Sheila E. releases powerful anti-Trump album

Sheila E.'s Iconic album coverSheila E. has released a powerful new album, Iconic: Message 4 America, one of the best musical efforts in reaction to a catastrophic presidency and poisonous social climate. Rooted in the socially conscious music of the 60s and 70s, the album aims to reclaim that era’s spirit and its fight for justice. Americans seem to be helplessly watching the most corrupt, self-serving, and dangerous presidency in the history of the republic. Who do you appeal to when the authorities themselves renege on their role to protect basic values? Iconic sends a message to inspire Americans to band together, rise up, and force a change. The album could rightly be called the soundtrack for a movement. Continue reading →

Protest songs and a Trump-free America

30 Days, 30 Songs protest songsIn this strange and scary election year, I was glad to see that a host of musicians have voiced their disapproval of Donald Trump through song. The website “30 Days, 30 Songs”–recently updated to “30 Days, 40 Songs“–bills itself as being written and recorded by artists for a Trump-free America. Moby, R.E.M., Aimee Mann, Sun Kil Moon, Death Cab for Cutie, and Ani Di Franco are some of the artists releasing protest songs through the website. A new song is released each day through Election Day on November 8. Continue reading →

Prince and the opening of Paisley Park

Paisley Park gala openingI had the opportunity to tour Prince‚Äôs Paisley Park studio on October 6. The Chanhassen City Council angered fans across the world by refusing at the last minute to issue a business permit, throwing plans into disarray for thousands of people who had purchased tickets. Bowing to pressure, the city issued a temporary permit allowing Paisley Park to open to the public for just three days, on October 6, 8 and 14. I felt doubly privileged to be able to take the tour. Not only did I feel privileged to see the space where Prince expressed his creativity for three decades, but I felt lucky to experience it when future plans remain uncertain. (Hopefully, the council will eventually do the right thing and allow Paisley Park to operate as a museum.) Continue reading →

Confronting racism through music

Not to racism imageFor at least half a century artists have used popular music as a way to confront racism, America’s original sin. Emerging in tandem with the civil rights movement in the 60s, serious social commentary became widely popular, taking a cue from the long history of worker protest music. Of course, there were sporadic efforts to tackle racism before then, like the unforgettable “Strange Fruit” written by Abel Meeropol and first recorded by Billie Holliday in 1939. But such efforts were not widespread. Sadly, the need to express the pain of racism through music is just as strong today as it ever was. I’ve listed below some of the most powerful songs about racism, some well-known and some lesser known. If you have suggestions to add to the list, let me know. Continue reading →