Yesterday I was lucky enough to be a part of the Peace and Planet festival, presenting thousands of petition signatures to the UN. A clear voice advocating for nuclear disarmament.
Frankly, before yesterday I was mostly in the dark about nukes in modern day. Didn’t this stuff end with the Cold War?
Nope – apparently not.
Did you know that the U.S. spends about $20 Billion on the storage, operation, and development of nuclear weapons each year? Crazy. Especially when 10% of schools in Philadelphia closed in 2013 because…
“These are some pretty tough economic times,”Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
Anyway, we got some gifts of peace from Japan after playing our set. And were honored to present our small gift of music to such a cause as world peace.
Last week it was revealed that Tom Petty will be given a cowriting credit for the Sam Smith hit song “Stay With Me” along with Petty’s songwriting partner Jeff Lynne. Why? Because the chord progression for “Stay With Me” is similar to Petty’s 1989 “I Won’t Back Down.”
So the question is, does he deserve it? Or is he just jealous that Sam Smith is up for multiple Grammy’s?
Listen to a mashup of the two songs here on YouTube.
Indeed, the songs are structurally similar for the refrain, but other elements of the song are different. The Tom Petty song is in the key of G and Sam Smith is in C, but they share the same chord progression of vi – IV – I. Basically, the Sam Smith song is pitch-shifted to have higher notes.
However, the intervals used in both songs are hardly groundbreaking from a songwriting standpoint. These are some of the most used chord progressions in the history of music.
In fact, a variation of the progression is so commonly used that it has been given its own name, the sensitive female chord progression (are you laughing? I am). A quick glance at Hook Theory will list the many many many songs that use these intervals. Check it out and you’ll see just how many there are.
The same site will reveal that, of songs that include the vi chord, 46% of them are immediately followed by the VI and then the I.
So what is all this co-writing credit nonsense?
One of my new favorite bands, Alt-J, is included in the list, too. Their song “Something Good” uses the exact same chord progression! Should Tom Petty get songwriting credit for that too?
No, no he should not. His song was inevitably the same as a another song before it.
Everybody copies, this is simply how art evolves. John Lennon used chords from Beethoven to write “Because” and Green Day used the chords from Pachelbel’s Canon to write “Basket Case.” The list goes on and on.
Even ask Tom Petty of 2006, when he was asked if he would sue the Red Hot Chili Peppers:
“a lot of rock & roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took “American Girl” [for their song “Last Nite”], and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you.’ It doesn’t bother me.”
Radio is great — wait… no.
Some radio is great. Independent radio stations are a major boon to music aficionados and artists alike. But increasingly I find myself not listening, just because it isn’t on the tip of my fingers like Spotify, Soundcloud, Rdio, Slacker, Pandora, etc.
Do you still listen to the radio? Despite all the talk about streaming apps, radio is still the most popular way to listen to music. However, it does seem to be more difficult to actually find a radio as of late. I have access to almost any song in the universe on my phone, but I can’t listen to a regular old FM radio station!
You might not even have a radio, except in your car. Your sound dock sure does look sleek, but its missing one of the basic technologies that made recorded music popular in the first place. Am I right? So I decided to solve my radio problem with a little internet research.
What to do?! We can stream the station over the internet tubes, here are the options:
You’ve probably seen or heard a commercial for this one. Its owned and operated by Clear Channel and it stinks like stinky cheese, don’t use it ever. It only provides access to Clear Channel radio stations (you know, the ones with waaay too many annoying sound effects, canned DJs, uninspired playlists, and tons of commercials?). However, it does provide the ability to create curated streaming radio stations without commercials – just like Pandora et al. But that isn’t what this article is about – we want to listen to the FM!
iHeartRadio is bad, and its owned by bad people. So why did I even mention it? I dunno… only to segue to the better alternative.
Enter the much lesser known but way more functional radio streaming service, TuneIn Radio. It lets you access the web stream of almost any radio station. Use it online, or download the app on your phone. If you buy to ‘Pro’ version you can pause, rewind, and save broadcasts for later. It also lets you ‘follow’ certain shows. So, for example – if you missed the most recent broadcast of your favorite show, you can quickly find other stations that will broadcast it, join the podcast, or get notifications when a new episode is going to broadcast.
So, if you are missing the radio experience, try out TuneIn Radio for a little break from the #curatedplaylistedstreaming web.
Music is the language of the soul, they say. Indeed, in times of conflict and trouble we often turn to music as an outlet of our rage, a comfort to our sadness, and a beacon to our collective hope. Recently, as the conversation on racism has been brought to our doorstep, I couldn’t help thinking of racial conflicts of the past, and with them, the protest songs of the past. After all, history repeats itself, so it may be wise to reflect on our roots.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”Plato
Hopefully, with a new generation of music to push us forward, we can come to face our racially charged past and begin a conversation. So without further ado, here is a playlist of five racially charged protest songs of another generation. See below for more info about each one.
- Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come
Inspired by events in Cooke’s life when he was denied entry to a Louisiana hotel due to his skin color, A Change Is Gonna Come has gone on to become a seminal song of the 60’s civil rights movement.
- Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam
Written after the murder of Medgar Evers, Simone contrasts a serious topic in a bouncy show tune containing the lyrics, “You don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality.”
- Big Bill Broonzy – When Do I Get To Be Called A Man
This one is relatively unknown. Big Bill Broonzy was an influential blues singer and guitarist who muses about his status as a ‘boy’ in the ’50s. Without knowing the background of racial conflict, you might think this song is playful.
- Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
Written by Abel Meeropol as a response to the increasing lynchings happening in the South and elsewhere, it was almost not recorded for fear of political backlash by Holiday’s record company. The imagery in this song is truly disturbing and very sad.
- Pete Seeger – We Shall Overcome
Derived from an early gospel song, We Shall Overcome does not have a definitive author. Guthrie picked it up through mutual contacts to worker’s unions, and was the first to record the song. It went on to become a pivotal anthem to the American Civil Rights Movement.
This is is far from comprehensive, what songs from the past inspire you in the events of today? Leave a comment and let me know.