Groov’n to my iPod this morning I was listening to Robbie Robertson – “Contact from the Underworld Red Boy” (1998), (http://theband.hiof.no/albums/contact_from_the_underworld_of_red_boy.html) and heard a song called Sacrifice. I’ve listened to this song before, but didn’t think much about the lyrics. Today was different in that something in the song caught my attention. The song is “supposedly” narrated and you hear this telephone-squawk box element of Leonard Peltier, introduced in the song? Being curious I thought is this for-real or just a clever way to write a song?
Who is this Robbie Robertson (http://www.ahroo.com/PIC/rrtimeline.html)? Born with the name Jaime Robert Klegerman, the wiki states – he’s the son of a Jewish father and Mohawk mother, and first brushed with music at the Six Nations Reservation. He is an accomplished musician. He composed the score to Scorsese’s movies Raging Bull, King of Comedy and The Color Of Money. He has appeared with Bob Dylan, U2, and Peter Gabriel. Most recent work was with Touchstone Pictures / Beacon Pictures’ ‘Ladder 49’ (John Travolta) and the feature track, “Shine Your Light.”
As it turns out the song Sacrifice is indeed a ‘protest’ song which does feature Leornard Peltier — a Native American who has been imprisoned since 1976 on charges of murder many believe are fabricated — his voice is recorded from a telephone call. Peltier, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., has spent nearly half of his 59 years behind bars in maximum-security prisons, most recently in the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. (http://www.freepeltier.org/). Peltier was convicted for the deaths of two FBI agents who died during a 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
If you’re into conspiracy theories, the Wounded Knee occupation of 1973 marked the beginning of a three-year period of heightened political violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier was an American Indian Movement (AIM) organizer in the Northwest and was asked to go to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to support and help protect the people being targeted for violence. Peltier set up camp on a ranch owned by the Jumping Bull family and when more than 40 Native Americans participated in a gunfight, two FBI agents and one Native American were dead. The agents injured in the shoot-out, were then shot at close range. Of three people brought to trial (first two were acquitted in a federal jury in Iowa) only Peltier was convicted (in ND) and is serving two life terms. The protest song Sacrifice (lyric at: http://www.ahroo.com/pp/lyr/sacrifice.html) is very legit.
I wonder how many other musicians have created real-people protest songs and delivered them to the unassuming public as we march through our work day unaware?!