Everybody Sing!

Singing in groups has been a part of culture as well as resistance movements since people learned to sing — it brings folks together, it’s participatory, moves your attention to the present, and brings emotion to the surface. And yet if you’re like most modern people, when was the last time you sang at a protest or political meeting, other than happy birthday? Have we become so cool, so dominated by ipods and instant individual electronic music gratification that we’ve forgotten how to sing?

In the 1930s, you could sing “Which Side are you on” on the picket line and everyone knew “The International” in one or more of 57 languages. The civil rights movement had “We Shall Overcome.” When I was a teenage activist in the anti-nuclear movement, we sang “Study War No More.” The Industrial Workers of the World still publish their Little Red Songbook, but a lot of the songs feel dated. Earth First! has lots of campfire songs.

And yet I don’t remember singing anything at the WTO protest in Seattle in 1999.

Slingshot collective has discussed singing before or after meetings as a way of shifting the mood and bringing the group together, but then we realized we didn’t all know any songs that would be appropriate for that sort of thing.

So I’m hoping folks will write in with suggestions that we can publish in the next issue. What songs do we all know (or could we all learn) that we can sing together at the next free skool meeting, bike coop repair class, or street occupation against global warming? It isn’t bad to recycle old songs but it would be extra exciting to figure out some modern songs that could become popular and acquire the ageless quality of a really amazing song that everyone knows and that we feel powerful singing together. Please send your ideas to Slingshot, 3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 / slingshot@tao.ca.