Talkin' Bout a Revolution

"Talkin' Bout a Revolution" (Tracy Chapman, 1988). Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album protests economic and racial injustice that continues to plague America and other countries. While “Fast Car” is directly about the road, as the narrator wants to take a fast car away from her alcoholic father who she quit school to care for after her mom left, the road in “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is more empowering. Though paved with human suffering— “standing in the welfare lines, crying at the doorstops of those armies of salvation, wasting time in the unemployment lines, sitting around waiting for a promotion”—the road is ultimately what empowers the people to revolt—“to rise up and take what’s theirs,” as did those who marched to Versailles to capture the royal family in October of 1789.  Written at the height of the Reagan era, “Revolution” is also a warning: “Don’t you know you better, run, run, run… Finally the tables are starting to turn.” Although the U.S. was still years from turning the political tables, the song is prophetic. In 1990, Chapman sang “Revolution” at a Free South Africa concert, where she met Nelson Mandela, and in 2011, “Revolution” was covered by the Israeli band Shmemel, who added a verse inspired by the Arab Spring. The song’s empowering message will remain relevant as long as social injustice persists.

Don't you know
They're talkin' bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

Don't you know
You better run, run, run...
Oh I said you better Run, run, run...
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin' bout a revolution

Shmemel’s added verse:

All around the Arab nation
the word is liberation
the poor are tired from this discrimination
by the people who are trying to bring us down
From Washington to Tel-Aviv to Tehran
you better pick your shit up
and start to run because we’re raising
our head like an Akbar lion
Gaddafi, Abdullah, Ahmadinejad
we’re gonna kick your ass out in a storm of Jihad
Salamat, bye bye, you ain’t never gonna see them
they may take our lives
but they will never take our freedom.