September 23, 2016

Five Song Fridays

Five songs for this Friday, chosen by author James Boice. His new novel is The Shooting, a portrait of gun violence in America. Below, his track choices, and some words on each.

Listen to the playlist on Spotify or YouTube.

Nice as F*ck - Guns
Jenny Lewis sings: “I don’t want to be afraid—put your guns away.” The crux of The Shooting is one character living his life in fear while another lives his without fear--and their paths converge toward a violent confrontation. Guess which one is the one with the gun?

Sharon van Etten - Not Myself
Van Etten wrote and recorded this harrowing song in tribute to the victims and survivors of the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Its proceeds will go to the Everytown for Gun Safety, which works to build public support for gun safety measures. The Shooting portrays how gun violence comes out of nowhere to turn our most day-to-day moments into unthinkable tragedy, just as it did in Orlando.

Kanye & Jay Z - Murder to Excellence
The Shooting deals with the death of a young black male, to the general indifference of his society. Kanye says, “314 died in Iraq; 509 died in Chicago.” We’ve spent $1.7 trillion on the War on Terror while doing pretty much nothing at all about the deaths of black men and women and children by gun. Kanye hails from Chicago, which has been seeing some of the worst of the constant, horrifying, sustained levels of gun violence in the country. There is no sign of letting up: Illinois can restrict gun ownership as much as it wants, but so long as its neighboring states allow looser access they will keep pouring into the city, and the carnage will continue. Will the rest of us do anything about it?

Green Day - Bang Bang
Big change happens in increments. The first step in curbing gun violence is changing our culture. One way to do that is through our art. I hope the fact that more and more work is appearing that draws inspiration from what our guns are doing to us—The Shooting is one example; this new Green Day song, about a school shooter, is another—is a positive sign.

The Beatles - Happiness is a Warm Gun
When they were recording the White Album, George Martin showed John Lennon a copy of the NRA’s magazine American Rifleman, which was lying around the studio for whatever reason. Flipping through its pages, Lennon came across an ad for a rifle with the headline, “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” He might have drawn inspiration from it because he found it a pretty insane and scary expression of American values—as it was, especially considering the way his life would end twelve years later in New York.

[ Go buy James Boice's book. ]

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