Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is this the worst protest song ever?

In 1999, the province of Kosovo, in what was then Yugoslavia, erupted in ethnic violence as Serbs and Kosovars battled over the small Balkan territory. Eventually drawing in NATO, the brief war over the region displaced thousands.

David Burchwell, an Ohio native studying at Cañada College (above) in the hills above Redwood City, was so moved by the carnage that he write a song called, “It’s a Troubled World.” The song was placed on an independent album designed to raise money to help relieve the refugee situation in the Balkans.

"(I) was watching the news and hearing about ethnic cleansing and ... Congress saying ‘We want an exit strategy before we commit anything.’ In the meantime, we’ve got people over there, our own young men and women, getting shot at," Burchwell told me when I interviewed him in April 1999. “Having been a soldier, the last thing you want is power brokers that are indecisive about supporting you when you’re over there fighting.”

Cañada College was also the site of a benefit concert for the refugees, thanks to Burchwell.

I wrote a story about Burchwell's efforts in a May 1999 issue of the Redwood City edition of The Independent. Besides an interview, Burchwell also helpfully gave me a home-burned CD with several versions of "It's a Troubled World," including a "dance mix" and "garage mix."

After I listened to the CD to get some perspective for my story, I struggled to continue writing because the song was just plain awful. I played it for my then-girlfriend and she also panned it. Horrified, I hid the CD in some files and rediscovered it recently while cleaning.

"It's a Troubled World" is at least as bad as I remember.

Maybe it's the insistence on repeating "It's a troubled world, yes it is" ad nauseum throughout the song. Perhaps it's Burchwell's singing like he's trying too hard, with an unnaturally strained voice. Alternatively, it's the distracting, off-pitch shouting of the background singers during the chorus.

Whatever the case, it's bad.

Judge for yourself. Here's the song, in all its glory:

It's no "Blowing in the Wind," is it? The "dance" and "garage" mixes are even worse, but I didn't want to torture my readers with them.

Still, the song was for a good cause -- and I admit that I could not do better. I never would have criticized the song like this at the time, but I think 13 years is enough time to get some distance from the events and put the awfulness in perspective.

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