It’s been just over a year since the worldwide Occupy movements began in New York’s Wall Street. People from all over the country gathered together to protest against economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government. In other words, the 99% vs the 1%.
Music is an essential part of any political or social movement. It keeps spirits high, minds switched on and protesters determined to carry on. It also promotes that strong sense of camaraderie and community at the heart of any protest. Since it started last September, many musicians have penned their own protest songs, with the concept and movement slogan ‘We Are The 99%’ in mind or taken to the Occupy campsites for impromptu performances. A simple internet search will provide you with hundreds of songs, videos, compilation albums and music projects all by a range of different artists.
Amanda Palmer, for example, visited the epicenter of the movement at Wall Street to deliver a performance of ‘Ukulele Anthem’. Though the song itself did not directly refer to the movement itself, it did incredibly well in bringing everyone together.
More recently, Rage Against The Machine’s guitar man Tom Morello has joined forces with Tim McIlrath of Rise Against and System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian for a powerful new track named after the Occupy slogan. Celebrating the one year anniversary of the movement, this is probably one of the biggest songs so far as the artists are also rather prestigious already. Much of the music media are already referring to the song as an Occupy anthem. But is this a fair assertion? What makes a song worthy of being dubbed the official anthem of a global movement? Who does? Do we need one?
I could probably write a whole essay about this but I’ll save that for another time.
Basically, it’s not really a case of having one defining anthem. In fact, elitism is what sparked the civil unrest and the global Occupy movements in mess in the first place. Instead, the idea that musicians and artists can create and share music, no matter if they’re well established rock musicians or grassroots singer songwriters playing from their tent in Zuccotti Park, is as essential to the movement as the music itself as it even further strengthens the Occupy community, empowering the 99% as they continue to strive for a brighter future.
I’d love to get some feedback on this. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on music and the Occupy movement, even if it’s just your favourite protest song and why!