Rebel Songs

by David Rovics

They Lied 02:46
They Lied They lied about the wars, took time to figure out That democracy and freedom was not what it was about They said we'd fight the terrorists, but all that I could see Was I was occupying someone else's country They lied about the weapons, they all were so convinced The generals on the TV, haven't heard from them since They say it was an accident – but I think it was their plan They spread the lie on CNN and NPR and C-SPAN They lied about the jobs, all the pundits used to say Before this city was abandoned and the good jobs went away Sign up to this free trade bill, win-win all around Now half the guys I used to know are six feet underground Lying is all they seem to do, looking at us on TV They pretend they care, but it's all about the money Which anyone can tell, if you have half a brain Why I should believe them now, it just seems insane Talk turned to the virus, what we all stood to lose I was not the only one who thought it was fake news I just went about my life like I normally would do So maybe I'll catch a cold, I thought, or a little flu They lie about so much, I wish it were not true But from this hospital bed, if I could just click “un-do” I guess I would have worn a mask, stayed home to quarantine Instead of being intubated, hooked up to this machine You can say that I'm an idiot – maybe, I don't know But before I take my leave, before I have to go Before they stick me in a box, with quarters on my eyes There's lots of blame to go around here, and I know where it lies They lied about the wars
To All the Jared Kushners of the World To all the Jared Kushners of the world and all the money that you own You who look at us with such indifference, sitting upon your throne From which you collect all the rent from your subjects in all the most gentrified towns Regardless of whether a global pandemic have forced us to shut everything down To all the Jared Kushners of the world for whom the ceiling is the sky For you, life comes so easy, inherited from birth, why would you ever ask why Do you think you earned it all, it's up to you how much you charge, it's all yours to keep Would you climb any mountain of corpses no matter how slippery, no matter how steep To all the Jared Kushners of the world, is your appetite ever met At what point do you ever wonder just how fucked you can make things get? Before it's bad enough that even you and your investors can see the whole thing's gonna fall Just how top-heavy can an icon be before it can't stand up at all To all the Jared Kushners of the world, how do expect things will transpire When all your filings are enforced and the moratorium expires Do you envision a neat row of U-Haul trucks, tenants all packed up to leave Their homes – your businesses -- their neighborhoods, their cemeteries, where they used to go to grieve To all the Jared Kushners of the world and all your ill-begotten gains You who sit comfortably in your limousine ignoring all the blood stains Have you seen this movie before? Was it good? What's your favorite scene? Mine's when they take off the blindfold and the king meets his guillotine To all the Jared Kushners of the world
Say Their Names Jacob Blake was walking to his SUV Alton Sterling was selling DVDs Eric Garner had just broken up a fight Breonna Taylor was asleep in the middle of the night Tamir Rice was playing in the park Elijah McClain was out walking after dark Dominique Clayton was sleeping in her bed Where she was shot by a cop in the back of her head Say their names, say their names Walter Scott was driving to a store Bettie Jones was answering her door Philando Castille was driving home with his girlfriend Anthony Hill was naked on the grass when he met his end Ezell Ford was walking in his neighborhood Michael Brown was blown away just standing where he stood Kendra James was shot to death at a traffic stop By yet another unaccountable killer cop Atiana Jefferson was playing a video game With her little nephew, gunned down just the same Oscar Grant was celebrating the New Year Handcuffed when the shots rang out that everyone could hear Eric Reason pulled into a parking spot Not long after that was when he was shot George Floyd was just shopping in a store Micah Xavier Johnson thought that he was still at war
Essentially Expendable (The Death of Jason Hargrove) A pandemic is spreading, the health system's collapsing You can watch it all unfolding on the screen If you're afraid to go outside, enough groceries to hide It may have been weeks since you have seen Someone you can touch, and you miss it so much As you wonder what might happen next Like when your savings run out and the choice is all about What kind of help you might be able to expect Or perhaps when COVID arrived, while some struggled to survive You were what they call essential It didn't take long to see you got that wrong The word they really meant was “expendable” It did not take long to see, there was no emergency Plans in place for something which all the scientists knew Was just a matter of when, there'd be a pandemic again And the kleptocrats in power didn't have a clue Otherwise why Did Jason Hargrove die? Because he kept on keeping on, waking before dawn To do his part for society Jason drove his bus, he didn't even make a fuss At the time of the impropriety Somebody coughed, the virus was off Not two weeks later Jason would be dead What if he had protective gear, with sick passengers so near With no barrier to protect his head Stay home, flatten the curve they say, unless we need you to serve Food for us, or care for all the ill In that case we'll call you a hero, like the workers at Ground Zero Where one by one the cemetery filled Now in every bus and truck, the drivers try their luck Essentially told, thank you for your service If these were the front lines, no one put up any signs Did anyone sign up for this? Once the death rate peaks, in days or months or weeks With each one of the virus's waves Once we can take stock and recover from the shock Of the sight of all the mass graves Will this be the impetus, this driver on a bus Along with so many, many more The nurses and the prisoners, seafarers and farmworkers What will they all die for?
There's Water On The Moon The news isn't getting any brighter The death toll isn't getting any lighter There's a dark pall drifting overhead With so many more people dead Turn on the computer or the TV set It's a world full of anger and death threats What could happen if life could be supported Somewhere else where things might be better sorted A place where some could start anew Another way to say we're not through Despite all of the destruction, all the bad decisions made All of the madness we could trade For a place more remote than primate or penguin Has long ever been There's a discovery, a silver lining for the cloud That has some folks singing out loud There's water on the moon way up there Maybe you and I should go Live on a frozen lake without a care Looking down at the Earth below The cafes are all closed, you won't miss the sight Of someone bring to your table a flat white We can still make espresso up there In our bubbles, breathing freshly-manufactured air When we go outside we can jump so high You speak into your mic, I'll hear your reply We can look at the green Earth, wish it well From up in the place that makes the waves swell Up there life is simple with just a couple distractions Too few of us to form a faction We all practice great lunar hygiene All tested, cleared and quarantined Go back to visit now and again The planet we lived in way back when Before the satellites found H2O And some of us said fuck it let's go
Behind These Prison Walls Behind these prison walls there's a man who's won awards For the work that he has done and all that it affords Such as the knowledge of the horrors committed in our name They can't stop the message, so the messenger gets blamed Behind these prison walls, in solitary confinement In a land of rolling hills and royalty and other such refinement Is someone who is a hero to whistleblowers everywhere Who helped them tell the world of the crimes of Tony Blair Behind these prison walls you will find a mortal man The reason why we know what happened in Afghanistan When the soldiers of the empire whose sun set long before Were torturing civilians in their terror war Behind these prison walls is a part of Wikileaks An eloquent orator, but you won't hear him speakh Locked away in silence, one who knows too well How those in power act when there's another war to sell Behind these prison walls is one who stands accused Of exactly what offenses, the US has refused To say precisely which, or to try to clear the mist Or to explain how he's not the same as other journalists Behind these prison walls is a person they'd deprive Of most of the things in life that keep us all alive A person being tortured, as we stand here now For revealing the war crimes – why, when, where, how Behind these prison walls, our very right to be informed Of what the hell is going on is the teacup in this storm With knowledge there is power, so the solution by the Crown A 24-hour-a-day, indefinite lockdown Behind these prison walls
The Pandemic of 1918 A world war was raging, like the Earth had never seen A whole generation lined up in trenches with killing machines But aside from a few islands and some mountain peaks The pandemic killed more people in just 24 weeks No one knows where it began, speculation's gone on for years The trenches of Europe is where the deadly strain appears From packed trains and ships and hospitals, around the globe it spread This war strain of the virus that left so many dead The death toll was unequal, but barely anywhere Was left untouched – though the greatest share Of dying was reserved for the poorest, densest colonies Of the empires and their wars that created this disease If you have a couple hours, then do something with me Conduct a little research into your family tree If you look into it, it won't take long, quite likely you will find In 1918, you left an ancestor behind The pandemic knew no borders, it went from the front lines Which had increased its deadliness, as if by design It circled the whole planet, so many people died They dug mass graves everywhere and put your relatives inside A world war was raging, like the Earth had never seen A whole generation lined up in trenches with killing machines But aside from a few islands and some mountain peaks The pandemic killed more people in just 24 weeks
When This Fertile Valley Was Stolen When this fertile valley was stolen, it was a process assisted By an epidemic that wiped off the Earth most any who might have resisted The land was parceled and given away to any brave pioneer Who was white enough to own property around here When this fertile valley was stolen, it sealed so many a fate Who'd no longer live by a trading post, but in a stratified settler state With a white landed gentry created by colonial decree We're not talking about the Bible, but a few generations of history When this fertile valley was stolen, it was easy to foresee That so many, many years later, there'd still be a white majority It was engineered from the day the Exclusion Laws were made Any pretense of inclusion since has been a sick charade When this fertile valley was stolen, the pioneers were given their farms Which were defended from the displaced by force of arms And by dint of reason, as false as any that could be Enforced by laws and customs called white supremacy When this fertile valley was stolen, a process was set forth To make another bastion of capitalism to the west and north Of freshly conquered California, Arizona and the rest Of the disease and theft and slaughter, when the pioneers went west When this fertile valley was stolen
With Masks Upon Their Faces and Leaf-Blowers In Their Hands It's been two months now since that cop took a knee Like a knee upon the neck of a whole society Folks rose up all over starting there in the midwest The National Guard came in upon the governor's request Wherever people took the streets, riot cops attacked Shooting folks in their faces and their backs Flooding streets with tear gas, see how the people stand With masks upon their faces and leaf-blowers in their hands There have been drive-by shootings, and weaponizing trucks That the death count's what it is so far is partly up to luck And partly up to barricades used to block the way So folks might live to fight another day That is, if they're not killed by agents of the state Like the ones who came to Portland to make America great To face a rainbow nation that says screw your White Homeland With masks upon their faces and leaf-blowers in their hands As they kidnap people off the streets here in the Global North As the tear gas billows, the poison belches forth As those who would be dictators make their power play As people from all over town face them down and say We don't want police – a better world can be built Perhaps it starts with someone's hand upon the hilt Making tornadoes out of tear gas, maybe not what mama planned With masks upon their faces and leaf-blowers in their hands
Don't Pay The Rent There's a suspension on evictions, stick to your convictions Don't pay the rent If at home we have to stay, then most of us can't pay, so Don't... Tell your landlord, sir, that mortgage can defer And if they start rattling their sabers, say I need to feed my neighbors It's time now to demand, One Big Union grand Neoliberalism is dead, it's time to raise your head Strike for the guarantee, a home for everybody Running water, housing, health care – all across this Earth we share Capitalism has failed, put the billionaires in jail We need a new world now, let me tell you how With mutual aid, a new world can be made From the ashes of the old, if we stop doing what we're told Solidarity with society Our lives matter a lot, the landlord's profits do not We can redefine what is theirs and ours and mine There's a suspension on evictions, stick to your convictions
Our Imagination It's at moments like these, everything is in the air The possibilities are nowhere and everywhere You got to break a bone to set it, and now all we are is broke A lot of folks are saying it's time to be woke And they're not talking about microaggressions, but the really big ones The basic assumptions, like planets circling suns But there are no natural laws that built your mansions or your tents These are creations of society – just like mortgages and rent It's a future of uncertainty, but our liberation Can only be as free as our imagination If you were born and raised to believe it sacrosanct That whoever has a whole lot of money in the bank Deserves to then live off the wealth from the houses that they own And if they raise your rent you can move or take out a loan Then how can you demand your human rights If you don't believe you have any, as if you deserve your plight But if things were hard before, now the system has flatlined Time for those basic rights to be redefined All these vaunted freedoms added to the Constitution As an afterthought, after Shays' Rebellion Did not include the right to land, or the right to eat Or the right for human beings not to be dying on the street It's moments like these, standing on the edge That we might catch the strongest breeze, to land furthest from the ledge We can fly, you know – all you need is wings We can house and feed each other – together, we can do anything
The Pogroms of 1969 You could say it started long ago, or keep one lifetime in your sights People were marching for basic civil rights The marchers were attacked, the press made wild claims Anything that happened, Republicans were blamed The mood that was incited, quite intentionally All over the Six Counties in the Loyalist community Was an atmosphere of hatred, the kind that burns and kills If you live in the wrong house, or stand too close to the windowsill In the pogroms of 1969 With torches, pikes and guns, neighborhoods were attacked Supported by police, if anyone dared fight back And fight back people did, kept the Loyalist mobs at bay Far more homes would have been destroyed if not for the IRA Defensive lines were formed, as best as could be done Fifty buses hijacked and lit up in the summer sun Surrounding the burned-out shells of the houses of Ardoyne While just beyond them Orangemen sang “the Battle of the Boyne” Thousands fled the carnage, hundreds of homes burned down There was a refugee camp in Dundalk as big as any town The British Army invaded the North and starting building walls Separating ghettos, from the Bogside to the Falls If you want to understand the world you live in You have to peel back the layers and look beneath the skin If you do that you may find that so much of these Troubles began Half a century after the Black and Tans
Patreon 02:34
Patreon When the floor fell out from the way it used to be When people used to pay for stuff, before all of it was free Those of us who didn't crash got taken down a peg 'Cause if you wanna be an artist you gotta learn to beg Patreon, Patreon When all your merch sales and all your gigs are gone Patreon, Patreon On the fifth of every month, the last day before rent's late The deposit arrives and improves this failed state The difference between drowning in debt Or waiting for the fifth and just getting my feet wet Support for the arts is some kind of a cruel joke Anything that's out there will just keep you broke I could get a real job, or I could wish upon a star That there are enough of you who think I should just keep playing this guitar My music's free on Spotify, that's where we're at It's a precious little segment that steps up to bat I miss the old days, but I'm OK Panhandling my time away On Patreon...


All songs from 2020, except for a couple from late 2019. Mostly songs that have appeared in solo guitar form on various other recordings from the past year, plus a few that haven't. All songs being given the band treatment for the first time, and what a band treatment it is. My best effort at distilling 2020 into an album, basically.


released March 8, 2021

The process began with writing the songs, I suppose, and they're all written by me. In December I spent several glorious days at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon, with Billy Oskay playing the role of producer and engineer, doing his best to get me as locked in as I'm ever liable to get with a drummer -- Spank Hopkins -- and a bass player -- Arcellus Sykes.

Billy took those vocal, guitar, bass and drum tracks and sent them off into the ether, to be picked up on the other side of the Atlantic by Pol Mac Adaim in Ireland. There at his home studio, Pol recorded various parts -- any instruments you hear other than guitar, bass or drums is Pol. Specifically Blues Harp, Low Whistles, Tin Whistle, synth and backing vocals. Pol also did the mixing and mastering, and Brendan Murray helped with some of the track editing.

Album cover and other track graphics by Kalindi Jackson.




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

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


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