I’m so glad I took a friend’s advice and saw Barb Jungr perform her show “Hard Rain” at Joe’s Pub last week – seeing such a fearless and all-out performer bring herself to the songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen was not just a great night out, it was rather cathartic.
The observation I thought I’d share was one I had after she performed her encore, a stirring rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind”. My memories of that song mostly involve my parents getting teary watching Peter, Paul & Mary perform it live on TV – and by that I remember a 14 year old me rolling her eyes at them doing so. Because of Ms. Jungr’s performance (and thankfully being a bit more mature), I encountered these songs afresh and was moved by their earnestness, their poetry, but also the political passion in many of the lyrics.
How many of us, raised by baby boomers, in some way rejected the archetype of the earnest revolutionary that was so much a part of the 60’s? How many of us, brought on by the ennui of education, the over-saturation of 24 hour news cycle media or the omnipresence of violent images became comfortably ironic and aloof as teenagers – and perhaps enjoyed the emotional immunity that provided well into adulthood?
It’s interesting to think that our political voices today frequently are those of comedians – nowadays in the West, we can’t take our protests without a little arch of the eyebrow. The bitter pills of prison system injustice, labor abuses and poverty are made a little sweeter by the likes of Steven Colbert and John Oliver (who I watch every week). I think we do live in times of revolution today all the same – we need only think of the Marriage Equality Act’s passing, or the Pope’s words in Latin America last week to know big changes are happening.
Hearing the songs Jungr chose to sing reminded me that it is imperative that some artists to not to succumb to parody, but dive into the outrage, grief and even joy that is part of the human experience. That courage is what brought tears to my eyes when I heard her version of these songs. and demanded more of me as a listener, and artist and citizen. I thank her for that.