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Bernie Sanders' 1987 Folk Album: White Rap Before It Had a Name

September 19, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Bernie sings the blues, and more!

As Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders ponders a 2016 presidential run, reporters are digging up all kinds of tidbits from his past. Rumors about Bernie getting kicked out of Vermont communes in the early 1970s—for talking too much—might be hard to confirm. But the state’s astute alt-weekly, SevenDaysVT, has resurrected a real gem.

Did you know Bernie was a rap artist who recorded a tape cassette of five songs and B-Side conversation about personal history in 1987? This time capsule discovery, “We Shall Overcome,” is not entirely as silly as it sounds, athough no one would say that Bernie is a musical guy. But, check it out, anyway, starting with a Reggae version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” If Star Trek’s William Shatner can get 1.6-plus million YouTube hits for his version of “Rocket Man,” you never know.

As you would expect, Bernie also recorded an old Socialist anthem, “The Banks Are Made of Marble,” taking a gospel approach. This tack’s most charming is Bernie digressing from the lyrics and instead doing his white-guy rap that Vermonters heard in many campaign speeches. “Thoughout human history, society has been divided between the few, who have enormous wealth and enormous power, and the many who struggle each day just to survive,” he says, and keeps going, backed by the earthy Hamond organ.

Bernie’s version of Pete Seeger’s anti-war anthem, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” is a bit of an awkward march. Here, too, he employs an established songwriting tool—the escalating list sandwiched between choruses. “War—the human disease that has plagued mankind forever! Sticks and stones. Spears and knives. Guns and cannon balls. Tanks and planes. Bombs and missiles. Nerve gas. Nuclear weapons. Laser beams! When will they ever learn?”

There’s also the traditional, “Oh Freedom,” done in a gospel-blues style that is saved by local musicians who spare Bernie from singing the verses, but instead set him up to do what he does best—which is preach. “For thousands of years, in every nation on this earth, men and …read more


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