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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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

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


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Track Name: Just A Renter
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
Track Name: 1848
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
Track Name: Age of the Robber Barons
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
Track Name: Gather Round
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
Track Name: If You Bomb Somebody
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)
Track Name: If This Were A War
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
Track Name: Song for a Refugee
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
Track Name: Oklahoma, 1917
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
Track Name: Orlando
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
Track Name: The Ghost of Ethel Rosenberg
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
Track Name: So You Want to Flip a House
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
Track Name: Do Not Kill Your Landlord
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
Track Name: Standing Rock
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
Track Name: America Has Never Been So Great
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

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