Patriotism and protest -- inexorably bound and oftentimes indistinguishable -- have always had their say through music.
Whether it be the American Revolution ("The Liberty Song"), World War I ("Over There" competing with "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier"), WWII ("God Bless America"), and the Vietnam War ("Ballad of the Green Beret" undercut by "War - What is it Good For?"), and now our latest struggle -- the 1% vs. the 99%.
Without needing to think of it, we carry in our thoughts the musical heritage created by fabled artists Pete Seeger, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Peter, Paul & Mary, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and so many more. Where are the songs for Occupy's time in history? Who will write the words and music and poetry? Will we find our voice?
These questions have been answered in full and emphatically with the debut on May 15, 2012, of OccupyThisAlbum, the brainchild of executive producer Jason Samel and created in collaboration with scores of musicians, industry professionals and a spectrum of supporters in business as well as the private sector.
Jason (known as "Jay" to fellow musicians) Samel is an unlikely person to father this work.
Struggling these last couple of years to pay for his share of household expenses and pull his weight at the insurance firm he started with his father a year earlier, Jay found his attention pulled to the Arab Spring. He sat down to write and produce what would be among the first songs/videos about that event which can still be found on YouTube -- "Tahrir Revolution."
He watched as additional artistic contributions trickled into YouTube and thought to himself, "How cool would it be to document the messages of revolution and protest through the arts and music?"
With no experience (and it shows at the site), he built www.MusicForEgypt.com and invited contributions. Videos flowed in from all over the world. When Egypt's struggles boiled over into more Middle Eastern countries, he built www.MuisicForRevolution.com and it began to fill as well.
But, it was on September 17, 2011, in which "My life changed," Jay says. "What I had been waiting for all my life was happening in my own back yard." He made his first visit to Zuccotti Park on September 19 to check it out. He was enthralled.
He returned the next day to meet "a kid sitting on the stairs who was belting out massive lyrics." He asked the fellow, Matt Pless, if he had a card. Of course -- Matt handed him a small piece of cardboard and wrote his name in magic marker on it and said "Look me up, you'll find me online." (You can find him at www.MattPless.com). He encountered others that day, drummers, hip-hop artists, a variety of music and all expressing frustration and protest.
That was all Jay needed. Then and there he decided that he wanted to create an Occupy Wall Street Benefit album and become involved in this new movement. His idea for the album would encompass major Artists which would take the light already shined on them, and redirect it on some artists that were little known, like the ones he heard in Zuccotti park that day.
He went home and purchased the domain www.OccupyEverywhere.com and several other similar sites with a generous offer on each domain: I'll donate the use of the domain if you supply the "Occupy" content.
Who was among the first arrivals to show interest in that site? Michael Moore. Jay reached out to explain his idea to Michael for an album to celebrate OWS and secured his first artist; moreover, Moore's people became a great resource.
Through every improbable avenue and association, Jay began hunting down more artists, using his innate sales ability, networking and Twitter as his stalking weapons of choice to bring more musicians on board.
Soon after, he met Maegan Hayward of SoundTrack Studios in NYC and her friend, Alex Emamuel, as well as entertainment attorney Shirley Menard. All offered their assistance. Jason welcomed their help, and knew he had somehow been gifted with a great team to complete this project.
Then, it really got crazy.
Artists both well-known and not-so offered to contribute their time and talent to create tracks for this album to benefit the Occupy Movement -- Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Lucinda Williams, Yoko Ono, Jackson Browne, David Crosby & Graham Nash, Patti Smith, Warren Haynes, Our Lady Peace, Thievery Corporation, UNKLE, Mogwai, DJ Logic, Immortal Technique, Toots & The Maytals, to reach a final -- and symbolic -- count of 99.
Zuccotti's roots were not forgotten, with Jay making sure that the OWS Drum Group "Pulse" laid down a track, one mixed with a slice of poetry from Liberty Park's "American Poet," Paul Spitz.
"100% of all monies less expenses are being donated to the Occupy Movement," Jason declares proudly. With the dust barely settling, he is already planning additional albums with the intention of creating a new genre of music -- properly tagged as Protest Music -- with a portion of the proceeds going to OWS.
Those interested can locate Jason Samel on Twitter as @MusicForOccupy, on Facebook at Facebook.com/MusicForOccupy, and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh yes, wanna be on the next album? Ya better make tracks.
Follow Jerry Ashton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WrittenOffUSA