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There are innumerable examples of music, popular and otherwise, that are political in nature. One particularly powerful song that took a major issue head-on was Billie Holliday's "Strange Fruit," which sought to draw the issue of lynching into the national consciousness. The lyrics, which were written by Abel Meeropol, were damning, and worth quoting at length:
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter cry
The lyrics juxtaposed an idealized version of the "gallant south" with a visceral evocation of the physical effects of a lynching, including blood, the "bulging eyes" of a hanged man, and "burning flesh." In so doing, it painted Southern whites as hypocrites. But equally essential to the song's power was Holiday's delivery of these sad lyrics. Holiday recorded the song over the objections of her label, financing the project herself, and her delivery was both haunting and powerful. She sang the song in a hushed, mournful tone, a decision that only underscored her indignation. For years, she ended most of her live shows with the song, which she usually began with her eyes closed and head bowed as in prayer. She also insisted that waiters stop serving drinks during the performance of the song, so as not to interfere with its gravity. The song, which has been named "song of the century" by multiple music critics, is a dramatic example of how powerful lyrics and considerable vocal talent can be brought to bear on a political issue.
One song that carries a political message, is an older one, "Monster" by the band Steppenwolf. The song is an anthem against corruption, greed, war, and such. The Monster of the song are the combined forces of destruction that are wreaking havoc on America; Especially poignant is the verse:
America, where are you now
Don't you care about your sons and daughters
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster
John Kay and Jerry Edmonton, band members of Steppenwolf, wrote this song.
I would also like to add that a very famous musical composition, with an obvious, strong and passionate 'political' influence and 'message,' is Beethoven's Symphony No 3, in E flat major, generally/popularly known to us as the 'Eroica' (Italian for 'heroic') Symphony. It is probably one of the loveliest works in 19th century Western classical music, and steeped in a Romantic idealsm that quite signified the times, when Romanticism was replacing Classicism in a transitional phase.
In technical terms, the symphony is broadly divisible into four 'movements' i.e. 1st a sonata allegro; the 2nd a funeral march in C minor ; the 3rd is a scherzo, with lively tone and the 4th, a set of variations often termed the 'Eroica variations'. Together, the symphony is a true masterpiece imbued with bold and subtle strokes, composed between 1804-1806 probably.
This ws the time when the 18th century with its rigid 'classical' doctrines was fading out and artists such as Beethoven still remembered and celebrated the recent past events of the French revolution (1789-1792) and found inspiration in this upheaval which had torn aside the old rigid aristocratic system in France and brought in a new air of hope and optimism in all of Europe, one which promised freedom and democratic liberties. Beethoven himself was deeply inspired and infleunced by the events of the revolution in France and especially, admired the young 'first Consul' of France, Napoleon Bonaparte--of course, later when Napoleon declared himself an 'Emperor' and became a bit of a tyrant, Beethoven and many other admirers of Napoleon were disillusioned--but, still, at the time of the composition of this particular symphony, dedicated to Napoleon, it was the young, dashing, heroic 'people's army general' who had defeated all the forces of the great 'reactionary' nations and all their best commanders who was firmly in Beethoven's mind, and to him did he dedicate the symphony.
There is, perhaps, no other work of music in the classical repertoire, which is so idealistic, so simply beautiful and yet, so impregnated with a deep and abidng humanitarian, political vision and lofty hope.
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