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November 23, 2012

Protest Song of the Day: ‘I’m Thinkin’ ‘Bout Burnin’ the Walmart Down’ by Steve Earle

Posted in: Protest Songs

To recognize the power of protest music, acknowledge its role in creating a culture of dissent and how musicians translate social issues and systemic problems into song, The Dissenter has launched a daily feature that highlights a protest song every weekday.

Thousands of Walmart workers are out striking, risking the possibility of workplace retaliation or their job. They are demanding dignity and respect from a corporation worth $252 billion that pays its workers so little that 80% of them are eligible for food stamps.

Singer-songwriter Steve Earle says he’s never known Walmart to be a good neighbor in any town. He opposed the construction of a Walmart in Chinatown in Los Angeles and recorded a song that is appropriate for this Black Friday called “I’m Thinkin’ ‘Bout Burnin’ the Walmart Down.”

The basic premise for the song is that Walmart has moved into the town, where the character in the song lives. “Nothing’s ever going to be the same in this town,” so he’s “thinkin’ ’bout burnin’ the Walmart down.”

The character is disillusioned. “I’m getting old. There’s no place to go. This all come unwound.” He’s watching faces come and go, some of them strangers and some that he knows. It doesn’t matter how long he waits. The door is always open and it is never too late (presumably, to burn the Walmart down because he has propane tanks). However, the conscience of the character in this song would probably never allow him to set it ablaze, which is why he just sits in his pickup truck waiting and waiting and waiting.

It is a song for those experiencing anger and despair as their cities become economic disaster zones and are sacrificed to the corporate state. Not knowing who or what can help to improve one’s life, they turn to thoughts of rebellion and think of striking at what they believe is the source of their pain and anguish. And, in the case of the character in Earle’s song, the person is older and remembers decades ago how the city he lived in used to be a much better place to live. There once was no Walmart there to sap out the vitality of the city and the character longs for those days.


If you have requests for songs that should be featured or if you have a protest song you recorded, which you would like to see featured, email [email protected] And all previous Protest Song of the Da

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