what all these movements have in common than anything else—a desire for freedom, equality, and peace, and a faith in the people's ability to get there.
We Shall Overcome www.youtube.com
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Are you tasked with hosting a Halloween party this year? Let us help you with the music.
Howl you doing boys and girls? What's up, my witches?
Spooky season is drawing nearer, and with Halloween falling on a Thursday this year, it means that there is only one weekend to curate a spooktacular party playlist, and one opportunity to throw a fa-boo-lous Halloween party. It is no easy task, but if you want your guests to shake their BOOty, eat, drink, and be scary all night long, Popdust has just the playlist that will give your friends pumpkin' to talk about.
Itsy Bitsy Spider by Carly Simon
Have you ever heard such an elegant and moving interpretation of this spooky nursery rhyme? In this version, I wasn't rooting for the rain to "wash the spider out"; instead, Simon's mash up of the nursery rhyme with her hit "Comin Around Again" paints a darker picture. "I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it's coming around again," Simon sings. The Spider's journey is a complex one: He is tenacious in his dream of scaling the water spout and is an inspiration to us all. "Nothing stays the same," little Spider, keep climbing. One day, you may just turn your dream into a reality. It's a reminder of our mortality and serves as the perfect song to kick off the night as your guests eat hors d'oeuvres and pour their first cup of spiked punch.
Follow the playlist on Spotify!
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