Motherland

Motherland cradle me, close my eyes,
Lullaby me to sleep.
Keep me safe, lie with me,
Stay beside me don’t go

– Natalie Merchant

Local community choir ‘Singpatico‘ saw their way through Covid and managed to put in a great performance at the Laura Street Festival on Sunday 10 October 2021.

The choir featured a beautiful version of the very personal song, Motherland, by Natalie Merchant that gained political attention because the album of the same name was to be released on 9/11. Some of the lyrics were regarded as prescient of the fall of the twins towers.

The final cover of Motherland released in November 2001. The original album cover was a picture of children in a field wearing oxygen masks. Thus the Motherland cover shows a tree laden with apples with the songstress is sitting demurely beneath.

Take one last look behind,
Commit this to memory and mind.
Don’t miss this wasteland,
This terrible place
When you leave
Keep your heart off your sleeve”

Natalie Merchant withheld the release of the album Motherland and changed its cover out of respect for those killed in the Twin Towers. So strong were feelings running at the time, Merchant felt pressured into taking one song off the album “The End” which included the lyrics: ‘That’ll be the end of war/ the end of the law of Bible, of Koran, Torah.

Such was the hysteria surrounding 9/11, the US government got on with the insane payback of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Merchant dedicated her album to the victims in New York of September 11, 2001 attack. Her album sold well.

The singer songwriter has been associated with a number of political campaigns in the US including opposition to President Trump. Natalie Merchant sang her song Motherland and Woody Guthrie’s This Land is our Land at a protest outside Trump Tower in New York City on January 19, 2017. Merchant was also involved in protest against oil and gas fracking in New York state, as well as campaigns against domestic violence. But when tested the songstress stuck to her music choosing the personal not the political (a harder road with probably fewer album sales).

The Laura Street Festival in West End has managed to re-capture community spirit during a very difficult time for people with progressive politics. Organising face-to-face has challenged grass roots movements.

Community organisations, unions, solidarity groups and left-wing parties have all felt the pinch in a world that has turned to religion and the right at a time when the gulf between rich and poor has never been so great.

Well, I’ve walked these streets
In a carnival, of sights to see
All the cheap thrill seekers vendors and the dealers
They crowded around me

Carnival by Natalie Merchant

Playlist
Motherland by Natalie Merchant
While my guitar gently weeps by George Harrison
Lively Up by Bob Marley
African dancing music

Ian Curr
11 October 2021

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