The music supported the lyrics that spoke of injustice, peace, hope for a better tomorrow and sadness for lost generations.
As a sixteen year old, I was naïve enough to believe that if everyone just listened to these wise minstrels that the world would be a better place….for you and for me. Love really was all we needed.
I believe the last great social album, though far from folk, is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Released in1971 all of the issues it addresses; war, ecology, poverty etc are sadly still so relevant today.
There have been many contemporary musicians who have written beautiful sad and angry songs about the state of the world, think Neil Young, Billy Bragg, Michael Franti to name a few. But I have a soft spot for those oldies; The Ballad of Sad Young Men, Blowin' in the Wind, Beautiful People, A Change is Gonna Come.
So it came as a surprise that I fell upon this version of Pete Seeger's 1961 anthem "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" by Jimmy Somerville. Now, most will know Somerville through his work with the Communards and the Bronski Beat. His first big hit Smalltown Boy was groundbreaking insomuch as it openly dealt with homophobia. The video, which played high rotation on MTV and Much Music, left no doubt why this boy was running away from his small home town.
I like Jimmy Somerville and have a great respect for his integrity. He stayed true to himself and managed to maintain a career, (Are you listening Adam Lambert?) His version of this song may not be to everyone’s taste as it is so different from what we have come to expect from him, but the interpretation and the images are heart wrenching.
Not since the sixties when Eve of Destruction loomed over the airwaves and images of burning Buddist monks flickered away on out television sets, have I felt so sad and so scared.
Have we really changed? Is there hope that we can?