This set of lyrics seeks to paint a really broad canvas of musics that have in common some element of protest, but even more generally are expressions of identity and/or commitment on the part of the writers and singers. As I was assembling this collection I thought of many others that would be as sensible and appropriate to include, but one has to start somewhere...

Song is a special kind of communication. It commands and transfixes audiences with imagery, narrative, point of view. Music is the vehicle for delivery, and often makes a lyric more memorable, more recoverable --but in any case the music lifts the lyric off the page and sends it out into the aether.

Let's first think about the lyrics, and later consider the magic of how music can support and convey text. People write songs: they compose and craft and prod and produce. Songs are created and constructed --they don't drop out of the air, though some of their elements are in the air, seemingly waiting to condense. A song can be a vehicle for such a broad spectrum of ideas and feelings, and can encapsulate great complexities with an economy that other narrative forms must envy.

Songwriters are a strange breed:

Some songwriters are romantic
Some are polemical
Some are outraged
Some are calculating
Some are copycats
Some despise their audiences
Some are jive chameleons
Some are poseurs
Some are cynical
Some are psychotic
...and so on.
Each of the lyrics below takes a position, and uses the words of the song to call attention to (and generally to skewer) something that the singer believes shouldn't ought to be as it is.

There's a temporal side as well: a song blooms from a moment, a situation, a circumstance, and quickly becomes historical. While some achieve immortality and applicability to many situations('We Shall Overcome' certainly did that), others contain references and allusions that require background to make them comprehensible.

A listener is challenged by this collection, and at first hearing may not "like" the vehicle (the musical style, say, or the singer's presentation), and may not know the social, cultural, political and historical context in which the song emerged, but careful study of lyrics and enquiry into background will open all sorts of doors.

Rhorhomanie (Carte de Sejour)

Chkoune liguelle? (qui a dit?)
Les Kahlouches (noirs) c'est louche?
Chkoune liguelle?
Les Rhorhos (arabes) y'en a trop?
Chkoune liguelle?
Les Rhorhos y'en a trop?
Asmaïni ya ghouya (écoute moi mon frère)
Danse d'aujourd'hui yeah danse d'aujourd'hui
JAMES BROWN wallah (je le jure) ça donne
JIMMY CLIFF ghir mel (c'est mieux que le) kif
JOE TEX ghir mel sexe
OUM KELTHOUM ghir mel noum (sommeil)
Asmaïni ya ghouya
RHORHOMANIE Danse d'aujourd'hui
C'est la RHORHOMANIE, Danse d'aujourd'hui
Ou kaïne tèi Raï (il y a aussi le Raï)
Maâ (avec) FADILA ou (et) BELLEMOU
Wallah wallah c'est fou
JAMES BROWN wallah ça donne
JIMMY CLIFF ghir mel kif
JIMI HENDRIX ghir mel fix
OUM KELTHOUM ghir mel noum
JOE TEX ghir mel sexe
C'est la RHORHOMANIE danse d'aujourd'hui
Arouah an'ta ghouya (viens toi mon frère)
Danser, danser avec nous
Sur la RHORHOMANIE danse d'aujourd'hui
Arouah, arouah (viens)
Smaâ (ecoute) l'oud is very good
Smaâ l'oud is very good
Chkoune liguelle?
Les Kahlouches c'est louche
Et les Rhorhos y'en a trop
Asmaâ c'est la rhorho rhorho rhorho rhorhomanie
RHORHOMANIE c'est la danse d'aujourd'hui
Asmaâ les youyous c'est fou

Oppskrift for Herrefolk ('Recipe for a Master Race') [Mari Boine Persen]

Draw boundaries on the map
And call it The State
Be King Minister
Protector and Father
Send bailiffs and businessmen
Priests and soldiers
To the people who own
The land you take

Use bible and booze
And bayonet
Break promises and agreements
Be a diplomat
Use articles of law
Against ancient rights
Create prejudice
And hate

Let no one question your authority
That's how you suppress a minority

Let language and culture
Take their place in a museum
As research object
And tourist attraction
Give lively speeches
On each festive occasion
Let it disintegrate and die
That which was a nation

Let no one question your authority
That's how you suppress a minority

Kaleleke wetu yamba mwana wa Mbaya ('Mr. Clerk, receive the child of Mbaya')

Mr. Clerk, time passes, Shinkolobwe [a uranium mine, since closed down] has eaten the child
(The conscience of the mine's administrator is being questioned --this young worker is dead and what is being done about it?)

Nothing But the Same Old Story (Paul Brady)

I was just about 19
When I landed on their shore
My eyes big as headlights
Like the thousands and thousands that came before
I was gonna be somethin'
I smiled at the man scrutinizin' my face
As I walked down off of the gangway

Came down to their city
Where I worked for many's the year
Must have built a hundred houses
Must have pulled half a million pints of beer
Livin' under suspicion
Puttin' up with the hatred and fear
In their eyes
You can see that you're nothin' but a murderer
Yeah, in their eyes
We're nothin' but a bunch of murderers

Hey Johnny, can't wait for Saturday night
Got a thirst that's ragin'
Know a place where we can put that right
Wash away the frustration
Hose down this fire inside
But look out!
Oh yeah!
I said look out!
I'll tear you into pieces if you cross me

Yeah, don't come too close

I'm sick of watchin them break up
Every time some bird-brain puts us down
Makin' jokes on the radio
I guess it helps them all drown out the sound
Of the crumbling foundations
Any fool could see the writing's on the wall
But they just don't believe that it's happening
Oh no, can't see nothin'

But there's a crowd says I'm alright
Say they like my turn of phrase
Take me 'round to their parties
Like some dressed-up monkey in a cage
And I play my accordion
Whoah, but when the wine seeps through the facade
It's nothin' but the same old story
It's nothin' but the same old story


Got a brother in Boston
Said he'd send me over the fare
Just wrote me a letter
Makin' out like he's cleanin' up out there
Two cars in the driveway
Summer house way down on the Cape
And I know that he'd fix me up in the mornin'

Well I been thinkin' about it
But it seems so far to go
People say in the winter
You get lost underneath the snow
And there's this girl from my home place
Well we've been plannin' to move back
And give it a try
So I never got around to goin'
That's why I never got around to goin'

Gimme a drink
Gimme gimmee
One more drink...

No Time for Love (Moving Hearts --Jack Warshaw)

You call it the law,
We call it apartheid internment conscription partition and silence
It's a law that they make to keep you and me where they think we belong
They hide behind steel and bullet-proof glass, machine guns and spies
And they tell us who suffered the teargas and torture that we're in the wrong

No time for love if they come in the morning
No time to show tears or for fears in the morning
No time for goodbye no time to ask why
And the sound of the sirens the cry of the morning

They suffered the torture they rotted in cells went crazy wrote letters and died
The limits of pain they endured but the loneliness got them instead
And the courts gave them justice, as justice is given by well-mannered thugs
Sometimes they fought for the will to survive more times they just wished they were dead

They took away Sacco Vanzetti Connolly and Pearse in their time
They came for Newton and Seale, Bobby Sands and some of his friends
In Boston, Chicago, Saigon, Santiago, Warsaw and Belfast
And places that never make headlines the list never ends

The boys in blue are only a few of the everyday cops on their beat
The C.I.D. branchmen, informers and spies do their jobs just as well
Behind them the men who tap phones take photos program computers and files
And the man who tells them when to come and take you to your cell

They tell us that here we are free to live our lives as we please
To march, to write, and to sing so long as we do it alone
But say it or do it with comrades united and strong
And they'll take you for a long rest with walls and barbed wire for your home

So come all you people who give to your brothers and sisters the will to fight on
They say you can get used to this war, that doesn't mean that this war isn't on
The fish need the sea to survive just like your comrades need you
And the death squad can only get through to them if first they can get through to you

Company Policy (Martin Carthy)

I saw her by the showroom window
All on her own on a market day
As I passed her by I could hear her sigh
As the victory parade passed on TV

Twenty screens in the showroom window
Victors marching large and small
As they wheeled on by you could hear her sigh
Oh oh for my darlin' boy

Mama told me don't you wed a soldier
Don't ever marry your heart's delight
For he'll be gone 'til the fighting's done
And you'll be standing alone in the light

Every night I dreamed that I saw him
Dreamed I never would see him more
In my dream his body came floatin'
Away with the ocean's rise and fall

For they call him Jack, they call him John
He was there, sat tight offshore
They caught him cold in the heat of the battle
For the South Atlantic company store

But it was not Death that bowled in the alley
Skittering away up to my love's door
And it was not death that cried and howled
In the teeth of the South Atlantic roar

But the bomb bounding down the alley
Wrapped up neat in a silver shell
The bomb that plucked the face from my love
Spread it wide on the face of the swell

Oh sweet and soothing showers
Breathe upon his burning head
Mourners all do you pass by
For the living don't need your tears yet

'Twas all a case of saving face
When they sent my love to war
For eighteen hundred landless tenants
of the South Atlantic company store

Eighteen hundred landless tenants
Eighteen hundred poorer than poor
Eighteen hundred waking dreams
Of an Empire long gone before

In my dream I stand at Bluff [?]
I've an empty shell up to my ear
The only sound the sound of cash
Being wrung from the snows of Antarctica

Ring a ring of city roses
Victors march and markets bloom
The flame that melted my love's cheek
Come a-dancing the Iron Lady too

Dreamtime (Martin Simpson)

The falcon flew in Dreamtime and the old man fanned the flames
The old man knew the names, the old man knew the rules
The old man knew the land could die
Could trickle through the fingers of us fools

Nipper's gone to the dust and the wind
His bones are wrapped and laid in the sky
Often in the night lately Nipper used to cry
Knowing no one listened, knowing he would die
He cried for the loss of his knowledge

My ears will never hear so clear, my eyes are almost blind
But I can read the warnings, I can hear the whispers
The gentle ghosts have left behind
And they say
Thank you for the Virgin
Thank you for the radio
Thank you for the iron sheets the bullets and the blades
Thank you for the whiskey and the dirty nylon dresses
And the blankets and diseases
Thank you say the Shades
Thank you for these engines
And thank you for the oil
They say now you own the future
Now you own the soil


And we say
Thank you to the Elders
And thank you to the Singers
The keepers of the Dreams and the keepers of the Names
Thank you for the falcon's news
Thank you for the Dreamtime
Thank you for the life that springs
Like magic from the flame
Thank you to the Dancers
To those who raise the Phoenix
To those who listen hard to learn
And try to do the same

Big Shot Party (Trinidad Rio)

Big, big party up in Valsyn, rum and roti flowed like rain
Big posh party up in Valsyn, rum and roti, scotch and champagne
Big doctors, big ministers, big lawyers, big professors
For some mystical reason, the roti was flavored with rat poison

It was a big shot party, big shot party
Shot in pan, shot in sand, shot in hand, a big shot bam balam

The party was packed to capacity with big shots in a variety
Expensive toilet facilities such as Rolls Royce, Porsche and Mercedes
I saw a big, big magistrate, in the sand he take a sanitary plate
Then a bald-head judge take off he hat...

If you tell me this I'll say you walk, I see a toilet bowl choked till it start to talk
Toilet paper run out, just imagine, and was substituted by roti skin
Woman steppin' sexy and ladylike, when all of a sudden it's brrrrrp like a motorbike
Well a big millionaire (this one had me hurt), toilet paper rise a $100 note

Unfortunately I was on site, as you see it was real, real chaos that night
People runnin' in escalade, I was tempted to call the fire brigade
I ain't see no smoke, I ain't see no flame, I said maybe it's just a foolish game
But same time the smell, ah betray me head, I end up callin' the City Council instead
Cause it was a big shot party, big shot party
Shot in bar, shot in car, shot in jar, it was a real shot-o-rama

We sell everything (Leon Rosselson)

I woke up this morning when a ring at the bell split my dreams
The man at the door wore a smile so wide
I thought his face would fall apart at the seams
He jigged "Good morning it's your lucky day
Because I've come to help you make the grade
I'm your friend I'm your neighbor I'm your good companion
I'm the leader of a wig crusade
I've got straight wigs, curly wigs, gay wigs and girly wigs
Live-a-little buy a devil-daring one
Blue wigs, red wigs, very-good-in-bed wigs
Everyone who's anyone is wearing one..."
I said "No thank you I've nowhere to put them
And I've got all the hair that I need"
He said "Don't worry son we've got a product on the market
That will make your hair fall out, guaranteed

We've got:
cough drops, cricket bats, iron lungs, knicknacks
wooden legs, wedding rings, we sell everything
slug killers, killer slugs, road drills, ear plugs
time bombs, tombstones, merchant banks and garden gnomes
toothpaste, defoliants, genital deodorants
strychnine, gasoline, benzene, polythene...

He said, "the products we are marketing will transform you
Into someone of quality and style
You'll be the number-one attraction
And everyone will envy your mysterious superior smile
'Cause we're making you a very special offer of tomorrow
In delicate pastel shades
Have a jar of instant happiness, a bottleful of glamor,
An amazing value dream that never fades
We've got tubes of tranquility, boxes of virility
Packets of the simple life that used to be
Eternal youth at bargain price, a one-way trip to Paradise
Or why not buy a giant pack of Purity
Here's a free gift sample of the art of gracious living
There's nothing that we can't provide
And what it all adds up to is super satisfaction
Though we hope you won't be satisfied

Because we've got:
fruit machines, magazines, baked beans, submarines
handcuffs, face creams, pep pills and private dreams
synthetic fibres, tranquilizers, inorganic fertilizers
canned beer, barbed wire, dividends at five points higher
Mars bars, fast cars, Jesus Christ as Superstars
life insurance, cigarettes, package tours and Sabre jets...

Well I said I really didn't think I had the urge to purchase
And in any case my cash was running low
His eyes beamed out a warning and his smile got kind of stormy
And he said "There's just one thing you ought to know
It's people like you who are letting down the country
When our democratic freedoms are at stake
'Cause if you don't buy the wheels will start to falter
And after that it's on with the brake
Then confidence will be destroyed and millions will be unemployed
And anarchy will ....?.... harmony
So tell me, sir, do you prefer to be a lousy saboteur
Or help to boost that national economy?
Because production only rises and investments only boom
When the demand stimulates the supply
Then everyone will prosper so I hope it's very plain
That it's your patriotic duty to buy...

cough drops, cricket bats, iron lungs, knicknacks
wooden legs, wedding rings, we sell everything
slug killers, killer slugs, road drills, ear plugs
time bombs, tombstones, merchant banks and garden gnomes
toothpaste, defoliants, genital deodorants
strychnine, gasoline, benzene, polythene...

fruit machines, magazines, baked beans, submarines
handcuffs, face creams, pep pills and private dreams
synthetic fibres, tranquilizers, inorganic fertilizers
canned beer, barbed wire, dividends at five points higher
Mars bars, fast cars, Jesus Christ as Superstars
life insurance, cigarettes, package tours and Sabre jets...
An the new supersonic fractional orbital bombardment system
That annihilates everything that moves
Within a range of 7.528 light years...

The Old Main Drag (Shane McGowan/The Pogues)

When I first came to London I was only sixteen
With a fiver in my pocket and my ole dancing bag
I went down to the dilly to check out the scene
And I soon ended up on the old main drag

There the he-males and the she-males paraded in style
And the old man with the money would flash you a smile
In the dark of an alley you'd work for a fiver
For a swift one off the wrist down on the old main drag

In the cold winter nights the old town it was chill
But there were boys in the cafes who'd give you cheap pills
If you didn't have the money you'd cajole or you'd beg
There was always lots of tuinol on the old main drag

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag

In the tube station the old ones who were on the way out
Would dribble and vomit and grovel and shout
And the coppers would come along and push them about
And I wished I could escape from the old main drag

And now I'm lying here I've had too much booze
I've been shat on and spat on and raped and abused
I know that I am dying and I wish I could beg
For some money to take me from the old main drag