Occupy Wall Street's Soundtrack

Posted by Billyjam, November 12, 2011 10:14am | Post a Comment
Earlier this week folk-rock legends Graham Nash and David Crosby stopped by Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan to do an impromptu, politically charged acoustic set for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters that included “Long Time Gone,” “They Want It All,” and “Teach Your Children."

Note that Stephen Stills, who was also in town for the trio's Beacon Theatre concerts this week did not join them @ OWS, but Crosby and Nash sure represented and were the latest musicians in a long list of artists to have either performed at or stopped by and visited the Occupy Wall Street encampment. Others who have shown solidarity for OWS or have visited the relatively small, privately owned Zuccotti Park in the downtown Manhattan, Wall Street/financial district that began back in September, have included Pete Seeger, Talib Kweli, and Immortal Technique (see video below). 

A week ago, while in New York, I stopped by OWS a few times to talk with several occupiers including a member of the (OWS house band) percussion based Pulse band whose daily hours of drumming were curtailed following complaints by the immediate lower Manhattan community. My questions were about music and the role it plays in the Occupy Wall Street movement and specifically what music acted as the perfect soundtrack for OWS.  Many of the folks I talked with, that included occupiers camped out every night at OWS and some protesters who stopped during the day only, are included in the video clips below. These include Kyle who took a break from volunteering at the main food kitchen to chat, telling me that he has been at Occupy Wall Street since day one. And like many of the residents who have apartments downtown, he too is sick of the drums going non-stop. "Trust me, it's annoying," he laughed, "I just zone them out of my head. I don't even pay attention to them." he said. The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin,  "old protest songs, maybe something like Country Joe [McDonald] and Arlo Guthrie" are among the twenty something protester's musical faves along with System of A Down and Rage Against The Machine.


"Santa Claus" has been out at OWS for two weeks and was seated in a folding beach chair waving an Obama doll and holding a hand drawn sign that read "OBAMA, I WANT MY CHANGE BACK!!!" happily posing for photos, told me he is a fan of the drums. Over on the other side of the tightly packed park I met Brandon from Delaware just as he was coming out of his compact tent to ask him about his OWS soundtrack. The protester, who had been camped out for a week, told me that his soundtrack (which is in his head) ranges from No FX, Against Me!, The Adolescents, and Minor Threat to Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, and Willie Nelson.

, who has been out on the protest from early October, is a fan of Big L, Das Racist, Wu Tang, and Odd Future and said that The Coup and Dead Prez sum up the protest theme of OWS best of all the artists he likes. Situated not far from the OWS drum collective known as Pulse Dylan said he likes the hypnotic nature of the rhythm of the percussion.

Percussonist Salem, who is not camped out but frequently stops by OWS during the daytime, talked with me about the informal drum collective known as Pulse (see video below).
Pulse and the other acoustic music persists since, as of 3 weeks ago, occupiers have been prohibited from using electronic amplification and hence why visiting performers like Crosby and Nash a few days doing an acoustic set. See fan video below of of Crosby, 70, and Nash, 69, doing "Teach Your Children Well" at Zuccotti Park which, as Nash notes in his introduction, is still applicable today four decades after he wrote the song about teaching future generations about right from wrong.

David Crosby & Graham Nash "Teach Your Children (at Occupy Wall Street 11/8/11)"
video c/o

Salem from Pulse @ Occupy Wall Street talks to the Amoeblog

Immortal Technique @ Occupy Wall Street c/o Democracy Now

Relevant Tags

Pulse (3), Occupy Wall Street (4), David Crosby & Graham Nash (1), Immortal Technique (7)