Cause Song of the Month:
You can hear the pain and frustration in his voice on “Be Free.” American hip hop artist J. Cole wrote and recorded this raw ballad about the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. On the Dreamvillain blog, he writes, “That coulda been me, easily. It could have been my best friend. I’m tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men. I don’t give a fuck if it’s by police or peers. This shit is not normal. I made a song. This is how we feel.” It says it all. Take a listen. — K.B.
The late New York-born singer-songwriter whose songs were covered by such artists as Barbra Streisand, Blood Sweat & Tears, Peter Paul & Mary and the Fifth Dimension, was always drawn to socially conscious songs, she said. A vegetarian, her “Lite A Flame (The Animal Rights Song)” — which begins “In the zoo, they gave him a cage” — appears on 1993’s Walk The Dog and Light the Light, and disc 2 of 1997’s Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro. She died that year of ovarian cancer at age 49. Buy the song here — K.B.
Kim Mitchell and then writing partner Pye Dubois didn’t write “Go For Soda” about drinking and driving, but that’s what the song — released on 1984’s Akimo Alogo — has come to symbolize these past 30 years. “Might as well go for a soda / Nobody hurts and nobody cries / Nobody drowns and nobody dies,” the Canadian rocker sings. The single became a big hit in America for and Mother Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) licensed it for their anti DUI campaigns. To this day, Mitchell lets it be used for that purpose, most recently for The Safe and Sober Awareness Committee of Midland. Buy it here — K.B.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, made famous by such supporters as Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali, died April 20 in Toronto of prostate cancer. He was 76. Carter is the subject of Dylan’s masterfully written 1975 protest song recounting the story of the young man’s arrest in 1966 and false conviction for triple murder. Dylan visited Carter in prison and began to write the song with Jacques Levy. The 8-minute opus — found on the 1976 album Desire — helped bring further attention to Carter’s case and wrongful imprisonment. In 1988, all charges were dropped. From 1993 until 2005, Carter was the executive director of Canada’s Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. Buy the song here. — K.B.
Pop band Neverest is offering a free download of “Immortalized” — co-written with motivational speaker Spencer West — the official anthem for Free The Children’s We Make Change Tour. The Toronto act, which has toured with Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block, is appearing on various We Day dates, the arena-sized gathering for school kids about making a difference. “[The lyrics] encourage kids to not be afraid to take those risks in life that can not only create opportunity, but create positive change for themselves and others, much like We Day's slogan, ‘Be the Change,’” Neverest bassist Paul Loduca tells Samaritanmag. Download the song here. — K.B.
Long before “My Humps” and “I Gotta Feeling,” The Black Eyed Peas were a burgeoning alternative hip hop group but when Fergie joined will.i.am, Taboo and apl.de.ap during the making of 2003’s Elephunk, it gave them a more mainstream sound. Their pop breakthrough was the lead single “Where Is The Love?” which topped charts in 13 countries. The timing for such a song was perfect. Written just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — with assistance from an uncredited Justin Timberlake — the lyrics address global and domestic issues, including war, terrorism, racism and gang violence. Today, sadly, the song is still relevant. Buy it here. — K.B.
In this remarkable written gay rights song, the Seattle hip hop duo hits every point. “Same Love” begins with the perspective of a boy mistakenly thinking he was gay because he had “a bunch of stereotypes all in my head;” talks about the right wing Conservatives thinking being gay “can be cured with some treatment and religion;” addresses homophobia in hip hop; and advocates the rights of same-sex couples to marry. “No freedom till we’re equal / Damn right I support it.” “Same Love,” which was nominated for 2014 Song of the Year, at the 2014 Grammy Awards, is from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ first studio album together, 2012’s The Heist. Read the lyrics here and buy the song here. — K.B.
This song is ubiquitous this time of year but never gets old. “Just give peace a chance” was the response John Lennon gave a member of the press when asked what he and Yoko Ono hoped to achieve with their “bed-ins for peace" in Amsterdam and Montreal for their honeymoon. “Give Peace A Chance” was recorded on four-track in Room 1742 at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel on June 1, 1969 at the time of the Vietnam War. It features Lennon and Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers on acoustic guitar and Ono on handclaps, tambourine and backing vocals. In the room were journalists and such celebs as Timothy Leary, Petula Clark and Allen Ginsberg. Buy it here. — K.B.
Chinese-born Vancouver-based pop singer Wanting (Qu) says she has been a victim of cyber-bullying since her success. On her new album, Say The Words, the 30-year-old confronts the issue with the seemingly lighthearted single “S.T.H.U,” which stands for “Shut The Hell Up.” Produced and cowritten by Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen, Barenaked Ladies), Wanting says, “My feelings get hurt, but then I get angry sometimes, so eventually I wrote a song based on that experience. A lot of kids, who are getting cyber-bullied, can relate to the song and can be tough and tell them, ‘Stop saying bad things about others. I don’t want to hear it.’ Or ‘Stop bringing me down.’’” — K.B.
Sometimes a song takes on new significance years later. 54.40’s 1987 classic “One Gun,” from the album Show Me, has been adopted as the anthem of Rock The Violence, with the Vancouver rock band’s blessing. Over the summer, founder Craig Knight put the word out to Canadian radio stations to partner with them and play the song — just as they normally would — to raise awareness and create dialogue about gun violence in our communities and as the organization's mission states how to “raise awareness and generate dialogue that can put an emphasis on positive development, opportunities for youth, safe and supportive communities and poverty reduction.” — K.B.
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