In the Early Days of the Trump Era, the Protest Song Springs to Life

Demonstrators put their fists in the air during a protest against police brutality and the death of Freddie Gray outside the Baltimore Police Western District station in April 2015. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As a child of the Bay Area, and a child of Baby Boomers, I’ve grown up with the songs of the late ’60s and ’70s knitted into my psyche — the anti-war anthems, the soundtrack to the free love era, Stop, hey, what’s that sound. You know the tunes.

But modern-day protest songs are a different animal. Hip-hop has arguably been our most consistently political genre, at least in the U.S. — and especially in the past five years, with police shootings of unarmed young black men making headlines nearly every day.

Then Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017. When we at KQED Arts decided to document local artists’ responses to our new administration with daily posts, I put out a call on social media, asking local musicians to send me the songs they’d written and recorded about our current political climate.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the responses blew me away. Folk, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop and soul music arrived in my inbox. These songs’ lyrics were all over the map — messages of anger, hurt, and fear, as well as words about strength, peace, and the power of community. I asked each musician that we covered the same questions: How and when did you write this? What were you feeling? How do you see your role as an artist right now? When you need inspiration, what else are you reading, watching, listening to?

I’m humbled and honored to have gotten a small peek inside the minds of some of the Bay Area’s best musical revolutionaries, some established and some emerging. And I discovered some new favorite bands along the way, too.

Here are the 13 songs — and their accompanying interviews — that helped me make it through these the 100 days.

Rocky Rivera’s “Round We Go” Is A Call to Action: “We Need to Mobilize” 

On John Elliott’s “The Art of the Deal,” A Young Trump is the Real Wolf of Wall Street


Joan Baez Imagines a Post-Trump World on “Nasty Man”


Diana Gameros Questions Borders and Bridges in “Como Hacer?” 

Sam Chase Drowns Out Political Chaos With “A Great White Noise” 

On Kev Choice’s “Morning Star,” Palestine Isn’t So Far From Home 

Dame Drummer’s “Black and Beautiful” Rises Above the Negativity  

Chicano Batman Masters the Art of Perspective on “Freedom Is Free” 

Dooms Virginia Tackles the Trump-Era Liars on “Devour” 

Las Cafeteras Imagine a Radically Peaceful Future in “If I Was President” 

In Robin DuPont’s “He Will Not Divide Us,” Immigration Issues Hit Close To Home

Entrance’s “Not Gonna Say Your Name” Proves the Power of Omission 

Kiwi Illafonte’s “Seeds” Is the Nina Simone-Sampling Protest Track You Need 

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In the Early Days of the Trump Era, the Protest Song Springs to Life 28 April,2017Emma Silvers

Author

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is the former music editor at KQED Arts. She has previously been published in Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and has covered music and culture for a variety of Bay Area publications. Follow her at @emmaruthless, if you’re into that kind of thing.

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