A Playlist for the Trump Presidency


Music can be an indispensable solace, inspiration, and fortification.  Over the past several weeks I’ve needed all three, and I suspect others have as well.  So I’ve put together this playlist to help us through the next four years.  Thirty songs out of many. (Sadly, for a good number of them you’ll have to put up with an advertisement to watch the video.)

1.  Green Day — Bang, Bang (No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA)

At the American Music Awards shortly after the election the great punk group Green Day performed “Bang, Bang” from their new album Revolution Radio at the American Music Awards, broadcast live on TV  In the middle they broke into a chant of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.”  They actually took that from another punk band, but this performance got the press and, well, Billy Joe and the boys are my homies from Berkeley.

2.  Gil Scott Heron — Winter in America

Have we been here before?  The great Gil Scott Heron, best known for “The Revolution Will Not be Televised,” thought so back in the 1970s in this bleak view of our country that seems depressingly relevant today.

3.  Death Cab for Cutie — Million Dollar Loan

On October 10 a number of musical groups announced that they would be releasing one anti-Trump song a day for the next 30 days until the election.  30 Days, 30 Songs was launched by Dave Eggers and Noise Pop Festival producer/artist manager Jordan Kurland (no relation to the late AAUP staff member). This was the first in the series.  It’s pretty self-explanatory.

4.  R.E.M. — World Leader Pretend

This is from the same 30 songs series.  R.E.M.’s decision to participate in the campaign followed their spat with Trump in September after the Republican nominee used their 1987 hit “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” at a campaign rally. “Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you – you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men,” vocalist Michael Stipe said.

5.  Rocky Mountain Mike — Mr. Tangerine Man

Bob Dylan’s great song, in the Byrds’ great arrangement, but with updated lyrics.

6.  Up and Down Theater — Make America Great Again

Well, we have to laugh at some point, no?  Actually, for the next four years I may be getting my news mainly from comedians.  So SAD!

7. Stan Van Gundy — Remarks at Detroit Pistons Practice

OK, it’s not music, but Pistons coach Van Gundy’s “rant” was music to my ears and is not to be missed.  Neither, for that matter, are the comments of Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

8. Leonard Cohen — Democracy

For all its imperfections (terrifyingly on display right now) democracy is what it’s about.  Leonard passed away the day before the election.

9.  Mavis Staples — Eyes on the Prize

Achieving racial justice must be central to confronting Trump.  And, I might add, Mavis is the greatest

10.  The Highwaymen — Deportee

Trump has vowed to deport millions and “build a wall” on the Mexican border.  Woody Guthrie wrote this classic about deportees killed in a plane crash as they were being taken away.  It’s still relevant.  Here the great Chicano country singer Johnny Rodriguez guests with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

11.  Steve Earle — City of Immigrants

Not all Americans wish immigrants ill.  New York is a city of immigrants, and Earle celebrates that.

12.  Playing for Change — La Bamba

The great Ritchie Valens song, the founding anthem of Chicano rock ‘n’ roll, here with an international twist.  A perfect way to celebrate our diversity.  The original is here and the terrific Los Lobos cover from the Valens biopic is here.

13.  Marvin Gaye — Mercy Mercy Me

Donald Trump thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax.  Marvin Gaye knew better even before we heard about the hockey stick.

14.  Kathy Mattea — The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore

Trump has bragged that he’ll bring back coal mining jobs.  It ain’t gonna happen, but we can still sympathize with those who once earned a good living at such demanding work.  Any song from Kathy Mattea’s fine theme album Coal could work here, but I like this one.

15.   Merle Haggard — Hungry Eyes

Often called “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” this song by the “Okie from Muskogee” is almost Marxist in its understanding of how “another class of people” put his family down.

16.  The Dixie Chicks — Not Ready to Make Nice

After the Dixies dissed George W. they got a lot of flack in the country music world.  But they remained unapologetic.  We too shouldn’t be ready to “make nice” with the Donald.

17.  Johnny Cash — As Long as the Grass Shall Grow

Even as we confront Trumpism, native peoples are fighting against the Dakota pipeline project.  In the 1960s, Johnny Cash recorded Bitter Tears, an album of songs about the American Indian.  This is one of them.  It should remind us to take the long view.

18.  The Dropkick Murphys — Worker’s Song

Prepare for more attacks on unions and workers.  It may be time to pull out the Pete Seeger records and the old IWW song book, but here’s a more contemporary number that seems relevant.

19.  Billy Bragg & Wilco — All You Fascists

Some people have called Trump a fascist.  I don’t think that’s accurate; in fact, I don’t even think it’s the best descriptor of his most “deplorable” supporters.  But no one can deny that people are thinking that fascism just might be reemerging from the trash heap of history.  So here’s some lyrics from Woody Guthrie, set to music by Bragg and Wilco.

20.  Nina Simone — Revolution

Do we need one?  This video released by Simone’s estate is a gem.

21.  Tom Morello — World Wide Rebel Songs

Morello, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, performs now with Prophets of Rage.  But he recorded this under the name The Nightwatchmen.  I like this live version from Madison, Wisconsin, during the fight against Scott Walker’s assault on unions.

22.   Prophets of Rage — Prophets of Rage

And here are the aforementioned prophets, formed just this year.  We’ll need their rage to last, I think.

23.  Sturgill Simpson — Call to Arms

I’m not sure where Simpson’s politics lie, but this is a great song that evokes the justifiable bitterness of our time.  It’s live at Farm Aid, an institution that proves the Trumpers needn’t have a lock on rural America.

24.  Bob Marley — Get Up, Stand Up

OK, enough grumbling and whining.  Time to get inspired, time to stand up and fight.

25.  Sly and the Family Stone — Everyday People

Different strokes, for different folks.  Get it, Donald?

26. The Eurythmics  — Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves

A rebuke to the misogynist-in-chief.

27.  Drive-By Truckers — Surrender Under Protest

One of my favorite bands.  Their entire new album, American Band, can be heard as a rebuke to Trumpism.  For instance, “What It Means” is a spot-on take on Black Lives Matter from some southern white boys.   Here’s their advice for handling setbacks.

28.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — I Won’t Back Down

Nor should we.  Johnny Cash’s version is worth a listen too.

29.  Bruce Springsteen — No Surrender

No retreat, no surrender. The Boss says it all.  A live version from 2004.

30.   Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings — This Land is Your Land

I originally planned to close with The Boss, but Woody’s classic anthem has served progressives well for a long time.  I first heard Sharon Jones perform it at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco a few years ago and was blown away.  It’s a version that’s perfectly suited to this moment.  Sadly, Jones died of cancer at age 60 just ten days after the election.





5 thoughts on “A Playlist for the Trump Presidency

  1. Hank,

    This is inspired–and inspiring!

    I have been decompressing–avoiding CNN and MSNBC and looking for something restorative after this very prolonged and dismal political campaign.

    I won’t claim that listening to these songs have completely cured me of the post-election blues, but it’s gone a long way in that direction.


  2. Pingback: My Favorite Posts of 2016 | ACADEME BLOG

  3. Pingback: Another Trump Playlist | ACADEME BLOG

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