Current events songwriting or “Hitch your wagon to a tragedy.”

Recently a local songwriter posted a  “protest” song about a somewhat current tragedy that has been all over the news. He even went on a online forum to post the fact and to invite people to see his video. I have always maintained that this form of songwriting is never about the event and is always about the songwriter trying to take a shortcut to notoriety. It is particularly sickening to me as a songwriter and as a life long fan of music that someone is taking a horrible event and using it to promote themselves.

This songwriter is young and has skills beyond his age but doesn’t realize that this can destroy any credibility that he has built up. Funny enough none of his other songs have anything to do with protest or current events so I question this sudden turn of subject.

I posted a reply to the video, not to mock or make the person feel bad but because of my strongly held belief in this matter.


Writing a song about a current event is the lowest form of songwriting. It’s really about you trying to get noticed by attaching yourself to a tragedy and as a result it’s creepy. You’re not offering a solution to a problem, just parroting the news in song form. Where were you before this happened?? It doesn’t involve you personally.  Now there’s nothing wrong with writing a protest song  that helps solve the problem or helps in some other way but attaching yourself to a horrible news event is never a good thing in my opinion [not in this modern age where we don’t need troubadours] You’re better than that. Also there is an expiration date on this type of song when the news cycle moves on.
 I have always felt that, historically songs about tragedies were never about the events but about getting recognition for the artist and as such, not worthy.
Don’t think for a minute that Bob Dylan has ever done anything that wasn’t calculated for his own benefit.   [I know several people who’ve been in his band  for many years] . It’s never a valid argument to compare an amateur to a proven musical icon from the past. it’s a different world today and a different music business.
This kind of song does not offer any solution to the problem. Have you ever heard the term “Armchair quarterback”?  It’s nice that from the safety and privilege of his comfy  suburban life he is singing about the news. It’s like if I made a suit from newspaper articles about the same subject and I stop people to read about it in the Galleria Mall.   Plus why is this guy all of a sudden the voice of protest? His songs before this had nothing to do with this kind of topic.Did he have some kind of awakening and now he’s the voice of his generation? On halloween I dress like a pirate but i doesn’t mean I am terrorizing the high seas the other days of the year. He’s not without skills and abilities and I hate the other person saying he sucks….but he is piggybacking on something that we are all aware about. What about human trafficking? What about genocide? What about the systematic removing the rights of poor Americans to vote? What about rape? What about child abuse? What about murder? There are so many things in this word that trump someone getting shot by police. Hey what about going out and helping your neighbors instead of Xeroxing a news story. He may have been moved by these events but if he really felt it he should keep it to himself to go to Fergusen and sing this song non-stop on the street corner [I would applaud this as it would take a REAL COMMITMENT!!] . There are people here who now think he’s this wonderful caring guy because of this song. {maybe he is but certainly not because of this song]. This is a shortcut and a career detour to a dead end. I am a record producer and have thought deeply about this subject and have discussed it with my artists just so you know where my expertise in this area comes from].
  Don’t confuse the fact that he was moved by an event with the writing of a song about it that he plays to the public. Two very different things.
 You are so lucky the guy was named Michael Brown because that allowed you to rhyme it with “shot him down”. A real stroke of good luck there. Also it’s amazing that “you and Mike were alike” I didn’t realize that you were black and grew up in poverty. You are in good company here writing songs about a current event tragedy. Now every new song you write from now on  needs to be about some bad thing in the news. You should look at the best tragedy song ever Remembering Laci Peterson .