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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Now Or Never’ By Yoko Ono

Editor’s Note

The following protest song was initially featured at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.

“Thirty years ago, the world did not need too much from me in terms of activism. Now we need all the activists in the world to do something, and still it may not be enough.”

The above was posted on Yoko Ono’s Twitter account. The statement is an apt description of why, at 85 years of age, Ono continues her five-decade long career of using her art to promote social change.

She recently announced a new album “Warzone” that will be released on October 19, 2018. The album  re-imagines tunes that were previously released between 1970–2009.

The musical arrangements on the album will be stripped down to draw attention to the lyrics and vocals. Sadly, the messages of the songs should resonate more than ever.

“The world is so messed up. Things are very difficult for everybody. It’s a warzone that we are living in…” said Ono. “I like to create things in a new way. Every day things change.”

Leading up to the album’s release, Ono plans to release a new tune every Tuesday.

One of the six tunes released so far is “Now Or Never.” It is a poignant reworking of a song from Ono’s 1973 album, “Approximately Infinite Universe.”

The lyrics contain a series of questions that remain pertinent:

Are we gonna keep pushing our children to drugs?

Are we gonna keep sending our youth to war?

Are we gonna keep digging oil wells and gold?

Are we gonna keep thinking it won’t happen to us?

The song additionally explores how history will remember the current generation:

Are we gonna be remembered as the century that failed?

Are we gonna be known as the century that kills?

Are we gonna be known as the century of fear?

These questions initially applied to the 20th century, but Ono re-frames the lyrics to apply to the 21st Century. Still, the lyrics hold out optimism that “we can change the times to century of hope.”

The song concludes with one of Ono’s most well-known and inspiring lines, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream we dream together is reality.”

It would be easy to dismiss the idealism of her and late husband John Lennon as utopian fantasies, but if everyone works unitedly towards a common goal, why couldn’t a massive cultural shift be achieved?

As Ono joins her voice with a new generation of activists, the dreams of long-awaited change come a bit closer to reality.

Marshall Project President Carroll Bogert. Source: https://vimeo.com/256634875
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CJ Baker

CJ Baker

CJ Baker is a lifelong music fan and published writer. He recently started a website chronicling the historical developments of protest music: ongoinghistoryofprotestsongs.com, and can be found on Twitter @tunesofprotest