Roots Strikers: ‘Socialism Is Love’ and other left-wing 70s reggae anthems

This is how Dillinger feels about your incremental liberal reforms
Albert Einstein did not ever once say that bullshit about “the definition of insanity” that your dimwitted boss has inked on one palm, but he did have some ideas you might actually find useful in the workplace. For instance, in his essay “Why Socialism?” published in the first issue of the Monthly Review, Einstein identified “the economic anarchy of capitalist society” as “the real source of the evil” that alienates and “cripples” individuals, and he advocated “the establishment of a socialist economy” in its place. Why not enliven your next PowerPoint presentation or office party with that fun fact? 

Bob Marley and Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley
“Gonna fight ‘gainst capitalists, gonna get rid of capitalists, gonna stamp out capitalism,” the DJ Dillinger thundered in 1975. He was one of several prominent reggae musicians who wrote explicitly socialist songs during the mid-70s in support of the policies of Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley and the People’s National Party. Manley, a democratic socialist, introduced a minimum wage, equal pay for women, free education and free health care, and if his program sounds familiar, that’s because everybody already knows it’s what the absolute minimum of basic decency would look like.

But Max Romeo makes the case better than I can on his single “Socialism Is Love”:

You’re asking what is socialism and what it really means
It’s equal rights for every man, regardless of his strength
So don’t let no one fool you (Joshua said)
Listen as I tell you (Joshua said)
No man are better than none,
Socialism is love between man and man

Socialism is
Love for your brothers
Socialism is
Linking hearts and hands
Would you believe it?
Poverty and hunger’s what we’re fighting

Socialism is
Sharing with your sisters
Socialism is
People pulling together
Would you believe me?
Love and togetherness, that’s what it means

Mr. Big a-trembling in his shoes, saying he’s got a lot to lose
Don’t want to hear about sufferer at all
(Joshua said) One man have too many,
While too many have too little
Socialism don’t stand for that, don’t stand for that at all


Max Romeo at Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark, 1975
If I can extend an olive branch to Hillary’s supporters, I looked for reggae songs about raining death on civilians, glad-handing Wall Street bankers and bringing children “to heel,” but I couldn’t find a single one. I wonder why that is?
Keep reading, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
10:06 am
‘Cocaine In My Brain’: The greatest cocaine anthem of the ‘70s is NOT by Eric Clapton
09:26 am

There exists a rich musical history of recorded songs about cocaine use dating at least as far back as Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson’s 1927 “Dopehead Blues,” or Dick Justice’s 1928 “Cocaine.” On one end of the spectrum are commendably classic tunes about nose-candy such as Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” J.J. Cale’s (later made shitty by Eric Clapton) “Cocaine,” and Laid Back’s quirky “White Horse,” which advises the listener to ride the “white pony” (coke), rather than the “white horse” (heroin), and of course on the other end of the spectrum are absolutely dreadful blow anthems that will totally ruin your night at the club like Buck Cherry’s “Lit Up.”

Perhaps the greatest (or at least weirdest) joy-powder paean comes to us via Jamaican artist, Dillinger. 1976’s “Cokane in My Brain” from his CB 200 album is a funky slice of reggae/proto-rap, clearly recorded under the influence of—I don’t know—let’s say a kilo of the white stuff. The song’s “riddim” is based on the Gamble and Huff-produced Philly soul classic “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by People’s Choice. The refrain “I got cocaine runnin ‘round in my brain” comes from Reverend Gary Davis’ “Cocaine Blues” but the (apparently) nonsensical riddle about the correct way to spell New York:

“A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way we spell New York, Jim!”

... comes from an actual Disney record!

Do go to the seven-minute mark and hit play. You will laugh:


“No matter where I treat my guests, you see they always like my kitchen best. Cause I’ve cocaine running around my brain.”
Incredibly, the song went to number one on the Dutch charts.

Here we have a video from the Dutch music program TOPPOP, broadcast in the Summer of 1977. TopPop was the first dedicated Dutch pop music TV show, broadcast weekly from 1970 to 1988. Hit songs were generally mimed by artists appearing on the show, but often times tracks were played to a dance routine by choreographer Penney de Jager and her troupe, as is the case with this particular clip.

TOPPOP choreographer, Penney de Jager
The feel of a ‘70s New York club is recreated here through a Dutch lens. The dancing seems a bit awkward, not through any fault of the talented dancers, but because the song itself is rather awkward in its coke-damaged delivery. Still, trust us, it’s an earworm you’re not likely to shake anytime soon.

A knife, a fork, a bottle, and a cork… That’s the way we spell New York

Posted by Christopher Bickel
09:26 am