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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘America Has Never Been So Great’

Singer-songwriter David Rovics has written songs and produced several albums in the past twenty years. He is an impressively prolific independent artist constantly churning out protest songs inspired by current events.

On May 1, Rovics released Punk Baroque, which consists of songs from 2016. It is his first album to prominently feature the cello as well as guitar.

“America Has Never Been So Great” stands out as a wistfully cynical response to boisterous and nationalistic talk about the United States’s history as a great country. Such conversation was popularized by President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and dominated a truly insufferable 2016 Presidential Election.

Rovics approaches the reality of America with cautious idealism. “America has never been so great, but it could be.”

He lists off what would have to change for the country to be a great country.

“If the corporations in control gave back everything they stole. We would not be in this ditch. The whole country would be rich,” Rovics sings.

Rovics ponders what it would be like to have elections “that weren’t just corporate selections between one fool and another.”

More poignantly, he ends the song with, “If our treaties were obeyed, if kids weren’t hungry and afraid, if class and race and gender meant more than legal tender, if it weren’t all run by money it could be a land of milk and honey, if we’d more often make the call to build a bridge and not a wall.”

Then, to Rovics, it is possible America would be great.

Most of the songs on Punk Baroque, including this track, average around two to two and a half minutes long. This brevity sharpens the message and gives each track a punk aesthetic.

Rovics does not mince words or waste time. His songs are not concerned with how people feel in these times or how one plans to cope with politics that have taken a dark turn. His songs are not abstract sonic constellations, which lack political meaning unless one knows Rovics recorded them for a particular movement group.

These are real rebel protest songs for the age of Trump with substance that draw from history and speak to deep social anxieties fueled by poverty and war.

If you would like to buy Rovics’ album and support his work, go here.

Listen to David Rovics’ “America Has Never Been So Great”:

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Are you an independent artist who has written and/or produced a protest song that you would like featured? Or do you have a favorite protest song? Submit a song to protestmusic@Shadowproof.com

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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."