Punk Baroque

by David Rovics

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    Bonus items include a video of "Letter to My Landlord" from October, 2016 in Rostrevor, Ireland, with Lorna McKinnon accompanying, and an alternative album cover by Elona Planman.
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Ten thousand yuppies just moved here Ten thousand others came last year The rent has doubled since I moved in Each month I take it on the chin Each month I wonder how many more Can I stay in Portland before Before I move into my car Or end up somewhere behind bars Ten thousand yuppies say don't complain Now that the city is in the fast lane It's just the market and it knows best That's how the bankers built the west So just get rich and you can stay Otherwise just go away There's no room here for us Holding on under the bus I'm just a renter, this ain't my town Might as well just burn it down For all I care Ten thousand yuppies think it's great To invest in Portland real estate “Keep Portland weird” they like to say But that was over yesterday Of their achievements they're so proud Living lives in some cloud But unlimited data will get you nowhere If you can't afford to care Ten thousand yuppies and on each block They're flipping houses and taking stock Where's the next place they can transform Tents and mansions, the new norm They like Ted Talks, they like greed They like wine bars, they like weed They like bike lanes, they want more They're the face of the new class war
1848 02:08
The famine had affected many people From Ireland to the shores of the Baltic Sea The soaring cost of food meant it took most of your earnings Which meant the shutting down of much of industry But no one knows for sure why the rebellion began Or why it quickly spread from state to state When in the mountains and the plains, from Galway to Ukraine Came the Rising of 1848 A pitchfork may be no match for a rifle But there's nothing that will give the king a fright As when he looks out of the window And sees his castle burning in the night But that's just what happened in fifty different countries Where the landlords oft encountered such a fate Where from Budapest to Sicily life would never be the same After the Rising of 1848 Marx and Engels wrote a book which spread as quickly as the flames From which the feudal barons had to flee From the workers in the cities, from the peasants in the towns And even from the petit bourgeoisie United for a time by a common sense of purpose To finally throw off the crushing weight Of the dynastic rule of hereditary Lords Who owned the Europe of 1848 Tens of thousands died before it all was over And some say it all ended in defeat But the landscape was transformed when serfdom was abolished Which is why we don't see history repeat And the monarchs remembered when peasants with pitchforks Came to burn down their estate And most of them decided democracy was better Than the Rising of 1848
There was a time when the rich did not pay tax Although they lived in mansions while their workers lived in shacks Back then the wise men said as long as enterprise is free The future will be full of great prosperity The sick and unemployed would usually end up on the street Searching through the garbage for something to eat In the age of the robber barons There was a time when land was handed with both fists From the state right to the industrialists Who profited from war, who profited from peace Who profited from unregulated monopolies Unregulated factories, gargantuan cartels Run by men who knew you'd buy what they had to sell There was a time when these barons held the strings That controlled the politicians, who'd give them anything There were no consequences, regardless of who died Everybody knew the law was on their side Never far when needed to defend the property Of the Vanderbilts and Stanfords and all those who owned the country There was a time you could either swim or drown A time when the whole country was one big company town When the human rights to food and housing were empty words Considered by the barons as patently absurd It was the age of laissez-faire, and sometimes I repine I wake up and I think it must be 1899
Gather Round 03:42
Gather round all you workers Whether you have a job or not You who pick the tomatoes You who grow the pot You who stay home to raise the children You that record the sound You who flip the burgers All you workers gather round Gather round all you workers All of you who pull the shots You who wash the dishes Park the cars in parking lots You who dig the ditches To put the caskets in the ground You who clean the bathrooms All you workers gather round Gather round all you workers All of you who write the code You who teach the children You who pave the roads You who run the freight trains Wherever they be bound You who drive the buses All you workers gather round Gather round all you workers Struggling to pay the rent You who work a second job And wonder where all the time went You there in the sleeping bag Shivering on the ground In the houses, on the sidewalks All you workers gather round Gather round all you workers All you actors on the screen You who point the cameras And write for the magazines You who launch the missiles You who fire from the ground You who fly the helicopters All you workers gather round Gather round all you workers Gather round and you will know That gathered all together We can vanquish any foe As sure as we're made of water So history has found The workers have the power If all we workers gather round
They haven't even started cleaning up the mess How many souls departed is anybody's guess They're already proposing that they turn it up a notch It's time they were imposing an ever tighter watch Terrorists everywhere, by which they do not mean Norwegians with blond hair or American Marines The fighter planes, all of those who die When the bombs rain from way up in the sky If you bomb somebody, they might just bomb you back The pundits on the TV will talk of integration Most of them will agree there's too much immigration They'll talk of social policies, things they should've done before Whatever you say, please, don't mention the war (chorus) They'll cry out for more cops and laws against encryption Time to pull out all the stops of every description Time to torture suspects, send them back from where they came And life goes as you'd expect in the imperial game They'll say that now we must strengthen our will We mustn't bow to those we kill To those we maim, to the countries lost Don't mention their names, or the cost (chorus)
If this were a war, if he were a soldier He'd find a well-defensible position He'd put on body armor if he were a sniper And set his sights with terrible precision If this were a war and he was somewhere overseas He'd be watching out for the other side Watching for the Taleban or whichever enemies Kept on trying to blow him open wide If this were a war he'd be dodging shells Aimed at him for being on the street He'd be on alert for any sign that tells That the soldier might be drawing heat If this were a war and he were being shot He'd be under orders to shoot back If he had learned the lessons from the training that he got He'd carefully prepare his counterattack If this were a war and the enemy wore blue He'd be looking for signs of it everywhere If he was in good form and his aim was true He would pick them off and center his crosshairs If this were a war, not a Dallas parking lot He'd be getting medals for this firefight If he were a soldier, he'd be praised for every shot He fired from above on that deadly night If this were a war
I breathe the air that you do I drink the water just like you I eat the fruits of this land I hold the apple in my hand I am I feel the rain fall on my face Like the rest of the human race I hold my baby tightly when he cries I see him when I look into his eyes When I walk for miles in the summer heat Like you, I get blisters on my feet When I cut myself, with blood I will perspire When I try to climb over the wire
The wisdom a story imparts Usually depends on when it starts When it first became a state A grand convention, a great debate But in the end, understand Speculators owned the land To maximize the landlords' greed They'd only sell cotton seed So the tenant farmers as a mass Formed the union of the working class The flags were red and the corn was green Oklahoma, 1917 Seminole, Black and white Understood their cause was right Young and old, women and men Organized for a time when There'd be no landlords, there'd be no rent They knew precisely what that meant They knew that words would not suffice For robber barons don't play nice Tens of thousands among their ranks As they rode at night by the riverbanks It was a time of exploitation The Gilded Age of revolution From Prairie Creek to Mexico To the fields where the cotton grows When conscription came they said no more Shall poor men fight a rich man's war They blew up bridges, they cut the wires They agitated and conspired Sometimes rebels take the reins Other ones end up in chains
Orlando 02:43
Who killed all those people in Orlando Why did he do it, was it Islamic State Was it YouTube videos, the way they disseminate Was it radical imams preaching the jihad Saying go commit a massacre in the name of God Who killed all those people in Orlando Why did he do it, what made him buy a gun Was it hard to be an Afghan after 9-1-1 Or was it as a child, did he hear the politician Who said 500,000 dead kids was still the right decision Who killed all those people in Orlando Why did he do it, did the Air Force play a part When they bombed the wedding party, is that what froze his heart Was it a lack of mental health care that made things go so wrong Or was there no way left to make him feel that he belonged Who killed all those people in Orlando Why did he do it, did he wish he hadn't been Born into the world, in his own gay skin Did he loath himself, is that how it all began And just who had taught him it was wrong to love another man Who killed all those people in Orlando Why did he do it, was it the NRA Who made it easy for him to express himself this way Another legally purchased weapon that fired automatic rounds Leading to the scene with 50 bodies on the ground Who killed all those people in Orlando Why did he do it, perhaps it's only him to blame He's just acting on free will, an individual shame Maybe he grew up in a vacuum and carried out a senseless act Maybe we're wrong to try to question or to ascertain the facts about
Throughout the Second World War the Allies managed to unite In a broad front against fascism, but once they won this fight The ruling class convened, with McCarthy in the lead To make sure the people got in line, to be sure they all took heed To make sure they understood our new enemies Were not the Japanese or Germans, but the Russians and Chinese And all those who supported them – the enemy within Such as all the communists, and any of their kin So says the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg There was a war on in Korea, with untold thousands dead On one side the USA – on the other side, the reds The Russians got the bomb – there must be someone to blame And their siblings and their spouses must be in on the game Against one man they had evidence – but nothing on his wife They'd arrest her anyway, and threaten to take her life To try to make her husband snitch on someone up the chain To instill the fear of the committee's terroristic reign So says the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg Watch out for your neighbors – be careful who you know Or you might be called to testify – you might have to go In front of the committee, where it will be assumed You're guilty as charged by every juror in the room You can join the blacklist or watch out for what you say Beware of who you talk to or you might also see the day When you're called to Congress, to be questioned by the ones With the power to decide if you should be taken from your sons So says the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg
So you wanna flip a house – you got some cash to burn You're looking at your options, what gets the best return You're looking at your options, the southeast or the northwest If you got some money where should you invest So you wanna flip a house, invest in real estate Fix it up a bit, then all you have to do is wait Here in this bull market you've got nothing to lose because The price of real estate keeps rising, and we can all make sure it does So you wanna flip a house, then you must learn the code We landlords are all progressives here on the progressive development road We care about community – we care so much, we're sore We care about the housing crisis – that's why we flip them by the score So you wanna flip a house – then is it understood The only way for you to sleep at night is to believe that greed is good It may or may not be true – you may say you were deceived But can you really go on flipping if that's not what you believe So you wanna flip a house
If your rent has doubled there are different ways To cope with the situation and make it through your days There are therapeutic methods, such as playing darts With a picture of your landlord's private body parts You can get a roommate, or 2 or 3 or 4 Build a loft and squeeze more beds onto every floor You can scratch up each Mercedes that you find on your street Say “fuck off yuppie scum” to each yuppie scum you meet But do not kill your landlord – it will not end well You'll be living rent-free -- inside a prison cell You can pay a visit very early in the morn To where your landlord lives – but don't forget the bullhorn You can form a samba band, march up and and down his road You can play with firecrackers as you watch them explode You can sing a song about 1848 When renters burned the mansions down and overthrew the state You can talk about your landlord, how much you'd like to see him dead Just make sure it remains only something that you said You can say hi to your neighbors, organize a meeting Form a tenants' union so it won't be something fleeting Have some demonstrations, make plans for a rent strike Create a list of demands, perhaps something like No more rent increases, fix the things that break Get rid of all that mold in the walls, for goodness' sake No more no-cause evictions, no more acting like an ass No more acting like a member of a feudal ruling class
After all the Westerns, after all the lies After making every effort to deny That history is happening, that it isn't in the past That the Indian Wars continue, that Ishi was not the last After building all the pipelines, after spraying all the gas After desecrating graveyards and being told they shall not pass After shooting all the horses, after driving in with tanks After sending in the dogs with soldiers in their ranks They're standing up at Standing Rock After all the firewater, after all the famine After killing all the buffalo, after taking all the salmon After taking all the water to slurry all the coal After mining the uranium from a million giant holes After stealing and lynching, shooting people as they dance After trying hard to make sure there'd be no second chance After declaring Indian Country to be one big Sacrifice Zone At no point ever trying to acknowledge or atone They're standing up at Standing Rock After all the cities ransacked, after all the cities burned After all the centuries when almost no one even learned That these towns ever existed, up and down the coast Up and down the Mississippi, leaving colonists to boast This land is our land now, a new homeland for the White After all the missionaries taking children in the night After all the slaughter, after centuries of theft Watch the people riding to defend what's left They're standing up at Standing Rock
America has never been so great, but it could be If the corporations in control gave back everything they stole We would not be in this ditch, the whole country would be rich We could've been the best, like the Norway of the west But instead from shore to shore we're so homeless and so poor We could have reconciliation in this very divided nation We could have a Truth Commission instead of another damn petition We could have a forward leap, but such things don't come cheap But what if we seized the shares of each and every billionaire If we had elections that weren't just corporate selections Between one fool and another – yes, if I had my druthers We'd have a party, maybe two, that would have the slightest clue This would seem to be essential in a place with such potential 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


I wrote around two dozen songs in 2016, some on the guitar and some on the cello. This album consists of 14 of those songs. Punk Baroque is the first album that centers around the cello as well as the guitar.

The themes of the songs, as with most of the songs I've written, revolve around current events as well as historical events that seem to me to have some kind of particular resonance at the moment.

You are most welcome to stream all of my music for free to your heart's content -- but if you're able to donate or become a Subscriber, this is what will allow me to keep on making more music on a regular basis. The vast majority of people who will listen to this album won't do either of these things -- so if you're able to donate or Subscribe via the buttons on this page or at www.davidrovics.com this would be very much appreciated.


released May 1, 2017

All songs written by David Rovics, who is also responsible for all the vocals, cello and guitar parts. The album was recorded at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon, with Billy Oskay and David co-producing. Billy also plays all the violin parts, and did the engineering, mixing and mastering, assisted by Peter Wells.

Cover graphics by Christine Tinker of Babe With A Brain Productions.




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

Singer/songwriter, writer, podcaster (on Spotify, Substack & Patreon), anarchist, dad, lover of life.


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