A lot of music moves me, but in some of my best moments I am an activist and music that moves me the most is activist. The folksinger Jim Page hails from Seattle and has spent most of his life writing activist music and performing in the Northwest. Jim Page was inspired by Woodie Guthrie and, yes, a young Bob Dylan. One of his songs updates Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
[Play] “Come gather round me, hear my sad story. I know you think you’ve heard some one sing it before me, but it’s an old song, I had to change it, times ain’t what they used to be.”
Of Jim Page’s music one commenter observed: “This is raw and visceral Americana folk with bite.” Page himself used the term “Attitude Folk.” I first heard Jim Page as an opening act in Seattle in 1977. His songs dealt with struggles of daily life. He also had one taking on oil companies over pollution. Now, I had moved west from New Jersey and I am not sure I understood the issue of oil pollution. But as fate would have it I soon got a job with Greenpeace and started working to keep coastal waters clean and free of oil spills. So I invited Jim Page to join us when just after Ronald Reagan was elected Greenpeace blockaded an oil supertanker. He was game, came onboard and added his voice to the cause.
[Play] “It ain’t my land and it ain’t your land, could be a rich land but it’s a poor land, ‘cause of the few that hold it in their tight-gripped hand so that it don’t belong to you or me.
I saw Jim years later performing outside the Democratic Convention in 2008. We talked and he was pleased to learn that I was a delegate, “You’re inside,” he said. He had a cd of new music as part of what activists were calling the “backbone campaign.” They wanted elected officials to get a little backbone and do more for their poor and vulnerable constituents and not just the rich and powerful. So I said I would get some of the recordings into the hands of politicians and share his message. And I did.
[Play] “I see the downsides, I see the layoffs, the corporate welfare, politician’s payoffs I see the breadlines that never make the headlines ‘cause they’re no so entertaining on TV. When they can reduce you to just a number, when they can knock you down and they can plow you under. And when the only thing that matters is the dollar, then you know it don’t belong to you or me.”
Jim Page is still playing. He does not give up, and that inspires me.
[Play] “There was a time when this song was greater. but that was then, and this is later. And there’s a hole in my heart that’s like a crater and they say it’s gonna be the death of me. Let’s take this song back, let’s take this country take back our future, it’s our duty let’s stand up tall so that everyone can see then this land will belong to you and me.”