Another Trump Playlist


Back in November, about three weeks after the election, I posted “A Playlist for the Trump Presidency.”  It got a pretty good response, so now that we’re a bit more than two weeks into that presidency and the need for “solace, inspiration, and fortification” seems greater than ever, I thought I’d post another one.  My first list had 30 songs; this one has the traditional “top” 40.  (Once again, you may have to put up with a few ads to get to the songs):

1.  Green Day — We Live in Troubled Times

I began my first list with Green Day’s anti-Trump version of “Bang, Bang,” as performed at the American Music Awards, so it seems appropriate to begin with them again.  This song from their latest album, Revolution Radio, was released on video for this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration.  I posted it to this blog then.  “Today we celebrate love and compassion more than ever,” lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong said in a statement that accompanied the video.

2.  Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin — World’s in a Bad Condition

The Alvin brothers were the heart of The Blasters, a great Los Angeles band from the 1980s.  Phil went on to teach mathematics at Cal Tech (seriously) and Dave continued as a solo act and arguably the quintessential California songwriter.  Not long ago Dave dragged Phil out of musical retirement to perform and record, beginning with an album of Big Bill Broonzy songs.  This number definitely hits the mark for the Trump era.

3.  Arcade Fire (with Mavis Staples) — I Give You Power

This Canadian indie rock band joined with the incomparable and seemingly indestructible Mavis to record this new anti-Trump song.  About the song they write, “It’s never been more important that we stick together and take care of each other.  Love,  Mavis Staples and Arcade Fire.”  All proceeds from sales of the song will go to the ACLU.

4.  Jim and Missy — Here’s to the State of Donald Trump

In the 1960s the late Phil Ochs was arguably the most important political songwriter of the era, excluding, perhaps, Bob Dylan.  In the wake of Mississippi Summer in 1964 he wrote “Here’s to the State of Mississippi,” with its famous lyric, “Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of.”  He updated it in the early 1970s to “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon.”  Now these two have updated it again.

5.  College Humor — You’re A Mean One, Mr. Trump

I think this would be Dr. Seuss’s attitude were he still around.

6.  Carly Simon — You’re So Vain

Not written about Trump, but if the song fits . . .   This video isn’t really a parody, but the pictures say it all.  See also Carly’s anti-Trump ad in which she announces why she’s allowing the song to be used for political purposes for the first time.

7.  OK Go — Interesting Drug

Created just prior to the inauguration.  From the group: “We recorded a cover of Morrissey’s ‘Interesting Drug’ — it seems like the right soundtrack for this moment. No matter how anxious or angry you are, try to turn your passion into something good for the world. We’re in this together.”

8.  Bald Piano Guy — It’s DeVossy!

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, sworn enemy of public education, has now been confirmed by a deeply divided Senate to serve as Secretary of Education in Trump’s cabinet of deplorables.  I think she merits a song of her own.

9.  Dave Stinton — That Day in Bowling Green

Trump shill Kellyanne Conway’s famously ridiculous evocation of a non-existent terrorist Bowling Green Massacre has evoked widespread disdain and even more widespread satire.  Already there are several “folk” songs available on YouTube making fun of her.  Here’s one.  (Thanks to Julie Schmid for directing me to it.)

10.  Steve Kerr — “My Family Was a Victim of Terrorism”

In my first playlist I included remarks by Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy after Trump’s election.  For this list I include comments by Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr about Trump’s immigration ban.  Kerr comes from an academic family.  His father, Malcolm Kerr, was a university professor, whose specialty was the Middle East and the Arab world. He taught at UCLA and became president of American University of Beirut, where he was murdered by terrorists during the Lebanese civil war in 1984.  And, yeah, once again it’s not really a song, but still . . .

11.  Bruce Springsteen — Don’t Hang Up

When the Donald had his notoriously disastrous phone call with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, The Boss happened to be touring that country.  And so, in ironic tribute, he trolled Trump with this cover of The Orlons’ 1965 hit at a concert last week in Melbourne.

12.  Leningrad Cowboys — Sweet Home Alabama

In my opinion, too much attention has been paid to Trump’s clear admiration for and possible fealty to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  As many, especially experts in Russian politics and history, have noted, much of the reaction to this seemingly odd relationship skirts dangerously close to promotion of a new Cold War.  Still, it cannot be denied that the Trump-Putin connection — whatever it may actually consist of — is, well, definitely extremely weird.  And perhaps that weirdness can be seen as foreshadowed by what undoubtedly has to be one of the most bizarre rock groups of all time, Helsinki’s Leningrad Cowboys, who famously performed in the early 1990s backed by the Red Army Choir.  Their version of “Sweet Home Alabama” evokes the strange combination in Trumpland of Putin and Alabama’s Jeff Sessions. This is by no means an inspirational number, to be sure, but if you find it as oddly compelling as I do you should check out their versions of Stairway to Heaven, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, or Happy Together.  There’s even a playlist somebody compiled of 200 of their strange videos (isn’t YouTube amazing?).

13.  DDT — Ne Strelyai (Don’t Shoot)

DDT, with its leader Yurii Shevchuk, who is often called the Russian Bruce Springsteen, was one of the most popular late Soviet and post-Soviet Russian rock groups.  In honor of the Putin-Trump weirdness, but also as a paean to peace during an administration whose rhetoric threatens war on multiple fronts, I offer their anti-war anthem, written in 1980 in response to the Soviet war in Afghanistan.  Shevchuk has been highly critical of the Putin regime. One of his controversial songs, “Kogda zakonchitsya neft” (when the oil runs out), has the lyrics “When the oil runs dry, our president will die”. (This video has subtitles to the Russian lyrics; some other untitled versions are of better quality.)

14.  Pussy Riot — Make America Great Again

To conclude a triptych of songs on the Russian theme, here is the Russian radical feminist punk band Pussy Riot, with their response to Trump.  The group’s Nadia Tolokonnikova also offers a Guide to Fighting Trump and an explanation of five Russian words you need to know in Trump’s America.  WARNING: Some of the images in this video are quite graphic and disturbing, but that’s Trump’s America, is it not?

15.  Otis Jackson — Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt

The greatest U.S. president of the twentieth century was clearly Franklin Roosevelt.  The contrast between Roosevelt and Trump, although both were wealthy men, is enough to drive one mad.  When Roosevelt died the grief was widespread, especially among the dispossessed and oppressed.  I first encountered this song in the late and much-missed Jesse Winchester’s Canadian version from the 1970s, but it dates back to the ’40s.  This rendition is just one of many that were popular, especially in the African-American community, at that time, with lyrics varying from version to version.

16.  Dr. John and Odetta — Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

Roosevelt met the great depression head on.  There is fear that Donald may bring us back to one, even worse than what the previous Republican left us in 2008.  But even without a depression, the country today suffers from homelessness and poverty at levels that should be, but, alas, are not unacceptable.  This classic from the 1930s, with lyrics by the great Yip Harburg, who also wrote “Over the Rainbow,” was most famously recorded by Bing Crosby (see also other early versions by Al Jolson and Rudy Vallee) but remains as relevant as ever in this more recent rendition.  Other contemporary artists who have recorded it are Judy Collins, George Michael, Abbey Lincoln, and Mandy Patinkin (all available on YouTube).

17.  Elvis Costello and Mumford & Sons — The Ghost of Tom Joad/Do Re Mi Medley

Bruce Springsteen’s haunting tribute to the Steinbeck character is here combined in medley with Woody Guthrie’s song about Okie migrants to California, turned away because they didn’t have the “do re mi.”  Once again, for inspiration in the age of Trump it may be wise to turn to the age of Roosevelt, Steinbeck, and Guthrie.

18.  Johnny Rodriguez — The Immigrant

Guthrie wrote about internal migrants, but under Trump our concern is for those who immigrate to America from other lands.  Merle Haggard wrote and recorded this powerful tribute to the undocumented, who toil in anonymity as they seek only a better life, in 1978.  It suggests that the Okie from Muskogee was a bit more complex than his reputation might suggest.  But I do prefer this version by the ’70s Mexican-American country star Johnny Rodriguez, better known for plaintive ballads, also recorded in 1978.

19.  The Mavericks (featuring Raul Malo) — Guantanamera

The Mavericks are one of my favorite country-rock acts.  Their lead singer, Raul Malo (who often reminds me of Roy Orbison), came to this country with his family from Cuba.  When the Obama administration restored relations with Cuba, Malo and his bandmates celebrated with a rollicking version of Guantanamera, the Cuban song first made famous by Pete Seeger.  Here they perform it at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.  I was there, right at the front, but the hands that occasionally obscure the view in this video are not mine.  The group regularly segued from Guantanamera into Twist and Shout, which they did in SF, but that’s not in this video, although you can find live recordings on YouTube that have both numbers.  Here’s hoping that Trump doesn’t reverse this Obama accomplishment, as he so sadly has already done with others.

20.  The Rolling Stones with Guns and Roses — Salt of the Earth

This classic Stones number is a tribute to the working people of the world.  Here they’re joined by Guns and Roses

21.  Trae Crowder — Liberal Redneck

“Rednecks” are also among the salt of the earth, and they’re not all for Trump.  More spoken word (of a sort) than song and part of a series (available on YouTube).

22.  Rhiannon Giddens (with Bhi Bhiman) — Freedom Highway

This Staples Singers song of the civil rights struggle remains inspiring, especially in this version by the velvet-voiced Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  This is the title track to her new album, to be released later this month.  Here is what she wrote about this recording: “I am a daughter of the South; of the white working class, of the black working class; of the Democrat, and the Republican; of the gay, and the straight; and I can tell you one thing—we are far more alike than we are different. We cannot let hate divide us; we cannot let ignorance diminish us; we cannot let those whose greed fills their every waking hour take our country from us. They can’t take U.S. from US—unless we let them. I recorded this with Bhi Bhiman, all-American singer-songwriter from St. Louis, whose parents are from Sri Lanka. America’s strength are her people, whether they came 4,000, 400, or 40 years ago, and we can’t leave anyone behind. Let’s walk down Freedom Highway together. Written by Pops Staples in 1965.”

23.  Kim Nalley — Ferguson Blues

Even — actually, especially — under Trump, we can’t forget that Black Lives Matter.  San Francisco jazz-blues singer Kim Nalley wrote this after the events in Ferguson.  I first heard her sing it at the Folsom Street Jazz Festival.  Kim is on the faculty at the California Jazz Conservatory.  She is also a Ph.D candidate in UC Berkeley’s history department with plans to write her dissertation on the Globalization of Jazz and Black Cultural Politics.  And she’s an amazing singer and performer.

24.  Drive-By Truckers — What It Means

I mentioned this song in passing in my first playlist: southern white boys embrace Black Lives Matter.

25.  Bo Diddley — Pollution

The Trump presidency and the Republican ascendance, with their denial of climate change and even of science itself, pose a mortal danger to our planet.  The rock pioneer Bo Diddley saw the problem already way back in 1971.

26.  10,000 Maniacs — Poison in the Well

This wasn’t written about Flint, Michigan, but it might have been.

27.  Jimmy Cliff — Save Our Planet Earth

Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” and the film of that title almost singlehandedly introduced reggae music to the U.S.  He continues performing, including this pro-environment number from the 1991 Rock in Rio concert in Brazil.

28.  Symphony of Science — A Wave of Reason

It’s not just climate change denial.  In fact, it’s not just about science, but about rationality itself.  Here some leading scientists and philosophers explain.

29.  Fiona Apple — Tiny Hands

Fiona Apple wrote this chant for the January 21 women’s march.  It’s hardly great music, but it makes its not-so-subtle point.

30.  Dave Alvin (with Los Lobos and Flaco Jimenez) — Fourth of July

The Fourth is, of course, the quintessential American holiday.  This Dave Alvin song, however, is not about patriotism, or Trump, or, for that matter, anything directly political.  It only belongs here because somehow in my mind it fits — and I’ve always loved it, especially in this version with Los Lobos and the legendary Flaco Jimenez on accordion, as performed at a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

31.  Bob Dylan — The Times They Are A Changin’

This 1960s anthem is one of the greatest and most optimistic political songs ever written.  I could support Dylan’s Nobel on the basis of this song alone.  It spoke directly to its time, but also to today.  Here Dylan performs it at the Obama White House.  I wonder when we’ll see good music in that venue again.  The Boss’s version at the Dylan tribute concert is also worth a listen.

32.   Billy Bragg — The Times They Are A Changing Back

Bragg wrote this immediately after Trump’s inauguration.  It’s a reminder that even if the arc of history does bend toward justice, the route is hardly direct.  There’s progress, but also regress.  But there’s always hope.

33.  Playing for Change Band — A Change Is Gonna Come

Sam Cooke wrote and recorded this classic civil rights anthem, inspired by Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,” shortly before his early death.  There are so many great versions (e.g., by Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, John Boutte, Beyonce, Lauryn Hill) but I’ve always loved New Orleans legend Aaron Neville’s rendition, which I had intended to use here.  But then I encountered this one.

34.  Steve Earle — The Revolution Starts Now

The resistance is now, that’s for sure.  This version was recorded at the famous Tipitina’s in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities.

35.  The Clash — Know Your Rights

I loved The Clash.  An appropriate Clash song for this list might be Clampdown, which Greg Mitchell has included in his running “Songs of Resistance” (which I recommend).  But if the revolution starts, you need to know your rights.

37.  Sturgill Simpson — Call to Arms (SNL version)

I included this song in my first Trump playlist, using a live cut from 2016’s Farm Aid concert.  But that was before I saw his awesome guitar-smashing tear-it-up version on Saturday Night Live’s first episode of 2017.

38.  Patti Smith (with Joan Baez) — People Have the Power

The title says it all; a classic more relevant than ever.

39.  Phil Ochs — The Power and The Glory

This song was Phil’s memorable ode to America, from his very first album, but it’s best with its sometimes censored final verse.

40.  The People of the USA — This Land Is Your Land

I closed my first Trump playlist with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ great version of this Woody Guthrie classic, for some an alternative national anthem (although I think the preceding song could give it a challenge, if afforded the chance).  So I’ll close with it again, but this time in a remarkable compilation of thousands upon thousands singing the song at anti-Trump rallies — the women’s march, the anti-immigration ban protests at airports, and, indeed, everywhere — across the country.  People really do want their country back, but not the way Donald and his white nationalist minions do.  We want it for everyone.

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