Week 23: The Sound of the Revolution

Try to Walk Like Thunder, Leaving Footprints that Are Light

This week I wanted to talk about a few songs that share radical perspectives through powerful lyrics. To me these songs carry the energy needed for a revolution to save the earth. Not all of these tunes are explicitly about climate or nature, but human injustice is intertwined with environmental issues; in order to address one, we must address the other. The songs are divided into three sections inspired by the phases of climate grief: accept, mobilize, and heal.

Absorb + Accept

Driving, Driving, Driving: Kimya Dawson

“Try to walk like thunder leaving footprints that are light”

Kimya Dawson, former member of the Moldy Peaches band, is part of the Antifolk genre. In this solo song, she lets out her climate grief, unfiltered. Although some of the lyrics feel childlike and stray from the central message, this is the one of the only songs about the environment that conveys the gravity of the issue and rawness of our collective feelings about it. “The industry is the master, and we’re all the slaves, and we’re driving, driving, driving to our graves.” Dawson sings about a time when we won’t have to strive for “success,” but can live simply, together and be fulfilled. Oddly, this song which my mom described as “very depressing,” feels like a hug to a tired activist.

Little Wheel Spin and Spin: Buffy Sainte-Marie

“Pray like hell when the world explode”

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Native Canadian singer. In this song, she comments on the never ending cycles of capitalism and racism. Sainte-Marie was stolen from her Cree First Nation family and brought to the U.S. as a child, where she was abused. The tune is soft but the desperation and anger in Sainte-Marie’s voice are powerful enough to mobilize even the most indifferent person. “Hearts they shrink—Pockets swell—Everybody know and nobody tell.” 

Mobilize + Fight

Resilient: Rising Appalachia

“Let's see this system brought down to its knees—I'm made of thunder, I'm made of lightning—I'm made of dirt—made of the fine things”

Sisters Leah and Chloe Smith who make up the folk band Rising Appalachia are hyper aware of their position as two white women singing songs about revolution. “I'll show up at the table, again and again and again. I'll close my mouth and learn to listen.” Their lyrics provide a community for those who feel alone in the fight. The sisters said they wrote ‘Resilient’  because, “there was a deeper need to internalize and be more private, to sit with the bones of our work and re-envision what we would be doing in the years to come.”

Speak Out: Rising Appalachia

I don’t want your guns—I don’t want your poisons—I don’t want your weapons and tools of mass distractions

In an interview, the sisters said this song was inspired by their, “urge to stand for an empowered and diverse South with an environmental wealth to protect instead of the grey cloud of consumption and capitalism, the distortion of privilege and pride.”

Which Side Are You on: Ani DiFranco

“So, let the way of the women—Guide democracy—From plunder and pollution—Let mother earth be free”

Ani DiFranco, gives a spin on the classic, feet-stomping, union song “Which Side Are You on.” The song was originally written by a union leader’s wife to back up a miners’ revolution, but today it has been used by several movements, including the Civil Rights Movement. This song is extremely relevant for a climate protest. In fact, I first heard it at an Extinction Rebellion protest. There are no two sides to environmental justice. DiFranco adjusted many of the lyrics to address current issues such as climate and advocate for socialism. “So are we just consumers? Or are we citizens? Are we gonna make more garbage? Or are we gonna make amends?” I hope that someday the question “which side are you on” will ring in the ears of politicians and moguls alike.

Heal + Come Together

Pachamama: Beautiful Chorus

“Pachamama, I’m coming home, to the place where I belong” 

As discussed in last week’s newsletter, Pachamama is an indigenous Andean Deity meaning “earth mother.” I was introduced to this song by a counselor at the nature connection school I am a part of. The counselor taught it to the group of kids and it was beautiful to hear them all sing it. Although there is no version of this song sung by an indigenous person on Spotify, there is a song called ‘Sumaj Pachamama’ sung by Native South American La Charo in the indigenous language Quechua.

Child of Nature: The Beatles

“I don't need much to set me free, I'm just a child of nature”

Despite the problematic Indian yogi, Maharishi Mahesh, who inspired it, this lesser-known Beatles song is a light and warming reminder of nature and human interconnectedness. John Lennon wrote it about transcendentalism and his homesick longing for nature. One music reviewer posited, “by surrendering to nature, by accepting himself as just part of this scene around him, he is set free. He is no longer “John Lennon” but a part of something bigger.”

Honorable Mentions:

Thank you for checking in! This week, take some time to just listen.