Songs For Today

by David Rovics

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
Winnipeg 03:43
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
In Venezuela 02:18
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
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...
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
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
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”
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
In '68 03:23
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
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
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
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
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?


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

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


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