A new compilation of right-wing folk—featuring songs like “Join the SDS” and “Fascist Threat”—shows a new side of the 1960s.
In his excellent, edifying study Political Folk Music in America From Its Origins to Bob Dylan, Lawrence J. Epstein tells the fascinating tale of the left-wing “free-spirited modern troubadours” who “envisioned themselves as moral auditors for the angels.”
Of course, as even the briefest survey of Scientology or the Department of Homeland Security demonstrates, self-proclaimed “moral auditors” are rarely all that keen on submitting to audits themselves, which is probably why when the Associated Press wrote up Cry, the Beloved Country in April 1969, the opening paragraph focused squarely on the dissonance of the artist’s dissent:
Tony Dolan composes and sings folk songs. He also requires that the girls he dates subscribe to the conservative magazine National Review.
And this, it seems, is precisely how Dolan—a future conservative commentator and Reagan speechwriter credited with coining the phrase “evil empire”—preferred it.
“I’m composing and performing to show that conservatism swings,” he explained, and, indeed, even setting aside the liner notes penned by William F. Buckley Jr. (!) and such hippie-antagonizing ditties as “Join the SDS”:
Join the SDS
Oh, we’ll canonize Alger Hiss
Join the SDS and learn to love the communists
—and “New York Times Blues”:
All the news that’s fit to print, unless of course it’s anti-communist…
Hey, the ADA blew up the Statue of Liberty
Let’s see, that was on page 106, Column B, I think
—the fiery “Remember Bloody Budapest” made clear Dolan would show no quarter to those who were aesthetic contemporaries but ideological adversaries:
Pete Seeger, you have sung so long about justice and love for us all, but where were your songs of righteousness when Kennedy was killed by a Marxist or when they built the Berlin Wall?
Well, Joan Baez, you sing so soft, you sing about the falling rain, but where were your songs of righteousness…when Poland’s youth lay slain?
The Omni Recording Corporation has lifted these and other provocations out from the dustbin of history for Freedom Is a Hammer: Conservative Folk Revolutionaries of the Sixties, a fun, exquisitely packaged 29-track compilation of cultural oddities featuring Dolan’s work alongside salvos from Baez-esque operatic chanteuse Vera Vanderlaan and plucky pop-folk songstress Janet Greene, who left a cushy gig playing Cinderella on a Columbus, Ohio, television show to record “Commie Lies” and “Fascist Threat”:
I think I’ll take a little quiz and find out just what fascism is,
though some may think that it’s extreme to find out what words really mean:
It has a party rather small that seeks to rule and govern all
A single leader whom they say everybody must obey
Destroy the government with lies, seize control and centralize
Very shortly you will see a fascist state monopoly
Although we’ve used the fascist name
Communism is just the same
It’s plain to see these two are twins
And freedom dies if either wins
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?