Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ani Difranco's remake of "which side are you on"

One of my favorite songs from the civil uprisings of the 1960s is Pete Seeger's "Which Side Are You On." Until today, I always thought that Mr. Seeger himself wrote the song. I was mistaken.

In actuality, "Which Side Are You On" was written in 1931 by a woman, Florence Reece. According to her wikipedia page, the song was written during a protest organized by Reece's husband, Sam Reece, on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America.  Mr. Seeger discovered the song in 1940, and his group, the Almanac Singers, recorded it that same year.

Many artists have covered the song since the Almanac Singers. Today, Ani Difranco released an album, using the song as the title track, which features Mr. Seeger, just for good measure. I have seen Ms. Difranco on tour several times, and on two of the occasions she performed different versions of the song. This version, I think, brings feminism to the forefront in an especially apt way (after, of course, Ms. Difranco makes a few digs against Reaganomics and the 1%). Her most relevant lyrics are:
my mother was a feminist
she taught me to see
that the road to ruin is paved
with patriarchy 
so, let the way of the women
guide democracy
from plunder and pollution
let mother earth be free 
feminism ain't about women
no, that's not who it is for
it's about a shifting consciousness
that'll bring an end to war 
so listen up you fathers
listen up you sons
which side are you on now
which side are you on
Here's a live version of the entire song, recorded live in December.

Ms. Difranco's rendition of the song shows that feminism has a place in the social struggles we are seeing today such as Occupy and gay rights.

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