Music News: Artists respond to George Floyd's killing with new and renewed songs of protest

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The Current Music News for June 9, 2020 (MPR Video)

Last week we talked about how the music industry looked inward in the wake of George Floyd's killing: looking at its own history of racial exclusion behind the scenes, even as black artists fill the charts. At the same time, music is providing a soundtrack to protests against police brutality and racism. Artists from upcoming amateurs to the industry's biggest stars are sharing new songs as well as past songs of sadly continuing relevance.

Whether you've been to a protest in the past two weeks or just watched video online, it's been impossible to miss the music and dancing that have broken out — sometimes as angry chants, sometimes as expressions of defiant joy. Here's a crowd in New York singing a Bob Marley anthem, with live drums and sax.

Songs like Childish Gambino's "This is America" and N.W.A.’s "F--k the Police" have been surging on streaming services. YG took that title for a protest song released last week; "Pig Feet" is a new song by Terrace Martin, with collaborators including Kamasi Washington and Denzel Curry. An opening statement in the music video says, "The video to this song is happening right outside your window."

There are also so many powerful performances from independent artists from around the world who've been moved to write and record songs expressing all their thoughts and feelings about George Floyd, police brutality, racism, and their hopes for the future. Here's Chloë Nixon, a 16-year-old singer-songwriter from New Mexico, with her song "I Can't Breathe."

On Sunday night, big-name artists came together for a YouTube livestream dedicated to the Class of 2020. In addition to wishing this year's graduates strength as they collect their degrees during a global pandemic, many artists also shared their thoughts on the enduring plague of racism. Bono made some stark remarks as he introduced a new version of U2's song "Beautiful Day," featuring stars including Leon Bridges, Camila Cabello, Chris Martin, and Khalid and produced by Finneas.

Sunday, June 7, also happened to be Prince's birthday. His estate marked the day by sharing a handwritten note in which Prince wrote there's "nothing more ugly in the whole wide world than intolerance." The estate also released a new video for Prince's song "Baltimore," originally written and recorded in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray.

Among the Minneapolis musicians releasing music in the wake of George Floyd's death is MC Longshot, who just finished and dropped a new EP called I'm Saying. Andrea Swensson, host of The Current's Local Show, talked with Longshot about what he's been thinking and feeling in recent days.

We'll leave you with a scene from Washington, D.C. on June 3, as singer Kenny Sway asked protesters to raise their phone lights and sing a Bill Withers song that a lot of people have been leaning on lately.


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