1939

by David Rovics

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about

Mostly songs I wrote during the last half of 2015, which I put together into a set and recorded live in front of an audience at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon.

credits

released January 11, 2016

Billy Oskay was the engineer, with Nate Stoll ably assisting. Cover photo by Guy Smallman, graphics by Elona Planman. All songs written by David except Die Moorsoldaten.

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David Rovics Portland, Oregon

"Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said."
Ian McMillan, BBC

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Track Name: God's Gift to the Caliphate
He was born a rich man, then he got richer still
By bribing politicians on Capitol Hill
By declaring bankruptcy, by working with the mob
By causing lots of Americans to lose their union jobs
By exporting industries to sweatshops overseas
By acting like an idiot on national TV
But now add to his accomplishments one more impressive trait
He's God's gift to the Caliphate

In between his beauty pageants and gambling casinos
And pretending to be a self-made man in films and TV shows
Donald Trump decided he should run for president
For jihadi recruiters his campaign is heaven-sent
It's a war between religions, a civilizational fight
That's what Daesh says – and Donald Trump says “that's right
All you Muslims stay out of here – just go join Islamic State”

He's not much for statistics, he doesn't have the time
Between harassing women and committing corporate crime
But he's a savvy gambler, he knows how to play the game
He's got a list of groups ready-made for him to blame
He doesn't just hate Muslims – he hates Mexicans as well
And he's prepared to win the contract for the wall he wants to sell
But the terrorists around the world think he's really great

The future of the world may be technically unknown
But if the past is any indication then Trump has set the tone
Along with 27 governors and Congresspeople by the score
Who, if we turned the clock back to 1944
Would be turning back the refugees just like we did back then
Hey that worked out so well, why not just do it all again
Because what the world clearly needs is more bile, bombs and hate
Track Name: Send Them Back
It's 1939 and the boats are coming
But we can't have them here, that much at least is clear
Our economy is poor, we can't just open up the door
We've got problems of our own, they should just leave us alone
And they're a tribalistic race, they keep a separate space
They don't really integrate, they'll be a burden on the state
Watch before it is too late

It's 1939 and the boats are coming
But if we let them land and acquiesce to their demands
We'll soon be overrun, our Christian country will be done
They should just take the tram closer by to Amsterdam
Keep their problems in the region, this invading legion
Enemies within our ranks with names like Rosenberg and Frank
Watch that water that you drank

It's 1939 and the boats are coming
But they must stay away, in the newspapers they say
They don't believe in Christ the lord and they're jumping overboard
Crossing borders in a swarm, they'll never be reformed
It's a Trojan Horse attack and we've got to send them back
There may be Nazis in the hall, answering Hitler's call
These Jews are Germans after all

It's 1939 and the boats are coming
Track Name: If/Then
If you've heard the news of the beheadings, seen the planes on bombing runs
Read of the carnage at the weddings, heard about these men with guns
Seen the photos of buildings mangled, the footage of the fields burned
The shots of bodies left entangled, there should be a lesson learned

If you saw them walking into the cafes, standing in the crowd
If you've watched the replays, heard them shouting out aloud
Death to all the unbelievers, Allahu Akbar, God is great
If you've heard the screams there in the theater as they died for the Caliphate

If you saw the planes hit the towers, saw the smoke that filled the sky
Smelled the candles and the flowers – if you looked up and wondered why
Someone would be hell-bent to kill so many fellow men
If you wondered what they once meant when they said “never again”

Then you know why they are fleeing – there's a ringing in your ears
Then you see what they are seeing – you know why they're coming here
Then you understand your task now is to open up the door
Then you – you must give them shelter from the war
Track Name: One Day in Kenya
It's a long way from Nairobi, travel across the country
To an arid northern little border town
If you leave early in the day you'll still be on your way
Long after the sun is going down
It began as just a ride to the other side
But then was interrupted by the sound
Of the shattering of glass as the driver tried to pass
The men with guns there on the dusty desert ground

There were two already dead, another shot as she fled
No question here whose lives were now at stake
When all is said and done it is instances like this one
When every move is one that just might make or break
All passengers get out, men with guns began to shout
You Christians now get up against the wall
But then everyone stayed still, saying now do as you will
You may leave, or you may kill us all

It wasn't far away, just over a year ago today
When people were massacred exactly in this manner
The pattern it was clear, all the Muslims here
Would be safe if they just stood beside this banner
Headscarves passed from hand to hand among this human band
Live together or together fall
And then nobody moved, showing each of them approved
Of saying you may leave, or you may kill us all

It wasn't set in stone – there's no way they could have known
That this time this act of solidarity
Would see the gunmen leave, goals left unachieved
On the border there in Mandera County
But sometimes you take a chance, then at a second glance
You see you've changed the world with the passing of a shawl
There are those who will remember those who on one day in December
Said you may leave, or you may kill us all
Track Name: 1492
In 1492 Colombo crossed the Ocean
Only one of many horrors that would then be set in motion
As his men cut limbs of Arawaks and burned children at the stake
Plundering a continent for God's sake

In 1492 when King Ferdinand won Granada
He passed a law known as the Edict of Alhambra
It was as the landlords wanted, as his gracious God had willed
That any Jew in Spain had three months to leave or else be killed

And 800,000 Europeans became refugees
And headed east across the Mediterranean Sea

In 1492 they were starving and bereft
The King said they'd be safe up until the time they left
But Christian Europeans cut them open with their swords
Searched their stomachs for gold and dumped them overboard

In 1492 the Sultan sent his fleet
To go rescue Sephardim after the Ottoman defeat
Hundreds of thousands of people who knew their deaths were near
Were rescued by Muslims and taken to Izmir

In 1492 the Sultan said that's fine
If they'd impoverish their kingdom just to enrich mine
The Sultan also passed an edict – he said “welcome home
“Now treat your new neighbors as if they were your own”
Track Name: Sunset Laws
You wanna understand what happens today
You gotta know how things got this way
So let's back up from the present date
And examine the history of a state
As with the rest of this stolen land
Mass murder is how it began
From the first days of the Territory
Only white men could own property

And to them the land was given for free
From Wallowa to the Pacific Sea
Taken by force and then handed out
Leaving no room for the slightest doubt
That a White Homeland was the intent
And to make it certain just what that meant
Signs were posted that clearly read Leave by dusk or end up dead

Best get out of town before the sun goes down
Because if you're not white that's probable cause
Here in the land of the Sunset Laws

The Oregon Territory's Constitution
Explained the methods of exclusion
It wasn't subtle – it was all too clear
Nonwhite people not welcome here
And when Oregon joined the USA
It entered the union with laws this way
Salem could fine and lash and kill
To enforce the white land's will

After the war of gray and blue
Exclusion Laws were passed anew
They weren't repealed for sixty more years
After the Klansman rule of Walter Pierce
It feels a lot like nothing's changed
Looks a lot like a firing range
Who owns the land, who keeps the order
From Portland to the California border
Track Name: They Couldn't Stand By
It's a story everyone should know
It happened a half century ago
All across this sprawling nation
The rising of a generation
It started slow and then gained speed
Nobody knew where it would lead
First there were marches, then there were more
Way too many to keep score
They shut down classes, couldn't learn
Once they ascertained how napalm burned
They had to find out how to defy
People stood up because they couldn't stand by

There were parades held by the military brass
There were cities filled with CS gas
Real wars and war games
Recruitment centers up in flames
Light a match, then in a flash
Draft cards turned to ash
Thousands moved across the border
Refusing military orders
Every army base in the USA
Had an antiwar cafe
There are times when you just can't comply

Soldiers insisted on free will
Put down their guns, refused to kill
Newspapers of the underground
Ubiquitously could be found
Across the country, across the sea
Throughout the ranks of the military
Take a grenade, pull out the pin
Praise be to Ho Chi Minh
Another fragging every night
A war that many refused to fight
Bombs were falling, some asked why

The ruling classes, with all their powers
Shook inside their ivory towers
They were brought to their knees back then
That's why we don't have the draft again
Even back then some of them knew
They had to be careful, what they tried to do
Rulers who miscalculate
Lose control of their ship of state
In order to govern you need consent
And all of that just up and went
In '68 came the reply
Track Name: Rasmea
Rasmea was born in Palestine a year before she had to flee
Her family left their home at gunpoint – since then she's been a refugee
She lived a hard life in the camps, her dad had to move away
Try to support his family from way out in Michigan, USA

When Rasmea was first arrested, not much older than a kid
There had been a bombing, and the next thing the authorities did
Was round up the whole neighborhood – 500 women, children and men
They tortured Rasmea – they only stopped when

They extracted their confession – she did what she had to do
Having no idea when her ordeal would be through
After 10 years in a dungeon, in the land of stolen fates
She was sent to Jordan, from where she moved to the United States

Rasmea made a life here helping refugees like her
Adapting to their new lives and the people they once were
Until her home was raided because she once checked the wrong box
For not mentioning the confession produced by the electro-shocks

Again Rasmea was arrested – once again stripped of citizenship
Some drink deeply of their freedom – some only get a little sip
The fact that she was tortured was not considered of import
Only Israeli military evidence was recognized by the American court

Now they say they will deport her from the city on the lake
They say that 20 years ago she made a technical mistake
They say Rasmea is a terrorist, but I'd say it would seem
Rasmea Odeh is the victim of a terrorist regime
Track Name: Ballad of Saed Bannoura
Saed Bannoura is a friend of mine
But I'm lucky to know him, to be sure
He is from a land called Palestine
From the town of Beit Sahur
His house was a mile from where Jesus was born
And a mile from a military base
He grew up under occupation
Such a lovely town but such a terrifying place
When the First Intifada started
Saed was facing off with tanks
So many of the youth then became martyrs
And Saed almost joined their ranks
He was running from a death squad
Soldiers shot him in the chest and in the back
They shot him six times altogether
But Saed said you guys just don't have the knack

He wouldn't die, he wouldn't die
They tried hard to kill him
But he just spat in their eye
He wouldn't die, he wouldn't die, he wouldn't die

A soldier came and kicked him to turn him over
A blow that broke four of his bones
A local doctor ran to try to help him
The soldiers said you leave him alone
It was hours before they took him
To hospital where he got surgery
But after they cut out half his lung
And patched him back together most sloppily

To stop the intifada
They tried different strategies
First they tried packing the prisons
Then they tried brutalilty
Neither one of these things worked
So they tried assassination
But now he's sitting right in front of me
Working at his station
Yes they tried to kill Saed Bannoura
And they succeeded with so many more
But now Saed is a citizen of Portland
My neighbor, by the Willamette River shore
And now Saed is a journalist
Reporting from his wheelchair
Though twenty years ago he took six bullets
Which was quite a lot more than his share
Track Name: Aleppo
When the bomb went off that killed your mother
And you left at midnight with your sister and your father
When you spent your first night sleeping amid the mortars
As your family made its way to the Turkish border
As you saw the dead and dying all around you
When there was nowhere you could hide, nothing you could do

And when you were living in a tent in Turkey
There along with a million other refugees
When your father said we must keep heading north to Sweden
That there we might live in a house again
As you slept out in the open beneath the darkness of the sky
Did you dream about your mama and her hazel eyes

Did you miss Aleppo and your nanny, Nenita
Did you wish you could be home in Syria

When you crammed into the raft that took you to dry land
Did your spirits lift a little when your father kissed the sand
Did you listen to him say now we must go to Macedonia
Did you hear somebody tell him it was better than Bulgaria
And as you ran across the border that took you out of Greece
And you saw your father being hit by the police

When you packed into the truck, did you feel the trepidation
As it moved along the highway closer towards your destination
How soon did people realize, when did they begin to shout
How hard was your heart pounding before all the air ran out
What was your final dream from which you would not awaken
Did you wonder why your young life now was going to be taken

Or did you just miss Aleppo...
Track Name: Lola Aglialoro
When Lola was born the First World War
Had only just ended 3 years before
In '77 she took a flight
She told a reporter who asked her that it was alright
2002 is the year that she died
She lived in Manhattan on the Upper West Side
If you look on the web that's almost all that will show
There once was a Lola Aglialoro

She always said she was from England
But after she died I learned she came from the mainland
The last Kindertransport was the one she was on
And she spent her youth then being bombed in London
She met a soldier, followed him back
How many kids she raised, who could keep track
Only 2 of her own, but so many others would follow
My nanny Lola Aglialoro

She always said she never had
A problem with the gangsters they said were so bad
She would laugh loudly, as she often did
Saying I knew all the gangsters when they were wee kids
She said not one child should be forsaken
Maybe because her own childhood had been taken
A woman of joy, a woman of sorrow
A lady named Lola Aglialoro

As I grew up I still kept in touch
With this woman who had affected so many so much
My lady of laughter, my mother of mirth
Who seemed to know so deeply what laughter was worth
There's no Stumbling Stone to recall when she came
And she long ago changed both her first and last name
But now there's a song so someone out there might know
There was once a Lola Aglialoro
Track Name: Stolperstein
When I first showed up in Deutschland, camping on the Rhine
The first town that I went to was also the first sign
Of the kind of self-reflection that had gone on around here
Indications everywhere, so shiny and so clear
Look down at the sidewalk where a little light is shown
When you stumble upon a stumbling stone

What did this place once look like, who lived on this block
It can't be recreated but you can partially take stock
Look down at the sidewalk for a little bronze square
Read the words engraved upon it that says who was living there
Before they were taken away to the dark unknown

Little squares all over, you'll find them all around
Not much information on them, and they don't make a sound
But if your imagination is anything like mine
Then all you need to trigger it is one lone Stolperstein
Take a moment to remember as you look down from your phone

There are six little squares here – one for each member
Of one family that was taken one morning in December
The youngest child was 2, the eldest one was 10
Within a year each one of them had died at Sachsenhausen
Their bodies burnt to ashes – flesh and blood and bone

And every time I see them I wish I would see more
Embedded in the sidewalks on so many other shores
Just one stone to remember each one who met their fate
At all the slave plantations, in all the torture states
But for some it's safer to just leave the dead alone
Track Name: Beneath These Stars
Soup is cooking in the cauldron, there's a freight train passing by
A plane streaking through the night air way up in the sky
Nearby the leaves are shimmering and they rustle in the breeze
Blowing smoke upon our faces and on the guitars on our knees
Like a message from the mountain saying now here we are
Around this campfire, beneath these stars

Someone throws a log on, lighting up our faces
And the more or less together state of each of our shoelaces
Someone tells a story of a place she'd like to go
And it feels like nothing's changed much since a thousand years ago
The glowing embers of a pipe, the passing of a jar
Around this campfire, beneath these stars

Out there in the world kids are sleeping in their cots
Fishermen are hauling nets and tying fishing knots
Somewhere someone's dancing, someone's drilling a gas well
Someone's writing memoirs sitting in a prison cell
Some of us are wondering is there life up there on Mars?
Around this campfire, beneath these stars
Track Name: Song for Alistair
I think of summer festivals, I think of double dates
I think of being searched by cops outside the prison gates
I think of dark-haired women, one or two or maybe four
I think of singing songs together, planning to sing more
I think of Queensland summer, swimming in cool waters
With you and me and Woodford and Athena's daughters
I think of driving down the highway feeling like the lucky few
I think of Grevious Angels, Gram and Emmylou

I think of Maralinga and the BLF
Seventh chords in open tunings and the mighty treble clef
I think of 1917 and the red flag flying high
Above the streets of Glasgow, beneath a blood-red sky
I think of Roaring Jack and how you would repine
Of decades fueled in equal parts by politics and wine
I think of meeting friends, both old and very new
I think of driving down the highway with Gram and Emmylou

I think of Aotearoa, gazing at the stars
I think of that drunken driver who totalled our car
I think of playing in the Bunker, how that audience had spunk
Half of them old folkies, half of them young punks
I think of all the miners who slowly fade away
I think about the moment when I heard it was your day
I think about this CD that I got from you
When I'm driving down the highway with Gram and Emmylou
Track Name: It's Legal Now
For about a century, there was a prohibition
Which put a heck of a lot of people in a difficult position
Each year millions went to prison for planting the wrong seeds
Imprisoned for the crime of smoking weed
Imprisoned in their millions, especially those
Black or brown or wearing long hair and hippie clothes
But I stand here before you with quite a bit of pleasure
To tell you all about a successful ballot measure

It's legal now, it's legal now, take a bow, it's legal now

The politicians were useless, almost all the same
Playing the Military-Industrial-Prison-Complex game
But the regular people weren't nearly as dumb
So some folks took initiative and we passed a referendum
Now people don't have to risk arrest if they want to treat their ills
With something other than pharmaceutical pills
And if you just wanna take a hit because you like the feeling
You can safely walk the streets or just stare up at the ceiling

Now that pot's legit, at least in large parts of the west
We can get to work legalizing all the rest
The poppies and the coca leaves and all the other plants
Safer, regulated, will be the official stance
The CIA will have to find another way to operate
The FBI will need a new MO for their whole police state
When we legalize it all from the west coast to the east
Then we can say right here in the belly of the beast
Track Name: Eagles of Death
Steel birds streak through the sky above the Syrian Levant
The pilot flew the plane all the way from Nantes
Explosions rock the cities in this proxy civil war
So many innocents killed, they've long since lost the score
Jean-Pierre fired a missile and was heard to say
He wished he could be home in France at his favorite cafe
Not fighting in a conflict that shows no sign of ever ending
As the Eagles of Death were descending

The bars were filled with people on a balmy Friday night
Out enjoying the weather, having a drink or a bite
Watching football in a stadium, hearing a live band
Washing dishes in a restaurant or shopping for the latest brand
The luckiest ones stayed home, catching a TV show
Not knowing how glad they'd be that they didn't go
Out that evening to join a war they had just last week been protesting
When the Eagles of Death were descending

The Right is overjoyed, prepared to do their best to try
To use these acts of terror to continue to deny
Asylum for the refugees, who are largely fleeing the same men
Who took over their towns and cities at the very same time when
They escaped the carnage to attempt to cross the sea
To be refused safe haven in the land of fraternity
Where this war that has come home keeps rivening and rending
As the Eagles of Death were descending
Track Name: Upon Our Shores
Did you get up in the morning, see your kids off to school
As you headed to the office was it hard to keep your cool
When you saw the news and the picture of the boy
On the beach just down the coast from the ancient town of Troy
Did you think about the victims of these most uncivil wars
When you saw the children washing up upon our shores

Did you hear the pundits talking, did you hear them say
We must have law and order, all these migrants cannot stay
Did you see the people walking, trying not to look
At the headlines splashed around them and this photo someone took
Did you want to shout at each of them, knock on every door
And tell them there are children washing up upon our shores

Is the thought seared in your mind when you see your son or daughter
Of this child from Kobane face down beside the water
Did you keep on asking since then, what if it had been you
Do you just wish that you could find out what just one person could do
Is his image all around you as the sweat comes from your pores
There are children washing upon upon our shores

Do you just keep on asking yourself the question why
As you make dinner for your children, this one had to die
If you just hit the road from England a few days south and east
Do you think about how you could, and once you're there at least
You could leave a flower, and hear the wind implore
There are children washing up upon our shores
Track Name: The Irish Spring
My great great grandfather was a refugee
From a place called Ireland
He didn't want to leave home, but when you're a slave
Nothing goes how you might have planned
Like most of the island, he had nothing to eat
He survived by going away
But if he hadn't starved, and if he hadn't left
Perhaps he would have lived to see the day
When after centuries of subjugation
Under English queens and kings
Came the movement of the Irish Spring

When things were set in motion around one Easter morning
To move from colony to nation
When through the foggy dew could be seen lines of marching men
Heading towards a country's liberation
Then a century ago, on April 24th
Suddenly, one day the spell was broken
For 6 days and nights, all across the island
The spirit of resistance had spoken
Quickly it was clear – even the deaf could hear
The sounds of two armies battling
And the bullets of the Irish Spring

Buildings lay in ruins when the rebels had surrendered
A battle lost – a war only begun
Chains, once thrown off, don't go back on easily
And soon the British Army was on the run
The Dail convened and declared the Republic
A nation among the others on the Earth
A nation with a people, with a culture and a history
Celebrated from Liverpool to Perth
A nation with a memory That's in the songs it sings
With the music of the Irish Spring

A revolution left unfinished, you can hear many people say
On the streets of Derry and Belfast
But in all 32 counties you'll hear many people talking
Of the struggles and the martyrs of the past
Of those who dared stand up and teach us through example
What it means sacrifice it all
Of those who demonstrated if they believe that they are free
Only then can they possibly stand tall
Of Connolly and Pearse and all those who gave their lives
That they might hear the bells of freedom ring
With the rising of the Irish Spring
Track Name: Rent Control
They say the economy is booming tho on this there's much debate
It depends on how well you're getting by
Development is zooming, some folks think that's great
And now you can legally get high

But even that can't mask the pain that so many of us feel
When we're paying so much rent
To be homeless in the rain is so nasty and so real
Looks like the good times came and went

Rent control (2x)
'Cause that's the way everything should be
Rent control (2x)
The choice of a democracy

In some places they make laws that limit corporations
That keep greedy landlords in check
Here we have the cause but we lack the politicians
With enough spine in their necks

Every day that passes while we don't have rent control
Is an insult to the human race
Time to get up off our asses, take back the city that they stole
Put the greedy bankers in their place
Track Name: Die Moorsoldaten
Wohin auch das Auge blicket
Moor und Heide nur ringsum
Vogelsang uns nicht erquicket
Eichen stehen kahl und krumm

Wir sind die Moorsoldaten
und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor

Hier in dieser öden Heide
ist das Lager aufgebaut
wo wir fern von jeder Freude
hinter Stacheldraht verstaut

Auf und nieder geh´n die Posten
keiner, keiner kann hindurch
Flucht wird nur das Leben kosten
vierfach ist umzäunt die Burg

Doch für uns gibt es kein Klagen
ewig kann nicht Winter sein
einmal werden froh wir sagen
Heimat du bist wieder mein

Dann zieh´n die Moorsoldaten
nicht mehr mit dem Spaten ins Moor
Dann zieh´n die Moorsoldaten
nicht mehr mit dem Spaten ins Moor
Track Name: Behind the Barricades
When the world has gone crazy
And it's all becoming clear
When they're gunning down our comrades
And it seems the end is near
As they're loading up the launchers
For the tear gas grenades
We can take off our bandanas
And kiss behind the barricades

When it's madness all around
You can see this at a glance
We will cry and we will sing
And we will laugh and we will dance
As they shout their marching orders
Beneath the helicopter blades
We will seize the moment
For a kiss behind the barricades

They will try to break our spirit
And at times they may succeed
But our love for the world
Is stronger than their greed
When the building is surrounded
And hope begins to fade
In my final hour
A kiss behind the barricades

As the movement grows
There will be hills and bends
But at the center of the struggle
Are your lovers and your friends
The more we hold each other up
The less we can be swayed
Here's to love and solidarity
And a kiss behind the barricades