WILL.I.AM / “Yes We Can”
This week, our feature is a cover not of a song but of a speech. And not even a victory speech but rather the words of a candidate after a disappointing loss: Obama in New Hampshire. Will.I.Am had the idea to make an anthem out of Obama’s rallying call to his supporters after an election defeat. Regardless of one’s position on Obama as a candidate, Will’s cover is ingenious. It features numerous popular personalities echoing Obama’s words in both spoken word and song. The innovative video was directed by Jesse Dylan, song of Bob Dylan. Within a few days of its online release, the video was averaging a million hits a day. The “Yes We Can” video is available here. “Fired Up, Ready To Go” builds on a chant popular at Obama rallies. Produced by the Bergevin brothers (Joe – lyrics, Jon – piano/composer), this is a musical product of Seattle featuring vocalist Reverend Pat Wright and her Total Experience Gospel Choir and lead vocalist Jake Bergevin along with a brace of Seattle musicians including Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron. “Fired Up” lives up to its title. The “Fired Up” video is available here. The premiere calypso king of Trinidad, “The Mighty Sparrow” aka Slinger Francisco, offers an international perspective with his song “Barack the Magnificent.” I thought it interesting that Sparrow refers to Obama by the use of his first name, which we hardly ever hear use in the American media except when Michelle Obama is speaking. The two syllable first name sounds more exhortative than the three syllable last name to my ears, especially the way Sparrow enunciates. All three of these songs have one element in common: they were produced independent of the official Obama campaign. They represent the unleashing of the creative potential of people inspired by a movement for change. Some critics suggest that this is a false movement, a media invention, fluff and no substance. I think the critics are wrong. Why? A good answer is found in the words of Will.I.Am describing why and how he put the song together. Everything must change.
Monique Says: on February 17th, 2008 at 5:31 am I am not even from America, but I have been following these elections...I don't even understand very well how your system works, because I am from Australia and I'm still in high school. But Obama has moved me and I feel involved even though I am from the other side of the world. I would vote if I could...because America's decisions affects millions, billions in countries worldwide. The U.S. President's decisions impacts on the lives of the poor, the hungry, the ill and the innocent. When you are voting, you are also voting for those of us that can't. I sincerely hope with all my heart that America is voting for change.Mtume was in New Orleans a week or so ago for a short visit. I picked up Mtume and Elizabeth, his fiancée, from the airport around midnight on Friday night. On the ride into the city I told Mtume that the election was reductively over. Obama had won. Mtume being the natural skeptic he is rattled off at least 887 reasons why I was overstating a hoped-for outcome. I replied that I was not speaking emotionally. I was basing my assessment on many years of campaigning experience (from 1984 to 1986 I was the co-founder and senior partner with Bright Moments, an advertising and public relations company). I knew a little somethin’ somethin’ about political campaigns. I told Mtume I first became really interested in Obama’s campaign when I read about Michelle Obama. Michelle is the real deal. A sister. Through and through. Wasn’t going to be no monkey shines, sell-outs and foo-foo chicanery. I even joked (well, I was serious even though I said it as a joke), Obama might do a Monica if he wanted to but Michelle wasn’t going to play no Hillary. She would light his ass up if he stepped out on the wild side. Some of our BoL readers may not fully understand what this means, but y’all who know “know” that I’m telling the truth about Michelle being one of those sisters you do not ever want to mess with, mess over, or mess around on! So, Michelle is what got me interested. Then I did the research and started crunching some numbers, adding up the details. I told Mtume that Obama had won Super Tuesday. Naturally I was once again met with derision. Well, it took nearly two weeks but the final numbers are in from all the participating states (except for a few corrections to come from New York, corrections which at best for Obama may gain him one or two delegates, at worst will keep the count as it is. (If you’re interested, you can go here for more info.) I pointed out that the polls were probably right about California if you looked solely at the votes cast on the primary date. The difference was that nearly two million early votes had been cast, a majority of which I’m certain were Clinton votes as securing mail-in votes was part of their early campaign strategy. The defeat in California notwithstanding, the final outcome of Super Tuesday is that Obama won 844 delegates and Clinton won 837 delegates. That’s right Obama won more delegates than Clinton on Super Tuesday. (Go here for a detailed delegate breakdown.) I explained to Mtume that money was a major factor. You can’t do American politics without money. And before someone misunderstands, let me clarify: When it comes to large scale elections—state or national—having money doesn’t mean you will win but not having money does mean you won’t be able to play, and if you can’t play, you can’t win. The money translation is simple: if Obama had not put together a workable plan to raise money, he would not be in the position he is in today, regardless of message or skill at delivering said message. In January, Obama raised over $30 million while Clinton was forced to loan herself $5 million. Obama was raising his millions $25 and $50 at a time from grassroots folk nationwide. Obama stuck to his pledge not to take donations from PACs (political action committees), federal lobbyists, and the like. What interested me was that if Obama was raising more money than Clinton, it meant he had a broader and more committed base of support. Obama donors can be counted on to follow their money in terms of voting and in terms of working to support their candidate. I ran some other factors by Mtume. When he returned to California a few days later, Mtume told me he hoped I was right. Then the Maryland/Virginia/DC primary results came in. Then the pressure started to build on the superdelegates. John Lewis said he would vote for Obama but he was not yet ready to take back his endorsement of Hillary; that’s just a small indication of the amount of pro-Obama pressure that old line black politicians are reeling under. I don’t believe an Obama victory is automatic. I don’t expect Clinton to roll over and give up. Her campaign will have to be decisively defeated, however I do believe the conditions are favorable. If Obama continues to work hard and work smart, he will be the Democratic nominee for the general election for President of the United States of America. The biggest obstacle is going to be keeping Obama alive. America has not changed so much that the right-wing(nuts) are going to passively accept a Black president. But we can’t let fear stop us from daring greatness. This trio of songs is encouragement to all of us who are fired up and ready to work as active agents of change. Whether within the system supporting Obama or as an alternative to the system working along other paths and avenues, the point is, as Charlie Parker noted back at mid-century in the fifties: now's the time! A different world is possible. —Kalamu ya Salaam
The real deal The "Fired Up, Ready To Go" piece is nice. The Mighty Sparrow is quite humorous. You have to love the superfluous (and non-superfluous) hyper-detail of calypso music. It's almost like hip-hop. But "Yes We Can" is the real deal. It's an actual, quality, effective piece of music. I don't like Will.I.Am or the Peas as artists, but I have to admit, Will really did it with this one. It's slightly reminscent of Bob Marley's "War," in the sense that it's a (mostly) sung recitation of a speech. There are some undertones of "We Are The World" in there too, with all the different musicians, singers and personalities joining in. It's good. I hope it helps. I want to make a general comment about Obama too. I've been asked if I'm going to vote for Obama just because he's black. It seems hard for people to believe it, but the answer to that question is no. Jesse Jackson ran for President. Al Sharpton ran for President. I wouldn't vote for either one of those, um, gentlemen. They can do whatever they do, but I wouldn't want them as my President even if they were my uncles. I'm voting for Obama (I already did in the primary and I hope I get the chance to do it in the general election) not because he's black, and honestly, not even because I believe in his message or his platform. I'm voting for Obama because I'm amazed at, and inspired by, the wide variety of people who DO believe in his message and platform. I'm voting for Obama because he's convinced friends of mine who usually don't give a shit about voting to go ahead and register. I'm voting for Obama because he's inspired passion from the dispassionate and belief from the disbelieving. I'm voting for Obama because, for the first time in my lifetime, I'm actually daring to hope that doing so maybe, just maybe, could make an actual, real difference. And like I say, it's not so much for what Obama can or will actually do, but for what he apparently symbolizes for so many people, not just here in America, but around the world. I want my country to rejoin the world as a citizen in good standing. I want to be welcomed again, instead of hated. Obama is the only candidate whose election has the potential to do all of those things. —Mtume ya Salaam
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