With the economy in the shitter and the music industry in the sewer, it'd be more socially responsible to go to a record store (assuming you're in a town that still has record stores) and actually buy a CD, LP or iTunes gift card for the special someones in your life instead of gifting mixtapes this holiday season, but hey, old traditions die hard. One of the most classic "economical" approaches to gift giving, nothing shows you care with personalized effort like a mixtape.
Sometimes musicians like to show they care about stuff, too — stuff other than endless access to poontang, hot-tub-accessorized limos and designer drugs — important stuff like AIDS, oppression, war, famine, homelessness, animals, famine, war, oppression and AIDS. Since the holiday season is one of sharing and caring (and skyrocketing suicide rates), there's no better time of year for a socially conscious-themed mix— even if there are better years to give away free music and boycott Black Friday. From 2 Live Crew to U2, here's a list of suggested selections:
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" (Band Aid)
FYI, this is the "Feed the World song." It was the precursor to both Live Aid and "We Are the World," and it birthed the indelible image of a then-contemporary gaggle of compassionate pop stars standing together in a studio with a can on one ear and finger in the other, trading verses while accompanying Bono in his quest to save Bob Geldof's career ... and Africa. Despite Band Aid's efforts, there's still no snow in Africa come Christmas time.
"We Are the World" (U.S.A. for Africa)
While it may be the mother of all all-star, charity-laden hits, it's nowhere near as good as Band Aid. Still, your mix is probably incomplete without it. Lend a hand to life, ya dig?
"Sun City" (Artists United Against Apartheid)
When it comes to all-star, charity hits of the '80s, if Band Aid is Star Wars, and "We Are the World" is Empire, then "Sun City" is Return of the Jedi ... as featuring the guy in The Sopranos with the hair.
"One" and "New Year's Day" (U2)
While the bulk of material by U2 and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bono — in his fourth predicable consecutive entry on this list — falls under a socially conscious umbrella, here's a pair of classics to get you and yours in the holiday spirit. First celebrate the birth of Christ by playing Jesus to the lepers in your head with "One" — a song about, among other things, AIDS. Then celebrate New Year's Day by spinning the band's "New Year's Day" — a love song inspired by the Polish Solidarity Movement, which coincided with its success.
"Another Day in Paradise" (Phil Collins)
While Phil Collins — sound's answer to a pair of Dockers — can neither dance nor love hard, he does know how to translate the awkward, first-world guilt that accompanies encountering homeless people — especially on Christmas. This song is proof positive that he's at least thought about the issue ... twice!
"Banned in the U.S.A." (2 Live Crew)
Aside from cementing X-rated rappers 2 Live Crew as hip-hop's flag bearers for free speech, this song made a protest anthem out of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." — a protest anthem.
"California Uber Alles" (Dead Kennedys)
Despite what Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra prophesied in this 1979 Orwellian indictment of then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, Brown didn't end up becoming president — although he did get an endorsement from Joey Ramone. However, Brown did recently win a third term as chief of the Golden State. While Mike Curb won't be reclaiming his seat as Brown's Lieutenant Governor, "California Uber Alles" has just reclaimed its relevance.
"Right Now" (Van Halen)
Right now you're putting Van Hagar's "Right Now" on a socially conscious holiday mix that you will distribute to women and children first.
"Bangla Desh" (George Harrison)
George Harrison's concert for Bangladesh did a lot to provide relief for refugees left in the wake of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. More importantly, it brought Bob Dylan out of retirement, and "Bangla Desh" — the companion single to the concert — was the selection for the rock's first all-star charity jam when it closed out the famed Madison Square Garden extravaganza.
"Everyday People" (Sly & the Family Stone)
Enjoy this one before it gets co-opted by the Tea Party.
"Power to the People" (Curtis Mayfield)
"Man in the Mirror" and "Heal the World" (Michael Jackson)
While the man in the mirror neglected to tell Jacko to stop using prescription pain-killers and getting nose-jobs (and ... well, let's just stop there), he did tell the now fallen King of Pop to write this awesome 1987 hit about world change through personal responsibility. The Berlin Wall fell shortly after. Four years later, Jackson rewrote the song as a nursery rhyme in the form of "Heal the World."
"Wind of Change" (Scorpions)
See above. Add whistling.
"War Pigs" (Black Sabbath)
As long as politicians are hiding themselves away and leaving their roles to the poor, and generals are gathering in their masses, just like witches at black, uh, masses, "War Pigs" will rock. Even on Christmas.
Since socially conscious rock is the house Bob Dylan built, pick a song — any song — from his '60s output and you're bound to have found a winner for your socially responsible holiday mix.
"Never mind what's been selling, it's what you're buying," is the sentiment of this song, and one to keep in mind on Black Friday.
"Teenage Suicide (Don't Do It!)" (Big Fun)
'Tis the season for suicide. What's your damage, Christmas? Before Third Eye Blind had "Jumper," fictional synth-pop sensation Big Fun had this fictive hit dealing with teen suicide in the classic 1989 dark comedy, Heathers.
"What's Going On?" (Marvin Gaye)
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