Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Boom Boom Boom (Not from Bombs)

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the lyrics of Peter Gabriel, founding vocalist for Genesis, who turns 61 tomorrow (and let me also give a birthday shout out to Steve Hackett, Genesis guitarist, who turns 61 today). Two songs in particular come to mind that reference freedom, one from Genesis’ second album, 1970′s Trespass, and the second from Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album in 1977. On Trespass, Gabriel wanted to write something more edgy and aggressive than the band was accustomed to playing, and the result was The Knife, which came to be one of their most popular concert songs. It’s a satirical story, told from the point of view of a revolutionary freedom fighter, who celebrates the violence inherent in many overthrows of oppressive regimes:

Get ready to fight for your freedom
Now, when i give the word,
Get ready to destroy all this evil
Now -

Some of you are going to die
Martyrs of course to the freedom that I shall provide
I’ll give you the names of those you must kill
All must die with their children
Carry their heads to the palace of old
Hang them, hang them, let the blood flow

Stand up and fight, for you know we are right
We must strike at the lies, that have spread
like disease through our minds
Soon we’ll have power, every soldier will rest
And we’ll spread out our kindness
to all who our love now deserve

Gabriel said that the lyrics reflect the tragic cycle of oppression seen throughout history, when those who employ violence to throw out dictators in the cause of freedom oftentimes follow victory by establishing their own dictatorial regimes. It’s interesting to consider how nonviolent revolutions can break this cycle, and how today we are witnessing the possibility of such a break, as the Egyptian people celebrate their first day without Hosni Mubarak and begin the hard work of transitioning to democracy. It is hard to imagine the level of excitement and anxiety that must be present in the leadership of the movement in Tahrir Square, as they now recognize the huge responsibility that comes after the dictator has left. The challenge they face in starting out on something totally new brings me to the second song of the post today, Peter Gabriel’s solo hit Solsbury Hill. He wrote it about his departure from the group Genesis, and on a much smaller and more personal scale than the Egyptian revolution, it describes the somewhat anxious excitement one faces in embarking on a new journey. He was inspired to write it after climbing Solsbury Hill in Somerset, and reflecting on the radical change in direction he was taking with his life. I love the mysticism in his poetry as he describes the feeling of newfound freedom:

Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
Had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
I just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom boom boom

And then, in a great bit of honesty, he shared his misgivings and second thoughts about his newfelt freedom in the decision to leave the group and venture out on his own, and the last two lines below are some of my  favorite lyrics in all of music:

When illusion spin her net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free

I love that image of illusory liberty doing a pirouette, and how we can never be sure we are totally free. It reminds me of the poetry of the prophet Jeremiah, who acknowledged that the heart is deceitful above all things – who can know it? It hearkens back to the understanding of human nature reflected in The Knife – who’s to say we won’t win freedom just to find some other set of shackles? But human nature notwithstanding, there is something incredibly hopeful about the pursuit of freedom, especially on a day like today when the news is all about a people who have won a great victory. It does make your heart go boom boom boom to be alive during such an epoch of change and to witness the possibility of freedom for a people long shackled to poverty and fear.

*Free Ride is a Saturday blog from Stan Dotson that takes a different artist or song each week and muses on lyrics of freedom. You can click on the live links in the post to hear the music referenced in the blog. If you have a favorite “freedom” song (it could be any song that has the word free or freedom in it), feel free to suggest it in the comment box below. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.


No comments yet

to top