Cause Song Spotlight

Legendary folk-rock musician Bob Dylan was recently awarded the Nobel prize in literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." While "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and a "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" may be better known protest songs, it's Dylan's "Masters Of War" from the 1963 album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan which might have the most timeless pro-peace application. A blunt, sometimes strident condemnation of the military-industrial complex, Dylan wrote the song about the Cold War arms race, but many of its tenets are still relevant today. Listen to the song here. — Aaron Brophy

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I am Orlando/You are the world,” Canadian folk singer Alejandra Ribera’s somber song begins. Originally inspired by the title character Virginia Woolf novel Orlando, it has now taken on new meaning. She wrote it in Paris the week of the Charlie Hedbo massacre in 2015 after she was “paralyzed by my sadness” and used songwriting “to soothe myself,” she notes in the press release. “At that time I needed to remind myself of the potential for transformation that can only come in our most vulnerable moments.” She released it now as a tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting and the other recent tragedies. Listen to the song here. — Karen Bliss

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With the Syrian refugee crisis continuing to impact not only Europe, but the rest of the world, it's important to remember musicians have responded to similar events before. In 1971 George Harrison released "Bangla Desh," one of the first-ever charity pop singles. Release three days before the former Beatles member's related Concert For Bangladesh, the song raised awareness for the millions of refugees from eastern Pakistan suffering from the combined impacts of the 1970 Bhola cyclone and the Bangladesh Liberation War. Buy it here. —Aaron Brophy

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The second single from Marvin Gaye's landmark What's Going On album, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," is one of the greatest, most poignant environmental anthems ever recorded. The song hit No. 4 on the Billboard Pop Chart and No. 1 on the R&B Chart. More importantly, it shared an important message. In three minutes and 14 seconds, Gaye confronted air pollution, poisoned seas, radiation leaks and over-population in a way that's just as true — if not more so — some 45 years later. Buy it here. —Aaron Brophy

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Damian Kulash Jr., frontman for America’s OK go, has written a solemn acoustic song for those who died and were affected by the terrorist attacks at Paris rock venue Bataclan. “I wrote a prayer for peace,” he posted. “with the bombings in Beirut, the attacks in Paris and Mali, […] threats in Brussels, the bombing of the Russian airline, the going atrocities in Syria, and so much other violence and war around the world, I hope peace can find a way.” The song was included in Al Gore’s climate change TV special presentation, The 24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth. Listen to the song here. — Karen Bliss

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“Fight Song” has been Jeremiah Succar’s anthem since May. The 7-year-old has stage-four atypical rhabdoid teratoid, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. He learned all the lyrics and even got to sing them with the songwriter herself, Rachel Platten, on his hospital bed at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  “This is my fight song / Take back my life song / Prove I’m alright song / My power’s turned on / Starting right now I’ll be strong.” If you need some melodic punch to help you make it through something, this could be your fight song too. Buy it here. — Karen Bliss

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Line by line, Blue Rodeo skewers the present Canadian government in what they are calling a “modern day protest song.” In “Stealin’ All My Dreams,” co-vocalist Greg Keelor calls out Prime Minister Harper for his position on everything from the oil pipeline to national security.  The accompanying video and web page actually lists a staggering number of “stealin’ all my dreams facts” corroborated with links to news stories.  “Blue Rodeo does not always speak with one voice,” says co-vocalist Jim Cuddy. “However, we feel collectively that the current administration in Canada has taken us down the wrong path.” Download the song for free here.  And vote on Oct. 19 — Karen Bliss

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Chilliwack frontman Bill Henderson, whose hits include “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” and “I Believe,” has recorded a patriotic song, produced by Bob Rock, inspired by the documentary film Coastal Tarsands: Journey to Deleted Islands. The earnest “Take Back This Land” begins “We’re gonna take back this country; we’re gonna take back this land” and includes a snippet of Canada’s national anthem. The 70-year-old Vancouver native is hoping it will encourage Canadians to vote in the federal election Oct. 19.  The song isn’t on iTunes, but you can watch a video for an acoustic version shot outdoors on Salt Spring Island and a studio version here.  — Karen Bliss


The 2015 Academy Award and Golden Globe winner for best original song, “Glory,” is the theme for the 2014 film Selma, about the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in 1965 to do away with the discriminatory criteria placed on black citizens to deny them the right to vote.  The gospel-tinged song, sung by John Legend with rapper Common, references then (Rosa Parks) and now (Ferguson). Among the powerful lyrics: “Now the war is not over / Victory isn't won / And we'll fight on to the finish /Then when it's all done.” Common also appears in the film civil rights leader James Bevel.  Buy the song here. — Karen Bliss

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Recently reimagined by Buffy Sainte-Marie about Native rights, this anti-apartheid song by British reggae-pop band UB40 came out in 1986, eight years before the end of nearly five decades of racial segregation in South Africa. Found on the album Rat in the Kitchen and some greatest hits packages, "Sing Our Own Song" features the lines “We will fight for the right to be free / And we will build our own society” and “Forward Africa run our day of freedom has come / For me and for you Amandla Awethu.”  Those Zulu words meaning “power” “is ours” were the African National Congress’s rallying cry. Buy the song here. — Karen Bliss

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