Scrabble-Rousers #4: Hypocrisy

18 May

Hypocrisy and its bedmates – pretenders, fakes and phonies – have always been a source of consideration for artists. Just as in Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice where today’s word comes from, musicians have taken aim at social and political hypocrisy as far back as Ludvig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. In 1804, Beethoven titled his third symphony “Bonaparte” in honor of Napoleon, who then held the title of First Consul. Beethoven cast Napoleon in the same light as great Roman leaders because of their staunch opposition to tyranny and dictatorships. However, Napoleon announced himself “Emperor of the French” which so deeply angered Beethoven that he renamed his third symphony “Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d’un grand’uomo” (“Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.)”

Here is a great Dutch site streaming No. 3 in its entirety.

Folk music is a genre almost exclusive to exposing the hypocrisies of war and oppression. Peter Seeger and Phil Ochs wrote and sang with a purpose and summoned a reckoning.

John Cage just before he went deaf.

Some artists, like composer John Cage, even adapt their sociopolitical ideals to create innovative new forms of music. Cage, of the “purposeful purposelessness” school, was hugely influenced by anarchic writers and created a compositional process based on chance resembling these beliefs.

Rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron, inspired by watching the moon landing in 1969, called out society for its racial and social inequalities with “Whitey on the Moon.” “Was all the money I made last year/For whitey on the moon?”

The Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra were masters of finding the hypocrisy in just about everything and releasing it in their famous scathing sarcasm.

Jello Biafra exposes hypocrisy in his own madeup name.

“Holiday in Cambodia” is a perfect example, setting side by side a typical Reagan-era yuppy youth to a Pol Pot-era slave worker to display the West’s blindness and indifference.

This is endless subject and it would be great to hear from others, so please post your thoughts and songs related to “hypocrisy.”

Here are a few noteworthy literal associations of hypocrisy:

“Circle of Hypocrisy” by Napalm Death

“Hypocrite” by The Heptones

“Hypocrite” by Antibalas

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One Response to “Scrabble-Rousers #4: Hypocrisy”

  1. David Quinones May 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    I prefer my hypocrisy unintentional and devoid of irony, like Jay-Z telling poor black kids all over the country how to live “Big Pimpin'” while the rap culture encourages stupidity and discourages education — the one saving grace that could actually help poor kids make money and live “Big Pimpin'” — or indie and punk kids who purport to be beautiful, unique flowers, but in their Hot Topic/faux vintage regalia look to me like they’re all wearing uniforms.

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