Rebellious Songs

Today is another ominous, rainswept day and I turn once more to music to lift my mood.  Yesterday my good friend Nicky Wells posted the lyrics and translation of possibly one of the saddest (though most beautiful) songs in the world, which didn’t help.  So I turned to more revolutionary songs that meant a lot to me in my youth, like Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.  But that was depressing too, so what to do?

Confession time: I was never an avid follower of fashion in either clothes, music or literature.  Especially with music, I just liked what I liked, usually becoming obsessive about a certain artist or band, following every single release and snippet of news about them.  Some of my choices were kind of obvious for the time (Madonna, Duran Duran), others were more unusual  or considered old-fashioned  (David Bowie, Queen, Dire Straits).  But one constant pattern in my life (which only really becomes obvious with the gift of hindsight) is my love for rebellious songs.  Perhaps it’s the legacy of growing up in a Communist dictatorship, but I’ve always had a soft spot for  songs that protest against the established order of things, that are critical of an unjust society, whether that society is democratic and capitalist (Bruce Springsteen) or more obviously in the grips of dictatorship (Mikis Theodorakis).

So here are two of my favourite songs, with very suggestive lyrics.  And, despite the serious subject matter, the music somehow manages to uplift rather than dampen me!

First, the classic Supertramp song that almost anyone can hum along to: ‘The Logical Song’. And these are the lyrics that get to me every single time:

But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, responsible, practical
And then they showed me a world
Where I could be so dependable
Clinical, intellectual, cynical

Secondly, a rather less well-known song ‘Superbacana’ by the great Brazilian singer,  composer and political activist Caetano Veloso.  He was briefly imprisoned by the military dictatorship in Brazil and had to go into exile in the late 1960s. I was unable to find a video of Caetano singing this, but here is an audio snippet:

My knowledge of Portuguese is very rudimentary, so my translation is probably not very accurate, but to me the song seems to be mocking the rhetoric of the absolutist Brazilian government of the time, promising ‘supersonic aircraft, electronic (high-tech) parks, atomic power, economic progress’, everything super-duper in fact, while contrasting it with the actual poverty of the vast majority of the population, who have ‘nothing in your pocket or your hands’.

Why do these songs cheer me up a little on such a gloomy day? [By the way, you may think I am harping overly much on the fact that it is raining, but I have been known to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so it really is all in my mind!]  Because they express anger in a humorous way.  I find anger a more productive sentiment than sadness and despair, because it usually makes you want to do something to change matters.  And when anger is tinged with humour, it no longer is simply destructive, but becomes instructive and constructive.

What do you think of these songs?  Are you a fan of songs with ‘political’ messages?  Or does that create an obstacle in your appreciation of a song?  And what about songs in different languages, where you might not understand the subtext or even the outright meaning at all?  Can you still enjoy a song, even if you think it’s about something completely different?

8 thoughts on “Rebellious Songs”

  1. Aaaaaah The Logical Song, a classic! You totally made my day, thanks! Sorry if my song choice didn’t help you yesterday… But as you said, it’s one of the most beautiful, haunting songs out there and it needed to be posted. Really like your choices today and glad they lifted you up yesterday, you rebel, you!! X 🙂

  2. I am a fan of Morrissey’s music – I find his songs uplifting in a way I can’t explain (and many people have tried to get me to explain!) I think it might be the sad, sometimes angry lyrics, set against music that is often so upbeat I can’t help but smile.
    Or maybe it’s just that I really, really, really love Morrissey 🙂

  3. Marina, I totally relate to this because growing up, I loved Paul Simon, and he definitely wasn’t popular. And I followed him closely too. I still like him, but don’t follow as closely anymore. I liked him because he was influenced by African-style music and he seemed to sing a lot about cultural stuff, and people in transition culturally.
    And yes! I love listening to music in languages I don’t understand. For me, as a professional writer, it makes for good writing and editing music and some of the stuff I listen to I can chill out with–the lyrics don’t distract this way.

    1. You are so right! No matter what protests there were about ignoring the boycott against South Africa at the time, I think Graceland is a fantastic album and did so much to disseminate music from other cultures.
      And glad to hear I am not the only ‘weirdo’ listening to things I don’t understand. In fact, I made up a brilliant translation for a Greek song and was really disappointed when I was told later what it was really about!

      1. I think if you are going to make up brilliant translations to songs, you should try to avoid listening or reading the real translation. Spoils the whole thing. I am going to check the name of this one band I listen to so you can check them out online. I want to see what you think. I was totally and pleasantly surprised you knew about Graceland. You rock!

  4. I’m going to go with the obvious and say you may need a little Bob Dylan in your life, although I think you have to be in the right frame of mind if you’re not already a fan. The first time I really listened to Dylan, I was a sophomore in high school, and I hated him. I didn’t understand how someone who couldn’t sing could be so popular.

    Fast forward about four years, and I randomly decide to give him another shot. The result? Mind = blown, and he’s now one of my all-time favorite artists. I think I just had to be in the right time and place to hear him.

    I agree with you about the angry songs – listening to those definitely makes me more productive and creative. Strangely enough, though, when I’m feeling down, sad songs actually make me feel better. They just make things make sense. If that makes sense…

Do share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.