Cause Song of the Month:
“Hands up/Don’t shoot/I can’t breath,” Cold Specks, a.k.a. Al Spx (born Ladan Hussein), sings on this powerful a cappella gospel/blues song “We Are Many (Revisited),” inspired by her own experience with racism and the killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY. The track, which isn’t found on her critically acclaimed 2014 album, Neuroplasticity, is offered alongside another b-side to her new single, “Living Signs,” or sold separately. “I was in America when the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced,” the Somali-Canadian singer-songwriter tells Samaritanmag. “I was there again when it was announced the police officer who placed Eric Garner into a fatal chokehold would not be indicted. Many people, and certainly every black person in America felt something that day. For me, it was an overwhelming sense of sadness.” Buy the song here. — Karen Bliss
Nothing More frontman Jonny Hawkins wrote “Jenny” about his sister’s complicated and self-destructive struggle with bipolar disorder and his mother’s final year. Now the Texas-based rock band is using the song to expand the discussion about mental illness. Of the 1 in 5 people who have a mental illness, only 41 percent will seek help, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Lyrics include “You’re beginning to drag the ones you love down / Will this phase ever end? / A thousand arms to hold you /But you won’t reach for any hands.” Buy the new single here and watch Hawkins talk openly about his family history in this video. — Karen Bliss
In honour of International Women’s Day, Samaritanmag’s cause song of the month is “Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? (Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?)” about women’s suffrage — the right to vote on the same terms as men. Written by L. May Wheeler circa 1884, the chorus is “Oh dear, what can the matter be / Women are wanting to vote.” One of the verses begins “Women have husbands, they are protected…Women have fathers, they're not neglected/Why are they wanting to vote?” The last verse outlines the reasons. The song is available on the compilation Songs of the Suffragettes, sung by Elizabeth Knight in 1954, and released by the Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings in 2004. Buy It here. — Karen Bliss
Rhinestone cowboy Glen Campbell doesn’t know his very last recording, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” won Best Country Song at the 2015 Grammy Awards. The 78-year-old, whose 70-plus albums have sold more than 45 million copies, has Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia. “I'm still here, but yet I'm gone ,” the lyric begins. Co-written by Campbell and producer Julian Raymond about the personal effects of the disease, and featuring famed session musicians The Wrecking Crew (of which Campbell was once a part), the song appears in the Oscar-nominated film, Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, which documented his 2012 “Goodbye Tour.” The song appears on the soundtrack, which comes out Feb. 17. Buy it here. — Karen Bliss
Toronto turntable-rock duo USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) wrote “Shipwreck” — for the album Advanced Basics — about depression and addiction and “drowning in a sea of blame.” But there’s always help to pull you out of your funk or dire situation. “Call me / When you need someone to listen to you / Call me / When you're flirting with the edge,” Ashley Buchholz sings. While no money from the sale of the song goes to Kids Help Phone, at the end of the music video is the contact for the anonymous youth counselling service and a new USS t-shirt in 2015 will generate a $2 donation from each sale. Buy the song here. — Karen Bliss
This a cappella song about domestic abuse is as powerful today as it was when Tracy Chapman released it in the late 80s. Found just four songs in on her remarkable self-titled debut, the words of "Behind The Wall" no doubt ring true for many people in an abusive relationship that have tried to get help. “It won't do no good to call / The police / Always come late / If they come at all,” Chapman sings, as an outsider listening to the screams. “And when they arrive /They say they can't interfere / With domestic affairs / Between a man and his wife.” Buy it here. —Karen Bliss
Neil Young has recorded three different versions of this new protest song — from his forthcoming album, Storeytone — a live remix with Crazy Horse, solo acoustic, and with a full orchestra and 30-person choir. “Protect the wild / Tomorrow’s child / Protect the land from the greed of man,” it begins. The detailed and direct environmental song was unveiled live in Europe when the singer was touring with Crazy Horse. “End fossil fuel / Draw the line / Before we build one more pipline / End fracking now / Let’s save water,” he continues, “And build a life for our songs and daughters.” He has given permission for people to make videos using the song "and any way you see fit" in order to further spread the message. — K.B.
This group of young German musicians have disabilities, primarily autism, and are touring the northeastern U.S. and Canada this month to spread their message of inclusion and equality. In their rock song “Alles Egal,” which means “All The Same” — sung mainly by The Mix founder/producer (and older gentleman) Peter Savic — they open with the German lyric: “The way we look at things is the way we see it” but later repeat the English phrase: “Well, it really doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter at all.” Watch the live video and see their tour dates. — K.B.
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.
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