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Protest Song of the Day: ‘Sign the Dotted Line’ by Jeff Mangum & Guy Picciotto

To recognize the power of protest music, acknowledge its role in creating a culture of dissent and how musicians translate social issues and systemic problems into song, The Dissenter has launched a daily feature that highlights a protest song every weekday.

Last night, Strike Debt, an organization rooted in the idealism of the Occupy movement, kicked off their project to abolish debt and give the people a bailout with their telethon, the Rolling Jubilee. It featured Janeane Garofalo, Lizz Winstead, Hari Kondabolu, David Rees, actor/director John Cameron Mitchell, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio and others. According to, the telethon raised enough money to abolish $5 million worth of debt.

Mangum and Picciotto performed a song by The Tall Dwarfs called “Sign on the Dotted Line.” It is a cover that Mangum recorded a couple years ago when one of the members of the band, Chris Knox, suffered a stroke.

The song lends itself to the issue of debt and abolishing it as it really seems to be about servitude and letting one’s self be a captive of debt collectors, financiers or moneyed interests.

At one point in the song, Mangum sings:

Let’s just discard what makes us tick
and act as if we’re really thick and slow
take pen in hand
and sign the dotted line
so everything will turn out fine

He then adds, “If it’s not what it appears to be/We’ll get down on our bended knees/And lick the shit of which they stand/Until it shines.”

It is a raw expression of being duped but standing for it, of finding that one is helpless and powerless and must just find some way to go along to get along.

The Rolling Jubilee project is definitely about not doing that. They are about mobilizing people so mutual aid can be provided to people in debt in this country. For details on how the project will actually help people in debt, go here.


If you have requests for songs that should be featured or if you have a protest song you recorded, which you would like to see featured, email

And all previous Protest Song of the Day selections can be found here.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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