Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Battle Cry

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Battle Cry

Article excerpt

When Ani DiFranco adapted the words and music of the classic protest song "Which Side Are You On?" as a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement, she was carrying on a grand tradition among folk singers. The thread that connects her 2012 version of the song to Florence Reece's 1931 original is the late Pete Seeger, who in the 1950s popularized Reece's original, and then decades later, played banjo on DiFranco's update.

The song has played an important role in political movements for more than 80 years. Reece wrote it in response to coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky, who were embroiled in what came to be known as the Harlan County War: a sometimes violent conflict among the miners-who were defending their rights to organize for fair wages and working conditions-and the coal companies, which used law enforcement officials to harass pro-union workers. …

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