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Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.

10 Jun 17 - 02:57 PM (#3860108)
Subject: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,Mike

Does anyone know which are the best oldest protest songs? The Digger song or World Turned Upside Down from the 17th Century, but are there any older than that?


10 Jun 17 - 03:04 PM (#3860109)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Richard Bridge

I may well watch this with interest. May we have two sets of submissions, one by age and one by quality?


10 Jun 17 - 04:22 PM (#3860128)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Mrrzy

How old is What Have They Done To The Rain?


10 Jun 17 - 04:53 PM (#3860130)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,alex s

Mrrzy, I think it's pretty recent - 1970's??


10 Jun 17 - 04:54 PM (#3860131)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,alex s

Mrzzy - 1962


10 Jun 17 - 08:17 PM (#3860173)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Jack Campin

This might clarify matters with The Diggers' Song and The World Turned Upside Down:

https://mainlynorfolk.info/leon.rosselson/songs/thediggerssong.html

The oldest one in English I know of is a protest against the murder of Thomas Becket. It's on my website. It's not likely to get revived any time soon.

This one, on the other hand, does still communicate with tremendous power:

http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/on-transience-ii-earth-upon-earth-and.html

There is some overlap of imagery, attitude and meaning with the Turkish Alevi/Bektashi song "Kara Toprak" ("Black Earth") attributed to the 20th century bard Asik Veysel, though he probably assembled it from ideas going back to the Middle Ages. I'd guess this is a very widespread topos. (Ian Pittaway, do you have anything on this?)


10 Jun 17 - 08:20 PM (#3860175)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: McGrath of Harlow

The Cutty Wren has been claimed to date from the Peasants Revolt in the 14th century, but it's very questionable if that's actually true, both as regards its age or its protest aspect.

Still it's a good story to have in mind when singing it.

But the couplet "When Adam Delved and Eve Span,
                            Who was then the gentleman"

does appear to date from the Peasants Revolt, since it was first recorded as being used in a sermon to tge rebels by the priest John Ball, in a book written only a few years later, Thomas Walsingham's Historia Anglicana.


11 Jun 17 - 03:34 AM (#3860195)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Jim Carroll

The earliest form of 'protest' or political songs in England were put together in 'The Political Songs of England (From the reign of John to that of Edward II) by Thomas Wright (1839)
They are in French, Provncál Latin, Anglo-Norman and early English and all come with a descriptive commentary and extensive notes - they date from the beginning of the 13th century.
They cover taxation, rationing and wars...... etc - all good solid subjects for protest - it has been described as "a collection of political verses, venality satires and songs of social protest from medieval England".
The songs are no longer singable, of course - if they ever where, but they make a fascinating study of how songs have always been used beyond being merely entertainment
I bought a remaindered copy of the reprint for £1.00 back in the 70s, but always kick myself for not buying the first two-volume edition and a ridiculously low price (we were economising at the time)
Jim Carroll


11 Jun 17 - 03:45 AM (#3860197)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Jim Carroll

Anybody interested in Irish protest songs should get hold of Terry Moylan's superb 'The Indignant Muse' poetry and song of the Irish Revolution 1887-1926; a huge 700 page block of a book of containing hundreds of songs, many with music and well-researched notes and rich with illustrations - a must-have for any collection.
Jim Carroll


11 Jun 17 - 03:52 AM (#3860198)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Dave Hanson

The World Turned Upside Down was not a song until Leon Rosselson put Gerard Winstanley's fine speech to music.

Dave H


11 Jun 17 - 03:55 AM (#3860200)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Dave Hanson

The traditional song, The Rigs of the Time seems to qualify as ' old '

Dave H


11 Jun 17 - 04:38 AM (#3860209)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Jackaroodave

"The earliest form of 'protest' or political songs in England were put together in 'The Political Songs of England (From the reign of John to that of Edward II) by Thomas Wright (1839)'

They are in French, Provncál Latin, Anglo-Norman and early English and all come with a descriptive commentary and extensive notes - they date from the beginning of the 13th century."

Thanks, Jim, just what I was looking for when I saw the Winstanley reference. I knew there must be something like that.

Wright's songbook can be viewed and downloaded in various formats at archive.org:

Political Songs of England

Archive.org is a marvelous resource for public domain material of all kinds. Just two other examples: Both the Child ballad texts are available there; the Grateful Dead have made archive.org the organ for distributing ALL available unreleased and bootleg concert recordings.

I imagine they have a lot of pre-1924 songbooks, and I believe sheet music as well.


11 Jun 17 - 12:03 PM (#3860291)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: topical tom

"We are the peat bog soldiers"...WW!! vintage, I believe.


11 Jun 17 - 12:09 PM (#3860296)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: topical tom

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peat_Bog_Soldiers


11 Jun 17 - 12:56 PM (#3860303)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,henryp

The Song of the Lower Classes

From Mainly Norfolk;

The writer, Ernest Jones, stood unsuccessfully as a Chartist MP in 1847, was arrested in 1848 and sentenced to two years of solitary confinement.

From 1851 on, he started publishing a weekly magazine, Notes to the People, in which this song was published in March 1852.

Set to the three-part hymn Otford by Martin Carthy and released in 1982.


11 Jun 17 - 05:08 PM (#3860353)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST

Thanks very much for all the suggestions, lots to research here. The Cutty Wren was recorded recently by Chumbawamba, I will dig into some of the other links so thanks a lot.


11 Jun 17 - 06:39 PM (#3860369)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Jackaroodave

Ernest Jones's "Song of the Lower Classes" is also available at archive.org, along with other "Songs of Democracy," in an anthology of "The Poets and the Poetry of the Century," compiled by Alfred H. Miles in 1891:

https://archive.org/details/poetsandpoetryof04mileuoft

It's on page 557, but the section on Jones, with a fascinating biography, begins a few pages earlier.


11 Jun 17 - 08:10 PM (#3860388)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: McGrath of Harlow

It's been plausibly claimed that the Christmas carol "Adeste Fideles" ( known in English as "Come All Ye Faithful" ) is a coded Jacobite song, written at the time of the birth of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1720.


12 Jun 17 - 03:49 AM (#3860409)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: BobL

"Adeste Fideles" may be older than that - see its Wiki entry. Although of course the Jacobites could have read meanings into it that were not originally intended by the author.


12 Jun 17 - 05:19 AM (#3860425)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,henryp

The Song of the Day-Labourers is another poem by Ernest Jones - see the posts above.

Sharpen the sickle; how full the ears!
Our children are crying for bread!
And the field has been watered with orphans' tears
And enriched with their fathers dead

Set to a striking tune, it can be found on Falling Slowly, the second album by Coope Boyes and Simpson, but under the title The Forward March.


12 Jun 17 - 07:04 AM (#3860440)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,henryp

Two musicians with classical leanings;

Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin - starting with Casadh

Shaun Davey - The Brendan Voyage - Soloist Liam O'Flynn


12 Jun 17 - 08:02 AM (#3860453)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: JMB

A Man's A Man For A' That / or Parcel O' Rogues by Robert Burns are protest songs. He wrote a lot of protest songs and poetry. A poem of his that I also enjoy is Holy Willie's Prayer.


12 Jun 17 - 11:04 AM (#3860485)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: ced2

Peat Bog Soldiers was written in 1933-35 by the first inmates of Dachau Concentration Camp set up by Hitler and the Nazis. Most of the inmates were socialists, communists, trade unionists and those with religious beliefs that Hitler did not agree with. The first camps were not, as with later ones, set up as camps where death happened on arrival, they were forced labour camps, as can be seen from the slogan above the entrance gate . Many inmates died from malnutrition, beatings, summary executions etc. The song tells of the labour where inmates were driven to the moor to dig in the most brutal and harsh conditions. The last verse & chorus contains hope for the future.

Any IWW (Wobbly) song written by Joe Hill was written before 1915 when Joe was legally murdered.   

Woodie wrote may in the Thirties... If You Ain't got the Doh Ray Me etc and most famously "This Land is Your Land" written in reply to the Nationalistic slant in Irving Berlin's 'God Bless America'. But you have got to get hold of all 6 verses not just the three that are deemed politically correct by the right wing American Establishment.

Often soldiers who were placed in the most difficult situations by their political masters & generals wrote songs, usually to well known tunes of the day. There are many from WW1. My personal favourite is a full version of D Day Dodgers from WW2,


12 Jun 17 - 11:16 AM (#3860488)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GUEST,Peter Laban

Excuse the nitpicking, 'Moorsoldaten' was made in Börgermoor camp (and is known as Börgermoorlied sometimes for that reason). Not Dachau.


12 Jun 17 - 01:17 PM (#3860511)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: topical tom

bhttps://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+peat+bog+soldiers


12 Jun 17 - 02:44 PM (#3860517)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Dave Hanson

Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire.

Dave H


12 Jun 17 - 03:00 PM (#3860521)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: topical tom

Another good protest song is "Die Gedanken Sint Frei" (Thoughts are Free)


12 Jun 17 - 07:25 PM (#3860543)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: GeoffLawes

This site might yield you something


12 Jun 17 - 08:07 PM (#3860547)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Ged Fox

"England Arise" Edward Carpenter 1886 - by no means old, but one of the best.


12 Jun 17 - 08:08 PM (#3860548)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Best and oldest protest songs.
From: Ged Fox

1886 - England Arise - Edward Carpenter. Not very old, but one of the best.