Although 2020 has been a year unlike any that has come before it, there has been a lot of time spent drawing parallels to the past. Many have compared the COVID-19 pandemic to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
Others have looked at the year 1968, when a contentious presidential campaign season turned violent and protests over racial inequality and the Vietnam War erupted around the nation. These protests were aided by musicians, whose songs have become an iconic legacy of the era.
Today, as we continue to struggle with racial and social inequity, some local artists have banded together to pay tribute to these songs.
Parallel Universe is a compilation album with Wisconsin musicians performing both new and classic protest songs. It will also feature visual art for each song on the album. Cody James is both the organizer of the project and one of the featured artists.
“The whole point of this is to create a sense of community and to stand with current civil rights, a sign of solidarity,” says James. “So I really just wanted to bring some friends together, musicians that I admire together and you know, say, ‘Hey let’s stand up for something’.”
His song on the album is a cover of the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth”. The song originally wasn’t intended to be a Vietnam War protest song, but soon became tied with the counter-war movement. He says the song has always resonated with him and it captures how he is feeling in this current moment.
Milwaukee artist Ms. Lotus Fankh is another artist featured on the album. She says that she became involved because of the group nature of this album and her desire to include contemporary protest music into the album.
Her song on the album is called “No Funerals” and she says it came from really personal pain she has experienced through both COVID-19 and the protests for justice.
“I’m tired of these circumstances and you know, that’s the spirit of the song. You don’t get to go to my funeral, you can’t watch me die, you can’t participate in my pain,” she says.