/Tuesday Ten /557 /..and Justice for All

Fighting injustice, and fighting for justice, have been documented in song probably as long as people have sung songs. They are a way for the oppressed to tell their story, and spread the word of what happened – and in many cases, to set the record straight.

/Tuesday Ten /557 /..and Justice for All

/Subject /Injustice
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /439/You’ll Rebel to Anything /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/94 /Used Prior/13 /Unique Songs/88 /People Suggesting/38
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/46:59

Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of very good suggestions for this post, and it took a while to select exactly the songs I wanted to give as much breadth to this as I could. Even so, I probably still had to omit a few songs I might have liked to have included.

Anyway, thanks to everyone – as ever – that suggested songs, and gave me an awful lot of food for thought.

A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.

Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).

/Billie Holliday
/Strange Fruit

Perhaps one of the most important songs ever committed to record is Billie Holliday’s take of what began as a poem by Abel Meeropol. A song that protested in stark terms at the appalling lynchings of young black men by white people in the Deep South of the US, it pulls no punches with its lyrical descriptions and delivery, and even 85 years since it was first performed, it retains a shocking power.

Unsurprisingly, there was never a full record of the numbers of people that were lynched. The Tuskegee Institute began recording and researching in 1908, and as of 1959, they reckoned nearly 5,000 people had been killed in this way since 1882.

Even more shocking was this article in the Washington Post in summer 2021, which noted that while the last officially recorded lynching was in 1981, they have continued in Mississippi to the present day.

/They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)
/…Nothing Like the Sun

Sting is not exactly an artist I consider for /Tuesday Tens very often – and indeed his work hasn’t been suggested particularly often over the years (just thirty suggestions at all). But here, it was an obvious fit. I remember this album coming out in 1987, and thanks to the liner notes, this one haunted me from the off. I was only nine at the time, and it was where I began to learn about the horrors of Pinochet’s Chile – which at the time was still going on.

Pinochet took power in a CIA-backed coup in 1973, when the Marxist leader Salvador Allende was violently overthrown and took his own life before being captured. Pinochet’s economic work saw mass deregulation, inspired by the work of economist Milton Friedman (and detailed in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine), and funnily enough the resurgence of US involvement.

But it was the impact on the people of Chile that was even more shocking. Immediately after the coup, the Caravan of Death brutally killed at least 75 people detained in the wake of it, and up to 1990, over 2,000 more were killed for political reasons and around 30,000 more disappeared.

Sting learned of the disappearances when on the Amnesty International tour A Conspiracy of Hope, where he witnessed the wives of the disappeared dancing the cueca alone, with photographs of their husbands attached to them.

Pinochet was finally voted out at the end of 1989, and while arrested in London (on the orders of a Spanish judge), he was controversially released on medical grounds (not to mention being appallingly protected by Thatcher and hosted by her allies), and when in died in 2006, he was still facing over 300 charges for human rights violations, as well as accusations of massive tax evasion and embezzlement.

While the Chilean Government did much in later years to find some form of justice for the tens of thousands affected by Pinochet’s reign of terror, Pinochet dying before he could face those charges robbed many of finality.

/System of a Down
/Prison Song

System of a Down were always a hugely political band, and made a number of grand, searing statements on their first couple of albums in particular. The rampaging fury of the opener to their second album Toxicity brought things closer to home – within the US. Prison Song took on the policy of mass incarceration in the US. The number of people in the US prison system is absolutely staggering: according to cited data on Wiki, the US has 5% of the world’s population, but 20% of the world’s prison population, with 20% of them on drug charges, and it is reckoned to cost the US over $100 billion annually to incarcerate them. Not to mention Black inmates make up 32% of the total (despite being only 14% of the US population), and the youth prison population is the highest in the world.

The punitive impacts of being in prison in the US just perpetuate things, too. Most prisoners lose the right to vote, as well as welfare support (including housing), and of course also find it difficult to get a job. So the cycle continues…

/Bob Dylan

One famous black man incarcerated in the US was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a noted boxer in the fifties and sixties, and found guilty in a questionable verdict in 1967 of a triple murder in New Jersey. Despite recantations and changes in statements, he was found guilty at a second trial in 1976 before finally being released on parole in 1981 – and was finally exonerated in 1985, the judge noting that the prosecution had used racism as a tool to secure the conviction.

Bob Dylan released this epic, furious song in 1975, railing against a racist justice system and how the odds are stacked against men like Carter.

/the Special A.K.A.
/Nelson Mandela
/In the Studio

Apartheid – racist, whites-only rule – was adopted in South Africa in 1948, and resistance grew from passive defiance by the nascent African National Congress (ANC) to outright protest and targeted violence as the decades went on. Outside of the country, calls to boycott South African products and international involvement gathered steam, particularly after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 and then the jailing of prominent dissident Nelson Mandela in 1962. The pressure eventually tolled on the South African Government, and President F.W. de Klerk finally released him in February 1990, after 27 years in prison.

Part of that campaign over the years involved black South African musicians, who became part of the worldwide cultural fabric in the late 1970s and 1980s (both Peter Gabriel – with the extraordinary power of Biko – and Paul Simon – with his watershed album Graceland had notable successes), and one such song was this track written by Jerry Dammers, a joyous ska-meets-Afrobeat raveup that became an unexpected hit and anthem to the cause.

Mandela, of course, became President in the first universal elections in South Africa in 1994, and the ANC have kept power since (with mixed results). Mandela became an important figurehead of justice and reconciliation, as well as an elder statesman who tried to make a difference for the better (especially in the fields of fighting poverty and HIV/AIDS), right up to his death in 2013.

/Yothu Yindi
/Tribal Voice

The first song in any of the many Aboriginal Australian languages to chart, Yothu Yindi’s multi-racial rock song was one referring to a specific injustice: that of Aboriginal people’s right to self-determination and a whole lot more, as specified in the Barunga Statement passed to Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1988. That treaty was never enacted – as demanded in this excellent song – but in 2018 some minor progress was made, in a Memorandum of Understanding published by the Northern Territory Government.

In addition, the recent proposal to recognise Aboriginal people in the Australian constitution was defeated in a referendum (although there was some criticism of the way this proposal was worded and promoted, as I recall). Their wait to their right to self-determination continues as a historic injustice.

/Manic Street Preachers
/This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

Last month marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster, where 97 people died and 766 were injured, thanks to overcrowding and poor crowd control at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in Sheffield.

There are many reasons why this disaster resonates in the way it does. Firstly, it was the aftermath: false stories and lies around the football fans, fed by South Yorkshire Police, Then the Taylor Report that resulted in precisely no prosecutions, and it took over thirty years before coroners inquests finally changed the original verdict of “accidental death”.

But also, for the many football fans in the UK, it could have been any of us. There had been many tragedies in the 1970s and 1980s at poorly maintained, poorly supervised stadiums, and it took Hillsborough for changes to finally be mandated. It meant the end of many legendary, storied stadiums (I was a regular at the old Huddersfield Town ground in its final years before replacement in 1994), but it did mean change for the better – in some ways at least.

The Sports Gazette did some numbers in 2022, and calculated that in the top six levels of English Football, 834,724 fans attended a match each week. That’s pretty much the population of metropolitan Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And that’s not including the many, many more that attend non-league matches or play.

The vast majority of football fans aren’t violent, or drunk. We just want to watch a match with our like-minded friends, have a drink (alcoholic or not), and get home safely afterwards. It’s a hobby, sometimes a way of life, but most importantly, it shouldn’t be resulting in loved ones getting a call they never want to receive, because someone made the wrong choices and lied.

/Youth Code
/A Litany (A Place to Stand)
/A Place to Stand

The hardcore-meets-EBM rage of Youth Code always had a socio-political edge, as would be expected from their background – and they perhaps reached their pinnacle on the spectacular title track from their 2014 EP. A Litany sets out the injustices of mid-2010s America, where the Christian Right’s push for power and influence has resulted the removal of rights for women, minorities and non-binary/transgender people. Where women in too many states barely have any control over reproductive rights and choice, transgender people are demonised. Sadly – and appallingly – this has only got worse since, and this song now reads as a warning of the horrors to come.

/Bob Vylan
/We Live Here
/We Live Here

Yes, by chance I’ve included both Bob Dylan and Bob Vylan in the same post.

Anyway, here’s Bob Vylan with one of their early breakthrough tracks, talking about the black experience in the UK, complete with N-words, other racist insults over appearance, “go back to where you came from” and more. As Bob Vylan note, many people of colour in the UK are from the UK, were born here, and have as much right to be here as everyone else. Of course, that’s begun to be eroded by appalling Government decisions – such as the Windrush Scandal, where poor recording or mis-recording of people arriving meant that many had no tangible proof that they could stay – or harsh immigration rules that keep unnecessarily splitting up families.

My grandfather was an immigrant. A black, mixed-race immigrant from India in the fifties, who was Brazilian-Italian and likely experienced terrible racism when he first settled in Brighton upon arriving. I think about that regularly, and also consider the privilege that outwardly being a white Briton gives me in the present day.

/Front Line Assembly
/Molotov (Remix) feat. Seeming

I close out this week’s post with a song released just weeks ago – an exceptional remix and vocal performance from Alex Reed (Seeming) of an FLA instrumental on Warmech. Alex Reed has been regularly talking about the responsibility of self to affect change in his songs, with thoughtful missives that consider how that impacts others. Here, this is a general call to arms, where he reminds that revolution is not a fashion choice, and that making things better does not necessarily mean that you must pick a side. Helping to force change means showing up, it means getting involved, it means using your voice to assist those that need it – and by understanding the issues and helping to find a way forward.

Right now, there’s a lot to change, and it all feels overwhelming. But I guess we have to start somewhere, and in the near-future, it’s likely to mean voting to get the ball rolling.

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