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Songs Protesting George W. Bush and the War in Iraq

A brief look at new protest songs

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When George W. Bush announced the War in Iraq, I saw a lot of complaints in the blogosphere claiming so few musicians were writing new protest songs about the war itself, among other issues. But, of course, there were plenty of new songs that came out, that were written in protest to the Iraq War and which opposed the Bush administration. This list touches on just a few of the great new topical tunes out there.

"War in Iraq" - The George W. Bush Singers

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© George W Bush Singers
The George W. Bush Singers are probably one of my favorite discoveries in the last year. It's a chorus whose songs are all rather intricate arrangements built around actual quotes from George W. Bush. For example, they'll sample a sound byte of Bush saying something like, "I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq," and then they'll sing it in glorious harmony, backed by instruments that play anything from honky tonk to jazz and funk. If you want to laugh with your protest music, this is for you.
Purchase/Download "War In Iraq"

"Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?" - Tom Russell

TomRussell.jpg
promo photo
One of the biggest issues in current politics is what to do about US immigration policy. Tom Russell came up with an exquisite response to the George W. Bush administration policy of building a border fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. In it, he sings, "Who's gonna build your wall, boys? Who's gonna mow your lawn? Who's gonna cook your Mexican food when your Mexican maid is gone?"
Purchase/Download "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?"

"God Bless This Mess" - Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow - Detours
© A&M Records
Sheryl Crow's latest album, Detours, is a long-form editorial on current events and important topical issues. It all kicks off with this lovely little folk song about the War in Iraq. Toward the end, Crow sings, "The president spoke words of comfort with tear drops in his eyes / Then he led us as a nation into a war based on lies."
Purchase/Download "God Bless This Mess"

"Both Sides of the Gun" - Ben Harper

Ben Harper
promo photo
Ben Harper has written a number of songs critiquing current politics and issues, but "Both Sides of the Gun" seems to best represent the sense of upset and frustration that so characterizes current events. In the song, Harper refers to Bush as a "One-dimensional fool in a three-dimensional world."
Purchase/Download "Both Sides Of The Gun"

"Millenium Theater" - Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco - Reprieve
© Righteous Babe
Ani DiFranco's 2005 release Reprieve was, in large part, a referendum on the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the War in Iraq. The title track was a biting poem championing the feminist movement, and then there was this scathing review of Bush's eight-year run. DiFranco sings, "First leak it out about the president, then stand up and shout impeachment."
Purchase/Download "Millennium Theater"

"The Bush Boys" - The Mammals

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© Signature Sounds
The Mammals don't mess around. Their lyrics are always scathingly clever, memorable, and inimitable. On this tune, though, the band just absolutely goes there with their great lyrics (and, also, fabulous instrumentation). The sing: "You won't believe what the Bush boys bought / Hush little baby, don't you cry / daddy's gonng buy you an alibi."
Purchase/Download "The Bush Boys"

"Homeland (I Want My Country Back)" - Greg Brown

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© Red House Records
This great song was something Greg Brown was pulling out at his shows, but wasn't available on CD until 2005's In the Hills of California. In Greg's most earnest, easy way, the final verse of this song says, "Blind engineer, war train on the track. Many, many a heart is sore. We want our country back; we want to feel at home here once more."
Purchase/Download "I Want My Country Back"

"Empire" - Dar Williams

Dar Williams
photo by Kim Ruehl
This great protest song was featured on Dar Williams' 2005 CD, My Better Self. It snarkily accuses America of empiricism, tackling more specifically the notion of holy war and the Bush administration's policy on torture: "We'll kill the terrorizers and a million of their races, but when our people torture you that's a few random cases."
Purchase/Download "Empire"

"War Makes War" - John Gorka

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© Red House Records
From John Gorka's 2003 Release Old Futures Gone (Red House). The entire album has a clear political bent to it, but "War Makes War" is the most obvious protest song on the record: "... war makes war; it doesn't make peace."
Purchase/Download "War Makes War"

"Hey Ho" - Tracy Grammer

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© Signature Sounds
This tune from Tracy Grammer's debut solo album Flower of Avalon addresses how children are taught from a young age to play at war as soldiers with plastic guns, perpetuating the war machine: "Wave the flag and watch the news, tell us we can count on you. Mom and dad are marching too; children, step in line."
Purchase/Download "Hey Ho"
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