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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Call To Arms’ by Sturgill Simpson

This may be one of the more popular and well-known protest songs from 2016. It was performed on “Saturday Night Live” by Sturgill Simpson. The brass part for the song packs quite a punch and has a lot to do with why this antiwar song is such a rousing tune.

Simpson’s song, “Call To Arms,” starts with the sounds of seagulls and waves, like someone is stranded at sea. It picks up tempo and never eases up.

“I done Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran/North Korea tell me where does it end/Well the bodies keep piling up with every day/How many more of em they gonna send,” Simpon sings, referring to war-making and the penchant for war by the United States government.

Simpson contends the U.S. government is sending sons and daughters to die for oil and “to control the heroin.” He hopes his son—or the younger generations—do not grow up and believe they have to “be a puppet to be a man.” It’s Simpson’s way of saying boys don’t have to join the military to become men.

The following verse alludes to the incredible amount of money spent on the military and war-making every year. Under President Donald Trump, that’s slated to go up even more. Yet, people cannot pay their fucking bills.

“Nobody’s looking up to care about a drone/All too busy looking down at our phone/Our ego’s begging for food like a dog from our feed/Refreshing obsessively until our eyes start to bleed.”

Americans are obsessed with social media and would rather promote themselves than pay the cost of U.S. wars any attention.

As the song is pushed to its climax, Simpson rails against the news media for spreading bullshit. “Turn off the TV. Turn off the news,” he sings.

Simpson’s song is the finale of his Grammy Award-winning album, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” which was written from the perspective of a sailor out to sea, who does not know if he will ever see his wife and son again. Throughout the album, the “sailor” imparts wisdom to his son.

After high school, Simpson spent a couple of years in the Navy. His experience likely influenced “Call To Arms.”

The Dap-Kings play the brass instruments that transform this into a soulful protest romp. It gives it an energy, that element of the fierce urgency of now, that spark that makes the message about lives at stake resonate so profoundly.

Listen to “Call To Arms” by Sturgill Simpson:

Mnar Muhawesh (left), Rania Khalek (center), Abby Martin (right)
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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."