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‘Sing About Love’

January 30, 2012

I promised Miriam that I would do an artist’s corner post before the beginning of February (though I note that she has not yet done a news story; for shame!).

Anyone heard of Chumbawumba? I’ll bet you have, even if you don’t know it. Their biggest hit was called ‘Tubthumping,’ is often played or sung at sporting events, and of course goes: I get knocked down/but I get up again/you’re never gonna keep me down.

They do have other good songs. A recent album entitled ‘The Boy Bands Have Won’ has a variety of folksy sort-of protest music, and an interesting theme appears in a song called ‘Sing About Love’.

I don’t want to sing about anger and hate,

I don’t want to sing about fear and defeat,

I don’t want to sing about the things I always sing about,

I wish I could sing about love (x2)


I don’t want to sing about war and greed,

I don’t want to sing about those we can’t feed,

I don’t want to sing about the things I always sing about,

I wish I could sing about love (x2)


I don’t want to sing about suffering and pain,

I don’t want to sing for another campaign,

I don’t want to sing about the things I always sing about,

I wish I could sing about love (x2)


I don’t want to sing about rights and wrongs,

I don’t want to sing all the same old songs,

But I’ll sing them and sing them, ‘til there’s no need to sing them,

And then I can sing about love (x2)


Let’s think about this. Admirable, certainly, but possible? The devoting of oneself entirely to causes, to justice and to rights and wrongs is something that I certainly have trouble imagining, though in certain moods I might claim that it’s a goal. In these ‘certain moods’ I’m almost definitely being self-important. That kind of single-mindedness shows up in history amongst certain civil rights leaders, activists, and occasional politicians who we still remember and respect today. Not every one of us, unfortunately, is strong-willed enough to be quite so dedicated.

This of course begs the question ‘why not?’ Perhaps if we all aimed to be wholeheartedly dedicated to positive social change (to the exclusion of personal goals) the world would be a much better place.

Here’s my quaint little alternative (one which others have certainly suggested before): why must personal goals be separated from social change? The one evaded above, love, seems nothing if not very compatible with the creation of a world with less suffering, greed, war, anger, and fear.

Whenever this song surfaces from the shuffling diversity that is my music and someone else hears it, he or she almost invariably goes quiet, waits, then says ‘Mm. Who was that?’ after it has finished. I think the song is so attractive because it’s so unique, because almost everyone else is singing about love to the exclusion of the world it lives in. And that is a valuable point: when love equals cosy ignorance it becomes less difficult, perhaps less strong, and I would argue less powerful.

Perhaps these are empty musings. However, whether love or anger is a more powerful tool for change is a point of contention I’ve argued about with many, and it’s true that both viewpoints have shortcomings. It’s my rather insignificant opinion that people sometimes turn away from love as a motivator not because it’s ineffective, but because they find it too difficult to sustain.

Regardless of your opinion on these particular ramblings, I would recommend that you listen to the whole album. Or, at least, give this group a chance and get past the one song that everyone knows. I remember they played at the Edmonton folk music festival a few years ago, and they refused to play ‘Tubthumping’ during their main stage set. A woman right up front shouted “I get knocked down!” and the lead singer replied “Well, you’d better get someone to help you up, then!”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. miriamthewalrus permalink*
    January 30, 2012 10:20 am

    Is it ok for us to comment on each other’s postings? I think it’s reasonable, seeing as how we are so far apart.
    This post makes me think of the film ‘Do the Right Thing’, in which two of the main motivators in racial tensions are examined: Love and Hate. The film doesn’t come to any strong conclusions, but it shows the merits and the weaknesses of both. It’s certainly a complicated question, one perhaps we will continue to explore!

    • January 30, 2012 10:22 am

      I’ll watch that movie again, and you should find a quote from it for our next quote of the month 🙂 (If you’d like. Not to step on your administrative, editorial toes!)

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