Art Podell is at it again. Not one to sit on the sidelines and simply watch the world go to ruin, but not one to march in the streets either. Art is dealing with the current political malaise by doing what he’s always done—writing a song about it. Art first entered the folk scene in the late 50s as half of the duo, Art and Paul, and then became one of the originating members of The New Christy Minstrels. But his early passions were with the protest music of the late 50s and early 60s. So he’s no stranger to protest songs.
In observing what’s happening today, Art sees the ‘blame game’ at full tilt. “Instead of solving problems,” Art says, “we blame people.” So Art proceeded to do a lot of that in his new single, “Blame it on the Russians.”
But unlike the heavier protest songs of the 60s and 70s, Art’s “Blame it on the Russians” is pure fun. He has skillfully collected and arranged a litany of things gone wrong today and the culprits we should blame, the Russians of course hitting the top of the list. But also on the list are Rush and Rachel, Twitter and Facebook, crime and religion. Nothing and no one are off limits, not even Grandma. Here’s a chorus:
Blame it on the Russians, blame it on the press
Blame it on Rush or PBS
Blame it on Rachel or the deep blue sea
Blame it on your Grandma, but don’t blame me
So how did this “talking news” song come about? As is often the case with a song or other art project, it was born by ‘demand.’ Art was offered an opportunity to perform at an American Parlor Songbook event in Lake Arrowhead. The host said he usually kicked off the show with some “talking news.” So offered Art the spot if he could “sing” the news. And so he did. Says Art, “When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I remember hearing Pete Seeger sing “Talking Union Blues” and that’s the style I emulated with “Blame it on the Russians.”
When asked what Art wanted people to get from the song, he said, “If I was a political thinker, I’d write political discourse. But I’m a songwriter. I lay it out on the canvas. You can take from it what you will.” When asked how he approached the subject, he said, “I just took a step back and looked at things with a little more levity and sanity. And tried not to step on toes.” Instead, Art stepped all over our funny bones by providing a little innocence and guilt mixed together. Here’s one of the verses:
Now they’ve started the wall on the southern border
3,000 miles over land and water
Concrete steel from the quarries and mines
And if Mexico pays, maybe some drapes and some blinds
As Art finishes the song, he sings, “But don’t blame me. I’m just sitting here watching the news…” So even to the end, Art provides yet one more person to add to the blame list, that armchair activist character who is actually singing the song.
I love this song. It’s fun and easy to listen to. And for me, since there is daily mounting proof of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, I sort of do blame it on the Russians. But I guess now I can smile about it as I watch Rachel on the news. Thanks, Art!
You can download “Blame it on the Russians” at these locations: CD Baby, Amazon, or iTunes. If you’d like to book Art for an interview, or feature his song on a show, you can contact him directly through his website: http://www.artpodell.com.