Songs For Today

by David Rovics



A solo acoustic studio album, recorded in one day. All original songs by me, to the extent that anything is original. Mostly written during the latter half of 2018 and early 2019.


released June 21, 2019

Produced by Billy Oskay and David Rovics at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon, with Pete Wells assisting.




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

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


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Track Name: Somewhere On Spotify
Somewhere On Spotify

Somewhere on Spotify you'll find a playlist
With most of what I've written, with barely a song missed
Like my first album which I hocked out on the road
I'd spend earnings on expenses, that's how the money flowed
After just a little while it became a circular thing
It was a pattern where each year I would sing
Into a mic in a studio somewhere
And I'm not looking for everything to be perfectly fair

It's nice that it's all free now, but there are days I miss
When I could make a living at this

Somewhere on Spotify you'll find the albums that I made
From the time the bills stopped being paid
By an exchange so simple, ever since the days began
When just covering the costs meant first begging from my fans
Spending all this money again in a studio
End up with another album, and nothing else to show
Except a dozen songs on Spotify for me to give away
Five thousand monthly listeners, seven dollars a day

Somewhere on Spotify you'll find a million people like me
Veterans of what was called the indy music industry
You'll find us there, along with all the youth
Who'd be forgiven for not knowing that it is the truth
That it wasn't long ago folks like me could pay the rent
We didn't need to hop freight trains or live in a tent
There was a little while when the internet seemed cool
Now we all get reamed while Big Tech rules
Track Name: Winnipeg
The war came, men were drafted, many never made it back
Those who did discovered in their absence they'd got the sack
Tenements in squalor, both rats and people getting sick
What they had in common, life was short, death was quick
No one had a plan, what they were going to do
When all the men came back home and the ranks of the unemployed grew
The way the people had to live was no life at all
But it still came as a surprise, how many answered the call

If you weren't there you'll never know just what it was like
When the whole city went on strike

City leaders and newspapers, in many ways they tried
To do everything they could to widen the divide
Between good Canadians and those they called “alien scum”
Between those who missed conscription and those who beat the war drum
But when the veterans marched in Winnipeg they marched for everyone
Under the banner of the working class, the One Big Union
Everybody left their jobs, whether organized or not
Even the policemen walked away, refused to embrace the rot

The mayor deputized the scabs, soon they shot two men
Who died in the city center on the hour when
The scabs rampaged through the city, attacking anyone in the street
Trapping people in alleyways, not even allowing them to retreat
Soldiers occupied the city, people hadn't eaten in weeks
The prospects for victory began to look bleak
People went back to their jobs, if indeed they even could
The bosses said they'd seek revenge and many of them would

Strike leaders were imprisoned, from where several were elected
To the Canadian parliament, and a monument was erected
At Main and Portage, where a street car was overturned
Driven in by strikebreakers on the spot where it was burned
It was a century ago but life is often still defined
By which side you were on on that picket line
Was your grandpa shot in the heart or did they break his leg
When the working class rose up and shut down Winnipeg
Track Name: In Venezuela
Chavez was elected Like every time he ran
When his Socialists took power That's when the changes began
The opposition started Attacking every forward move
But reforms went ahead The people's welfare improved
A land of such riches That had always gone to so few
Was reaching places Ignored since 1492

In Venezuela

Millions poured into the streets To stop the coup back then
They got the man that they elected Back into power again
The Bolivarian Revolution Became famous worldwide
Soon other socialist governments Swept in in a red Latin tide
Between the Cuban doctors And the Venezuelan oil
Millions got medical care Millions tilled the soil

Bush began the sanctions Obama imposed more
A slow-burning, destabilizing Economic war
Following the formula Of the Chicago Boys team
Used in many places To make economies scream
Oil prices plummeted Foreign holdings locked
Invasions being planned Negotiations blocked

From the Haitian Revolution To Venezuela today
From the Seminoles To Salvador Allende
Look at their ankles You'll see the chains
Imperial vampires Open veins
Those who stand up To the business elite
Who cannot stand to see The workers in the driver's seat
Track Name: When the Nazis Came to Rotherham
When the Nazis came to Rotherham
Most people stayed indoors and closed their blinds
Let them have their Nazi rally Then try to leave the day behind
Then the Nazis came to Rotherham In 14 months they marched 14 times
Always accusing every Asian Of every unspeakable crime
Then the Nazis were there in Rotherham
When he was walking to the mosque to pray
Mushin Ahmed was beaten so savagely That he died that way
Then when the Nazis came back to Rotherham
This time the town was in the streets
So this time the cops kettled the march
And this time they forced the march to meet
The Nazis who hang out in Rotherham At a pub called the William Fry
Who were waiting for the kettled marchers
So they could attack them As they were passing by

And the police raid came at dawn Awakening everyone
I was there with my family Asking them what have I done

Attacked by the Nazis in Rotherham They had to act in self-defense
How could this possibly be A criminal offense?
The Nazis came to Rotherham And then the Crown charged 12 men
For defending children from racist attacks
As they were forced to walk by the pub when
The Nazis came to Rotherham And then prison hung over the heads
Of those who defended their children Instead of cowering under their beds

The Nazis came to Rotherham And the trial of the Rotherham 12
Was the consequence of Asian men Who dared to defend themselves
Those who fought the Nazis in Rotherham Could have gone to prison for years
But they were found not guilty By a jury of their mostly white working class peers
The Nazis came to Rotherham Some of them did time behind bars
Though the Rotherham 12 were acquitted The families are marked by the scars

When the police raid came at dawn...
Track Name: Jeremy Corbyn
If you travel around Europe today you'll find societies stratified
You'll find an ever-widening political divide
You'll find a growing left, and a right that's growing faster
Convincing people they're the ones to avert the next disaster
You can see the dark clouds growing, taking over every space
Except, oddly enough, in a little place
Called England, where a growing chorus screes

I agree with Jeremy

The BBC ignored him or they treated him like a clown
Transnational corporations said this man will bring us down
The Blairites in the Party stabbed him in the back
And then they did it again, but after each attack
He was steady at the helm, at the job for which he was picked
Despite all the accusations that he's an anti-Zionist peacenik
Who wants to change the country, and says the country

Most members of the parliament wish he'd go away
But as their elected leader he's set to stay
And when he supports a candidate they usually tend to win
Which makes the Blairites fume, while the rest of us just grin
Between the BBC, the Tories and all the corporate MP's
The tabloid press, the IMF and all the landed gentry
They're pulling out the stops to stop the ascendancy

The case before the nation is the one that we all face
What direction now goes this human race
Do we give up on the missiles and tax the rich a lot
Or give up on society and just embrace the rot
Among us who would tell us it's the foreigners to blame
Not the Blairite, Tory billionaires and their rigged neoliberal game
Each day the numbers grow, as each day new people see
That they agree with Jeremy
I agree with Jeremy
Track Name: My Great Grandparents
My great grandparents were refugees
That should be a normal thing to say
I was born in New York City
My people came from far away
They fled the generals and dictators
The warlords of Moscow and Budapest
You could be conscripted for the rest of your life Or you could head west

My great great grandparents were refugees, too
Just north and west of Brittany
Farmers in the hills somewhere On the starving side of the Irish Sea
They fled their colonial torturers They fled starvation, slavery
They fled across the Atlantic Along with millions of other refugees

My great grandparents were refugees But getting to the other side
Took such a toll it seems That my great grandfather died
So when his son was a little kid He grew up without a dad
And that's typical of the hard life So many other refugees had

My great grandparents were refugees Let me tell you what that means
They were escaping war-torn lands Ruled by tyrants, kings and queens
They did not come seeking fortune They were not pioneers
Leaving home, their hearts were broken
And all their cries fell on deaf ears

My great grandparents were refugees No one taught me that in school
It's dangerous information In the old game of divide and rule
My name is David Rovics And I know who my people are
They're on that raft upon the ocean They're in the trunk of that car
Track Name: Is That A Girl Or A Boy?
Ever since the days when you learned to dress yourself
You would reach for certain clothing from your little shelf
You said “I want to dress like mommy” and that's exactly what you did
You always did things differently from most other kids
You'd be playing with a doll or some other toy
When someone would ask is that a girl or a boy

Someone would call your given name, with you there in your dress
Leaving some to wonder, with others left to guess
Are you an innie or an outie, a princess or a king
Do you like to play with tractors or wear angel wings
What's inside that box, is it a bullet or a pearl
As someone else must ask is that a boy or a girl

You'd pretend that you weren't bothered, but it was clear you were
Then one day someone asked you what pronoun you prefer
Learning there were options and the choice was yours to make
For you there was no question now, which path you would take
You grabbed a piece of paper, signed it with a swirl
As you announced “my name is Gwenevere, and I am a girl”
Track Name: Behind Closed Doors
You're on your own, you understand
Although you're sitting in front of me
The world's big, the world's beautiful
There's so much for you to see
There are good people everywhere
Who are kind to their neighbors and friends
I hope you meet all the best ones
However, in the end

All I know for certain is
Whatever lies in store
The best and the worst things happen
Behind closed doors

You're on your own, I can't protect you
I can only hope I raised you well
So if you're in a situation
You might have the wherewithal to tell
Is this good? Is this exactly
What I really want to do
Because what you want is what matters here
And I hope you know that's true (because)

You're on your own, along with billions
Of people trying to find their path
Some are raised in loving empathy
But there are many reared by wrath
There are those like you, for whom the Planet Earth
Is a wondrous place to share
But there are many who seem only
To have learned how not to care
Track Name: In '68
Let's mark this date together, lest it pass us by
Let's recall a moment when the powder keg ran dry
When all across the USA cities turned to embers
Anybody old enough vividly remembers
Everything that happened on that date Fifty years ago in '68

Carpet bombing of the city of Hanoi
Barely two decades after Little Boy
Draft cards burning, police stations on fire
The powers-that-be down to the wire
The naked emperor was the normative state

Both ruling parties were exposed, the question of the day
Mr President how many kids did you kill today
If we try to draft more soldiers, said the general, I can't guarantee
That we could maintain domestic tranquility
A society on the brink, the possibilities so great

It was a time when people everywhere were rising from their knees
Just outside the halls of power, throughout the colonies
From Oakland to Algiers, from Saigon to Paris
Structures laid bare for all to see
The use of force alone will not determine our fate

Soldiers were kept in barracks lest they figure out the score
That love really can be more powerful than war
The ruling class tried desperately to gain the upper hand
Faced with a society they didn't understand
They just about got stuck beneath the historical weight

Anyone in power now knows it might not last
At least if they look back to the fairly recent past
When the consent of the governed was for a time withdrawn
When empires were challenged and some of them were gone
When the movement was global and liberation was its freight
Track Name: A Song For My Professor
I first met him at a place I once knew well
Where he's taught for several decades, where I went for a spell
When I once studied Political Economy
I attended all his lectures back in 1993
And every year since then you'll hear in those halls
The Labor Theory of Value explained between those walls
The kind of sharp analysis that strikes fear in the oppressor
So let me sing a song for my professor

When I first met him his kids were only tots
Fast forward to the present, they grew up a lot
Which is impressive when you think of San Diego State
What almost happened to him and what happened to his roommate
When someone opened fire on the house they lived in
During the Vietnam War, they railroaded him to prison
Almost taken out by Cointelpro, he almost didn't have successors
So let me sing a song for my professor

When I first met him I just had to grin
As soon as he started talking I thought I was in Brooklyn
In English or in Spanish, he speaks a special version
Reflection of his childhood, NYC immersion
The place his parents came to when they fled genocide
Managing to make it to the other side
Just part of who he is, if I'm being the assessor
Let me sing a song for my professor

When I first met him he took students overseas
To meet some of the State Department's favorite enemies
Friend of socialism, foe of the elite
Never held elected office but he occupied a seat
They tried to get him fired, run him out of town
That little effort failed, the government backed down
To the man who rose this morning, put the jeans on off his dresser
Let me sing a song for my professor
Track Name: Ballad of John McCain
John McCain, John McCain
Your grandfather was an admiral And your father was one too
When you turned 17 You knew what to do
You signed up for the Navy So you could make it rain
Kill innocent civilians Dropping bombs from planes John McCain
On your military service You then made a run
You got into the Congress In 1981
In the halls of the Senate You had only just arrived
When you were caught up in corruption One of the Keating 5
What should have been a loss You turned into a gain
Not quite sure how you did it The innocence you feigned
You were the hero in the Senate Who had survived the war
The one who would explain to them What we were fighting for
For each act of aggression You would cheer along
You'd go visit the troops And sing your military songs
You'd thank them for their service And then you'd watch them die
As they fought for corporations Launching missiles from the sky
To the streets below Which would be covered with the stains
The blood of the innocent Running down the drains
You voted for austerity And every free trade deal
You never met an oil well You didn't think that you should steal
About the poverty around you You never did a thing
Except more military spending And less of everything
That matters to the people Who want a peaceful place to be
Without some war-crazed Senator Calling them his enemy
You called yourself a maverick Whatever the heck that meant
You had lofty aspirations To be the US president
Now your dead, it's over Your terroristic reign
Too bad about The cancer in your brain
Track Name: Today In Yemen
There's a heat wave in Portland, the sun shines down
Sprinklers are running all over town
It's hot, too, in Yemen, but lucky for us
Nobody here was on that bus

(Where) 44 children died today

Here the buses pass by and they pass by again
In Saada the bus left, came back, and then

A school trip, a picnic as the bombings go on
I guess they should have stayed home, now they're all gone

Fragments of bodies and fragments of bombs litter the market square
On most of the fragments if you wash off the blood you'll see “USA” written there
Track Name: A Penny A Play
If each time a song were streamed, I received one cent
This is exactly what I'd need each month to pay the rent
I made that calculation looking at the stats
Must be a lot of other people wearing the same hat

The concept may not be perfect, but in the streaming age
If we want to form a movement, it could be the first stage
The idea is very simple – set up some ground rules
Otherwise Big Tech makes trillions, plays the rest of us for fools

Now I'm just dreaming about the day
That we might get a penny a play

It would not be a revolution, but as sure as the world is round
It'd be helpful to know how far you fall before you hit the ground
I'm a DIY musician, who knows for how long
What we need is union, so this is a union song

They say they're losing money – they'll say it to the end
But if you want to pay the landlord, you got to have it to spend
Your labor should be valued – no need to genuflect
A tiny fraction of a cent is not enough respect

These vulture capitalists in Stockholm and San Francisco
Play their shell games, and think that we don't know
That they are getting rich from the music that we made
At what point do we start getting paid?