Where have all the protest songs gone? Are they still blowing in the wind, or have new ones surfaced to chronicle life's current strife? While it seems like only yesterday, it's actually been over 40 years since Americans felt angry and disenfranchised enough to assemble in solidarity and protest against injustice and greed.
However, while the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez set a high bar of achievement, today's "Occupy" movement is still trying to find its way into song. The iconic anthems of that by-gone era may have new relevance today, but since the "Occupy" movement of 2011 has reached such global proportions, it really needs to find its own voice.
While "war" was the focal point in the 60s, today, it's secondary today for one songwriter who's lived through both eras. Steven Baker, aka "bwaySteve" and his journey from protesting the Vietnam War to the Occupy Wall Street movement comes full circle as he blends the angst of the past with the present.
"bwaySteve" BakerFinding a common thread that many of us can relate to, one of his basic tenets is recognizing that hopelessness and hope are two sides to the same coin. Since man's compassionate nature identifies injustice as it affects large numbers of people, it becomes incumbent on us to continue the struggle, even if it appears we have made limited progress. Baker's ironic refrain in his new song titled, "99 Percenter" underscores our resilience to accept this plight.
I was a 99 Percenter then
I am a 99 Percenter now
Living through a down economy, lay-offs and down-sizing first-hand, the songwriter was hit hard when his "day job" went south earlier this year. When New York City's Off-Track Betting Corporation shuttered, after 33 years of working as an engineer, Baker was forced into an unexpected retirement that also stripped him of his health benefits.
True to his song-writing roots, he chronicled this experience. In a song irreverently titled, "Shut the Mother F*cker Down," it was Baker's intent to make a statement regarding a hardship that affected not only him, but also those of his fellow associates and colleagues. (For more on this back-story, please see my previous post, titled, "Social Media Finds "F Word" Acceptable For Songs & Graphic Novel.")
CBS News felt that Baker's human interest story was a significant snapshot of what was happening to so many folks in NYC and throughout the country - and subsequently interviewed him to learn more of his perspective. Here in BdwySteve's debut of his latest song, he incorporates that interview into an inspirational tribute to all those who proudly call themselves "99 Percenters."
In an interview I recently conducted with Baker, I asked him how protesting in the 60s changed him and how that mindset affected how he feels about today's Occupy movement.
Bdway Steve: Protesting in the '60 was a way of life. During the '50s the Civil Rights Movement brought the march, the sit-in and other forms of organized public protest into practice. After years of increasing conflict in Southeast Asia people questioned our involvement there and the early Baby Boomers who were already in college, concerned about their being deployed in a war they didn't understand which the Government carried out almost secretly, began to question it's legitimacy as an expression of national purpose. It should be noted that this songwriter is not protesting for protesters' sake. His belief in this country and its noble capabilities is of great concern to him. During more peaceful times, he even shifted his music to a more patriotic theme. In 1986, he was commissioned by the Gateway Tourism Council in New Jersey to write a song commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.
The war in Viettnam was extensively televised and even our parents who fought in wars themselves had a hard time understanding what was going on there.
After years of conflicts around the world and an intensification of using force overseas since 9/11, the youth of today are beginning to question the increasing tendency of our leaders to commit our citizens to war. Recent economic woes and the unemployment that has resulted have begun to motivate a new generation to express their feelings about current events, to question policies of our leaders and to see reasons to get involved in the process once again.
From what I've seen in Zucotti Park, many of the leaders there cut their teeth on the protest movement of the '60s.
Since it's initial debut was pre-Internet, Baker posted the song and video production to YouTube this year in honor of the Lady's 125th birthday (25 years after it was first recorded)...