Since rock and roll music was born, it has given musicians the ability to make listeners aware of social issues. These songs became known as “protest” songs—songs like “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and the Wailers, Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and the hard rocking of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. There are countless more.
Recently, I received a copy of a CD single “What About Us!” The inspired musician in this instance is Andy Fediw, a gentleman from my home state of New Jersey. Andy has been a prominent musician in the Garden State since the mid-seventies as the bass player of Kinderhook, a well-known country rock band. The band has recently re-formed, but this record is a separate project, apart from Kinderhook.
The aforementioned protest songs all raised the awareness of various social issues. What’s appealing about “What About Us!” is that so many people can identify with the message of the song. The opening lines certainly have been spoken by so, so many, and I’m sure that some of our readers have uttered them, too.
Once upon a time there was a middle class
Now there’s just more working poor
Later in the song, Andy sings:
What about us!
Who stood proud and tall
And fought in all of our wars
We’re the ones who work the factories
Build bridges, roads, and homes
Drive the rigs, teach the kids
The ones who do it all
Has it connected with any of you? It hit home with me, so I reached out to Andy with a few questions.
N&W: Once you started feeling that something like this should be put to music, how long did it take to put it together?
Andy: I’ve known I was getting screwed by the powers that be for a long time. I simply came to terms with it as being the way of the world. I guess I felt it most when everybody else did: in 2008, when the economy crumbled. Work for my renovation business just dried up while my wife’s medical bills were skyrocketing. I started calling around to other contractors and found out that they were all going through the same thing. That’s when I realized that the powers that be had won. They had quietly and systematically eliminated the middle class that used to be the backbone of the US economy. I was able to hold on for another year. I found out that I didn’t qualify for any government programs, either. The only way for me to get any help was to let my house go into foreclosure. It was the only way I could qualify for any of the new government programs.
I got the formal notice of foreclosure in the summer of 2010. I decided to turn back to music as a way of saving my sanity. I sat down and wrote “What About Us!” It was a very personal song, and it sat on my piano stand for another year because my recording gear had crapped out and I didn’t have the money to have it fixed. Over the course of that year, I ran into more and more people that were in the same boat. I borrowed the gear I needed to record and spent the next five months learning how to use it. I imposed on friends, family, and neighbors to help me finish the recording. I really felt something had to be done, and music was the only weapon I had. I felt that the various movements around the country needed a rallying cry. It didn’t matter if it was the Occupy Movement or the Tea Party. They were all saying the same thing: “We’re drowning out here, and you guys are playing politics and not getting anything done.” This one song has taken me a year and a half to complete.
N&W: What’s your feeling about rock and roll as a medium in expressing social issues?
Andy: Rock and roll—and music in general—has been a way of expressing social issues for a long time. It fueled the anti-war movement of the sixties, which ended a war and brought down a president. It has always been a powerful force. The problem is that the protest song has become a genre of nostalgia. While all of this stuff has been going on, musicians and artists have been asleep at the wheel. We were distracted by gadgets like everyone else, while greed was allowed to run amuck.
Is it too late? I don’t think so. I am the perpetual optimist. I’ve always believed that people will rise up to fight injustice. It starts with one voice speaking the truth and spreads from there. It’s never too late.
N&W: Could you see both Obama and Romney agreeing with what you wrote?
Andy: When I first started sending the song to people, I got a really good response from both sides of the political spectrum. Comments like “You have to get this to Rush Limbaugh” and “You have to get this to Michael Moore.” Both extremes liked the song. That was when I knew I had something worth going after. I was hitting a nerve. I think Obama would agree with the song more than Romney. I think Romney would take issue with the 1% vs. 99% thing.
The problem is that everybody’s so busy arguing that nothing is getting fixed. I do believe that greed is really the underlying problem, but what do I know? I’m just a guy trying to save his house.
Andy certainly has made some powerful statements with his protest song. The song has gotten a lot of airplay in the New Jersey area—and you can have a listen, too. It’s free! Just go to OccupeyeTheBand.com. Andy will also be recording an acoustic solo version of the song, which he feels will make the message even stronger.