It’s customary to wish everyone a Happy New Year. This year, however, I’m reminded of the old adage: “Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends.” If there is one inescapable fact of our times it is the irreconcilable clash of interests between the tiny handful of super-rich who rule the world and the great majority of its human inhabitants. For there to be a reasonably healthy future for our grandchildren two obstacles must be overcome immediately. We must end war and end fossil fuel use. But what are the prospects of these two goals, which are supported by the great majority of the world’s people, being achieved? Absolutely nil. Why? Because the status quo prevents the popular will from being carried out.
Fortunately, an extraordinary upsurge in militant protest is now sweeping the globe. A generation of young people recognizes that they have no future unless they can force governments to change. Where these protests will lead remains to be seen. But there can be little doubt that they are our best hope for the kind of transformation required.
We hope to fan these flames of discontent as our various projects near completion. To begin where we left off last year:
Working Class Heroes – In December we received a warm reception in the Bay Area. This was a fine ending to a year which included the Clearwater Festival and the most airplay I’ve received since the heyday of the Looters. Having a radio station in Amarillo, Texas play “I Hate the Capitalist System” is quite a boost. Several other reporting stations from the middle of the country have played tracks from the album, confirming our estimate that in America’s Heartland, devastated by capitalism, people would be intrigued by songs encouraging resistance. Thoughtful, positive reviews have appeared in various journals and magazines helping us to carry on. This year we will be touring the States in April, heading for the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago April 17th-19th. There will be more specifics in the coming months at matandyvonne.com.
Songs of Slavery and Emancipation – we have now completed our film and submitted it to film festivals in Toronto and New York. With the kind assistance of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, we not only covered the final production costs but will be able to add German subtitles. This will aid in broadening the impact of this project.
The heart of the project has always been the recording of 15 slave songs and 15 abolitionist songs. This has now been completed. The accompanying book should be done in a few weeks. The book provides the lyrics to each song, the story of their discovery and the documentation of their origins and authenticity. This will provide researchers, musicians and the general public evidence of the long, heroic struggle of enslaved people for their emancipation. It will fill important gaps in the historical and musical record as well as challenging prevailing notions about the abolitionist movement and the Civil War. We expect to have a plan for publication in the next two to three months.
Together We Stand – the album of my own songs was successfully recorded in December. With Greg Landau producing and Jeremy Goody engineering, we recorded 12 songs composed over the last ten years but, in most cases, never performed. We were joined on accordion by Colin Hogan, on bass by Saul Sierra and on drums/percussion by Dave Flores. Singers Brian Dyer and Michelle Jaques lent their warmth and enthusiasm, giving the whole production a communal feel we needed.
Greg is mixing now. We expect to be releasing these songs in the coming year. Stay tuned.