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.