We the Music

Every movement has its own distinct sound. Music helps capture the time and people of a movement. It reveals who they are, what they believe in and expresses what’s on their minds.

Folk songs and rock became platforms for anti-war sentiments during the Vietnam war, Hip-Hop and rap were born from the inner cities of New York City highlighting social issues over beats to get down to, punk and grunge were generations of young teens resisting societal norms expressing their fears of a bleak future.

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Today we are in the middle of yet another time of great change. A new movement born out of the political and social climate is being created. It is my intent to share and discuss some of the music that is being made and that is helping to define this movement’s sound, the people’s sound.

The first song I want to highlight is the cover of the folk classic “This Land is Your Land”. It’s a simple, timeless tune that grade school kids learn when they talk about inclusiveness. Woody Guthrie wrote the song 77 years ago on February 23rd in 1940 according to this NPR article. It was written in response to “God Bless America” which was a jukebox favorite in the 40s. As a frequent hitchhiker, Guthrie developed a unique view on what was going on in the country and it differed from the America portrayed in “God Bless America” leading him to write the tune.

Countless musicians have covered this alternative national anthem but one of the latest bands to do so I think does one of the best versions. Chicano Batman debuted their cover of “This Land is Your Land” at the end of January for a Johnnie Walker commercial. The Los Angeles band puts a slightly psychedelic/rock spin on the classic tune. It’s got a synthesizer going on giving it an element of funk and with a chorus in the background a hint of soul. If you didn’t know what you were listening to you might have thought it was a new hit on the Alternative charts.

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What makes Chicano Batman’s cover especially important is what it represents. A Latino band from East L.A. takes a classic American folk tune and puts their own spin on it. The lyrics are sung in English but they slip into Spanish by the end singing “Esta tierra es para ti y para mi,” the famous line “this land is made for you and me.” It’s as much of a statement of resistance as it is about hope.

When our head of state has declared their intention of creating barriers for people wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families, this song becomes undeniably relevant. The members of Chicano Batman come from both L.A. and countries in Latin America. Without their different backgrounds their sound wouldn’t be the same. When cultures collide it results in better art, new perspectives and new ideas.  

Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land” as he witnessed a side of America that was struggling during the Great Depression, that didn’t have the blessing of God on their side. Today, we aren’t going through a Great Depression but we are going through a time of great division. “This Land is Your Land” sung by Chicano Batman reminds us with the words of Guthrie that all people of America that they belong too.

Chicano Batman’s new album Freedom is Free is out March 3rd. They play The Crocodile on Thursday the 23rd, tickets available here.

-Grace Madigan

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